El Salvador – The Less Fortunate

While we have plenty of people living in poverty here in the United States, it usually isn’t quite so visible, especially if you live in the suburbs.

Going to El Salvador was eye-opening for the boys, and it reminded Carlos and I to be thankful for what we have, too. There were two encounters we had with people that have especially stuck with me.

The first one happened on our way to a mini-carnival. During the first week of August, carnivals pop up all over El Salvador. This one wasn’t well-known or in any way special, but it was close by so we thought we would walk over and ride a few rides one day.

As I climbed the sidewalk which curved up and around into a parking lot where the carnival had been erected, a half-empty 2 liter bottle of Sprite came rolling to a stop at my feet. I picked it up, and awaited the owner, who I knew must only be seconds behind, chasing it down the hill. Sure enough, the owner of the bottle arrived. A little girl, maybe 8 years old, stood before me. Her hair looked like it hadn’t been brushed in days, her face had smears of dirt on it, and her clothes were little more than rags. Next to her stood a little boy, probably her younger brother. He was in a similar condition. Both stood wide-eyed, looking at me, their arms filled with remnants of food they had dug from the trash. I situated the bottle back into the crook of her arm so she wouldn’t drop it. Before I could say anything, she whispered “gracias” and they both disappeared into the crowd.

The second encounter was on our last day. We had walked around the mall buying some last minute souvenirs and then decided to get some paletas. Our youngest son had ordered a paleta de uva and rejected it after his first bite. “This has real grapes in it!” he said, disgusted.

“You ordered grape!” Carlos said angrily.
“But I wanted just regular purple grape,” he said looking sadly at his paleta.
I touched Carlos’s arm gently. “Nene, he didn’t know better. He was expecting artificial grape flavor like American popsicles,” I said.

Carlos sighed, took the paleta for himself even though he didn’t want it, and bought our son another one.

We headed back to the hotel while we ate our paletas. By the time we reached the pasarela stairs, the boys and I had finished ours but Carlos still had a few bites left on the stick.

“Chele,” a woman said to Carlos, as we started up the stairs. She looked up at us, her face pressed between the railings.

“Regalame su paleta,” she said. [Gift me your popsicle.]

Somehow I could tell, the woman wasn’t terribly old, but a rough life had aged her prematurely. She was thin and wrinkled, her hair unwashed for a long time.

Carlos handed her the popsicle.

“Disculpe,” [Forgive me] she said, as she turned away and finished off the paleta.

Carlos and I exchanged looks. We turned back around and rushed to the first fast food counter we could find, ordering her a hot dog and a soda.

$1.70 isn't much to us, but it could mean a lot to someone else.

When we went back to the pasarela, the woman was still in the area, just down the street a little. I gave our younger son the hot dog and our older son the soda. I wanted them to be the ones to hand it to her so they would remember it.

“Hot dog para usted,” our youngest son said, giving her one of his infectious smiles. Our older son handed her the soda wordlessly.

The boys say her face lit up with a smile and she thanked them.

From the top of the pasarela we watched her for a few minutes. She opened the bag that contained the hot dog and stared into it then closed it up tight. She did this several times. The soda she hid under a nearby bush. We couldn’t really make sense of what she was doing. I told Carlos we should keep walking. Regardless of what she ended up doing with the lunch we gave her, we left feeling that we had done something good and that we had given the boys one of the most valuable souvenirs ever.

Biblioburro (library donkey)

I saw a news story years ago about the use of donkeys in some Latin American countries to bring books to remote mountain villages which are difficult to reach by vehicle. The stories of the “Biblioburros” (library donkeys) has always been one of my favorites.

Now the story of the original “Biblioburro” is coming to PBS on July 19th.

From PBS:


“Biblioburro” is the story of a librarian — and a library — like no other. A decade ago, Colombian teacher Luis Soriano was inspired to spend his weekends bringing a modest collection of precious books, via two hard-working donkeys, to the children of a poor and violence-ridden province. As Soriano braves armed bands, drug traffickers, snakes and heat, his library on hooves carries an inspirational message about education and a better future for Colombia. His efforts have attracted worldwide attention — and imitators — but his story has never been better told than in this heartwarming yet unsentimental film.

It’s people like this that make the world an amazing place.


Put in on your calendar so you don’t forget to tune in: Tuesday, July 19, 2011, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET

Music prodigy, deported

Yerko DiFonis / Image source: NYdailynews.com

This is Yerko DiFonis, a 17 year old piano prodigy who has perfect pitch and has followed his dreams despite the obstacles, in part thanks to his determined parents.

Yerko was born in Chile, blind and partially deaf. When his parents discovered his musical talent and grew frustrated with the lack of opportunities for their son in their native country, they sold everything and came to the United States. In New York, Yerko flourished. Fitted with special hearing aids and attending the prestigious La Guardia school of the performing arts, Yerko, an honor roll student, learned to be independent and spent his days pursuing his passion but in October of 2010, U.S. Immigration deported Yerko and his family.

Now living in Chile, Yerko continues with his music, but dreams of coming back to study in the United States some day.

To read more of Yerko’s inspiring story, or to make a donation which will go towards continuing his education, visit the Hear The World foundation.

