Wednesday, June 1, 2011

La Gente (The People)

Late last week I became aware of a "Green March" being organized for this Thursday, June 2nd.  The purpose of the march is to ask the government of El Salvador to pass a law prohibiting mineral mining.  At the moment there is a moratorium on issuing extraction permits, but there is no guarantee that this will last forever.  There is great pressure on this tiny county to cave in to the interests of the Global Business Community.  This is not a march of the "professionals in agencies" this is a march of the people (la gente).

For the past two days I have traveled with two colleagues through a lot of rural areas inviting people to participate in the march.  The contrast in lifestyles between me and the people we have met is striking.  Many of the houses are constructed of small pieces of wood, about two inches apart and the spaces are stuffed with rocks and dirt.  There is little running water and little electricity.  Many are quite a distance off the road.   This of course means that any consumer goods including water need to hauled up and down the paths, across the brooks and over the rocks.  These houses make where I am living look like palaces.

More than the contrast in lifestyles what really struck me is the difference in "life".  We appeared unannounced at peoples doorstep.  One day 2 community leaders joined us. They just put aside whatever they might have had planned for that day to help us find other leaders.  Each of these people agreed to let other people know about the march and the logistics.  This was Monday and the march is on Thursday.   Can you remember the last time when you were able to spontaneously rearrange your schedule to spend 2 or 3 days of the week on something that was less than a serious crisis???

On Monday, the day when Lilian and Julia joined us, we all decided that were hungry as it was past noon and we hadn't eaten.  We were in a very rural area and no one wanted to drive to the small city to find food, as it was way out of the way.  Julia just started shouting out the window of the truck at women who were making tortillas at their houses to inquire if they were for sale.  She quickly found a positive response and all five of us piled out of our vehicle.  In the end we had a wonderful lunch of tortillas, cheese and chicken soup.  The woman very reluctantly took money from my colleague in order to pay for lunch.  Once again, when was the last time that any of us spontaneously fed 5 strangers????

Today, Tuesday, we were again connecting with community leaders in another rural area.  I visited the poorest homes I have ever seen.  At our 2nd stop, part of the one room house was a little store and there were a variety of types of "pan dulces", basically any kind of bakery good.  One of people of our team was hungry as he hadn't eaten breakfast and he started looking at the baked goods.  Before long we each received a sweet roll and a glass of orange pop.  Isobel would not accept payment for our snack.  While she did not join us, she was going to invite all of her community to the march on Thursday.    At our next stop, we were fed tamales (which has become one of my new favorite foods).  I made a comment in to my colleagues about how much I liked tamales and they explained that the woman at the house.  When we ready to leave, she gave us more tamales to take with us.  The level of generosity and of commitment to making their country better is just amazing to me.  In Canada we understand that looking after the basics of life is a full time job for people who are poor.  Here despite how physically demanding, time consuming and overwhelming life is, there is a group of people who also want to help to create a better future for their children and their grandchildren.   It is all just incredible to me.

On a personal note, I have been asked to teach an English class to the staff of ADES.  It is quickly becoming apparent that there will likely be 2-3 classes - a very large intro class and small intermediate and advanced classes.  Learning English costs money here and everyone is excited about the possibility of learning for free.  Signs were posted last Friday and every day I am being introduced to more people who are "kind of " connected to ADES who want to come to my class.  I am very excited about being able to do something helpful and I am also excited about being able to lead a group.  I am also deeply humbled about how much trust people are placing in me.  ADES hopes that I will offer these lessons for a year and significantly improve the level of English of their staff.  Please think about me on Friday morning from 11-12 your time, as I leading the first class!!!

Two boys lead us along a path as we go to the houses of various Community Leaders.

This is a very popular refreshment - shaved ice with fresh lime juice, salt and chili sauce.  I skip the chili sauce!

Me riding a bike in the "Parque de la Familia" .  I spent a very pleasant Sunday afternoon in this park with Jenny and her family.  

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