Sunday, July 31, 2011


For the past two years the harvests of corn and beans, the staple foods of Central America, have been terrible because drought came at the wrong time or because the rains were too heavy. This year we seem to be hitting the "just right" that Goldilocks longed for. The rains started late, but they've been consistent and not too heavy (relatively speaking: a not-too-heavy downpour in the tropics looks like a deluge in the north). The harvests are already beginning to come in, and should continue through the month of August. Yesterday on a walk around Suchitoto I found evidence at this house where the beans have been laid out to dry on the sidewalk, hung over the open door, and draped all over the frame of the family pickup. It's a good reminder that Suchitoto is very much a rural community center as well as a tourist destination.

Gracias a Dios por la cosecha - Thanks be to God for the good harvest, for the tortillas and frijoles that are daily bread for the people. Thanks for the rain.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The path she chose

Things don't always work out the way you'd planned them, as we all know. On Thursday, I got up at 3 AM and drove to Ciudad Arce to pick up Sandra and her grandmother. Sandra was going to enter Hospital Bloom, the national pediatric hospital, for cataract surgery (she has congenital cataracts). Sandra and la abuela were on time at our meeting place, smiling happily at me. We got into San Salvador in time to be among the first entering Bloom, and after waiting an hour and a half for the doctors to arrive, were among the first in to see Dr. Dominguez, Sandra's surgeon, who said that yes, she would have her surgery the next day.

All seemed to be going well, and we had a little break to get breakfast in one of the busy comedors across from el Bloom. We came back in and waited for four hours for a pediatrician who would examine Sandra and other children waiting for admission. Then a nurse showed up with a hospital identification bracelet for Sandra, and we were suddenly in a very difficult situation. She refused the bracelet, ran to the hospital entrance and collapsed into a chair, very distressed. Two understanding nurses talked to her, and so did grandma and I, but she couldn't respond in words until finally she was able to say NO to the surgery. And, we all agreed, at 14 she had the right to say no.

And so I bought us some lunch and then took Sandra and grandma home. Sandra recovered on the way back and was chatting comfortably with her grandmother by the time we reached Ciudad Arce.

For me and for the donors who had generously purchased the interocular lens for her surgery (we'll ask Dr. Dominguez to find another child who needs it) it was a disappointment. But, as so often happens, someone had sent me the right thoughts for dealing with this situation. The someone is Cheryl Sesnon, the new Executive Director of Jubilee Women's Center in Seattle, where I once worked and once served on the Board of this great housing program for homeless women. I'd stopped by to get to know her while I was back in the States, and we'd talked a bit about our times of discouragement as well as our joy in the work. She recently e-mailed me, "Each time I feel despair I just have to remember that I am not in control of others. They each have their own path to follow. and I have my own path, as well."

So as I drove back to Suchitoto, more than 12 hours after leaving, I blessed Sandra on her path, and gave thanks that she was able to express her will so unmistakably. I don't know if I can say this clearly, but it's good for me, a gringa with access to much that's unavailable to most Salvadorans, to be reminded that the path I and my fellow norteamericanos might want to help someone choose isn't always their path.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In Suchitoto

I took the red-eye to Houston just before midnight on Monday, and the morning flight to El Salvador today. Roberto met me at the airport, and soon I was back in Suchitoto - and it feels wonderful to be here.

My two months in the northwest were a blessing of regained health; joyful and renewing time with my Sisters, family and friends; and summer days in the great beauty of western Washington. I realized, though, in the last few days there that the rich, clean, orderly, luxurious and beautiful environment of Bellevue had begun to feel somewhat unreal to me, and I knew I was called back to El Salvador.

On the way back to Suchitoto I noticed the roads crowded with people walking, the pickups overflowing with passengers, broken-down abandoned cars, heaps of rubbish, trees and shrubs and grasses green with the daily rains, dogs and kids and sidewalk restaurants, a poor, messy, chaotic, lively and vital environment. Real. My ankles swelled instantly in the heat and the mosquitoes located me (gringa alert) and went to work. I'm itching. I'm glad to be back.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

July in the woods

Next Monday I return, joyfully, to El Salvador. But these two months at home have been wonderful, both in recovered health and also in a chance to spend time with friends and family and in the beauty of western Washington in July. I've been celebrating my improved breathing with long walks - these photos are from a walk with Patti Moore on a river trail near Orting. We'd thought of going to Mt. Rainier, but even though it's July, the snow is reported to be still high there (the northwest has had an extra cool spring and early summer). So we walked the river instead, ate salmon berries, watched a crow kill a garter snake, rejoiced in foxgloves in full bloom, and listened to the river, white with glacier runoff, sing its song. One of many lovely days in this beautiful country before I return to that other beautiful country, so different in every way.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Noise and silence

Apologies for the blog's only because I've been in the United States - in Bellevue, Washington - since early June, so I haven't had much fresh info about El Salvador to post. Strange things have been happening there: a big constitutional crisis has heated up with the legislature passing a law to require the judges of the country's Constitutional Court to be unanimous in any decision about the constitutionality of a law (many recent votes of this five person court have been 4-1 decisions), and there's been a strong popular protest. The court, perhaps predictably, declared the law unconstitutional. You can read about it in Tim's El Salvador blog, but it's pretty hard to understand the dynamics at a distance (like someone in El Salvador trying to understand the current dynamics around the debt ceiling crisis in the United States).

Meanwhile, blessedly, my own health crisis has been resolved with great medical skill and lots of prayer. I am able to enjoy long walks for the first time in six months - what a joy! - and I will be heading back to El Salvador on July 25th, most thankfully. Perhaps I will find someone there who can help me understand the constitutional crisis.

And also, meanwhile: I've been assembling photos from the last year for our PazSalud calendar selection, and here's a favorite from the May eye surgery mission - left to right, Dr. George Sesson, our optometrist; a happy patient; Dr. Tony Pisacano, our ophthalmologist, and Dra. Silvia Pleitez, our circulator.