Friday, September 30, 2011

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 was planned as a surprise, as much as anything can remain a surprise when folks are connected on Facebook.

The night before heading out to the community, Greasy and Grubby were packing up their stuff...
Grubby: "I guess I'll just have to wear these green hiking sandals to church."
Greasy: "I guess I'll just have to wear these flips with the purple flowers around the community."

Grubby laid out her gray skirt with the snappy and zippy pockets and moister-wicking fabric. Greasy laid out her gray skirt with the lace and ruffles.

Grubby pulled out her orange tailored blouse. Greasy pulled out her froofy pink and purple blouse and pink tank top.

"You're so frufy and I'm so campy." It was true. Greasy had packed a whole bunch of ruffly long skirts and flowing tops (that would be the fru-fru). Grubby had packed her outdoorsy skirts and campy shirts. Greasy and Grubby laughed and decided to adopt their new nicknames: Frufy and Campy. After all, no one really wants to be called Greasy or Grubby...

So, for now... we begin the new adventures of Campy and Frufy.

And, yeah, I was the campy one.

Next post: What Frufy and Campy experienced as they surprised their sister church community.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

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 and spoke in an unkind way to the woman who cares for him over the weekend. On Monday he did not want to eat, nor did he want his vitamin. He never took any medicine. He was blind and his hip was broken, but he never suffered any pain and never asked for any medications, not even acetaminophen for a headache. On Monday he asked the women who care for him to forgive him. He asked each one, 'Forgive me, forgive me.' On Tuesday he ate only a little bit of plantain and some milk, and continued to ask, 'Forgive me.' As the women who care for him we thought he was preparing to die. On Wednesday he went to sleep and by Thursday morning he had passed away.

Don Francisco will forever live in our hearts, and every time we sing "Alabare" his baritone voice and lively guitar will surely be accompanying us from heaven. Good-bye, Don Francisco...bum, bum, bum, bum.
video

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Alabare

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 take his photo.

Yesterday, a chorus of Alabare brought children who rarely see visitors out into the yard to chat and play, and it comforted an old man whose body is tired but spirit still wishes to sing. On Sunday, choruses of Alabare filled the church and all were inspired to sing and clap and tap their feet. This simple song of praise has been filling the air in El Salvador this week!

Friday, September 16, 2011

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 -->ódromo. 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 course, I ordered pupusas con laroco y queso and and it definitely became a group favorite.

This morning we encountered a laroco plant - a squash-like vine that was growing up on a trellis, producing shade and little white flowers. There, in the garden outside of Mo
This morning we encountered a laroco plant - a squash-like vine that was growing up on a trellis, producing shade and little white flowers. There, in the garden outside of Mo -->
nseñor Romero's house at Divina Providencia, a Carmelite nun presented us with one of the blossoms. We took turns holding it to our noses and breathing deeply while recalling the tasty and cheesy goodness of the pupusas of the night before.

This afternoon, as we sat in a large circle a question was placed before Bishop Gomez: "What is your favorite kind of pupusa?" The Bishop side-stepped the answer for a while, and told a couple of pupusa stories. The pupusa is an indigenous food; the best ones puff up as they are cooked; one place has a pupusa loca (which I believe has a little bit of everything in it).

The question was asked again. This time the response involved President Obama. Did we remember when President Obama visited El Salvador? Weeks before he came, the Bishop said, "resourceful vendors prepared a special pupusa and began calling it the Pupusa Obama." Why was it called the Pupusa Obama? It was made with black corn.

We laughed in disbelief, but the Bishop assured us that this was true. We laughed some more and asked the Bishop again...did he have a favorite kind of pupusa? The answer finally came: pupusa con laroco y queso. Of course!This afternoon, as we sat in a large circle a question was placed before Bishop Gomez: "What is your favorite kind of pupusa?" The Bishop side-stepped the answer for a while, and told a couple of pupusa stories. The pupusa is an indigenous food; the best ones puff up as they are cooked; one place has a pupusa loca (which I believe has a little bit of everything in it).
The question was asked again. This time the response involved President Obama. Did we remember when President Obama visited El Salvador? Weeks before he came, the Bishop said, "resourceful vendors prepared a special pupusa and began calling it the Pupusa Obama." Why was it called the Pupusa Obama? It was made with black corn.
We laughed in disbelief, but the Bishop assured us that this was true. We laughed some more and asked the Bishop again...did he have a favorite kind of pupusa? The answer finally came: pupusa con laroco y queso. Of course!

Friday, September 9, 2011

I Hope

The crows in my yard at home make a lot of noise. They swoop and dive and loudly call at each other, "caw, caw, caw." They walk in the grass, looking large like turkeys. They sort of give me the creeps.

Sometimes, an ordinary experience like a hearing a crow caw acts as a reminder of an extraordinary experience of the past.

The crows remind me of the vultures. They swooped, hovered over warm spots, perched everywhere. Side by side with people, they pecked at the garbage. Side by side with people, they lived in the stink of the San Salvador municipal garbage dump.

Eleven years ago, those vultures gave me the creeps. Eleven years ago, that stench entered my nostrils. Eleven years ago, families looked at me and I looked at them. They gathered their life and livelihood from the garbage; I stood speechless holding a camera. They sought shelter from the sun under tattered plastic rooftops; I wore sunscreen and a new hat. They were home; I got into a bus and drove away.

Eleven years later, the dump has been closed but the stink still lives in my nose and the cries of the vultures still live in my ears and the images of kids picking through garbage still break my heart. Those kids are grown now - I hope. The families have homes now - I hope. The adults have work now - I hope. The new generation is going to school now - I hope.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

It Broke

My left wrist is typically adorned with several bracelets. These are gifts from friends and I really do wear them until they break.

This week, one broke. I was sitting in the kitchen, working at my computer, and just like that the elastic broke and little lavender beads scattered across the kitchen floor. I thought about the little girl who had given me this beaded bracelet -- I have known her since she was a baby. I have slept in her home. I have eaten many meals with her at my side. We have done homework together. I stood behind her when she was confirmed. Her great-grandma was my secret friend. When her grandma was surprised with a birthday party, we were there together.

I didn't need the bracelet to help me to remember to pray for this family, but I have to admit that whenever I caught a glimpse of it on my wrist or had the occasion to move it around a bit, I gave my young friend and her very big and special family an extra thought.

I grabbed the vacuum to gather up the scattered beads before my dog could do it for me, and then sat down at my computer for a quick check of messages. A window popped open with a message from Greasy: I have sad news...

Soon Greasy and I were in a chat conversation with our sister church pastor. Don Rene had died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage. My young friend had lost her grandpa.

Don Renee was more than a grandpa. He was the patriarch of a large household of mostly women. He was an artisan, working with wood. He was the protector for his adult son, who because of threats and past affiliations cannot leave home. He was an elder in the community, building with his wife one of the first ramshackle homes on land given to war refugees. He was devoted to Monseñor Romero and a dear friend and support to our sister church pastor.

The e-chat ended. I had to go to a meeting and Pastor was on his way to the vigil for don Rene, where the people would "sing beside the body."

Of all the memories I have of time spent with don Rene, the strongest and most beautiful is the sight of him playing guitar and singing with his mariachi buddies at the surprise birthday party for don Rene's wife. Rene loved to play and loved to sing, and he did so with great gusto and a broad smile. Whenever the community gathered together for a vigil, don Rene was ready with his guitar. As I was driving off to my meeting, I could hear the voices of the people gathered in and around the ramshackle house, singing beside the body of don Rene. Surely God has given him a big bass guitar...

I am looking at my wrist. The bracelet is gone, but I can still feel it there.