This past month I had the unprecedented good fortune of spending a week building homes in the El Salvadoran village of Talnique. Sponsored by the dedicated fund-raising efforts of my Elm City Rotary Club I traveled with a team of students and rotarians to these beautiful volcanic hills 2900 feet above the Pacific. Each evening our air conditioned bus returned us to iPads, cell phones and running hot water in the capital city of San Salvador and yet the village captivated my every waking thought and continues to inspire me.
It is a culture of simple and proud beauty, a rough majestic environment full of seeming contradictions. The beautiful faces wear infectious smiles that belie meager and harsh living conditions. There exists a desire and a need to modernize alongside a healthy respect for tradition and a reluctance to change. Children wear clean clothes and no shoes and despite the lack of running water dress immaculately for off to school in spotless white shirts blue skirts or shorts shoes and socks.
Play time and work time often blend into one as this communal work at times seems like joyous recreation to villagers of all ages. These simple 2 room structures will become the most permanent possession these families have ever known. And in another year our dull grey roughly finished structures will blossom into the colorful beautiful hill houses that signify home.
I am now in my winter home in New Hampshire missing the warmth that is only symbolized through their summer sun. I see every color and shape of that village clearly. The soft hazy light catching fine talcum powder snow drifts of caramel colored ash, ordinary dense green hillsides flecked with the vibrant yellow blossoms of the arbitrary Guayacan tree, the cloudless azure dome above us, the array of pastel buildings, color washed in proudly chosen hues, the crisp white and blue school uniforms and everywhere those beautiful honey nut complexions smiling warmly. What a gift to my heart and to my spirit. It will inspire….