Posts

Showing posts from April, 2010

Tales of Greasy and Grubby - don Juan

Image
One of the beautiful formalities which is still practiced in many parts of El Salvador is the use of respectful titles for people: profesora Marta for the teacher, ingeniero Beto for the construction project manager, and el reverendo for the pastor. Women are often called niña María or niña Berta as a sign of endearment and respect. (Niña is usually translated as little girl.)

And then there is don Juan.

One day, Greasy and Grubby were on the lookout to find a good time to sneak out of their jammies and into their clothes for the day. This can be a difficult challenge when staying in a one-room home with plenty of men-folk around. It can be especially difficult when the home is the "hotbed of political action" and all the neighbor guys come over to have long conversations with the man of the house.

It was still before breakfast, and Greasy and Grubby were ready to seize the opportunity to quick-change as soon as the house was empty. They quickly jerked off their jammie…

A Life Story

It was a sweaty night. The door was closed to keep out the mosquitoes. The rain was drumming loudly on the laminate rooftop. The cement block walls were weeping with humidity. It was too hot to go to bed, so the three of us were sitting up.

I asked the man of the house if he could tell me about his life. Here is his story, as best as I could understand it . . .

When I was a little boy, I only wore a cut-off sack from corn or other seeds, tied around the waist with a rope. I didn't have shoes or anything else. When I got a little bigger, I wore some short pants and then I went to school. I paid close attention and the teachers let me pass first and second grade in one year. I lived with my mom and my sister because my parents were separated. I went through 6th grade, and every year I was the model student, so the teachers helped me by giving me food and clothes and supplies. But when I registered for 7th grade, I could only go 2 times because I had to work from 7 am to 7 p…

Tales of Greasy and Grubby - Happy Birthday!

Image
I have a very special friend. She is the kind of friend who is always true to herself and helps me to be true to myself. We are sisters in the Spirit.

During our first trip to El Salvador together, we dubbed ourselves "Greasy" and "Grubby." It was a very hot and humid time of year, and we spent some quality time living out in the campo, and, while our Salvadoran hosts always looked fresh and clean, we did not.

Ever since, we have lovingly referred to ourselves as Greasy and Grubby, and together, we have had, and continue to have, many adventures. Some are tales worth telling.

This one started with a phone call...
"Hi, Greasy."
"What's up?"
"I've had a vision from God, and you were in it."
"O - kaaay"
"I'm supposed to go to El Salvador and knock on doors. And you're supposed to go with me."
"OK."

Some months later, we were on a plane. God was sending us for some purpose which we did not really k…

Off the Beaten Path - Teotepeque

Image
Sometimes a group of international girls just wants to have an adventure. A little German, a little English, a little Spanish, a local friend with a pick-up truck, a full tank of gas and a free late afternoon - why not drive over to Teotepeque for a visit? We squeezed into the truck, which had to be pointed downhill and given a little push to get started, and headed west, through the department of La Libertad. It was sticky and hot near the coast. We passed by surfer dudes, fishing boats, beach shacks, a few resorts and a fish-processing plant. It was a dog-day afternoon. Seriously, every dog in La Libertad was out on the road for a stroll or a nap.

We turned north and headed up into the mountains, passed through a couple of tunnels, and up a steep dirt road, and finally arrived in downtown Teotepeque - a sleepy little town at the top of a mountain. The people in the area work in agriculture, mostly with coffee and balsam. The town folks mostly make their livings by selling the…

The Coolest Tecomate Ever

Image
I just had to buy it. It's the most awesome tecomate I have ever seen. It's big and beautiful and painted with a bunny, flowers, birds, a butterfly, trees and houses. It's 16" tall with a big old corn cob stopper, and I can sling it over my shoulder with the pink plastic cord. I'm not sure why I like this big tecomate so much. I just do, and I'm glad that the money I paid for it was used to buy food for a homeless shelter in San Salvador.

Maybe you have never had a tecomate of your own. A tecomate is a member of the squash/gourd family, and once it is dried with the seeds and innards cleaned out, it is very lightweight and has an extremely hard shell. For many many generations, campesinos have carried water out to the fields in their canteen tecomates. The tecomate is still used for this purpose, but also appears as a prop in folk-dances and a traditional image in Salvadoran artwork.

