Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Back to the Future

Well that's kind of how it felt coming back home from El Salvador, as if we just returned from the past, back to the future. Except there was no mad scientist named Doc (except maybe one named Tigo) and no Michael J. Fox in Calvin Klein underwear.  We were returning from the past of this land trapped back in time. Two days before we left El Salvador to return home again the kids were talking about the things that they were looking forward to coming back to. Running water, air conditioning (though we came back to temps in the 40s, so maybe they meant climate controlled housing...) the dogs, regular beds, refrigerators with food they liked to eat, people who spoke English, television, gymnastics... Lots of things -but mostly a regular bathroom in lieu of an extremely old outhouse with cockroaches. Those are the things of the future, aren't they?

But in all honestly the kids did really great through out the trip. And really any complaints and struggles that we had there, were often no different than the ones that we have in our own home. For example, usually no one cooperates at bedtime, so this was no different. The kids rarely like my cooking anyhow, so eating a few new dishes was not so bad. And everyone's Spanish improved, each to their own varying degree, but all improvements none the less.

While the kids missed a week of school and then had the second week off, I'm fairly certain their education, and lives, were enriched to enormous degrees beyond anything that they might have experienced in school during those two weeks had they been there. Missing school isn't always bad.

Once the kids and I arrived in San Salvador, one step into the airport, the differences began immediately with no noticeable A/C in the airport. But Elmer met us there with his cousin waiting outside to sweep us off to the little town of Dolores. The ride there took a big longer than the normal 2 hours, as the remnants from Hurricane Ida were still all around. Half the major highway was covered in mud from the slides the week before. And bridges were knocked out. We arrived at his childhood home just after midnight. But I turned off my phone (which serves as my watch), so my sense of time for the next two weeks was considerably off.  We climbed into bed and closed our eyes, trying to block out the sounds of the animals who must never sleep, then woke in the morning, to what felt like minutes later, to another world.

Elmer's mom is a little old lady, probably just under 5 feet tall. Once she gets up in the morning at 5am, she doesn't stop moving until the afternoon siesta. Abuela greeted us and instantly tried to feed us and then feed us some more and then feed us some more.  Unfortunately in all respects, except for my waistline, we don't have the dietary appreciations. But fried plantains in the morning are delicious and we certainly agree on that. I wanted to do my best to help out as much as I could while we were there, but she rarely allowed me to do anything. The kitchen was her thing, we were her guests and she was in control. She has a sweet smile and permanent sad eyes and would shake her finger at me in loving ways and say "no, no, no".

The pic here, she is in the outdoor "kitchen" where the fire stove sits next to the house.

Azalea, at 4, is a pretty tough little girl. Now while she likes dresses and wants to look pretty, she has no problem getting down in the dirt and is a pretty go with the flow kind of kid. So when ever we did something new, with out skipping a beat she would say "So that's how they do things in this World." And that's what it was to her, another World. And quite honestly that is what it is, another World.  And they joined right in readily to the changes. For example, the kids had no problem at all following country rule by unbuckling that safety seat belt and packing it in to the back of a pick-up truck with 10 or so random people. The same way the rest of the country sat 20 people to pick-up bed.

Elmer's dad was eager to take us all over to the farm. We spent quite a few days there and had some extremely long lasting life lessons there (that will be another post). The farm is basically land for cattle, and they have a corral at the entrance for containing the animals when needed for things like milking every morning. But the cattle pretty much roam free about the land. It's about  3 "blocks" from the house and absolutely gorgeous. There is a stream that runs through the land that enormous Mango trees grow along and from one of the upper fields you amazing views of the San Miguel Volcano.

Please keep in mind that I know essentially nothing about cattle and cows. So Abuelo has the cows trained to come to him. He does this by bringing them salt licks. Not to bore you, but the funny thing is watching a man in his late 60s do cat calls into what appears to be empty fields. All of a sudden there are cows coming up over the ridge to lick and lick and lick.

Here you can see the volcano in the distance from the property, but the photo does no justice. But notice the 2 people in the picture. One a man, the other a adolescent boy, both carrying large tree trunks they cut down from somewhere on the mountain that they are carrying, likely to build on their own home somewhere in town. Really? a tree trunk, one person carrying for over a mile, at least. Crazy.

But people carry everything everywhere. Walking down dirt roads in the middle of what appears to me as no where, women with baskets on their heads carrying tortillas or corn or who knows what. Men carrying large heavy sacks of beans or sugar cane or again corn, the staple of the country. Or little boys walking with their machetes or little girls giggling with their sisters. While driving it's customary to stop if you have a less than full pick up bed and help who ever along to wherever you or they are going. Kind of like your car warranty, which ever comes first -miles or time whichever comes first. Once while driving we slowed to ask a couple women if they needed a lift, apparently nothing around for kilometers. "Oh, no, we've just arrived" Arrived? There was nothing around to my knowledge. Elmer later said that of course there was the gate in the fence that they would slip through. Where they are going or coming from is often a mystery.

The kids also got to ride Tequila, the horse, on a regular basis. Elmer had fun teaching Azalea the saying "Me gusta Tequila." (I like Tequila) or "Te quiero, Tequila" (I love you, Tequila). And she meant it whole heartily when she spoke those words. While Tequila is an old kind horse, he certainly gave Elmer, his dad, and all the ranch folks a fun run for their money one morning as they tried to round him up from the fields. All the lassos in El Salvador couldn't bring him in. And I had a good time watching them try to catch him. They didn't have as much fun, and Tequila was left alone to graze in the fields.

More El Salvador posts to come.

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