Saturday, December 18, 2010

Life has been slightly busy these days, so I'm thinking more in the way of just plain updates this time 'round.

Santa Lucía - December 6-13 marks the week of the patronal festival here in Suchitoto, as Santa Lucía (whose feast day is Dec 13) is the patron saint of the town. I was assured throughout my first months here that it would be a time of locuras (craziness), and indeed it was. Each morning at 4am, a different barrio had the chance to host a small ofrenda at which people from all over town gathered, drank coffee and ate pan dulce, and listened to a small jazz (klezmer-ish?) combo, all the while in the presence of a portable altar to the Virgin Lucía. Then at 5am kicked off the candlelight procession through that particular neighborhood and to the church, where mass was held at about 5:45. After that, each day was different during the daytime, with small artisan fairs, children's days, cultural events, etc. Then (most nights) at 8pm, the given barrio would send a float and various other parade-type elements up the main street out of town and back down the entrance street. This was usually followed up by a fireworks show in the plaza.

BUT THEN...we arrived at the actual day of the feast and Holy Hannah did the locuras ever pile on. The 12th was a Sunday - and the day after the 11th, which was when we celebrated the Virgen de Guadalupe,* thus the second night of even greater celebrations - so there was the regular 9am mass and the noon and 5pm masses were combined into a 4pm, followed by another procession at 5. Then the grand finale fireworks show which was....indescribable. There were regular fireworks the shoot up and explode; there were torritos - little wooden bulls with fireworks attached, which are held by a person who runs around in the center of the plaza; there were various structures set up with fireworks attached to them, including a small model of the church and a Christmas tree. There were an absolute TON of people in the plaza. (Like, if the fire marshal that got upset about South's storage situation were there, he would have just straight up died.) But it was SO GREAT.

And then afterward there was a dance. I met up with a couple of friends from the museum and we went, running into a few more museum folks along the way. It was great - the space was shared between a live band on one street and a dj in the next, each getting an hour at a time to play. Only problem is that the dj's bass system was so strong it actually made me sick to my stomach. But the show went on! We wandered back and forth from one end of the street to the other (the dance is held in a cordoned off street in front of the city government building) for several hours, dancing mostly together and occasionally with (mostly very short) other people. All in all, the night was a success. The Center was closed the next day, so I slept in for the first time in...five months? (Like, I slept almost until 8:45. :)

*We celebrated both ladies a day early because 1) you want to have a dance the night before the actual day off from work, and 2) the Virgen de Guadalupe's day is actually the 12th, but that was a Sunday and you cannot celebrate a feast day on a Sunday (apparently). But we in Suchi couldn't do Guadalupe the day after her real day, since that belonged to Lucy. As you can see, this is all very complicated.

Posadas - The 14th was a day of rest, as far as December festivals are concerned, with the celebration of the Posadas beginning on the 15th. Every evening from the 15th through the 22nd, people gather at a house or restaurant to begin a procession commemorating the time that Mary and Joseph spent looking for a place to rest in Bethlehem. As we walk we sing and try to keep our candles from going out. When we arrive at the next home, a dialogue takes place between the crowd and the owners of the house/business, where we ask to be let in and are repeatedly refused for several attempts, until we're finally allowed entrance and given cookies and something warm to drink. It's a pretty beautiful tradition and I am really glad that dad and Ella will be here for the final night. (It doesn't matter how tired they are after a full day of traveling - we're going.) Come January, I am not going to have any idea what to do with myself.

The day of the scorpion... - Yesterday was quite a day. First thing, right off the bat, was getting dressed. Since it was Friday, I had patinaje, so gym clothes were in order (since usually I skate with the kids). I'd covered for Ariel the day before and hung my clothes outside to air out overnight. Well, BAD IDEA MASTERS. I grabbed them and brought them in and got dressed. When I pulled the bottom of my shirt down, my hand brushed...something, but I didn't make much of it. I checked to see, saw nothing, and figured I'd just touched the hem of the shirt in a strange way. And then, only seconds later, lo and behold, a scorpion fell out of my shorts and scuttled under my backpack.

I am proud to say that I didn't scream. I sort of froze, but I did so silently. I left the room, enlisted the wisdom of Susan, who suggested a combination of bug spray and a shoe, and went in. It sucked, because I didn't want to kill it, but I also didn't want it in the house. But I felt bad because it was only in the shorts because they were warmer than the (50 degree) night air. I had asked Susan for a blanket the night before, and she did not take it as a reason to kill me. Now I was killing something that had only done the same? My overactive organizer's-daughter imagination kicked in and I saw visions of all her little (and not so little?) scorpion allies coming together and reading from their little scorpion bible about she who denied refuge to the one in need against the cold and then getting together and bringing me down. And then I sprayed her and smacked her with my shoe, to which her response was to get pissed and raise her tail. To which my response was to lay the smackdown again and step on the shoe this time. What a horrific squelch. The shoe and the body sat there until the evening. (Bad idea #2: by the evening, the spray had dried and she was sticking to the floor.)

