Thursday, January 29, 2009

An afternoon to forget and remember

A memorable, crazy afternoon. I set out about 2 PM to go to Sertracen - that's the private company that handles issues car titles and driver's licenses. I was hoping to get the card showing my title to our car (we couldn't put it in the name of PeaceHealth or the Sisters because neither has a legal status in El Salvador). This was my fourth trip, I think (they tend to blur together), and I was confident that it would be the last. I found a huge crowd when I went in with the number I was issued at the entry desk. The man sitting next to me told me that Salvadorans put off all their business until the end of the month and then come rushing in to get it done - which would mean that Salvador is not so unlike the U.S. I went from the first counter to the cashier, where I paid for the title, to the final counter where I would get the card. I got the card, and it said that the owner of the car was Vera, Dewitt Susan.

Now this is a natural mistake in Spanish. Anywhere in Latin America, most people have two last names, one from the father and one from the mother. But when I pointed out that my last name was not Vera, alas (it's my middle name), I was sent back to another counter where, finally at about 5:30 I was told that I could come back for a corrected title (I hope) next week. Meanwhile, I have the title card for Señora Vera, and am wondering if it would be simpler to just change my name.

I came home to the wonderful news that our new Congregational Leadership Team has been chosen, and it's a splendid group! I was e-mailing about it when the front doorbell rang. I rushed out to answer it, and found Freddy, who wanted Eleanor to know how happy he was with his new bifocals - he can see close up AND at a distance now! I told him I'd tell Eleanor, and turned around to discover the front door had slammed behind me. And there I was, locked into the front yard, between the double locked front gate and the locked front door, with my keys inside the house.

Francisco, our valiant guard, was right there. He figured out that the best way to rescue me was to get into the back yard, because I remembered that I hadn't (thank God!) locked the back door. So he borrowed two ladders - one tall and sturdy wood ladder, one short and rickety aluminum ladder. He passed the tall ladder over the front gate to me, and I set it up against the gate. Then he climbed the short ladder, threw a leg over the gate, and somehow managed to connect with the tall ladder on my side. Then he got a friend to pass the short ladder up to him, and he repeated the two-ladder exercise to climb over the razor wire into the back yard. And shortly I was back in the house, clutching my keys, from which I hope never to be separated again.

Francisco said it was nothing - after all, he was wounded by nine bullets in the war (he showed me most of the scars) and climbing a few walls was nothing after that. But it was a lot to me. It was feeling safe in a country that I still don't know very well. It was knowing that I might never get my tramites done, but I wouldn't be stranded between locked doors. Muchisimas gracias, Francisco - you are the kind face of El Salvador for me.


  1. Sounds like quite a day!

    And yes, I too am VERY excited about our new leadership team!

  2. Susan
    It took four times for Seattle U to get my name right on my Master's Degree ...culture happens.