First of all, I love the people -- they are warm and kind. I never met someone who didn't greet me warmly -- even with a "buenos" or "buenas" as we passed in the street. The hotel staff were beyond accommodating and kind. While I know gangs are a problem here, I never felt unsafe -- except for being near the Roman Catholic Cathedral in San Salvador which I was warned was a highly dangerous area -- even there I didn't feel scared.
I was moved to tears at many points -- especially touring the place where Abp. Oscar Romero was killed and his home. At UCA, touring the museum and seeing the clothes of the Jesuits who were killed exactly as they were executed -- blood stains and all -- has left an indelible image in my mind and heart. Also, being at La Quesera -- seeing the massacre site and hearing the story -- was overwhelming for me emotionally. It is important to see in understanding what has happened in this country. It is beautiful, but there has been too much blood shed. Now with the truce with some of the gangs, my prayer is for lasting peace. Certainly going from 14 murders per day to 5.6 murders per day is a great start -- but more of this good work has to be done.
Being part of the Episcopal Diocese of El Salvador's ordinations at the start of their convention and being at their convention were a highlight for me. It was wonderful to share in these moments with our companion diocese. More, it was good to bring greetings from Los Angeles! Jon Bruno's name was mentioned so often -- he is much loved, and people in the diocese are very grateful to him for his love, care and support. It is a wonderful reflection on us as a diocese.
I will miss having pupusas for breakfast every morning. We all ate a LOT during this trip, but lost weight. I think for me it was walking and sweating -- a LOT. I don't remember sweating this much even when I was in the Philippines. At one point in Anemona it was as though I was under a full blast shower -- Julie said it was just pouring off me. I felt sorry for the people sitting next to me in the van afterwards.
I will miss seeing Mr. Donut shops and Pollo Campero shops all over. I'd yell out in the van each time I spotted one. At one point, Arcelio, our first driver, asked me if I want to stop and get a donut. "I don't like to eat donuts" I told him. He about fell out of the van laughing. He was so surprised -- "Why do you keep pointing them out?" he asked. "Because there are so many of them -- and they remind me of all the Dunkin Donut shops I saw in Korea!
From May to October it's very green -- I love the fire trees! From November to about April it's try, and things turn very brown and dusty. I found this interesting in thinking about the climate at the Mayan ruins, for example, or the change in temperature and humidity as we headed up the mountains. In a matter of an hour -- you can be 10 degrees cooler. This isn't unlike Southern California!
I loved the art work and handiwork of artisans such as Fernando Llort, the potters at Shicali and the Anil maker Irma who we met in Suchitoto. There is a deep beauty in this land that is reflected in the art. Not only were there murals painted almost everywhere, houses were also colorfully painted in places such as Ataco. I bought two new small suitcases to carry my purchases home in -- those platters are heavy and the nativity set is bulky -- and I didn't want to put them in my checked luggage in case anything should break. Steve doesn't yet know we have two new pieces of luggage!
I loved seeing the ladies with the frilly half aprons!
Human rights is still an issue here. I am grateful to organizations who are addressing issues. I'm especially grateful to Foundation Cristosal -- a very talent group of people dedicated to the church and to working with communities to address human rights issues. Cristosal is using the socratic method to work with communities through process -- they work with them to determine the root of the problem, not the presenting issue -- and then work with them to resolve the REAL problem.
The Episcopal Church in El Salvador, though small in number, is mighty in its works. I was so impressed by the projects achieved in this church -- from the work at El Maizal, the El Carmen, etc. Also, the Sexual Diversity ministry there is a powerful witness to the level of commitment Bishop has in ensuring ALL are welcome in the church! This also includes gang members -- which he has taken flack for. As he clearly states, "they need God -- they need us -- and we will not turn our back on them." The Holy Spirit is alive and well in this place!
I loved visiting cities, campesinos. With the exception of one brief moment, it never rained on us! It may have been overcast, but even being overcast couldn't mask the beauty of this country. Most of all, I am so grateful to George Woodward, Shelley Denney and Julie Bryant -- the best traveling companions anyone could have. We made new friends -- such as Edgar and his wife Rosa pictured here (friends of George's). We travelled together very well -- and I'm looking forward to being with them again on another trip to El Salvador in the future -- I'm hoping for June 2014 when the next diocesan convention will be held. I'm hoping our loved ones can come with us on that trip.
Thank you for following me on this trip. I hope to keep you updated about mission and ministry in the diocese and wherever my travels take me!
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Location:3,600 feet off the ground