Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Off the Beaten Path: Unexpected Surprises

A couple of free hours...what to do...the guide book says there is a Natural History Museum not too far away...let's go!

We found our way through a mostly residential neighborhood to a tucked-away park. The book said we would have to walk through the park to get to the museum, so we went to the park entrance, paid our 20 cents each, and we were off on our latest adventure.

Immediately we were faced with a decision: the high road, or the low road. We took the high road and when a middle path appeared, we chose that one. Surprise number one: the cool shaded paths paralleled one another on the side of a steep hill, so the choice of path was inconsequential because a look down the hill from any one of them offered a view into a stadium with a bike track. A cycling team was practicing, the coaches setting the pace and calling out instructions. It was so unexpected and an opportunity for us to wonder if El Salvador has an Olympic cycling team.

After watching the cyclists for a while, we continued on our path, and soon encountered surprise number two: slides! We wandered from one playground to another, each space filled with colorful equipment for kids and surrounded by beautiful flowers and greenery, but nothing was as impressive as the slides. Using the hilly terrain, the slides were built in sets of two or three, so that each person has his or her own "channel." They are constructed of molded concrete and finished with a slippery metal surface so that the sliders are tempted to "hit the breaks" by running their shoes along the sides of the channels. These slides beckoned for some fun, and with no kids in sight, we just had to answer the call. Three women, wearing their "we're going to church later clothes", climbed the stairs and swooshed down a big straight slide. "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" they cried! "Let's do it again!"

Further into the park we found the most excellent, super long curvy slide. This required climbing stairs and a ladder, one person climbing up a little higher into a small tower and then sliding out from there to meet up with the other slider. Since I was the little one, the tower climb was all mine. Coming out from way up high required a bit of extra dare-devilness, and it was all worth it!

After we had sufficiently entertained the gardeners, we brushed off our dusty backsides, we continued on our way, crossing bridges and crouching in tunnels until we finally arrived at...the museum! Yes, at the far end of this magnificent children's park you will really find surprise number three: the Natural History Museum.

It is a small building, with just a handful of rooms which tell the story of the rocks and fossil finds in El Salvador. Luckily one member of our group happened to be an archeology/anthropology expert, and so we had an excellent tour. The skeletal fossils of enormous mammals is quite impressive, even if the display and preservation methods are not.

We lingered in the museum for a while and then wandered out to surprise number four: a well-labeled garden filled with medicinal plants. Our primary purpose that week was not necessarily to go sliding in our church clothes, but to coordinate a holistic Mission of Healing, and the plant garden was a treasure trove of information for a project which we are working on with one of the Salvadoran healers. We enjoyed the garden for as long as we could, and then walked back toward the park entrance. We said good-bye to the gardeners and greeted a few families who were arriving at the park for their own couple of hours of fun. As we passed by the bike track, we noticed that the team had gone and children were out on the track to practice their biking skills.

It was a morning full of surprises, and a couple of life lessons:
1. Guide books are helpful.
2. Holistic healing should always include an activity which calls forth a shout of "Wheeeeeeeeeee!!!!"

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