Thursday, November 10, 2011

Living the Contradictions

On Monday, 8 members of my immediate and extended family landed in El Salvador.  My sister Karen, niece Rachel (4), Aunt Betty, Uncle Bruce, Aunt Susan and her grandson Bailey (10) and my cousin Cindy and her son Marty (10) all came to visit me.  Some are really wanting to explore the "real" El Salvador and some want more of a beach vacation.  Everybody is getting a mix of both...including me.  I am writing this to you from my beautiful, air conditioned room that has hot water!  On Tuesday all of us set out on an adventure to San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador.   We visited the Cathedral and Archbishop Romero's crypt, Cuscatlan Park, CIS (the agency where I go to Spanish school and do the Election Observer work) and had lunch at a beautiful restaurant on the San Salvador volcano.  Tomorrow (Friday), we will set out for an adventure that will take us to Cabanas to meet the folks at ADES.

I am enjoying having my family here.  I am loving the "break" of being at the Decameron Resort.  In January, 2009 I came to this resort in El Salvador with a small of group of friends including my sister Karen.  I returned to Canada thinking that I knew something of El Salvador -- which I did, but the story was very incomplete.  This time, I know different things.  The Resort is beautiful.  The grounds are lush and tropical.  There are two lagoons and 5 swimming pools.  There is no indication here that this is a country in a water crisis.  Even the hotdogs are north american.  Here I can only buy chicken/turkey wieners, which are not really to my taste.  At the Decameron the hotdogs taste like home, so they have to be a mix of pork and beef.

My Salvadorian friends would all love to come to the Decameron, but they can't afford it.  By Canadian standards it is a real "deal" at this time of year -- $700 for the flight and the week at a 4 star all inclusive resort.  Nolitours runs charters from Toronto, so it is cheap and easy.  In fact when I can home in August, my flight alone cost more than this.  Given the mixture in ages and health issues, my family group really did need a place that would offer a lot of the comforts of home.  I am very glad my family is here.  I am very glad that they are in a place that is meeting their needs.  I am also aware that there is almost nothing at the Decameron that is the same as the El Salvador that I know.  I am sad that my Salvdorian friends don't get to experience the beauty and awe that is this resort.  I don't know how to do it any differently.  Like many other things here, I live with the contradiction.

Some of you know that a few weeks ago, I had a bit of medical problem.  I developed a painful and gross abscess that needed to be drained.  Long story about how this came to be, but I ended up being treated by a wonderfully kind, English speaking, well trained and well equipped dermatologist.  He is a "private" doctor, which means I paid his receptionist in cash after each visit.  I ended up spending about $200 in medical services and probably close to that on medications and supplies.  Most of this will be reimbursed through my out of country health insurance paid for by the United Church.  I got great care.  However, this cost about the equivalent of  1.5  months of salary for many Salvadorians.  Most people, including the majority of the people I know here, will never be able to pay for this level of care.  As a result, the health care they received through the systems here in general is far from adequate.  Me not getting good health care would not have done anything useful here, but it is another of the contradictions that I live with every day.

I am feeling a bit badly about being at the Decameron, but I am also thankful for the opportunity to share more about what life is like in El Salvador.  Marty (10) is thinking about water and what happens when the water in your house makes you sick if you drink it.  He is asking me lots of questions about that.  It is not surprising that when we were out on our day trip, we stopped to buy cold beverages at one point.  In the fluster of it all, I lost track of how many bottles of water were buying and in the end we were a few short. Before I'd even realized this, Marty offered his water up to Javier our driver and guide for the day.  When we stopped for lunch, I invited Javier to have lunch with us and told him we would pay for his lunch (as is the norm here).  Javier initially sat by himself at a table.  I was just going to go over and invite him to join us when Bailey (10) wanted to know why he was sitting by himself and not with us.  When we stopped places Javier stayed with the vehicle.  Bailey asked me if I thought Javier was bored.  Clearly neither Marty nor Bailey have a sense of "entitlement".  They don't seem to see the world as us and them.  I marvel at this and hope that as they grow they will be able to keep the kindness and compassion that they have as 10 year olds.

My Family in El Salvador

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