Last week Darren Streff and I visited some of our friends in Agua Escondida - Darren's a Maryknoll Lay Missioner who's volunteering with PazSalud, and I wanted to introduce him to a few favorite folk. We started with Doña Carmen Aviles, who has been a community volunteer, chef extraordinaire, hostess and ranchera singer for our two missions in San Juan Opico (Agua Escondida is a colonia of San Juan Opico). Carmen gave us a tour of her family's farm, which included a charming young goat and a pelibuey (a tribe that's explained as half-sheep, half-goat and prized for meat) and a very fruitful orchard, where we found some little red peppers. Were they hot, we asked? Oh yes, said Carmen. Darren tried a small bite and said they weren't very hot. I tried a small bite and went up in flames at about the moment that Darren said "oh, on second thought..." They are extremely hot, and I can't imagine how Salvadorans, generally resistant to anything too picante use these - perhaps on a one part per million basis in a salsa? I never leave Carmen's without gifts for the kitchen, and this time we left with peppers, ginger root (Darren's going to start a new plant in his patio) and a pineapple.
Then we went with Carmen to visit Gloribel and her mother Hortensia, who live next door. With Carmen's help, we've been sending the two of them to a special school for the deaf in Santa Ana, where Gloribel has been able to learn both Spanish and sign language for the first time in her 11 years. Gloribel was delighted to see us and to show off her notebooks, her certificate for completion of the preschool program (she's now in first grade) and some of her new signs. And Hortensia added a beautiful squash to our stash in the back seat.
Our next stop was a quick one, to visit Sonia and her family. They usually live in a different colonia, Arenal, but they'd all been sick the past week - sounded like a flu - and were staying with family near Agua Escondida.
Then we headed up to Huisisilapa (I'm very proud of being able to spell that!), a colonia of San Pablo Tacachico, where we visited with Ylda, who arrived back from a new security job in the Government Center just a few minutes after we got to her house. (I was relieved to know that she didn't have to tote a gun.) She, too, had to feed us - tortillas and beans and cheese, with apologies that there wasn't a real almuerzo (lunch) ready. A good thing, since we were already full of tamales.
And so we headed back to San Salvador, where I dropped Darren off, full of tamales and tortillas and beans and cheese, with good things for the kitchen and garden. Altogether, a day full of gifts.