Showing posts from 2011

The Cathedral Loses More than a Facade

Today I learned that the facade of the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador has been destroyed, not by an earthquake or the winds of a hurricane, but by the hands of workers at the direction of church leaders.  The images of the colorful tiles crashing to the pavement, the chiseled shards being gathered into white buckets and irreverently being tossed into a dumpster are painful to see. I don't want to question the right of the Catholic Church to pull down something old to make way for something new - new wineskins for new wine are sometimes needed.  As a non-Salvadoran, I don't want to impose my outsider opinion on a Salvadoran decision.   But in my heart I do question the wisdom in carrying out such a violent act on a mural depicting peaceful images of the Salvadoran people, and I do wonder what the motivation was for such a decision. Like any artist, Fernando Llort, the creator of the facade, has his fans and his critics.  I am personally a fan.  He and his family have

The Christmas Corner

I entered the house.  It was dark inside, so it took a moment for my eyes to adjust after being outside in the bright sunshine.  "Just a minute," Julia said.  She reached into the corner and dragged a raggedy extension cord over to the socket and plugged it in. Two little plastic Christmas trees came to life! The trees framed the corner of the room which held a leveled pile of sand and a multitude of small treasures.  Each item was carefully placed to face the corner, and in the corner there was a well-loved ceramic Baby Jesus. Julia had spent a long time assembling her Christmas corner. "These are my son's baby shoes.  We brought this pine cone back from a trip to the mountains.  My boys played with these cars when they were little.  I have had this figure since I was a little girl."  Julia carefully picked up treasure after treasure, grateful for the memory it brought to mind, joyful to share the memory and her stories with a friend. Donkeys and horses

Tamale Time!

Christmas Eve festivities happen at our house. We go to church in the later afternoon and then come home for a quiet evening of snacking, talking, Christmas music, playing games and opening a few gifts. The family members who do not have other celebrations to attend come to our house, so the guests vary from year to year and so does the food. This year, I have decided to go with a Salvadoran theme. There are a few Salvadoran dishes which I make pretty often, and they turn out pretty well: guacamole with big chunks of avocado and hard-boiled eggs, cauliflower relleno with tomato salsita, ejotes (green beans) cut fine and made with scrambled egg, and of course, Salvadoran red beans...but there is one must-have for Christmas which I have not yet attempted -- tamales. If my kids are reading this, they are probably groaning and saying "yuck." It's true, their experiences with tamales in El Salvador have included a few unwelcome bites into chicken beaks, chicken feet

The Advent Bracelet

I am still wearing two slightly battered, mis-matched bracelets. The tightly-knotted turquoise, orange and white one has survived on my wrist for an amazingly long time. I did take it off for my son's wedding, which technically broke my wear it til it breaks rule. For a long time, the tri-colored yarn was accompanied by 3 stretchy elastic bands strung with teeny tiny beads. These beaded bracelets are often traded among teen boys and girls in our sister church community and after a while they break , scattering beads across the dirt or across the floor. Some have survived long enough to return to El Salvador for a visit or two. The second bracelet on my wrist is a purple, stretchy rubber-band bracelet which springs into the shape of a clothes hanger when I take it off. It was obtained in a trade - tiny pink beads for a purple hanger. I have to confess: the hanger was also removed for the wedding. This morning I pulled out the big plastic box which holds gift bags, tissue pa

Off the Beaten Path: El Mozote, 30 Years Down the Road

Thirty years ago, a terrible massacre was carried out by the Atlacatl Battalion of the Salvadoran armed forces in the small town of El Mozote. More than 1000 people were killed. This week, Tim's El Salvador Blog is dedicating its posts to sharing the story of this horrific event. Three years ago I visited El Mozote. Tim was with me. A very dear friend from our sister church, who has a chauffeur's license, drove us there in a rented car. Although our friend had heard of the massacre, he had not been to El Mozote and he knew very little about what actually happened there. He is a politically active, staunch FMLN supporter who knows a great deal about what happened during the war, so this surprised me a little. We made the long drive from the capital, from highway, to small paved road, to rocky bumpy road, to dirt path. We paused along the way for lunch in a small town , enjoying a little time for rest and conversation before beginning a visit to a place which we knew wou

