Monday, September 24, 2012

What´s love got to do with it? What´s love but a second hand emotion? Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?

I admit it.  I have had a rough week. And when I have rough weeks, I find that I need to take a step back, inhale deeply, remember the big picture, and know that ultimately this life is not about me…Kathryn Ann(e) Strader.

With that being said, I thought I would write something in response to my seven days of Debbie Downer.  I have a good friend who got a tattoo that said LOVE with an open heart on the end of the “E”.  She wanted something on her body that counteracted her scars from a mastectomy she had done in high school. That tattoo is her response to cancer, to the thing that gets her down, the gross, unnecessary, filth that runs rampant in our world.


No, I am not talking about Shakespeare´s Romeo and Juliet kind of love, Paula Dean´s love of butter, politicians love for lying, or ever Christian Grey´s x-rated version.  I am talking about our need to connect with other ourselves, other people and God. Connecting, being intentional with our time is how we best love…or at least in my opinion it is. 

Hafiz says it well…

Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to them, "Love me." Of course you do not say this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.  Still though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.  Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye that is always saying, with that sweet moon language, What every other eye in this world is dying to hear? 

So does Mary Oliver (ONE OF MY FAVORITE QUOTES!)

To pay attention, that is our endless and proper work.

And the prayer of St. Francis is pretty practical is how we should be living this out:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive. 
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Despite the nasty…gang members killing an acquaintance’s son four days ago, bus entertainers invading my personal space, protesters setting fire to an American flag, and the constant smell of road kill…this has been my attempt at LOVE. 

These things need to happen in order for life down here to function:

Love myself: eating right, exercising my mind, soul and body, RESTING!

Love others: really ask people how they are doing (although few and far between), make their “problems” my own, smile, share a meal, be an exception to the “rule”…aka the typical “gringa”.

Love God:  keep looking for those Go(o) moments, take care of his creation!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

More pictures!

As most of you probably saw on facebook, I got to meet the current Vice President of El Salvador yesterday morning!  We both attended a breakfast commemorating CODEFAM and their 31 years of existence. It was an incredible morning filled with speeches, awards, stories, tears, laughter and lots of hugging!

CODEFAM, along with other members of the Coalicion Pro Memoria Historica, has been doing AMAZING human rights´work since the time of the civil war in El Salvador. But their work continues because there are still many family members that were disappeared and not accounted for during the war.  And human rights´ violations persist today.

SHARE was recognized for its accompaniment, advocacy and support of CODEFAM in the last 31yrs.  Isabel, our director was ecstatic when CODEFAM presented the award.

Also, here is a link to some of my most recent photos:

la paz,


Monday, September 10, 2012

A revitalizing weekend!

Although last week was pretty slow, and I had to miss one day of work due to some lack of sleep and hives break out (whoever discovers a cure will make $$$$ someday!), this past weekend was just what the doctor ordered!Friday night kicked off with the SHARE office dinner at my house! It was a blast cooking for everyone, showing off Pinky, introducing Karen and Marta, and watching the ES soccer team play (then lose…sad) on tv. We kept calling it GIRLS´ NIGHT out!

I made some fresh avocado, beet, walnut, and blue cheese salad (inspired by one Beth Tellman made for me once), mashed potatoes and grilled chicken with mushrooms.  Definitely was not a typical Salvadoran meal..or even flavors really, but I think they all really liked it (especially with wine!).  Still getting compliments today at work.

After dinner, Karen, Delmy, Vicky and I met up with some friends at Café La T for SALSA FRIDAY…my favorite place for dancing.  We twirled in circles and moved our caderas until we were exhausted—the perfect way to end the night!

Saturday morning we woke up bright and early to clean up after the office dinner, then headed off to visit Marta´s home community of…wait for it…SANTA MARTA. Funny, right? I love it.  Santa Marta is about 3hours away by car, and closer to 4 by bus.  Thankfully we got a ride with a local teacher who was headed to teach a workshop on Liberation Theology that afternoon.

