Saturday, March 27, 2010

Coffee blossoms

No, I don't mean cherry blossoms, which are glorious now in Seattle, my home town. Here in El Salvador, it's coffee blossom time. Yesterday, as I was driving to the mountain village of Comasagua, a glorious drive along the ridge of the Cordillera del Balsamo, I saw the white flowers everywhere, a cheerful sight at this hottest and driest time of the tropical year.

This photo was taken on my way back from Comasagua to Santa Tecla. On the way back to Comasagua from El Rosario, the colonia where we left the wheelchair, I gave a ride to a woman and boy and a sack full of banana leaves. I assumed they were family, but the woman asked to be set down along the way to the main road, and the boy (and sack) stayed with us until we got to the main road. I took Rosa and the two men with us back into Comasagua, then headed down the road again. There was the boy, just where I'd left him, and the sack. He was delighted to have a ride to Santa Tecla, where he was going to sell his banana leaves in the market (they're used for wrapping tamales).

Along the way, we got to know each other a bit. His name is Daniel, he's 13 years old and just finishing the first grade. He's one of 12 children, and goes down to Santa Tecla once or twice a week to sell the banana leaves - I'm sure to make his contribution to the family. He wanted to know about all the things I had the use of - the car, the car's radio, the iPod. Were they mine? What did they cost? Had I ever been on a plane? Couldn't I drive the car instead? (I said it would take a long time to drive through Mexico and then the United States. He said, two days? I said, more like six days - but in truth, I have no idea.) What did a plane ticket cost? I told him, and he was stunned.

When I saw some blossoming coffee ahead, I told Daniel I wanted to take a photo and asked him if he would hold the coffee blossom for me. He wasn't altogether sure about this, but he cooperated, and here he is. Our conversation brought home for me, once again, the outrageous richness that I can make use of, and the depth of poverty and limitation that is still the overwhelming experience of most people in El Salvador. I wonder if Daniel will ever be able to drive a car or get on a plane. I hope he will, but only if he can have those possibilities without losing what's precious in his world - family and community closeness, shared responsibility, trust.

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