O Christmas Tree

When I was in 2nd grade, my Sunday School teacher took a Polaroid photo of me and each of my classmates as we stood in front of a church Christmas tree. We pasted those pictures onto cream-colored tag board stars, and then carefully pasted burnt matchsticks onto each of the star points. This little Linda star was a Christmas present for my mom and dad that year, and it was placed on the tree that year and for several years beyond. When my kids were in preschool, each of them had the opportunity to make an ornament from an inverted flat-bottomed ice cream cone. A pipe cleaner was stuck through the bottom to make a hook, and the cone was covered with white icing. Colorful cereal pieces were stuck into the icing and the Christmas bell was ready to hang on the tree. Each sticky bell had it's one glorious year on the tree. Whether it reappears year after year or adorns the tree only once, a home-made ornament is a beautiful and memorable gift. The first time we were in El Salvador

Just Click: What will we see next?

Each time I head out into the streets of El Salvador I see something new... check out these photos from my last visit...

Thanksgiving Dinner in July

I was invited to dinner. This was one of those times when I was on my own, living in our sister church community, hanging out with friends and spending a little quality time with a few families who have become extensions of our own family. The invitation came from our goddaughter's mom. Over the years we have shared many visits in her home. The hospitality is always generous, even if there is not much food to offer. This is a family that struggles...struggles with a dad who is challenged by alcohol, struggles with a mom who is mentally unstable, struggles with severe poverty, struggles with teen-motherhood for our goddaughter, struggles with violence and real threats. At the time of the dinner invitation, the household consisted of mom, our goddaughter and her 3 year old son, and a younger teenage sister. My friend, Julia, walked me down the hill and through the narrow short-cut to my goddaughter's house. I have done this walk alone many times, but the stress-level was h

Inviting and Injustice

We are frequently invited. Anyone who has the heart to travel can do so. We are invited for special events in the lives of the church and the people. We are invited to team up with leaders to work together in education, healthcare, public safety, employment opportunities. We less frequently invite. This is not to say we don't wish to invite. We want our pastor, leaders and friends in El Salvador to participate in special events in the lives of the church and the people, and we want to team up with our friends to work together in ministry and in our home community. Earlier this year we extended an invitation to our sister church pastor to visit us and to participate in several important events, including a big anniversary worship and pastor installation at church, and a family wedding. We thought about inviting other community leaders and church members from El Salvador, but we have never been able to get visa approval for anyone other than our sister church pastor, so we onl

A Rain Story III

It's hard to describe the sound and the force of a tropical rain shower, but I found this little video clip which I recorded one morning during a surprise storm. Here are some things I have been told when hiding from the rain... "You can't go out there! You'll slip and break a bone!" "Don't get wet in the rain, you'll get the flu." "Wrap the babies up tight during the rainy season, otherwise they pee and pee and get sick." "Be careful not to get wet, the rain is acid and it will hurt you." One time we got caught in the rain at the main bus top in Apopa. On a good day it is a challenge to find the right bus while jostling through the crowd along the highway. Our sister pastor wove among the people with Greasy and me trying to stay close behind like a couple of good little ducklings. Suddenly the heavens opened up and torrents of rain poured from the sky. Pastor glanced over his shoulder to see if we were with him, and gav

