Three summers ago, my family spent a few months in Acapulco working at an orphanage with the MTW Thrive program. My job was to help pastor the interns who had come down to serve, and it was a joy to be with them and the kids at the Casa Hogar.
Several times a week, I’d walk down the hilly road to an Internet Cafe to see what was going on back in my other world, here in Oklahoma and the states (gotta have my facebook). Those crazy Mexican keyboards are just enough different, that it would take more time than it should have and through that process I got to know Berto, the owner of this fine establishment.
1. Berto was kind and knowledgeable. Berto was in his mid-50s I’d guess. He had been a tour guide in Cabo for many years so not only was his English excellent, but he was also extroverted and interested. He’d moved back to Acapulco to take care of his mother and live near his extended family. He’d ask me questions about our time and experience, and then direct me to certain places. He became my go-to guy outside of the orphanage if I was wondering about a place, or a price, or a person, or about safety or just about the area. He knew the orphanage and the people, so we’d chat and I’d learn from him.
2. Berto wasn’t perfect. Next door to the internet cafe was Berto’s mother’s restaurant. She was in her 80s and not doing well, and Berto helped her which meant he really ran the restaurant too. Since most of our meals were provided at the restaurant, it was tougher for us to get to it, but we felt motivated and Berto had become our friend, so all six of us one day had brunch there one day to see what it was all about. Well, Berto…Hm…This wasn’t his best thing. The kids ordered pancakes, and Berto pulled frozen Eggo pancakes out and popped them in the microwave. The syrup had ants in it, and ants were everywhere. It was not our best eating experience, but oh well, it was fine.
3. Berto cared about us. I really think he did. I have two distinct memories of this in how special and extra his care went.
I had started asking him about the BEST regional Mexican dish and he touted pozole, which is a soup made with hominy, and wow it’s good. Twice Berto set up a pozole meal for us. The first time was on the rooftop of a neighbor, and it was a glorious beginning. The second time he wanted to take us to the best pozole place in the city, and we ended up in a maze somewhere deep in downtown Acapulco, and yet again no surprise (unless you consider the Eggo pancakes and ant syrup) it was fabulous. We’re still making pozole and any time we see it on the menu, we’re buying it no questions asked.
It was at that last pozole dinner that I started asking Berto about Yoli. My kids were gaga over Yoli, a regional soft drink, light in color similar to maybe a Mello Yello or something like that. I was thinking that I’d get my kids each a Yoli tshirt, and they’d like that instead of a more touristy item to take home. But I never saw anything that had any Yoli brand on it ever. I asked Berto where I could find Yoli tshirts so I could get some.
On our last day in town, Berto stopped by the orphanage and asked me to come to the car. He had six Yoli tshirts. But he hadn’t been able to find any to buy. So he’d had them made at a print shop. These were the only six Yoli tshirts in existence that he knew of and I had them for my kids. I hadn’t asked him to do that, and I hadn’t expected him to do that. I’m not sure why he did that. I may never see Berto again, but this man loved me, my kids, his city, and that made a huge impression on me.