It has been a busy week. Like a lot of weeks here, I have learned a lot about a lot of different things.
On Friday last week, I returned to ADES for the first time in a month. People were glad to see me and I was happy to reconnect with them. People are interested in what I am doing and learning. I got caught up on the work, but I also got caught up on the "people news". One woman is pregnant and another is really in love for the first time. One person asked for my help with homework from his English course. Some other people asked me to have lunch with them. I met with Jimmy and Edwin, my English students and they had a lot of questions for me about the differences between words, pronunciation and expressions. It really did feel like returning to my community. What a great feeling after all of months of struggling with being here.
As you may recall, I am attending an English language, inter-denominational church here in San Salvador. The theology of the Church is much more traditional than I prefer. While there are parts of the service that feel familiar, there is also much that feels very uncomfortable. However, it is the only English language church and so on that basis it feels more comfortable than the Spanish alternatives. I have to confess this week I realized that attending this Church was teaching me a lot about accompanying. A big part of what I think it means to accompany is to listen. This week I was embarrassed to realize how easily I would have in Canada discounted the theology of this Church. In among the parts that are out of my comfort zone have been some moments of great clarity and learning for me. Some of what I have gotten out of the services have been pivotal points in redesigning my life here in El Salvador. Accompanying is a bit about listening and learning even when at first glance it appears that this place will have nothing to offer. I have thought about how at home I quickly make judgments and if something doesn't "fit" well very quickly, I move on. In Canada, I would never have attended this Church more than once. While many of the members of Union Church of San Salvador and I will disagree on many things, I have learned we have a lot more in common than I would have initially thought.
Sadly, there have been challenges on the election front. One of the issues involves the people of Santa Marta and the young staff at Radio Victoria. To summarize a complex issue, basically a large flag from a right wing party was put on private property in Santa Marta, (a very left-wing community), without the permission of the land owner. This is not permitted under Salvadorian law. The people were angry and annoyed as there is a very long history of animosity between the village of Santa Marta and the right wing Mayor of Victoria (the city that is the catchment for Santa Marta). Some people decided to return the flag to the office of the Mayor. This event was covered live by Radio Victoria a community radio station staffed mostly by youth and young adults. As a result of their coverage of this event, 6 staff of Radio Victoria received death threats.
Next week there will be a meeting between the people of Santa Marta and the JED - Provincial Electoral Committee. They have asked for International Observers for this meeting. I will be going in that role as will other members of the team. I am very pleased to be able to support my community by observing and reporting what is going on.
This is a volatile time in many places in El Salvador. We in the International Community are not at risk. In fact we are not permitted to be involved in political events. We can be deported immediately. We have all be advised to stay away from the large political events. However, it is difficult time in this troubled country. This week also marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Peace Accords that ended the brutal 12 year civil war. In an unprecedented move President Funes visited El Mazote, the site of the worst massacre of the war and acknowledged publicly what happened there. He acknowledged that it was not a legitimate act of war but rather was a violation of International Law. This is clearly still a country divided and the election campaign only serves to highlight the divisions.