My watch was still on Boston time. Waiting in line for customs, I had decided not to change it to El Salvador time. If I wanted a real getaway, then I needed to leave time and home behind, but that did not mean my loved ones. I had already thought of my grandsons. Brady, age 11, would love the van driver’s speed and his music; Henry, age 6, would love the two cats and frantic little puppy that live in my friends’ home; and my daughter Diane, her Nana’s girl, would love the flowers and the warm breeze off the Pacific. I am eager to walk on the black sand beaches of the Costa Del Sol.
My 1968 Spanish is weak; the CDs are still at home in the box. There has been no time to listen to them in the five weeks since I bought my ticket. Today, I sit in my casa du amigos within a compound with armed guards at the gate and razor wire atop the 12 foot high wall. Escuela Americana. It is 73 degrees at 8:00 a.m. My grandsons are enjoying a snow day.
The coffee here is wonderful, as is the homemade Greek yogurt with local honey and oat bran. The taste is different from the diet that I follow at home. This is when I decide that I will eat to fill my belly, not my appetite.
Outside the small bathroom window, the skies are hazy. Pollution? Fog? I learn that it is a little of each. Tall concrete buildings tower over the tin roofs, palm and mango trees, and more cement. So many different textures, foreign to me and fascinating. Another difference is the bathroom itself. The tub and shower is a large concrete box covered in white ceramic tile. The shower head is American, and there is a faint whiff of chlorine in the water, not unlike Miami. From the window, through the haze, I see a mountain looming large over the neighborhood. Later, I am told it is a volcano and there may be an occasional, small earthquake.
My first day in El Salvador begins, and I am hungry for it all. As the daughter of an immigrant, I am very conscious of this first use of my American passport. San Salvador is thousands of miles from my Worcester birthplace. I travel with courage and focus to learn of a new culture and to embrace my religion where it is strongest, where clergy and missionaries were assassinated and, later, canonized. I ask God to keep me safe on this journey.
Today, I pray for the people of El Salvador. Those who are victims of gang violence, and for Sergio, our former BOLLI custodian, whose family is in the capital city–as are my friends who teach at the Escuela Americana.
Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service. She says she “hails from Woosta–educated at BOLLI.”