I bought my tecomate as a work of art. But the woman who sold it to me …

Close Encounters of the Squirmy Kind

Image
In November a couple of friends and I had the privilege of being invited to serve on a work crew in response to the floods. We worked in Las Animas, San Martín, clearing a road which had been blocked by a landslide.

The invitation came from friends in the mayor's office in Tonacatepeque, which teamed up with the mayor's office in San Martín to put this relief brigade together. It was part of a broad effort by municipalities which were less-affected by the rains to reach out to those who had suffered more, and, from my experience, was something the FMLN was coordinating throughout the country on those first weekends after the flooding.

The brigade was made up of community residents from throughout the area, and included about 50 people. We started out early in the morning, loading ourselves into trucks in Distrito, picking people up at a few stops, gathering more folks in Tonaca, and then making the big rendezvous at the mayor's office in San Martín. It felt like a big…

A Day in the Life of a Beautiful Orange Toilet Brush?

Image
Sometimes it's really important to get away. Away from the city, away from the noise, away from the work, away from the needs. One of my favorite get-away spots near San Salvador is Parque El Boquerón. The park is beautifully planted with flowers and sculpted bushes, and the temperature is usually pleasant and cool.

I was there recently with a small group from the US and with a Salvadoran friend, who works so hard that he had never had time to visit the top of the San Salvador (or Quezaltepec) volcano before. Despite the fact that it was not pleasantly cool, it was pure joy to be present as our friend marveled at the view and crawled around on the ground to take pictures of the beautiful flowers.

We arrived in the late afternoon, and the gardeners were busy pruning and raking away the debris of the dry season. We had been admiring admiring the flowers, especially a particularly striking orange variety, and like good North American paparazzi, were taking lots of photos. One of …

Resurrection

Image
It says...
happyland.

Homework in a happyland notebook, now lost and dirty.

The homework papers in the dirt troubled me so greatly. I wanted to pick the papers up, look for names, take the work to the teachers. I did not want to see lost homework, lost learning, lost time, or the horrific evidence of a lost child.

Three months after a wall of water and mud and boulders rushed in during the middle of the night, the neighborhood of San Antonio in San Vicente still bears the scars of life interrupted and life lost. The town will not be rebuilt. The people are scattered among nearby communities, among family, among shelters. Some survivors seem lost among the ruins where they search, sit, grieve, remember, honor and tell. In telling there is healing. Our Salvadoran Lutheran Church pastor friends know this, and as part of the psycho-social care they give to the community, they bring people like us to be witnesses and to be listeners.

José was sitting nearby when we walked into the green…

The Morro Tree

Image
Cihuatán is an archeological site which lies just north of Aguilares. Amidst the Mayan ruins, which are definitely worth seeing, you will also find some of the local flora and fauna of the area. This area north of Guazapa has become cattle country, and, according to the locals, some of the wealthy cattle producers have their eye on this property. The security guards and barbed wire fences do a pretty good job of keeping cows off of the site, but nothing can keep the goats from enjoying a good run in the field. The wide variety of bird calls, the tinkling of the goat bells, and the low moos in the distance create a peaceful atmosphere in which to enjoy the ruins and have a relaxing, yet very hot, walk with friends.

Surrounding the large hill which was constructed to support the main temple, there is a broad, grassy field, dotted with trees. Pablo, our driver and friend, said that during the war, there was a lot of looting of this site. People drove big trucks in to take the rocks …
I was walking through a prickly dry field in Cihuatán, laughing with Pablo about which one of us was the guide. It was his first time to the site, although he lives not too far away. I asked him a question about a tree, and he shared a lot of information about its fruit and different uses. Interesting stuff - and not printed on the historical brochure. I said, "Hey, I should make a blog and write stories - stories from the people, with occasional recipes, filled with the wisdom of the abuelas and middle age guys like Pablo. I'm going to call it, 'Linda's El Salvador Blog.'"

Now, some readers may be familiar with a pretty famous blog entitled, Tim's El Salvador Blog, which is an amazing source of news and information for English speakers whose lives are connected to El Salvador and her people. Tim is very supportive of my idea to create a different kind of blog, and ... the title? Well, of course Linda's El Salvador Bloghad to be the title.

S…