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Published: July 28th 2008
During the rainy season in El Salvador, the saying "when it rains, it pours" takes on an entirely new meaning.
When walking on dirt roads becomes wading calf-deep through slushy mud (and who knows what else, since the cows and pigs trod the same paths) while the roads transform into streams with gentle currents or algae-covered lakes and ponds (I once saw a group of tadpoles spawning in the middle of the street!), you begin to understand.
When the rain comes (la tormenta), usually at night, the booming of thunder and the crackling of lightning barely make a sound over the deafening sound of hard rain splattering the tin roofs. Talking becomes shouting, and you feel the thunder instead of hearing it--it literally rumbles and rattles the room.
When the wind is so strong that it uproots huge trees and they fall across the highway, and you have to trudge through the rain over and through fallen branches and leaves, you begin to realize what the power of nature signifies!
But the way people come together during these times of "difficult weather" is truly astonishing. Our senses are heightened, we laugh about little things, we become close
friends in an instant. If the river overflows here and turns into a flood, I know that I will be safe with this community around me. If global warming will really be the global disaster it is predicted to be, I am convinced that the people here will be the most prepared and organized to work together with compassion and strength to confront natural disasters. Here in Bajo Lempa, there were no casualties after the horrors of Hurricane Mitch (Cristina still has nightmares about waking up and stepping in a meter of water). Unitedstatesians came together after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina in incredible ways. But when I think about the isolation inherently involved with the lifestyle and culture in the United States among people within their own communities on a daily basis (think about how well you know your neighbors...), the individualism that denies the importance of community, I think I would prefer to be here in El Salvador than in the States if something were to happen, somewhere I know people would always put others and their communities before themselves because they have such a powerful history of struggling together. It pains me to feel like I couldn´t depend
on my own people, even if I had been living in a place for years, whereas here, after half a year, I know there is an established support system, and that I contribute to that support as well--add to that, being from the United States, my country was (and still is) directly and indirectly responsible for many of those acts that force people to come together in solidarity here--and I still know that I wouldn´t be left behind. Still, I know that people in the United States have the human capacity to come together in times of struggle, and I hope that we can continue to develop it--we could (and should) certainly learn a lot from people here.
Rehearsals have been very interesting these past two weeks--I have injected new energy and new perspectives to my work after reading Augusto Boal, Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed has affirmed and enlightened this work so much!), and bell hooks on their approaches to popular education and theatre of the oppressed. With these theories and new exercises in hand, my work is being enriched and I´m learning so much from the youth that I´m working with. They´re truly incredible people. They´ve
When the lights go out...
We have romantic dinners!
asked me questions like "Who will benefit from this play?" or made statements like "(Motivation in a scene) gives me the strength to act" and "Oppression is only an image, and we have the power to remove it" and "I feel like I feel the same pain as people in my family (who lived through the war), and now I have a new way of looking at them." Wow. I have always encouraged dialogue, but being conscious of engaging in it and to what purpose is completely different.
Both Freire and hooks talk about the importance of "self-actualization" in work with others, especially in engaged pedagogy. Paolo Freire emphasizes that the "teacher" (in his words, "revolutionary leader") makes an active decision to work with the oppressed that along with developing trust, love, dialogue...In "Teaching to Transgress" hooks says that this kind of teaching "emphasizes well-being. That means that teachers must be actively committed to a process of self-actualization that promotes their own well-being if they are to teach in a manner that empowers students." As in so many other aspects, I had realized this self discovery to be important in this work, but these writers have given me the
Jefferson in my room
So serious (don´t let him fool you...)!
vocabulary and the framework to work through--and my own personal process has taken on a new level of importance, as I realize that my work understanding myself is directly related to working with people in a more effective way.
On the other hand, while the hard rain is falling, people are leaving my life. Licha, our neighbor across the street, has sold her house and she and her family will be moving to Panama indefinitely this week (her father also passed away about a month ago). Cristina can´t remember a time that they didn´t share everything, but acknowledges her leaving--"Life is just too expensive here" (with the dollar currency and price inflation). We celebrated Seneira´s 26th birthday on Thursday, and her grandfather passed away on Sunday morning. And Jefferson, my 5 year old imaginitive "house brother" will be "escorted" illegally across the border to where he calls "A-planta" (Atlanta) to join his mother, father, and brothers (whom he has never met). You´d think that it should be important to stay, but when everyone you care about is leaving, it´s difficult to convince yourself to stay somewhere that so many people have left behind. And, even though I re-connected with
people back "home," relationships are slipping away as I continue on this journey.
On my way back from the States (culture shock wasn´t nearly as difficult as I thought, but it was certainly weird), there was a line of about 10 deportees waiting to get on the plane to San Salvador with their weary faces and their possessions in creased paper bags, standing between the three policemen who didn´t allow them to do anything and laughed among themselves.
Something that I have noticed is I am getting readership from Salvadorans in this blog. I just want to acknowledge those of you who are reading my blog, and thank you for your comments of encouragement and your critiques as well. If I say anything offensive in any way, I hope you can bear with me to understand that I am still looking at this experience after only being here for only seven months and observing the world around me with eyes that have seen the world very differently for much longer. And any naive humor that I may use stems from my genuine curiosity about the way things are. Please continue to hold me accountable for the words that
I say and feel free to add your valuable commentary to enrich my point of view regarding your own experience and opinions.
Saying that, I need to establish that what I say on this blog is a reflection often of my personal opinions and observations that may or may not be subjective. I am aware that, thankfully, we´re all different, and if you disagree with something I say or how I represent something, please let me know through message, comment, or email. I always look forward to hearing opinions and gaining different perspectives on my own way of looking at things.
As the rain continues to become part of the rhythm of the day, this flood of thoughts, discoveries, and emotions is "alimentando" myself and my work as much as the rainwater (even though it can be frightening in its power) feeds the newly planted maíz and burgeoning bright green trees that luxuriate in the enriched earth.
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