Once in Santa Marta, Marta showed us her house and introduced us to her family: her mother, sister and brother all live together in a humble home close to a small creek.  It is a small oasis with fruit trees, chickens and puppies everywhere! And of course I was loving the puppies…since we had to leave our poor baby home for his first time ever (Pinky)! I now understand how mothers feel on the first day of school…it is hard to let our children go (sigh!)

While in Santa Marta, we attended the liberation theology class—this was very cool to witness because the professor was encouraging the community members, young and old, to interpret the Bible in their own way.  He asked questions like, “What is heaven here in Santa Marta? What is hell? What does fasting really mean? “He even asked if there really is a God…stuff got interesting.  I was amazed at how quickly everyone seemed to really take ownership over what they were learning.  And this is crucial in liberation theology.

On Sunday, Marta had to go to another workshop, so Karen and I decided to crash a dance/celebration at the community center. Of course after only like three minutes of sitting, Karen and I were both asked to dance (this is what happens when you are the only gringa and extranjera in town), so we jumped right in and danced cumbia.  My best dance partner by far was an elderly women in a polka-dot dress…I wanted her dress. Emma and Janie would have wanted it too.

Tired of dancing, Karen and I escaped the party and decided to wander around the community until lunch time.  We stumbled upon a carpenter shop, sewing store, the ADES (an NGO) office, and ran into a couple of people we know.  It was an all around relaxing and wonderful day!  And I got some really great photos!

After lunch with Marta’s mother and sister (frijoles frijoles frijoles), Karen and I passed out in Marta’s twin bed until she came to get us so we could head home to San Salvador.   During the car ride home, Gustavo and Anita from El Pueblo de Dios en Camino came on the radio…and I was reminded that I need to go to church on Sunday.We arrived in San Salvador a little after dinner time, so I walked Pinky and got us all pupusas…We have decided he needs to be walked every night so that he sleeps well.  Ahh…life as a mommy.

La paz,


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Great balls of fire!

This past weekend was really great! And it was the first one I had been home for in a more traveling to Chalatenango until later this month!

Friday night Alvaro, one of Ivan and Karen´s friends, invited Karen and me to the Nejapa Fire Ball Festival.  I had no idea what to expect.  I figured there would be some performers on a stage swallowing fire or something...but boy was I wrong! Turns out the fire festival is extremely interactive; so much so that I had to dodge fire balls being thrown at me at least 5 different times.  Alvaro even claims I shoved him out of the way and towards the fire at one point.  I explained that I was in my "fight or flight" mode hahaha..

Nejapa celebrates the fire festival every year around the same time as their "fiestas patronales", this means their city's patron saint week.  Supposedly their saint got in an argument with the devil back in the day and each of them used fire in the fight. Hence, the throwing of the fire balls.  Although this experience was awesome, and I will most definitely be going back next year, people leave the festival with burns annually. Fire and police man stand watch in case things get out of hand. But I'm not really sure how much they could have done had the whole street gone up in flames.

Also, did I mention it was pouring down rain and the fire balls were still going??? Oh, and I was interviewed by television channel 12.  Still looking for the youtube video of it.  Will post ASAP if I find it.

Updates on El Salvador: things are getting more EXPENSIVE. 

Gasoline prices are going up up up! For Regular gas it now costs close to $4.50/gallon!!! Thank goodness I do not have a car or drive down here...I have no idea how people afford it.

The price for tanks of gas for cooking are also going up up up! We buy a tank of gas every 3 months or so.  It used to cost $12, now they are saying it could cost up to $17.  This will effect food prices at restaurants and on the street.

The price for flour is also climbing! This means bakers will start to charge more for bread.  Guess I won't be able to buy 6 rolls for a $.25 anymore :(

Finally, President Funes is meeting with the head of public transportation tomorrow.  He would like to cut the bus subsidy by 40%! Although I know the drivers aren't using the subsidy the way they should (the buses are extremely unsafe, run-down, but pimped out), I think this is going to cause more bad than good.  I forsee the buses going on strike for a couple of days, and that means chaos in the streets for a bit.  Or, the bus drivers are threatening to double the bus fair from $.20 to $.40. Again, not good for those of us on a strict budget.

