14-15th September, Staying in San Salvador
Staying with a local family
I met with Rosa at 7.30 and her daughter Karen, it was pouring with rain outside and she was in two minds what to do. It eased off a bit and we decided to get in the car and go back to her place. I met her other daughter Xiomara. They worked out we will go to dinner. We went to pizza hut. The girls speak good English and Rosa is able to gain a little understanding, so we did a bit of translation and laughter. I was able to get my humour across. Ah the mind of a clown.
I found the girls and their mum got on really well. The grandmother passed away last year and there is much sadness around this. Rosa came from a large family and told me they all got on really well. She said at some point that she is always smiling as she is happy. I really loved their attitude and goodwill. Rosa said to me that she is happy to give to people and likes to see herself as an angel. I said if everyone opened their doors they will find that there are many angels in this life. Unfortunately fear closes doors and we lose out on the good will that is everywhere in this life. I would rather trust and be burned then not trust at all. I don’t consider it a risk I consider it opening to life.
Walked into the restaurant, armed guard outside. I was to find all places have armed guards outside with riffles or hand guns. Wow. You wouldn’t want to be running and someone gets the wrong idea. Even when taking photo’s I feel to be careful someone doesn’t think I am going to shoot. So this is San Salvador and it is reality for these people. In recent days the gangs have been shooting bus drivers and ticket collectors so there is tension and more police presence, particularly around local buses. I believe interstate buses are ok.
Anyway, we had a lovely conversation and I told them about my adventures. We had a nice night and came back home. I’ve been given the large bedroom and en suite, I believe Rosa has given me her room. Very kind of them, there other daughter Fressia has been staying somewhere else, so they have made room for me, which is extremely kind of them.
I had some great chats with their daughter Karen about my work in peace and spiritual matters. I found Karen a very wise woman and reflected on some of the wise people who are quite young around today. They are in all countries. The young people have much to contribute and they feel concern about the violence.
My bedroom is a big bed and en suite and I am very comfortable here. The shower has one stream of water. This I have found in Central America, no rose for water but just a pipe of water that is cold. It is warm here so that is no problem. You can’t drink the water either so filtered water is the go.
Xiomara, the oldest sister came over in her Chef’s uniform and made me lunch. I was made a potato bake and it was wonderful. I was so surprised at how kind she was to do this and for Rosa to organise it. I really didn’t expect much but was really touched that she made the food. How kind are Salvadorians. I don’t think this would happen in Australia. I’ve never experienced such hospitality.
Quality of Life Affected by Violence
To think a group of gangs keep a population of around 1.7 million in fear and affect their quality of life, is incredible but I am told the corruption runs deep in the political arena as well. If you don’t have politicians who are living community values then that sends the signal that money talks and ethics goes out the window. Yet to hold a society together there has to be something to believe in. If you see integrity in your leaders then that becomes your model for society. This concept does not seem well understood in the world, leading by example. The youth are following their fathers and what they are taught by society. This issue of gangs is throughout Central America but I recall it as a problem in Australia, it is more bikie gangs there but the same concept of young people wanting to have power over others. These problems appear linked to the drug trade and I am told that cocaine and marijuana are key areas. That is obvious by the checkpoints in Central America. I also am aware that prostitution can connect to these things as well. So they are dark industries. I am told some of the leaders of these gangs are operating out of prison.
The challenge is to create societies that are mutually respecting, where the youth have role models to look up to and belief that there is a future and they themselves have a purpose. They need to develop their self esteem so they no longer feel the need to dominate others to boost their sense of self worth. There has to be aspirations higher than making money, prestige or success. A change of values to reflect integrity, honesty and goodwill. The men dominate these areas and that is where mindsets must change if the world is to become peaceful and capable of facing the challenges before us all. It drains society of precious resources trying to fight crime and it takes away the joy in living when your movements are restricted for fear of attack.
Looking at the City and Visited the Volcano over the city of San Salvador
After my conversation I did a bit of work on my computer. Later in the day we went for a drive to see the volcano. I think Karen’s boyfriend had a brand new Pinto 4 wheel drive, very nice car. I did see some San Salvadorians driving old bombs and others driving new cars. There are car dealers like Toyota present here. I contemplated the wealth and poverty of this city and how people view each other and the proportion of wealth to poverty. I was curious about the areas we went through and asked if they were wealthy areas. I saw the world trade centre next to a very new building. I am told it is a smart building. I am sure this is to impress investors.
I had my camera out the window trying to get a feel for San Salvador. Many little shops contrasted by big shopping centres and fast food outlets. You can see the merging of the traditional with the contemporary way of life and the American influence is unmistakable. People walking on the roads, some catching buses or doing their normal business. At one point we stopped waiting to change lanes and I thought I saw a boy stand over another, they saw me as the window was open and they started to whistle. I think I may have distracted me and the whistle was because they seem to like the look of western women. I do feel this acceptance of westerners, I certainly have felt some warmth directed at me. I did ignore them as I am not sure if they are gang members so I have to be careful not to be too friendly. So I pretended not to hear them and we moved on.
We went up the mountain, unfortunately there was a lot of mist so I wasn’t able to fully grasp the geography around the city. However, we went over the top and it was pointed out to me that there was coffee planted on the mountain with trees popping up around the coffee trees, apparently used as wind breaks.
We stopped at a Café and it was really lovely spot. I saw an armed guard and again just marvel that they need to protect everything. I also saw a man walking along the mountain road with a rifle. It is indicative of the quality of life here. As we walked towards the café I saw this amazing tree with lots of branches spiraling, it was very ancient and impressive. We walked into the café lots of paintings, sculptures, candle wax mountain dripping with colourful waxes (making wishes with each candle), lots of wishes made. We have our dreams to have hope in hey.
