Monday, December 3, 2012

A day in Paradise

Yesterday I was invited to visit the island Tasajera, a place I've heard much about from Dr. Lauren Herbert and Cathy McKay.  About five years ago Lauren, a pediatrician in PeaceHealth's Sacred Heart Medical Center, Eugene, visited the island with Dr. Daniel Perez at the end of one of our medical missions, and she has since been working (along with her church and with the people of Tasajera) to set up a medical clinic and - more recently - to bring wi-fi and the possibility of teleconsulting to the island (through a grant written by Dr. Dany to Conexion, a Salvadoran NGO).  Cathy McKay, a nurse in Bellingham, got involved a couple of years ago, and has helped a group of women on the island to start a sewing cooperative where they make beautiful handbags - the project is named, in her honor, Las Bolsas de Cati. 

Both Lauren and Cathy are visiting Tasajera this week, and they invited me to enjoy Sunday there.  And enjoy it I did, every minute of that day of beauty, peace and serenity - a day in Paradise!

After two hours driving, I finally arrived at La Puntilla, at the very end of the road to the Costa del Sol, where Lauren and Rosa, a health promoter who has the healthiest and most infectious laugh I've ever heard, met me.  We travelled across the estuary by lancha (motor boat) to Tasajera, the name both of the island and the small town at the island's tip, and then boarded a pony cart for the trip to the island's other town, Colorada.
In Colorada, we visited the three-room clinic where Lauren works when she's offering consultas on th island.  A young man was waiting to see her with a long series of problems; he left with a number of medications and instructions:
Then we headed out to lunch, in one of two Colorada comedores, both built out over the estuary, and both run by brothers of Rosa.  Looking out over the river, we ate shrimp, tender shells and all, and the freshest fried fish I've ever tasted.

The comedor's bathroom is also built over the river, a beautiful creation to behold, but I was happy not to need to use it:

From the comedor, we got to see closeup one of the local fishing boats, a true dugout canoe, with two young boys happily fishing (in the background are the mangroves that protect this low-lying island with their barrier of interlaced roots):
Then we got into a lancha and headed out to the confluence, where the Rio Jultepeque joins the big river, Lempa, and they both flow into the ocean.  We swam in the calm salty water of the confluence for a beautiful, dreamlike hour - we had the beaches all to ourselves - then headed back to La Puntilla, passing along the way an enormous number of pelicans, roosting in mangrove trees and in snags on the river:

An amazing, beautiful day.  I came to understand completely why the young folk on the island, when asked if they're interested in going to the capital to study or work say "no."  Who would trade this peaceful and beautiful island, this peaceful and beautiful way of life for the noise and danger of the city?

It wasn't until today that I realized that this place of great natural and human peace and beauty must be one of the thousands of places on our planet endangered by climate change and the rise of ocean level.  This gives me abundant reason to work harder to alter my own ways and to advocate for earth justice.

Gracias, Lauren and Cathy, por un dia en el paraiso and for all you're doing for the people of Tasajera!

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