Daniel Avila arrived at the bus station early. His entire family joined him, but only as far as the station. He held the only tickets that would allow him to travel to Ecuador via the Venezuela / Colombia highway.
Hours later, when his bus arrived at the Colombia border, he joined his fellow travelers in walking across the border, showed his identification papers to the customs officer, and presented his ticket to another bus driver who took him to Ecuador.
It was midday and clear when they reached Ecuador. Gathering heat and humidity rose in subtle waves across the horizon deceiving some to imagine an oasis in the distance — others saw an undulating line separating reality from an imagined future.
As the trail of weary travelers surrendered to their new surroundings, many gave up their tears, as well. Even as they considered themselves fortunate for escaping a regime that had already stripped them of their wealth and dignity, most could not carry the weight of their sorrow any longer. This too was drained away, leaving puddles of loss, sorrow, and for the youngest, the only life they knew.
Avila knew better.
When Daniel was a young boy he would often go on picnics with his extended family after mass. Although his was not a wealthy family, they had everything they needed. His childhood was never deprived of the essentials of warmth, love, boundless support and caring parents. But, he was poor. When I interviewed him for this story, he repeated, on three occasions, a fond memory.
When Daniel was seven, he was shopping in the grocery store with his mother. They filled a cart to the brim with food. And then a second cart!
He said that family meals were simple, relying on carbohydrates for bulk, and often depending on whatever food the garden provided. But, the table groaned under the weight and everyone ate heartily. And there were the good-natured reprimands: “sit up straight, no eating before grace, and remember your table manners.”
Avila remembers going to the cinema with his pals and family. He recalls taking long walks with those he shared confidences, hoping to one day fall in love and have a family of his own.
But after those wholesome early years, what he mostly remembers is the blaring confusion, the politics and the violence that wilted his beautiful, kind, and loving world.
He remembers his beloved country falling into an abyss of accusations and innuendos. He remembers the brittle fold of corrosion, of corruption rotting the core until there was only rancid rhetoric left.
He knows that once the decision to leave your life behind is made, you must do it quickly to not draw attention to yourself — or to those perhaps more vulnerable than you that are left behind. Go while you can still afford it. Go while you still have your spirit intact.
Daniel Avila arrived in Cuenca on December 9, 2016, determined to make his mark on his new world. Public service always appealed to him; his speed on the baseball field when a young man made him a standout in his community, prompting him at an early age to be a role model and leader in his community.
His stellar academic career, which earned him a surgeon’s degree from the Universidad de Carabobo medical school in Venezuela, firmly established his credentials.
Today in Cuenca, Dr. Avila works from his medical office, Calidad Medica Integral, located at Aurelio Aguilar V. at Agustin Cueva. Among his plans is to open a free clinic to help Venezuelan refugees. For more information or if you would like to contribute to Dr. Avila’s project, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 099 373 0565.