A Rain Story II

We drove along the highway in a red pick-up. I was scrunched onto my husband's lap, who was squeezed in next to the lawyer, who was squeezed in next to the driver. Every now and then I ran my little pink sweat-towel over the windshield and the side window to clear the view. Our sister pastor, our son and my best friend's husband were having a bathing experience in the back of the truck, as the rain tumbled from the dark gray sky. We were determined to get a shipping container out of customs , and this involved driving documents from one place to another, in the rain. We drove past the Hipermall...a monstrosity of a mall with high-priced stores. One time I asked a friend if anyone ever shops there. She said, "Sure, we go there. We window-shop." We came around a curved off-ramp which encircled a small piece of land - one fourth of the clover-leaf pattern at an expressway interchange. The rain had let up, so we had a clear view of the community which had been esta

A Rain Story

Last week brought rain on top of rain to El Salvador, and those of us with friendships and hearts in El Salvador spent the week doing the best we could to help, to network, to share, to inform and to pray for relief. Tim's El Salvador Blog has kept the news flowing as the waters flowed, and we are all grateful to him for keeping us informed. Thanks be to God that the sun has returned to El Salvador's "sombrero azul." The rain has stopped for now, but the sorrow for those who lost family members in the rain and the mud will continue to hover like dark clouds in their hearts - and they need our continued prayers. The blue sky has returned for now, but the humanitarian crisis will continue due to flooding, loss of homes and businesses, and especially the loss of crops so close to harvest - and the country needs our continued help through our churches and our networks. Readers of this blog may recall a few stories from past postings which speak to the power of rain in

Blog Action Day - Faces and Food

Today is Blog Action Day, and the topic of the day is food. Today has also brought more rain, more mud, more flood, more loss and more grief to the people of El Salvador. It has been hard to keep up with the news from all of the sister church communities with which we are connected. It's hard to think about our friends being wet and hungry and scared. It's hard not to think about what all of this rain will mean for the dry season ahead -- what the loss of corn and beans and fruits and vegetables will mean for families who are wet and hungry tonight, but face a long dry possibility of being very hungry in the months ahead. During the non-stormy times, we talk together about food sustainability and learn together about organic gardening and maximizing land use and fertility by growing companion crops and creating city gardens in pots and vertical spaces. During the stormy times, we give thanks for emergency foods which have been stored for a rainy day... "Today we went to

There is God

It's raining. It rained all day. It rained last night. It rained yesterday. It rained the day before. The hurricane season has another month of life. At the end of the season tropical storms seem often to hover for days and days. The soil is saturated and begins to sink or to slide. The streets become rivers and the rivers become lakes. The corn is covered and the beans are buried by the waters. School days are lost. Work days are lost. Crops are lost. Homes are lost. A few, and hopefully only a few, lives are lost. Today there is much news of loss. And today, there is also news of hope and thanks. "Thank you for your prayers and thanks be to God that although the water has been running down the gully in front of the church, no families have been affected." "Thank you for your prayers and thanks be to God the food was delivered." "Hi, thanks be to God we are all OK and God has kept us safe from the danger. Thank you for your prayers." Where

Missing You, Babe

The delegation had spent a great week together. It was easy for me to serve as tour guide for it was a spunky group of guitar-toting, song-loving, eager-to-learn Spanish and ask-a-ton-of questions folks who are committed to beginning their new relationship in El Salvador in a spirit of accompaniment. We were spending our last day sitting and listening and talking with a woman whose husband had been killed in an act of violence on a bus outside of Aguilares before sharing lunch with her pastor and visiting Cihuatán. At some point, we were squeezed into the too-small van - I was sandwiched between two guys in the very back, bumping along the road, and listening to our driver Luis' MP3 collection of classic 90's tunes in English. Of course, the guitar-toting, song-loving group was doing a lot more singing than listening. Singing the songs from proms and college days brought back fun memories which many in the group had in common, and helped to keep the spirit of joy alive as f