La paz,


Thursday, August 30, 2012

5 days in Chalatenango, El Salvador

The last two weeks have been a roller coaster to say the least--I am literally on the ride of my life.  Delegation season has settled down; I only have three more to go for the year, although each one will be very different (one medical brigade, VMM delegation, and then a Women Religious dele).

So for August and September I have been and will continue to visit our grassroots projects in our three sistering regions of San Vicente, Cuscatlan, y Chalatenango.  I have already learned so much about our different women's groups, scholarship students and programming, and micro credit loans for agriculture, small stores, and other initiatives.  Not only have I been visiting these sites, but also attending regional and community meetings, discussing issues that each of these projects face on a daily basis.

In the last week and a half, I have spent a total of 5 days in Chalatenango where we accompany the CCR in regional development projects.  To give you an idea of where Chalatenango is....

What is going on with the CCR Women's Secretariat?

I attended two very important meetings with the women of the CCR-  the first was a departmental assembly that had over 250 present in order to elect a future female representative for the CCR regional team, the second was a small meeting of female community leaders who discussed specific issues facing women of all ages today. Here is a brief report of the meeting: 

The main issue surrounding the women of the CCR is  violence against women within the medical sector.  Some examples came straight from the women themselves: mistreatment/malpractice, infant mortality, lack of mental/emotional/psychological care, and rape/sexual abuse by medical professionals and doctors.

Many of the women in these communities are not aware that they can report these cases. And most fear that if they do report it, that their husbands, communities, health professionals will shun them.  What they fear most however, is that if they do report it, that the case will never be reviewed, justice will never be had, and their nightmares will continue.

The leaders of the CCR discussed ways to equip the women in their community to report these abuses, and also brainstormed ideas of how to encourage the women that these spaces (schools, hospitals) are supposed to be safe areas for all.

They also discussed the recently enacted law of “a life without violence for women”. Even though the law is in place, many areas in Chalate are not adhering to this law.  The women asked, “How do we enforce this? How do we teach this to our daughters, sisters, mothers and grandmothers?”

Some updates on SHARE's end include Marly Cardona (our social media/grassroots girl!) resigning and heading back to the states.  We are all sad that she is leaving, but also looking forward to filling the new position! Anyone interested???? LET ME KNOW.   Also, I have planned for an office dinner at my house next Friday.  We are going to have some delicious salad, veggies, and most likely chicken...all healthy and organic of course :)

Finally, some personal updates include, WE GOT A PUPPY. Check out pictures of our little guy, Pinky (don't hate on his name, like my mom is) on facebook. I also went to a meeting with other Gring@s Solidari@s...this is a network of Expats living/working in development, NGO's, journalist down here in El Salvador.  It was rejuvenating and interesting. Oh, and I went and stayed 2 days in Guarjila with Rosibel and family!!! It was wonderful to see everyone that I lived with last summer.  I even ran into some of my students from English class.

Go(o)d Moments:

1. When on my way to work the other day, I spotted a quarter on the ground (bus money!), picked it up,  turned the corner toward my stop and an old homeless women was sitting on a stack of newspapers.  I handed over my quarter.

2. When on my way to Chalate last week a knife fight (sorry, mom) broke out on the bus, and an older women and her daughter grabbed my hand, grocery bag, and dragged me out the door to a safer bus.

3. When a young person gives up his seat on the bus for an elderly person.

4. When Marta does the dishes after an entire day of classes.

5. When Pinky kisses, licks and wags his tail because he is happy..

6.  When Karen shares something with me she claims she has never said aloud--when any Salvadoran woman does this!

7. When after three sleepless nights, filled with stress and worry, end because I decide to fall asleep to "How He Loves Us".

8. When papayas and yogurt are on sale.

Until next time!

La paz,


Wednesday, August 22, 2012