Finding Beauty in El Salvador – Part 2

The men leave in a quiet procession before we arrive. Left to manage the household and work the construction, we take our cue from the amazingly strong and capable women of the village. They instruct us and look out for us as we attempt to match them step for step in work. These ever present women literally create their homes from the ground up, carefully sprinkling the earth with water before the floor is laid. This act seems sacred, representing more than what they intuitively know of pouring concrete. The women of the village infuse the community with color. Although their clothing is second hand, they select bright and cheerful fabrics. Almost every home has bowers of pink, cream, red, yellow, and purple, as even during the dry, rainless summer (November-April) blossoms of jasmine, yucca, izote, hibiscus, orchid and rose flourish. Given the choice to select two colors for their simple, uniform houses, there is no default to beige or black expressed here. We listened with delight to the roll call of colors the ladies haveselected – peach and aqua, lime green and fuchsia, yellow and purple. Blending like exquisite watercolors, the hues will soften and fade in the hazy sunlight.

Colorful scraps of fabric and paper dot the jalousie windows. Painted murals and friezes brighten utility poles and public buildings, and any tile that can be found is patched together with artful ingenuity. We are surrounded by verdant coffee fields and on the horizon the dramatic silhouette of extinct volcanoes coexists with steep rolling mountains. The green spectrum spreads from yellow to blue, reaching up to a translucent purple blue sky fringed with haze. Strings of billowy clouds roll in and out with not a shade of moisture. We hike up to our favorite tree and take it all in. Looking down on this village there is quiet, slow-motion beauty. Yes there are skinny dogs and noiseless chickens. There is trash and the dust, as fine as talcum powder, covers your ankles. The water is amber colored and we worry about the welts on little fingers and faces, applying our astringents as best we can.  There are discarded plastic liquor bottles and wrappers from the homemade pink snacks that we haven’t the stomach to try. Reframe, rejoice and reimagine this place to be what it is- a community, on a hill, anywhere in the world, in which people do their very best to embrace a life of beauty.

Our last evening we are celebrating. We have dressed up for a lovely dinner together. Once again we have climbed the mountains to get to this place. It is a very different world than the village of Talnique. The warm, black night wraps around our elegant balcony. Deep below us the city of San Salvador sparkles like a vast sea of phosphorescent plankton. The view is breathtakingly beautiful. I think about this first-in a-lifetime moment for our students. As adults we know how their lives are forever changed and can see them all too soon in our shoes. We share with them the humility of this place and time, who we are upon this tiny platform of a stage. As we relive the week together we unite in growth. It is not about our age, our country, our past experiences, our egos, our work here. It is about this twinkling spark of time that is ours, that holds our communion, giving us pause to be thankful for the beauty of this earth and the wonder of our connection to it all.