This is a shout out to my brothers and sisters from the Careterra a La Libertad, where my car broke down last night.
I did not get your names, though I remember your faces. I remember the faces of your kids too, because as you were using your cell phone screens to light up by broken engine they were smiling at me from the darkness.
I got alot out of the experience. It reaffirmed what I have seen and experienced so many times. For all the violence and bad reports, El Salvador is a place where you still get a helping hand when you need one, and where you should lend your own hand as well, and demand of yourself that you do it regularly. Its good for everyone.
I want to be very specific. I was NOT surprised when a car fully loaded with a large family pulled over in the darkness to see what they could do to help. In my experience this type of family is generally willing and ready to help. They did not just help though, they spent close to an hour trying to help diagnose the problem, trying to help us bump start the car, and then helping us push it to a better lit location. They then hovered back by their car for a few minutes (until the tow truck arrived) because they were not comfortable leaving.
I have been on both sides of this scenario before, either stopping to help, or accepting the help of others. But I wanted to give a special shout out to the strangers that helped me out this time, in a forum that generates so many questions from people fearful about their upcoming new lives here. Don’t be so afraid. People do terrible things. More people do really kind and helpful things.
This place is not that different from where I grew up. If anything, the constant bad news, the differences in the types of struggles that are typical, might make make people a little bit more aware of each other.
Im not sure.
But I am sure that this particular car-breakdown was the first that made me genuinely concerned (late sunday evening, not sure exactly where we were, extremely low batteries on computer and phones, no tow company or roadside assistance number, I made the bad mistake of reading the newspaper three times this week, etc). I was genuinely thankful for the help.
Sometimes the help is not just practical. Its help on a few different levels. I have never felt afraid of people here, but I have been afraid of the unknown, and if the situations where I am not in control. Sometimes a couple weeks of bad luck is good for you. It is good to look at the world in a way you didn’t choose, because when you make all your own choices you are limited to your same old rut.
Since my own car broke down last week I have been on foot all over my neighborhood and have seen more interesting features!! I’ve started loving the cracks in the sidewalk, the extreme slopes of the hills and driveways. I only just realized that the rain does not bring earthworms out of the ground, and I have not seen snails since moving. I have gotten some good walks in, and met some interesting people. It might be silly to think this is cool, but it just goes to show that we miss out on alot driving around.
So thanks to my car breaking down I have been getting to know the city better, and thanks to the car I rented breaking down just a few days later, I got to meet a great family, and got some reinforcement of my existing appreciation of the country.