Tales of Frufy and Campy: Together Again

We arrived bright and early on Friday morning. Our sister church pastor gave us a ride to the community. We hopped out of the vehicle and called out to Julia who was happy and so surprised to see us just after breakfast. We hugged and hugged like ositas (little bears). Pastor asked if we were OK (he had to leave for a meeting), and Julia said, "Sure we are las tres mosqueteras - una para todas y todas para una (the three musketeers - one for all and all for one)." Pastor left, and las tres mosqueteras marched down the little steps into Julia's "compound." Jul ia's place has changed over the years. The original house still serves as the kitchen and storeroom. It's hard to believe that twelve years ago we all slept in this hot little space - that first night in the community cementing us together as special friends forever. The newer house is about 10 feet away from the old one, leaving enough room in between for a small circle of plastic chairs

The End of the Tales of Greasy and Grubby?

Greasy and Grubby have had many adventures in El Salvador, but because Greasy's home base is now a flight away from Grubby's home base, their travels together have lessened. This fall, Grubby had the opportunity to serve as a coordinator and guide for a church in her area which is building a new relationship with a sister church in the eastern part of El Salvador. Greasy was on her way to El Salvador, accompanying her new bishop and a friend to a wedding and then making a visit out to the eastern part of El Salvador. Well, when God creates opportunities like this for Greasy and Grubby, Greasy and Grubby make plans! The two friends headed to El Salvador and crossed paths a few times during their different journeys there: big hugs in the Bishop's office, getting to know the people in Llano el Coyol, and a brief visit at the beach. At the end of their fun and responsibilities here and there, the two of them planned a weekend get-away in their sister church community. It

Alabare...bum, bum, bum, bum

Today we learned that Don Francisco passed away. I wasn't surprised by this sad news. When we visited Francisco two months ago, he appeared to be declining in physical strength and in spirit. My Salvadoran goddaughter and I knelt on the floor beside his mattress and bent close so we could hear him. We held his chilled hands in ours and sang the one song we knew he loved, "Alabare." He sang with his heart and his lips, but with no strength of voice. We knew his time with us would be short. Our visit to Casa Esperanza today was made with guitar in hand and voices ready to lift Don Francisco's spirits. When we learned that he was gone, we did not go upstairs, we did not go to his room. We missed him, but "Alabare" was sung, along with many other lively tunes so that all the clients in the house were laughing and clapping and singing with great enthusiasm! Tonight, Mama Trini shared the story of Don Francisco's last days... On Sunday he was grumpy an


Today we were at the beach. Warm hazy sun, a breeze off of the water, huge waves crashing at their breaking point and friends gathered together for fun made it a very perfect day. After swimming and playing beach soccer and eating delicious boca colorada fish and sharing stories with one another, we decided to share one last song together. As soon as the cords echoed through the guitars, the hands began to clap and voices rang out, "Alabare, alabare! Alabare, alabare!" The voices rose up through the sound of the crashing waves, and within a few moments the kitchen staff and various children were singing too. Then I noticed the stranger at the gate. He appeared to be in the neighborhood to sell crabs (because he held a bundle of wriggly crabs in his hand). He set down the bundle and clapped with great exuberance. It was hard to tell if he already knew the song or was learning it quickly. The smile on his face was fantastic! I motioned to him to see if it was OK to t

Pupusa Obama?

Pupusas are a gastronomic experience which every visitor in El Salvador should embrace. My first pupusas were served up at Pupusaria Paty: bean and cheese. Since then I have eaten pupusas in homes, in churches, at sidewalk cafes and in large restaurants from one corner of El Salvador to the other, for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. It's a good thing that I like pupusas. On the outskirts of Nejapa at the turn of the road which leads to Apopa, with its bright green facade sits the Pupus --> ó dromo. This is one of my new favorite places for pupusas, and it has as much to do with the atmosphere and the pupusa-makers as the pupusas themselves. We arrived and settled in front of the first pupusaria in the line of pupusarias which make up the pupusodromo. We scooted benches and tables to create a suitably large dining area. We were presented with a little pad of paper and a pen so we could write down our order: all different kinds and more than 45 pupusas in all. Of