¡Buenas! No matter how incredulous the looks when we first arrive, every time we greet someone with a cheerful "¡Buenas!" (slang for good day), they reply warmly and welcome us with open arms. On Friday we attended a piñata workshop in Santo Tomás with Clelia, one of the women from Pastoral. While all the staff members have a specialty (Clelia is a social worker, others are nutritionists or doctors), each staff member also has their own community where they run the workshops, allowing them to form closer relationships with the community members that they work with. The goal of the piñata workshop is to teach women how to make their own piñatas, which in turn they can sell to generate their own income. The women were all welcoming, even teaching us how to make pupusas!! On a side note, pupusas are harder to make than they look. We tried to make them a couple nights later and well, it's good we have another two weeks to practice!
Between the five of us we are able to get the gist of almost everything, however every once in a while things get lost in translation. For example, Friday, the day we made piñatas, was also Mother's Day. Clelia had told us that we were all supposed to get her a small gift, so we ordered a bouquet of flowers. First, I accidentally ordered 5 bouquets instead of 5 flowers, but that wasn't my only mistake. In the afternoon, Clelia took us to a Mother's Day celebration. We met the mayor of Santo Tomás and as Clelia shook his hand she handed him two wrapped gifts. Suddenly, things clicked. Of course! The gift was for the mayor for inviting us to this Mother's Day celebration!! Without hesitation I handed over all 5 bouquets to the mayor and we went to sit down. After a while, the more astute members of the group clarified who exactly the flowers were for and it turns out that they were in fact for Clelia. Oops. I bet the mayor sure was confused when a little gringo (foreigner) handed him 5 bouquets of flowers. When Clelia heard she laughed, and it is now a running joke in the office.
More than anything else so far I am humbled by the simultaneous diversity and familiarity that surrounds me. There's a universal communication beyond words that I never in a million years never expected to find as I interact with 8 year old Jaimee who called me gringito ( little foreigner) and Señora Terecita who told us how to fry plantains and Dr. Fatima, the product of Salvadoran medical education (which begins with 8 years in med school as opposed to the 4 in the US). At the same time, though this connection is tangible, I'm constantly worried about offending my hosts, staring too long at the police and the seemingly nonchalant way that they grip their shotguns, or eating a slice of crisp ruby red tomato that had been washed in dirty water. I think I speak for the whole group when I say that I am incredibly thankful that we have two more weeks here, because there is so much more to soak up. There are so many more papusas to attempt, places to go and most importantly, people to meet. I have not yet said "Buenas" nearly enough.