Monday, December 19, 2011


I had a couple of missions today.  The first and easiest was delivering a Christmas basket to Rosita and her daughters and taking them to El Paraiso, the nearest town, for a little shopping.  Then came the serious mission.  When I was in the Northwest in November I sat down for coffee with Theresa Edwards, daughter of my friends Lisa Dennison and Karl Edwards.  Theresa was with the youth delegation from Seattle's St. Patrick Church that visited Nueva Trinidad in July,   When she returned, full of energy for continuing to study Spanish and planning for her next visits to Central America, she painted a picture of St. Patrick's as a gift for the people she'd met and loved in Nueva Trinidad.  And would I take the picture to them?  Oh yes, I said, nothing to it.

And that was today's second mission.  I headed toward the town of Chalatenango from El Paraiso, thinking that it wouldn't take me long to get to Nueva Trinidad, perhaps 30 kilometers further up the road from Chalatenango.  Sounded simple.  Wasn't.  The map shows the road proceeding smoothly through Chalatenango, but Chalatenango is a frustrating grid of very neatly laid out narrow streets that somehow do not get you where you want to go.  On my first try, I followed a bus that said "Chalatenango - San José" knowing that San José las Flores was on the same road as Nueva Trinidad.  I followed the bus as it twisted and turned through the streets, and I almost followed it into - alas - its parking area.  And then I returned, sheepishly, to the Texaco at the entrance to the town, filled up on gas (this was a brilliant move) and asked them how to get to Nueva Trinidad.  Clearly the guy at the gas pump had never heard of it.  "Arcatao?" I asked, knowing Arcatao is the last town on that very same road.  Oh, he said, you mean Arcatao?  - giving it, I swear, almost the identical pronunciation - yes, yes, Arcatao.  Well, you just go up this street and keep going up.....

I've learned to ask women for directions, and so when I thought I might be headed for the road out of Chalatenango (deeply desired after about 1/2 hour of threading through narrow streets full of trucks unloading and Christmas shoppers) I asked a woman selling fruit.  Ah, she said, you're on the right road, but just give a ride to this woman, she wants to go to las Flores (it's the first of the three towns), and she'll show you the way.  Great idea!  So I invited Roxana into my car and she asked if she could take a few minutes to get some lunch.  A few minutes later she came back with lunch and three other women who needed rides to San José las Flores, and we were off.

Shortly after we left Chalatenango the road got pretty bad - big potholes and crumbled pavement.  I remarked on how "feo" - ugly - the road was.  Wish I'd listened more carefully, because I'm sure I could have learned the Salvadoran version of "You ain't seen nothing yet."  Soon I was shifting into 4-wheel drive and negotiating a road in the process of being built.  I'd heard about the new highway that was being constructed in Chalatenango, but it hadn't occurred to me that it went through Arcatao, Nueva Trinidad and San José las Flores and that it was being constructed under us.  We bumped through gravel, dirt, dirt interspersed with big rocks, work sites with flagwomen directing traffic, patches of pavement, patches of wandering trail, surrounded on all sides by steep hills and steep slopes.  It seemed to take forever, but we did arrive at San José las Flores, where I left my helpful guides (who told me to take the left at the first Y and the right at the second, or was it the other way around?).  The next stretch of road was finished highway, smooth and new and beautiful, but still a mountain road with impressive curves.  And then, abruptly, I was on dirt again, and then on a semi-paved road, and then - milagro - at Nueva Trinidad. 

Theresa told me to ask for Julio Rivera, so I stopped at the Alcaldia and asked a young woman where I could find him.  Oh yes, she said, he's over there at the biblioteca (library), and there he was, blessedly, delighted to receive Theresa's painting, which he said will be placed in just the right spot.  Meanwhile the young woman, Karina, and her cousin Kenia (or that might be spelled Carina and Quenia) asked if they could have a ride back to Chalatenango with me, and I said of course.  We had a grand conversation going back  - I learned how much they appreciated the help that St. Pat's has sent over the years - and they saved me from a couple of wrong turns. 

When I finally got back on the familiar road to the Troncal, the northern trunk road, I felt as if I'd been gone for a couple of weeks, but the journey only took about 3 hours, and it was great fun. And now Nueva Trinidad has a picture of St. Pat's and I have a picture of the path to Nueva Trinidad.