Chiapas Day 04—Interfaith Dialogue, Futbol, the “Other” Perspective, and Ecological Disaster

Friends, it has been a very long day.  For those of you who followed Mr. Melcher’s posts from El Salvador in March, you will be familiar with his euphemism: Traveler’s Digestive Issues (TDI) have assaulted members of our group today, including yours truly.  As a result, even though we had the evening to ourselves, I spent my time getting medicated and retiring early, rather than catching up on the blog as had been my intent.  However, Cipro came to the rescue, and I (and the others) are feeling much more the thing now.

A New Meaning for “Ecumenical”

United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, with which this trip is affiliated, is an ecumenical seminary.  This means that people of all faith backgrounds are welcome, and we all learn together in the same classroom.  I’ve told people that it’s an incredible opportunity to learn how to express myself in an interfaith dialogue while still in my formational process as a minister.  It teaches me how to avoid stepping on other people’s beliefs while still honoring and expressing my own.

But today we walked to an ecumenical school here in San Cristobal where interfaith dialogue has a much different meaning.  This school is not for ministers-in-training.  This school is made up of a small, dedicated staff who have committed themselves to healing the deep division between Catholics and evangelical Protestants in Chiapas—a division that has fostered suspicion, fear, hatred, and even violence. Continue reading

El Salvador Day 03: Homemade Soup, Marching for Romero, and El Presidente

Today began for me with a little adventure wandering the streets of El Salvador. Internet access has been spotty at the guest house, which I mention not to complain but rather to give better context for you, dear reader, in those “creature comforts” we find so easily at home only to find them missing abroad. Most of our phones don’t work, either, which is different for me because every time something funny, emotionally compelling, or even annoying, I want to reach for my phone and text my wife, just like at home. It’s a bummer to not have that way of communicating but then I think of how $5 of the average Salvadorian’s $15 is spent on precious cell phone minutes to talk with family members in the US about their remittance and I don’t miss it much anymore.

Adventures in Internet-Seeking

Kathryn and I set out to find internet access and had quite the quest as pedestrians in El Salvador with no Spanish skills whatsoever. First we went to Mister Donut and figured out through broken conversation and hand gestures (the international hand gesture for wifi is pointing to a sensor in the corner of the restaurant’s ceiling and push your hand out several times, opening and closing yoru hand to make “five, five, five” or “wifi waves, wifi waves, wifi waves”) that they indeed had wifi. We logged on… but it didn’t work. And we’d already bought coffee and a donut and everything (Good donut, by the way. An aptly-named restaurant.).

Next we went to Burger King. Nope. But they did have Bart Simpson and Indiana Jones kids’ meal toys. I may have to go back and buy some junk I don’t need.

Our final stop was a coffee house that had wifi and we logged in… but their system was down. Hence, the post about 03.19.2010 showed up halfway through 03.20.2010 as the guest house computer was up and running again. But the internet access was only the McGuffin for Kathryn and me. The true tale lies in our travels. We loved the independence and the chance for surprise. We really didn’t know what would happen. Everyone was so friendly and accommodating to us, too. Salvadorians are a friendly people and they tell us over and over how much they appreciate our coming to learn about their history and issues.

Well, they’re almost all friendly. A guy almost ran us over on our way back to the guest house (I am absolutely not exaggerating, it was mere inches) and then a bicyclist almost clipped Kathryn later in the afternoon so she came close to vehicular injury twice.

Here Romero Lived, Here Romero Died

As if seeing where the Jesuits were slain yesterday wasn’t emotional enough, today we went to the chapel where Romero was assassinated. First we were taken to Romero’s home, a modest one-bedroom apartment-style house which the sisters built for him after they’d said enough is enough, you cannot live in that little room behind the chapel chancel anymore. Everything is as Romero left it, from his book cases (I saw at least one book by Jimmy Carter, mom) to his old school metal desk to his clothes closet. Even his toiletries were on display. Also on display were photos taken immediately after his assassination. Because he was shot in the heart, his valves burst open and blood immediately gushed from all orifices. The pictures were hard to look at, though maybe they felt like a softer blow than the Jesuit photos for two simple reasons: they were in black and white instead of color and there were only three of them and not two albums. I won’t post the photo in the gallery at the end of this post and yet if you truly want to see one of the photos, I took a picture and you can click the link here to see what we saw. Continue reading