Thursday, August 28, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

Geographical Update

Now that I am delegation free for a while, there are some personal things that need to be taken care of. The big one, is that I will be moving to another house next weekend. As many of you know, I am NOT a fan of moving, in fact, I believe it is punishment for shoplifting in some countries. Also, I LOVE my house. I will miss it terribly, but alas, my budget and rent are no longer compatible. So it is time to move on. I will be moving in to a house with a Salvadoran woman I met through a mutual friend. The move will be short, just a few blocks, and is still near an important bus stop, and closer to work. So it should be good.

All that is left now... is to begin packing, which would imply not procrastinating via blog posting. :)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ita Maura and EMU

I spent the last week or so with a delegation from Eastern Michigan University. The group was a little different than what we are generally used to in that they were traveling as part of a university course studying Poverty, Health and Human Rights. The group was also distinct in that it hosted a more general sampling of the U.S. For a 'perfect storm' of logistical reasons, it was easily the most challenging delegation I have been a part of. They were a gritty-honest cross section of the U.S. Diverse, not only demographically, but also in perspective and life experience. They personified our vast capacity for understanding and compassion, as well as solipsistic disregard. They were nothing if not real. Thank you.

The group spent four days in the community of Ita Maura. Ita Maura is an organized community that relocated from a refugee camp in Mesa Grande, Honduras to Chalatenango during the war. The name of their community honors Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, two of the four US Churchwomen that were killed by Salvadoran death squads in the early years of the civil war. More recently, the community is recovering from the deaths of two community youth who were gunned down in April. Although violence is part of the Salvadoran national reality (average 10 murders per day), it is generally concentrated geographically. Lately, however, there has been a rise in violent crimes in previously untouched, rural areas. As these deaths are rarely investigated, there is growing sentiment, as well as evidence, that the violence is politically motivated and effectively the current manifestation of Salvador government's history of repression and indifference to human rights.

I have been blessed in the past four years to have experienced, on multiple occasions, the beauty and generosity of Salvadoran hospitality, but even my overdeveloped cynicism was overwhelmed by the gracious humility with which we were welcomed into their homes and their lives.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sweet Belize

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August 1-6 are the Salvadoran fiestas called Agostinas. Basically, it is national vacation week. There are carnivals here, or those that can and want to travel. I took advantage to go to Belize and renew my visa.

I left last Thursday, and took a four hour Ticabus from San Salvador to Guatamala City. I met Alicia in Guatamala City and we stayed the night with nuns, then got an early start Friday morning (6:30 am). We caught a "first class" bus from Guate to Puerto Barrios (5 hours), then a boat to Punta Gorda, Belize, two hours on a public bus to Independence, then finally a ten minute water taxi to Placencia, our final destination (6:30 pm). We then spent the next few days, moving as little as possible from the beach. Recent storms in Mexico had washed trash (both natural and man-made) into the ocean and then the tides carried the trash onto Belizian beaches. However, neither the trash nor the sand fleas dissuaded us from staying an extra day. I really believe that I am a much better person when I am in regular contact with the ocean.

We laid on the beach, we scavenged for food and pantyrippers. We found that straying from the beach or the Purple Space Monkey, caused the Gods to punish us with excruciatingly long waits and discomfort. So we learned quickly and stayed put. We hung out with Keith from Canada, who is traveling by land from Panama back to Ottawa. (Much luck on your journeys both geographical and otherwise) All was not shameless self-indulgence, we also helped local residents recruit American volunteers for beach cleanup and other acts of community service. There were significant bug bites, but the warm fuzzy feeling of altruistic sacrifice more than compensated.

We started our journey back on Wednesday morning. 6:30am found us with tearful (grumpy) goodbyes as we left Placencia in a water taxi just in time to wait two hours for the bus in Independence. Two hours then to Punta Gorda and an hour boat ride to Guatemala. To say the least, this trip was not nearly as smooth as the way in. (Another example of the Gods punishing us for straying from the Purple Space Monkey?) We got absolutely soaked! We could wring out our clothes when we landed.

We caught the koosh bus back to Guatemala City, and passed the five hour journey conversing with a pair Belizian travelers. Riveting conversations that will not soon be forgotten. We arrived in Guatamala City at 9pm, headed back to the nun house and then up again early to catch the 6am bus back to San Salvador. I was ready for a nap and a sweet shower by the time I got back.

Next week, we have a delegation arriving on Wednesday so the real work begins again... you know, figuring out how to keep my tan from fading. jejejejejejejeje.....