Sunday, August 30, 2009

An alarming day

Last night the lights went out for about six hours during a thunderstorm, and Margaret Jane, Kathy Garcia, Ken Henderson and I crept around with candles and flashlights. This morning, with the lights restored, there was a knock on the door, and there was Hernan Merino, whose coaster has been the transportation for almost all of our mission groups. We were heading to the airport, and he was taking a group of Spaniards to the airport about an hour later. We had a great visit, then Margaret Jane and I got in the car to take Kathy and Ken to the airport. As we were driving out of Suchitoto, the security system malfunctioned, and the car stopped, howling about how it was being stolen. A little work, trial and error and waiting until the howling stopped, and we managed to get it started again.

Half an hour down the road, we came to San Martin, and found the usual path to the Carretera de Oro (the golden highway, so called because of its high cost) blocked by a parade and fiesta - and slowly, very, very slowly, made it through a number of unmarked detours to the highway. I may have pushed the speed limit a bit from there, so we arrived at the airport in good time for their flight.

And then, as we were driving out of the airport, it happened again. The button that's supposed to disarm the car alarm wasn't functioning. The car hooted, beeped, and when all my button pushing didn't connect, it stopped on the exit from the airport and howled and went dead and refused to start again. We tried everything, and nothing worked. The airport police came to see what was the matter, and came back with a policeman who they said was really good at these things. He tried. Nothing. A nice man stopped his car to help us. Nothing. We called Hernan, who was just leaving his group at the airport, and he parked his coaster behind the Toyota and tried everything he could think of. Nothing. Finally he called his brother who suggested calling a locksmith, and the locksmith came dashing down from Mejicanos (a San Salvador suburb), and dismantled the alarm. Should he just take it all out? he asked - Oh yes, I said, please get rid of it. So he did, as Margaret Jane and Hernan and I shared water and the shade of the trees. And after about 3 hours on the side of the airport road, we finally were able to start the drive back to Suchitoto.

What was grand in all this was the helpfulness that I've learned is so easily found in El Salvador - and the police and the man who stopped and Hernan and the mechanic all played a part in putting us back on the road again, this time with a voiceless car.

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