Flores Olvidadas

[English Translation below]

Hay un arbusto en nuestra yarda – mi mamá me lo dio unos años atras. El arbusto, por la mayoría del año, no es nada especial – lo ignoramos… hasta que esta época del año cuando salen los capullos bien redonditos. Ahora lo observamos con anticipación porque sabemos que unas flores bien grandes y lindas con un olor fuerte y dulce van a salir muy pronto.

Recientemente, yo estaba tan ocupada, tan apresurada y distraída, que olvidé completamente de mi arbustito y los capullos que estaban abriendo poco a poco.

Ayer por la tarde, cuando yo estaba lavando los platos de la cena, mi mente ya corría con millones de cosas que tengo que hacer, mi hijito entraba la cocina con una flor en la mano.

Mi primer pensamiento fue: ¿Y qué es esto? ¿Cómo floricían tan rapido? ¿Estaba yo realmente tan ocupada que se me había olvidado de tomar un momentito por chequearlas?

Mi segundo pensamiento fue: ¡Ay! Y mira este niño travieso ya ha arruinado el arbusto! Ni la cortó bien! Casi no hay nada de tronco en esta flor!

Mi hijo me dio la flor a mí. “La corté para tí”, dijo, mirándome con sus grandes ojos cafes y una sonrisa nerviosa.

Tomé una respiración profunda, le dí un abrazo y pusé la flor en un vaso pequeño. Estoy agradecida que no lo castigue. Después de todo, me hubiera perdido de ver las flores en absoluto si él no me hubiera recordado de ellas.

Supone que debo ser la que debo criar y enseñar a mis hijos, pero a veces son ellos los que me enseñan a mí.

English Translation:

Forgotten Flowers

There’s a bush in our yard – my mother gave it to me years ago. The bush, for most of the year – is nothing special – we ignore it… until this time of year when perfect little round buds emerge. Now we observe the bush with anticipation because we know the bush will soon give forth big, beautiful flowers with a sweet perfume.

Recently, I’ve been so busy, so hurried and distracted, that I forgot completely about my little bush and the buds that have been opening little by little.

Yesterday evening, while I was washing the dinner plates, my mind already running with a million things I need to do, my youngest son came into the kitchen with a flower in his hand.

My first thought was: And what is this? How did they bloom so quickly? Was I really that busy that I forgot to take even a small moment to check on them?

My second thought was: Oh! Look at this naughty child – he’s already ruined the bush! He didn’t even cut it well! There’s almost no stem on this flower!

My son handed me the flower. “I picked it for you,” he said, looking at me with his big brown eyes and a nervous smile.

I took a deep breath, gave him a hug and put the flower in a small vase. I’m thankful I didn’t chastise him. In the end, I would have completely lost my chance to see the flowers if he hadn’t reminded me of them.

It’s supposed to be me who is raising and teaching my children, but sometimes it is they who teach me.

___

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Mi morral y un ensueño

Este es mi regalo para mi cumple que recibí de mi amiga, Claudia – y como dije a ella, “lo amo, lo amo, lo amo!” …

Es de El Salvador (la bolsa y mi amiga también! jajaja), y mira que lindos colores trae el morral! Con sólo una mirada, me manda a otro lugar en mi mente. Imagino caminando en la playa, mi cabello flotando en la brisa, la arena caliente bajo mis pies, mis chanclas en mi mano y mis pantalones enrollados hasta las rodillas. Colgado en mi hombro, mi linda bolsa. Dentro de la bolsa tendría un buen libro que me gustaría sentarme y leer cuando encuentré el lugar perfecto – un lugar donde no hay demasiada gente y puedo escuchar las olas rompiendo en la orilla mientras estaba sentada bajo el sol.

Volviendo a la realidad: Próximos tres días, frío y lluvioso. El verano no puede llegar suficientemente pronto.

English Translation:

Title: My satchel and a daydream

This is my birthday gift I received from my friend, Claudia – and as I told her, “I love it, love it, love it!” …

It’s from El Salvador, (the bag and my friend too! hahaha), and look how pretty the colors! With just a look, it sends me to another place in my mind. I imagine walking on the beach, my hair flowing in the breeze, warm sand under my feet, my flip-flops swinging in my hand and the legs of my jeans rolled to the knees. Hanging from my shoulder, my beautiful bag. Inside the bag would be a good book that I would sit down to read when I found the perfect place – a place where there aren’t too many people and where I can hear the waves crashing on the shore while sitting in the sun.

Back to reality: Next three days, cold and rainy. Summer can not come soon enough.

___

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Free Rice

There’s a non-profit website run by the United Nations World Food Programme called FreeRice.com … Basically you play educational games and while doing so, you donate food to the hungry. It is completely free.

There are various subjects you can study/play. My favorite is Spanish vocabulary (obvio!) – but they have English, as well as other languages, math, science, and more. There are also different skill levels. My kids love to play and see how much rice they can donate – in the meantime, they’re learning!

I made this video to show you a little more because I wanted to spread the word.

(The video has no audio.)

Go play now! … Don’t forget to add it to your bookmarks/favorites and tell family and friends.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post.