We sat down in this garden of eden, really interesting plants around, I took a few photo’s of some plants that seemed really different. Karen’s boyfriend said there is a focus on the problems but there are good people here and places to go. He says he feels much better when he comes up the mountain. You can forget the problems and enjoy the magnificence of nature that is abundant from every perspective. As the mist lifted a bit I could see endless mountain ranges like waves and volcanoes. Karen tells me that El Salvador is known for its volcanoes and apparently they predominate in Central America. I contemplated the volcanic activity. I asked if the volcano was active, she said no but there is one some hours drive from here that is. There was a village living on the mountain, you my not have much time if it erupts. Yet again, why worry you are where you are in life, no point in thinking about it. Fate. We had coffee and blueberry cheese cake (yummy). We headed off waving at the armed guard, good to see him smile, sometimes I say be happy don’t shoot anyone.
Education in El Salvador
We headed down the mountain. Karen and her boyfriend had to go to English classes. She said that at university very few know English but she realizes it is important. She is studying food science and her sister is a chef, the middle sister is in an insurance company and is planning her masters in Marketing. Really lovely girls. So for them education is really important. Karen said about 40% of children don’t go to school here, I found that really concerning given the gang problem. Also how do societies progress if a significant size of the population are not educated, they won’t get the work and they become the underclass and exploited workers in factories. Like battery hens matey. Apparently education is not enforced. I asked if primary was free, she said no education is free. So how do people break out of the poverty trap? I reflect on Australia and how much we take for granted. These people have significant challenges. The girls have a mum working in human resources as a recruiter so she is making enough to keep them fed, educated and living a good life. But for others fate may be more difficult as I note with the beggars juggling for small change. So the emerging social problems are evident and El Salvador as a cheap labour supplier is clearly the state of play and the only resource they can offer. Even food is an issue as it is imported in, they do not have enough cultivation to feed the population, any major problems and people will be very vulnerable.
Karen and her boyfriend went off to school and I was dropped off with Rosa at her workplace.
I reflected on the coffee crops and found out later that this had been a main industry and cotton as well. Prior to that apparently they had a product that was a natural tint (blue). The plant was called xiquiliteo or anil. The current industry is manufacturing as there are many factory’s peppered around San Salvador. Again, the American influence is here and I understand that is connected to the war in El Salvador which I will give an overview of in the next post. The country has $US as its currency and that is a sign to me of US power. I understand the wages in a factory/telephone call centre are around $6 to $10, mostly young people employed. The coffee planting made me think of Belize and the slaves that were brought from Africa there. All now seeming like American afro youth. I reflected on the use of Central America as a cheap labour country and I wondered at the mentality of slavery that may still persist today. Taking advantage of poverty to be able to produce cheaper goods to sell at a premium on western markets.
Going for dinner with Rosa
After finishing her emails we went to dinner and to have some El Salvadorian food. El Salvador food and drink is particularly distinctive among the diverse cuisines of Central America. A blend of indigenous and Spanish influences, El Salvador food includes all sorts of stuffed delights: tamales, empanadas, pastelitos, and the ever-present pupusa. So I had a range of pupusa’s. They are in pita breads with beans, potatoe like vegetables, quite enjoyable.
We had a great discussion about men of the world. I am mindful as I write this that men and women mustn’t become ‘us and them’, we are compliments in this world and we must reconcile the differences and work for unity for the children. I have spoken to women on this trip and there is a concern about where the world is going and the way men are designing societies. The loss of values and the total focus on profit is a big issue. The social implications and environmental impacts are not focused on nearly enough. We spoke of men in the relationship area, so many marriages breaking up, infidelity and that they are not growing. This is a problem if you are looking for a man bu find all he wants is sex or to fulfill his own ego without the understanding of the depth of relationship. Many I have found cannot find the emotional depth to truly open the heart and dive into a relationship and then stay as a loyal partner through thick and thin. I am not particularly negative, although I have my moments of fear around it. I think there needs to be a dialogue about the masculine and how men are socialized and I do feel the shape of the world needs to be examined given they are in leadership roles and their perspective on life is much different to women’s. I discovered that clearly when I did the women’s research at a council. Women and men think differently men are goal oriented whereas women look into the social implications more naturally. Women are often the primary carers of children and if marriages break up they are the sole supporter more often than not. They have significant structural barriers to professional work given they must dedicate time to children which often affords part-time work which is typically in the lower positions. They miss out on utilizing their talents and they find themselves continuously working day and night. There is significant imbalance in respect to social obligations with families and work balance. Thus the voice of women is significantly silenced due to these barriers. Also I am told that her in el Salvador a woman’s movement is rising. This was told to me from a man who has been living in the States but is originally a local. He said with relief this is occurring as he has been appalled at how men treat women here, the violence, the inferiority and apparently they must sleep with their boss to get ahead. This was the same as in Congo and seems to be present where women’s rights are non existent in poorer countries.
Returned home and I told the family about Byron Katies work www.thework.com and how real peace looks. I also showed them Erchart Tolle the day before. The key is living in the now and learning to accept life as it shows up, even if it looks like it is falling apart. To look for the good in all challenges. I like the philosophy and it helps me to live more fully.
The next day woke up from a good sleep. The computer is playing up looks like the screen has gone. Too many power surges. Another challenge to sort out. I will just go with the flow and see what happens. Having a restful day today.