|Andrés & Lisette with their Certififcates|
New Idiom – Chivo (Pronounced chee-bo, B & V have the same sound in Espanol) It’s the equivalent to our cool. When we notice something interesting we might say, cool. They say chivo.
We’ve started our immersion classes at The Melida Anaya Montes Language School of the Center for Exchange and Solidarity, AKA CIS. It’s a great school but I will save that blog for another time.
Part of the school experience is that you stay with a host family, like exchange
students. Our rent includes lodging, breakfast (desayuno), lunch (almuerzo) and dinner (cena). Our host family pays a woman who washes their clothes, so we will enter the same arrangement with her.
The host family owns a large apartment near the CIS school. It’s a 4th floor walk up… kitchen, eating area off the kitchen, living room, 3 bedrooms, bathroom and balcony overlooking the street. They’ve obviously maintained it well and keep it very clean. The pictures above are of the apartment.
Our host family is a young couple named Andres Hasbun and Lissette Gil. They are in their late-20’s, have been married for 3 years and own a dog named Kilo, he’s a Boxer. They support themselves by owning and operating Nomadas Tours and running a private taxi shuttle service. They also attend CIS learning English. They are pictured together above with their CIS diplomas, they’ve both finished 2 years of study. Felicitaciones a ellos.
Andres father left El Salvador at the start of the Civil War and moved to Montreal. He spent 15 years in Montreal and interestingly his 1st language is French. He also speaks English and Spanish very well. He’s an avid surfer a very friendly outgoing person who has an infective laugh. He’s also a trained chef, so are meals are top notch and the only thing better than the food is their company because we eat all our meals together. Before we leave here I’ve told them I will cook for them. Hmmmm, what should I cook??
Lisette has lived her whole life in El Salvador. As I mentioned she attends CIS studying English but also attends the University studying English and French at a college level. She would like to be a teacher someday. She speaks English but not as well as Andres but better than my Espanol. She helps us with Espanol and we help her with English. She loves the beach. She works very hard at her studies, between all of her classes she sometimes goes from one school to the other from the morning till as late as 7PM at night.
Upon our arrival at their apartment they were very welcoming. They let us settle in and asked us if we wanted to walk the neighborhood, which we did. We all walked to a strip mall about 1 ½ miles from the house. It was like the U.S. It had a Bank, Super Market (Super Selectos), Hardware store, Payless, Beauty Salon, multiple other stores and even a Burger King.
During the walk they told us it was safe for us to walk there. When we walked home, they walked us to the School which is only a 5 minute walk from the apartment. On this walk they showed us a shortcut to avoid an area very close to the house that was not safe but easy to avoid.
In San Salvador the safety of the neighborhoods changes fast. If we walked the other direction from our apartment for 1/1/2 miles we get into an area that’s not very safe and another mile gets us into a Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) neighborhood which is very dangerous. Andres pointed out that if you walked through there, they would literally steal everything you have including your shoes and don’t you dare resist them!! During our stay we have heard gunshots a couple of times, not close but close enough to know what they are. It sounds scarier than what it is because our family pointed out that you just need to stay out of where you shouldn’t be, mind your own business and just be streetwise. I wear my wedding band on a chain around my neck, my watch is always in my pocket and I only carry enough $’s for what I need, $10 tops so if someone watches me open my wallet they won’t see a wad of cash.
In a previous post I mentioned a lack of road rage. I asked Andrés about that, innocently thinking that people are used to driving like this. He smiled and said, no. The fact is that you don’t know who you might be yelling at, a gang member will not take being flipped off lightly and even if the driver is not a gang members guns are very prevalent. The potential consequences are far too dangerous. It doesn’t mean you don’t drive aggressively but just don’t lose your cool, even if the other person does.
In the pictures I want you to note that Andrés has an extensive tattoo on his right arm, he also has one on the left. These are not gang tattoos. They are the type you would see on any young man in the U.S, yet they are why he runs a tour business. He has his Chef certifications, letters of recommendation from Marriot Corp. He was the head Chef in one of their Hotel Restaurants in Montreal but tattoos in San Salvador are deal breakers for most employers. Even with his credentials he’s been turned down every time for a head chef job because tattoos of any kind are considered gang related, no if, ands or but’s as my Dad used to say, decision final. He also gets stopped by police for occasional questioning on the street, in some wealthy neighborhoods he wouldn’t walk 5 minutes without police escorting him out and he must be streetwise about gang members who might approach him. It’s a harsh reality he lives with.
On a more upbeat not, we were fortunate enough to be able to attend Andrés & Lissettes graduation from CIS. They both just finished 2 years of study there. It was a wonderful event with many traditional foods, we met many other students and again, everybody made us feel right at home. In total there were about 30 graduates from different levels. Each class put on a different skit in English. It was moving to see the pride and happiness in their faces, that of their families who attended and their teachers. It’s no small accomplishment because they now have expanded their job opportunities. As we know in our own society, you need to expand your education regardless of the field because it will create opportunities.
This whole chapter of the Mission has been one great experience after another on many levels. We are finding that if you embrace new things and experiences openly and without fear, you recognize them as blessings to love, not changes to fear.
Be content with what you have, for God has said, "Neverwill I leave you; never will I forsake you." So say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
- Hebrews 13:5,6
Tom & Dianne