... and the raspon - So I think she got a bit of revenge, at least cosmically, later in the morning. I was skating and I threw myself off the small ramp at the behest of a bunch of 8-year-olds. (Tip: When a story starts like this, you know that everything ultimately stems from the stupidity of the protagonist.) Long story short, I am not 2 for 2 - attempts and pancake falls - when it comes to the ramp. My feet once again got ahead of my center of gravity and I fell straight on my behind. I've fallen several times on the skates and while it hurt for a second, I didn't think much of it. Checked on it at lunch and saw a visible but (kind of disappointingly) small bruise, showed it to a couple people, and ran the afternoon skating session. Then when I got home and went to jump in the shower, I thought to look again. Wow. It was the color of a dark purple eggplant, swollen, etc. After much research (aka, 10 minutes with my colleagues WebMD and WikiPedia), I discovered that I have what must be a subdermal hematoma, basically a big bruise. (I should note that this is different from a subDURal hematoma, which involves bleeding in the brain and is one of the MANY reasons that we require all manner of pads and helmets. While I said this accidentally a couple times to a few people last night, it's not what I have.)

It's already changing color and everything. I think it's going to be pretty cool over the next few days. I'm excited for when it's green and yellow, but highly disappointed that it is in such a hard-to-show-off place. It's only on my upper, outer thigh, so there are plenty of people here I'd be comfortable showing it to. But that would require that I either wear short shorts or drop my pants, neither of which are good options in public.

So yesterday was quite a day. Then Susan and I met up with folks from around town for posadas and walked from the house where we had stopped the night before, to go on to a different home in a different barrio. Today is my museum day, so I'm sitting on my (kind of painful) behind all day long.

Well. This has been today's view into the mundane details of my life. I suppose that makes sense, as life is about to get about as non-mundane as possible when, in FOUR DAYS, the first wave of my family get here! And then the second wave only three days after that! Needless to say, I am thrilled beyond words.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

De maravilla

I just spent a few hours in the museum with a guy (a kid? he's my age, so more or less) who tried to kill himself the weekend before I came to Suchi. I don't even know him that well, since he's kind of quiet and I'm kind of awkward, but I was realizing this morning that he would be only a story in my life if he'd been successful. I am so, so grateful that he is here.* (The word "here" - specifically in the sense of "I am glad that you are/I am/she or he is here" - is coming to have so many meanings for me. Here in this town or municipality of Suchitoto or in El Salvador or in the world or, more philosophically, existing in the same time and place as I/you do. Hard to describe, but I am glad that he's here, present in every aspect of "here.")

There is a woman named Yanira who lives on the street in town. Generally she sleeps in front of the police station, because some people harass her a lot. I think she comes in and out of her direct relationship with this reality. This, mixed with Spanish, makes it sometimes really hard to carry on a conversation with her. Sometimes she gets really angry, and sometimes she is just happy as a clam. Today, yesterday, and the day before, I saw her at least once per day and every time she was in a good place. I am so glad that she seems, at least in this moment, to be doing well. She is so wonderful. It doesn't matter that she always asks where I've been - usually leading with some version of "it's been a long time since you've been in Suchi, hasn't it?" even though I generally have been around. Yesterday I saw her with two bags of groceries and other general needs. And a huge smile on her face.

We had a big concert last night of Christmas music. The harps played - or rather, the harp students played their harpsicles. (Sorry, I just can't help but use "harpsicle" whenever possible.) Ariel's kids choir sang a few songs, including a couple with the harps(icles). A couple of kids from Alex's poetry and rap class read their own poems. The adult choir sang Dona Nobis Pacem and Capilla Celestial (Angels We Have Heard on High). And then we all came together with Paul's guitar class and performed Somos El Mundo (We Are the World).

We were not always (ever?) fully in key, but my God did we do a beautiful thing in that chapel. To see Alex (my neighbor) and Angel, both of whom come and skate every day, come in their dress shirts, looking kind of awkward, because they're 15 and 17 (respectively) and suddenly dressed up; to hear Alex read his poem about nature; to get bumped into by Luis Felipe, who has the most physical, bouncy interpretation of the "Gloria" ever -- these were extraordinary, but also such ordinary experiences. So wonderful.

After the concert, Ariel and I were sitting together just watching people eat sandwiches and drink hot chocolate. Angel sat with us and asked, "¿Cómo están? ¿De maravilla?" - How are you? (And the only way I can think of translating 'de maravilla' is the lame and clunky "marveling".) But yes, we were indeed marveling at what had just taken place. Marvel seems the perfect partner for the anticipation of Advent.

This morning Suchi held the pre-inauguration for the newly-founded farmers market. Now, being from Minneapolis, I was proud of how normal it was to stand at 'my' farmers market and watch my mayor talk about the city being committed to finding a permanent location for the market. (Turns out this is an international problem. :) But even more so, I was thrilled to see the vendors, the buyers, the produce (all of which was from the municipality), the artisan foods produced with other local stuff, and the Centro Arte youth drum corps, a couple of whom had sung in the concert just 12 hours before.

Marvel. And anticipation. We await the market's growth into something more permanent and secure. We anticipate concerts to come, in which at least half will sing on pitch(!) at least half the time. And I marvel at the smiles of two wonderful people whom I would not have known if circumstances had not proceeded as, thanks be to God, they did.