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Showing posts from September, 2018

Creativity, Technology, Opportunity and Alligators

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As the school year begins in the US, students in El Salvador are into their last 6 weeks of classes.  September brings a focus on history and patriotism.  October is the month of the child.  November is graduation month.  For older students, these last months of school are filled with many special celebrations which makes it even more challenging to complete group projects, present graduation projects and theses, pass examinations and secure good evaluations. The parades and cultural events are super fun.  The students are nervous but love seeing the photos of themselves and their friends in costumes, dancing, making music and marching.  Sometimes I am frustrated by the amount of time these events take away from coursework (at all levels).  As a former teacher, for me, it is a greater honor to receive an invitation to share in special, end-of-school-year scholastic events with Salvadoran families.  Proud parents are truly joyful when guests from their sister church can see first-han

Ecumenical Women for Peace

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I was once at a conference during which Sister Joan Chittister made a statement which I remember as:  if women were in charge of war, the tank would be followed by the milk truck.  Sister Joan's point was that women think differently than men.  Earlier this week, my husband and I participated in a worship service dedicated to the upcoming sanctification of Beato MonseƱor Oscar Romero.  The worship was led by women.  Ecumenical Women for Peace is a grass roots group of female religious leaders in El Salvador.  The group formed a few years ago during a peace conference and the women continue to gather in support of one another, to share Bible Study and to praise God together.   They meet in each other's houses of worship, taking turns preaching and presiding. The Anglican Church hosted the latest worship.  My husband received the invitation through the election observer network.  I received it from the leader of the women's group.  There were a few men in attenda

Way Off the Beaten Path: The Fishpond of the Wife of Mr. Napo

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Are you already laughing at the title?  The English translation of the name of this little gem of a place is not as beautiful as the name in Spanish:  Pecera La Teca de Don Napo.   Naturally, there is a story about the name.  This somewhat remote property in Chalatenango is the family home of Napoleon, his beloved wife (who he affectionately called "Teca"), and their children. One member of the younger generation is a trained chef, and it was his family's idea to rekindle the spirit of the place in which families can spend time together.  In the middle of the compound you can see the original adobe home and a framed photo of don Napo.  Surrounding the home you will find a first class restaurant, two tilapia ponds, gardens, a resting pier on one of the ponds and a playground for children -- a peaceful retreat where guests can enjoy a little bit of nature and delicious food.  We went for lunch on a Thursday with a friend and her son.  Our friend had learned about

Testing the Water

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Don't drink the water.  Don't brush your teeth with the water.  Don't open your mouth in the shower. Perhaps you have been in El Salvador and received these cautions.  Perhaps you have learned that Salvadorans suffer the effects from living in a region in which nearly 100% of the surface water is contaminated with human and animal feces and agro and industrial chemicals.  Perhaps you have experienced a day or more in El Salvador during which the municipal system did not function, and you had no access to water.  Added to the environmental and systemic issues, the interests of private companies which sell water in plastic bottles or use water to make bottled beverages (Coca-Cola) have made it nearly impossible for El Salvador to make progress in cleaning up its water mess. The fight to pass a holistic water protection bill continues, as do the negative effects contaminated water have on the health of the Salvadoran people.  In the midst of the struggle, there are some si

Happy Independence Day

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The anniversary of September 15, 1821 is annually celebrated throughout Central America to honor the date on which the region became independent from the Spanish Empire.  Although the first cries for freedom rang out on November 5, 1811, and El Salvador did not become an independent nation until 1838, Salvadorans unite themselves with the people of Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica in celebration on September 15th. Schools in El Salvador spend the month of September practicing for parades and celebratory events.  In truth, a good amount of scholastic time is lost as children make banners and flags, decorate their schools, and practice marching.  For older students, the month of September is a little bit like homecoming celebrations in the United States.  The schools often elect a queen.  Balloons and streamers are everywhere.  Baton twirlers and dance squads practice their routines with the school marching band (or at least a drum line).  On parade day, proud parents l

Tales of the Grandfather: Not Just Any Pastor

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It was early morning.  The Grandfather sat in the passenger seat.  His son drove.  We headed out to the region in which The Grandfather established a new mission church.  A health promoter and president of the local water board met us near the turn-off from the main road.  The purpose of the journey was, for us, to learn about the process of testing the municipal water system in the area.   On a water mission We walked a bit and turned down a section of newly paved road.  The Grandfather gestured to the north.  The road was hardly more than a muddy path.  "This is the original Troncal al Norte (highway to the north)," he said.  The paved section stretches through a small gathering of homes and little stores.  We were told that the road stretches from Acajutla to Chalatenango.  Back in the day, the road was busy with trucks and "so many" buses.  Now just a few buses pass by during the whole day.  It was hard to imagine that any bus could make it up and down

Mission of Healing 1.0

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It began before we had cell phones.  It began before we had digital cameras.  It began when we spoke by pulling bilingual dictionaries out of our pockets.  It began when the community women hauled water in jugs on top of their heads.  It began when homes were lit by small flickers of candle light.  It began before we hardly knew each other. For four days in August, in the year 2000, a suburban Milwaukee area church, an urban Milwaukee church and a little church in El Salvador put together the first Mission of Healing.  The photo memories of the experience reflect a lot of young, smiling, sweaty faces.  Eighteen years later, children are now parents; parents are now grandparents.  As I study some of the smiling faces, sadness tugs at my heart - there with joyful smiles are the images of young lives and a few older ones cut short by illness or violence. One of the albums for this project The photo memories live in two, old-school photo albums.  Little hand-written notes identif