2014 Stanford Delegation

2014 Stanford Delegation
Stanford Delegation in the UCA Chapel

Monday, April 2, 2012

Home Stays in Morazán

            On Wednesday night we were all dispersed around to various communities in Morazán, apparently the poorest district in El Salvador. We spent the afternoon in an airy church at the base of a hill, a church with a ceiling that reminded me of a circus tent and broad white shutters evenly spanning the circular circumference. Introductions were punctuated by giggles from both sides at miscommunication errors, mostly derived from language differences, and then the heat took over and the room was soon serenaded by flapping, makeshift pamphlet fans. The games of “conejo en el conejero” may not have been intended to be bilingual, resulting in some initial confusion, but we most definitely were not too old to run around trying to catch “conejos” in our two-person “conejeros.”
            Edith, Geoff and I met our soon-to-be guide, Javier, right outside the church. Sixteen years old and sporting a shirt advertising for a Spanish rock band (“Los Arboles?”), Javier was not disposed to conversation at first, though he opened up when we pressed him about his favorite rock bands. Edith’s house appeared first, and Javier entered and brought out a woman with a bright pink shirt and an amiable half-grin on her face, though at the moment this half-grin was slightly furrowed in confusion. It surfaced that she had in fact not been expecting a visitor that night, though she shrugged her shoulders, saying, “Sí, claro que ella puede quedar aquí, en una hamaca o en una cama.” (Yes, of course she can stay, in a hammock or a bed.) So, depositing Edith’s water in her unanticipated home, we trekked on, all of us searching for small talk topics to grasp onto. When I mentioned that I played violin in a mariachi band, Javier’s face lit up and he said that he had always wanted to learn to play violin, but now he was learning guitar for his band.
            The host family for Geoff and me, however, had been anticipating us since five o’clock. I don’t know if one and a half hours late is acceptable even by Salvadoran time, and so I offered to help chop onions for our dinner. My onion-chopping techniques are usually reserved only for my own personal dishes, and I have a strong feeling the smile on my host mother Salvadora’s face after I handed her the unevenly chopped onion was one of amusement. But she made no comment, and we joked a bit about how I mistook “llorar” (to cry) for “llover” (to rain). Sitting down to eat scrambled eggs, beans and of course the ever-present tortillas, Salvadora recounted (in response to our many queries, for she was at least as taciturn as her grandson Javier) how she had lived in a Honduran refugee camp for nine years, and had lost her husband and four sons to the conflict.
            We deposited Edith and her host mom Daisy, who had come to mingle and chat, back at their home down the street, lingering a while to watch television. The soap opera playing reflected a world completely separate from that which we fleetingly inhabited. As glamorous, bleach-blonde women adorned with glittery bracelets and fabrics fought with their fickle lovers, equally well-adorned, I couldn’t help but wonder at the Morazán Salvadorans’ reaction to the bickering and excess of the program. Had I lost my husband and children to a war that pushed me into a refugee camp, I would be outraged by the pettiness of the make-up-laden characters. Was it perhaps so unreal to them that the lifestyle portrayed melted into the fictionalized nature of the plot itself?

After returning up the hill, Geoff, Javier, Salvador (one of Salvadora’s son) and I all collapsed onto the brick patio that divided the two components of the house. Their dogs Chiki and Lova wiggled from person to person, soon joined by companions from the streets. A peaceful and less-forced conversation lazily flicked back and forth, finally settling onto the theme of music and resulting in the appearance of Geoff’s iPod. The mutual appreciation of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin proved to be a strong connection and much more tangible than that of the future. The future is uncertain. And a university degree is contingent on resources, resources as fleeting as our time in Morazán. While Javier’s favorite rock music brings us to the truth of the present, a truth that speaks to the reality of hardship and tribulation. In a strange way, I feel that there is a comfort and hope in listening to someone singing about the universality of difficulties and obstacles that connects even the most divided peoples.

Erika Noel Alvero Koski

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