{13.6.14} Terrific Two’s and some cultural education

Today, I spent most of my time playing with/chasing around the precioso 2-year-old son of our hosts for the next couple of days, Leslie and David. We went to the park, played with his pelota, went down the slide countless times and managed to coax him into going on a walk only after the garbage men caught our attention and distracted Ryan David from the play set. Leslie came home for the afternoon and descansamos for the afternoon, playing cards, and chasing Ryan David around between excursions to the little tienda to buy forgotten things for meals.

Ryan David the Adorable
There are a few points here that are not thematically related to anything in particular, but that I thought you might find interesting: 
  •  it is so hot here that standing motionless in the sun is enough to make sweat pour off of you in sheets
  • there is no hot water, which would annoy me anywhere else, but here I am thankful. I think the norm will be 2-3 showers/day for this kid. 
  • absolutely no toilet paper in the toilets or they risk clogging
  • us weak-stomached gringos don’t dare drink the water (can’t even brush your teeth from the tap), eat fresh peel-less vegetables or drink unpasturized milk
  • we live in a gated community, which is perfectly safe, but which we are not allowed out of without accompaniment. guards with big guns bike by periodically, and there is surveillance 24/7
Well, now that bowl cuts are back in and I need a haircut …. 
This evening, as Ryan David ran himself to sleep on a blanket on the floor, Leslie and David told us about growing up in the ’80s during the civil war. They were both young, 7 and 5, when the worst of it happened but remember vividly having to hide and flee for their lives. 
I am struck by how similar the problems seem to be in this country to those in the US, but how even greater access to guns and gangs and less social support make this country the second most violent in the world, clocking in at 14 or so murders a day for about 6 million people. They talked about the struggles of learning how to be a parent, and about how difficult it was for David to take a lower-paying job so that he could actually spend time with his family. About being a father without having one. About learning how to bottle feed and being a nervous wreck in the hospital waiting for his son to be born. 
I am also struck, however, with the differences. These are people who have lived war. Leslie saw a grown man shot by a 16-year-old gangster 20 feet from her car. David remembers spending 5 days barricaded in a bedroom with his mother and sister at the age of 5 with mattresses set up all around to absorb bullets, living on honey because that was all they had to eat. Before leaving their house to flee to Chalatenango, his mother covered his eyes with a cloth so he couldn’t see the bodies piled in the streets and streams of blood running from them. Leslie slept under tables with her 3 siblings so that if the government bombed the house (trying to get the guerrilleros) they’d have some protection. She watched a neighbor man who had climbed a tree to pick fruit get shot because a sniper saw him and assumed malicious intent. Perhaps the reason the US seems so eager to make war on foreign soil is that the people don’t have stories like these to remind them of the horrors such violence can bring to people. Leslie says that even if she weren’t a Quaker pacifist, she still would never ever let Ryan David play with a toy gun or play a violent video game.
I am amazed as well at the central role that faith plays in their lives. It’s not gracias to luck, or gracias to hard work but gracias a Dios that their families both survived the civil war, that they had places to seek refuge, that the week they ran out of money for Ryan David’s formula a friend had a lot of extra to get rid of. Faith here is a great source of needed strength in a way I have never really seen in the States before. There is so much love and so many thanks given in this house, it is no wonder Salvadorans are the happiest people in the world, even with all of the obstacles!
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2 Comments Add yours

  1. haha, don't worry. not even the cheese goes unpasturized before being introduced to our digestive system. 🙂

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  2. Soren Hauge says:

    What traumatic experiences! I hope that Friends' examples and strong faith can help to bring the country toward greater peace.

    Gratuitous parental advice/testimony: Do stay away from uncooked vegetables, my undoing once in Nicaragua (with similar sanitation), four days of misery. :-Q A lesson in empathy for the infants and old folks there with similarly unprepared immune systems.

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