Blogs from Lempa River, Central, El Salvador, Central America Caribbean


I just stepped outside the office to watch the torrent of raindrops start to fall, to smell the thirsty soil drinking it all in. If that sounds like a peaceful, thoughtful experience, then maybe I can’t explain through writing—perhaps through an expression: IT’S RAINING CHUCHOS AND GATOS!! The first rainstorm of the season--about time, too, since the dust and the heat were getting to be more than slightly unbearable. Oh, and, here comes the thunder…and lightning...!!!!!!!! And then I started to write a blog entry here--my first attempts foiled by the storm, as the power keeps going in and out and I was warned to stop working on the old computer since it could short-circuit. But here on the gringa’s computer (Thanks, Jillian!), I can start again. I was inspired to write after such a long ... read more
Mercedes and I overlooking the Valle San Vicente
Doing the Hokey Pokey!
A "picture" of a flood

It’s amazing how my senses can bring me back so quickly to memories I didn’t even realize I had. Sitting in the back of a pickup truck on my way down to Ciudad Romero, the strong smells of dust, burning trash, and soap (the kind used for washing clothes) reminded me of my first days in the campo last year. The way the light spills golden on the sugar cane fields in the late afternoon and the dust-covered green of the trees. The chorus of insects at night and birds in the morning. The oppressive heat. Now that I’m getting accustomed again, this intense barrage on my senses has become somewhat more normalized. Still, as Laura and I were walking through the market in Guatemala City, we marveled once again at the loudness, the chaos, the ... read more
The family
At an art exhibit in Antigua
Oh, the irony...

Last night, five youth performed a revival of a play that Aryeh first created with the técnicos (agronomists) of the organization two years ago. Although we had a rather rocky time putting together this peice (3 of the original cast members dropped out, and only 1 remained constant in his own part!), the result, after 5 rehearsals with all present (and bringing in new folks), was fun and moving. The play´s basic premise is about two indigenous "antepasados" (ancestors) who practice advanced methods of agriculture, planting according to the phases of the moon, sharing the land, and believing in the sacredness of nature. But---one day, these ancestors receive a strange (and strange-smelling) visit from the future.... A transgenico (GMO) named Supertomatepez (Supertomatofish) arrives to tell them how she can resist cold temperatures and is stronger for ... read more
Working with the earth
"They believed all nature was sacred."

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 ... read more
Rain over Río Lempa
When the lights go out...

I´ve been through a complicated set of emotions in the past few weeks--through what I would consider my latest "adjustment period." The thing they usually don´t tell you about "culture shock" is that it comes in waves...some that are more intimidating and crushing than others. I had thought it was an orderly process--the honeymoon period, the culture shock, then the delicious profundity of feeling "settled" in a "foreign" place. Not true. Every time I´d get a wave of depression, self-doubt, or have another experience that convinced me that I truly don´t have as secure a hold on things as I thought, i think...NOT THIS AGAIN! I´VE ALREADY BEEN THROUGH THIS! Because, yes, I have reached a certain point of profundity in my relationships and my lifestyle here, but something I have come to realize is that ... read more

At the prodding of the youth, we put together an improvised play with a very short 2 weeks of rehearsal for Mother´s day. Uniting the two communities Ciudad Romero and Nueva Esperanza, we had a cast of 14 youth who cross-dressed to make the theme of gender more apparent and to internalize and understand the different "roles" that men and women play in daily life (plus, it´s just funny and campy--which is always enjoyable!). The play centered around a family, specifically a day in the life of Mamá Julia, who confronts the daily tasks of cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, maintaining order in the household, and buying food that is progressively more unaffordable. She also puts up with her drunk husband, domestic violence, child abuse, and immigration (in the form of her two sons). It´s a huge ... read more
Mamá  Julia lavando
Diez dólares?!?!
The Familia Martínez sleeping

Click the above link to see the work I´m doing featured in the ArtCorps May e-newsletter! (Haz un clic para ver una versión en español también!) Here´s the beginning of the article... Theater has proven to be a necessary tool for helping the youth of Bajo Lempa, El Salvador develop teamwork and leadership skills--and receive an invitation to perform internationally. "We believe that art is a tool that greatly facilitates the work that we do every day to achieve the empowerment of our communities and the strengthening of our organization," says Nohé Reyes of the Mangle Association, which received its 4th ArtCorps artist in 2008. Robyn Saxer is the 2008 ArtCorps artist working with the Mangle, reinforcing three years of collaboration. While Robyn comes from a theater-obsessed family in California, she says she... read more
Coming together
Addiel with his "bicho"

¡AVISO! WARNING!: SOME CONTENT OF THIS ENTRY MAY BE DIFFICULT TO READ FOR THE FAINT OF HEART AND/OR STOMACH. That being said, I was recently inspired to write about my not-so-glamorous experiences here in hot, flat, rural El Salvador by the ingenious travel writer J. Maarten Troost, author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals ( The Book ). Reading this book and laughing out loud convinced me that it´s indeed okay--and in fact, quite healthy--to express my concerns and, well, deep-seated anxieties about my continuing lifestyle "abroad." "You´re the inspiration" So, one night while I was consuming a surprising amount of energy (the lightbulb hanging from the cord that´s connected to the neighbor´s house--incidentally the only source of power in my house--is on, the aqua turquoise fan from ce... read more
"All will be welcome"
The inside of a Salvadoran bus
Flowers in full bloom after the first rains

It is easy to talk about the first performances of this year in quantitative terms. The youth from Nueva Esperanza performed their play "Juntos podemos" (from a quote from the community--"Juntos podemos, pero solo no podemos nada": Together we can, but alone we can´t at all) on the night of March 28th. The play "Que no se vuelva a repetir!" was presented the morning of March 29th for an audience of representatives from the Committee of Victims, people from various organizations around the country and Central America that are working on re-constructing historic memory. The jóvenes from Ciudad Romero performed their play "Mi Gente Sufrió la Guerra" (My people suffered the war) in the afternoon of March 29th in the newly built community center/flood shelter. The details that aren´t included in these facts are: the electricity ... read more
The one picture I have of Nueva Esperanza´s performance
"Declaramos que tenemos una voz...y vamos a usarla!"
The cast of Ciudad Romero

These other previous musings are about things I've noticed in my spare time--really, what I've been doing most of is theatre (and I wouldn't have it any other way!). I'm currently working with four different groups, have rehearsals six nights a week (and twice a day two times a week), have bought costumes and paint, and have written 3 scripts. Those are the plain facts, but of course the intricacies of the groups are much more complex and not as finite. (Note: the first pictures match up with the text which pertains to them, and the following ones are in order of the groups talked about below...) Ciudad Romero This group is by far my biggest challenge. Not only are a lot of the participants younger than in the other groups, but it's also the largest ... read more
Crossing the river into Honduras
Fuimos llorando, pero regresamos cantando!
Recording the Radionovela

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