Today I was awakened by loud music around 5:15am. At first I was confused because loud music and singing usually happens later at night and not early in the morning. Then I remembered that today is the kick off of the patron saint of Berlín festival. There is always loud singing and instruments being played in the morning during the festival. Not only that, they are almost always incredibly out of tune. Most singing and instruments in this town are perpetually flat. It wouldn’t mind it as much if they could sing in tune and without the nasalness. In addition to that, they set off the noise makers several times every fifteen minutes. They basically sound like loud fireworks but without the visual display. As people here would say, “Qué bárbaro!”
As soon as I realized what was happening I thought, “Are these people insane!? Why do they get up so early in the morning to do this?!” No sooner had those thoughts come into my head than I realized, “Great. Here I am writing all these blogs about how wonderful the people and culture here are, and now I’m wishing they would all just go away so I could get some sleep.” When I walked out of the bedroom this morning I told Kathy and Cecilia that I heard the music during the early hours of the morning. Kathy told me the music had been going on longer than I realized. It usually starts around 4:30am and lasts until about 5:30am. She reminded me that the music happens every day this week. So that’s what I have to look forward to every morning.
I told Kathy I thought the patron saint would want us to sleep in during the festival time. She told me to look up information about Saint Joseph, Berlín’s patron saint, to see what he was all about. Not happy about being awakened prematurely I said I thought he was probably the patron saint of debauchery. In actuality, he is the patron saint of various places and things. He is unofficially the patron saint against doubt and hesitation and of a happy death. And according to Wikipedia: “The 19 March feast for Saint Joseph is a time of solemnity.” So really I am right. They should be more solemn and stop playing music so early in the morning.
School went well this morning. My third graders continued asking me questions about the US and what kinds of food we have there. Today they were asking mainly about fruit. Do we have mangoes, plantains, oranges, apples, beans, rice, corn, etc. I explained to them that we had those things in the US but that not much fruit could grow in Iowa because of the snow. They stood by me and took in all in. They also discovered my temporary henna tattoo and wanted to know what is was, where I got, how long it would last, how much it cost. I made a point to them all that it wasn’t permanent. They love asking me questions and I love it when they do. I have so much fun talking to them between classes.
During my third period class a drum line went walking down the street. They were very talented and it was fun to hear but it interrupted my class. And it wasn’t just my class that was distracted. I think I saw half the school leave to go see what was going on. I had no clue where the kids were going at first. It wasn’t till I got home and Kathy told me I’d missed the parade that I realized why the kids had left. It’s like these things were happening to deliberately distract my students. I did my best to go with the flow.
Around 2:30pm Kimberly and I walked around the market. She wanted to see if there were any neat clothes or new items on display. I love exploring in the town and going into new shops. I got some mango ice cream at a new ice cream store I found. It’s been there all along but I’m pretty loyal to La Neveria. After I got my ice cream I didn’t want to walk by La Neveria because I felt like I was cheating on them. I have loyalty to that ice cream store.
Something I absolutely love about walking around downtown is that I inevitably run into someone I know. Recently I have been seeing a lot of my students downtown. They almost always come over and say hi to me and give me a hug. Most of them greet me in English and say goodbye in English as well. I’m glad they learned something during our time together.
I relaxed for a while when we got back to the house. Put some laundry to soak, checked a few emails, chatted with the ladies. I pointed out to Cecilia that I was a little pink from the sun. She said I could also be called “Roasada” (pink) because my skin color had changed yet again. To that I responded, “Hola! Me llamo Alicia Chelita Cafecita Rosada Langosta. Y tú?” Basically that means, “Hi my name is Alisha, white skinned, brown skinned, pink lobster. And you?” we all had a good laugh about that name. When dinner time rolled around Cecilia, Kathy, and I picked up some pizza at a stand downtown. It wasn’t too bad either.
I really wanted to go to the Coronation of the Queen tonight in Berlín. This isn’t something I couldn’t do on my own because I can’t go out after dark alone. I need someone (preferably someone Salvadoran) to go with me. Kathy has been crazy busy working on what seems like ten million different things for upcoming delegations and coffee project stuff so she really didn’t have time. Normally this is something she’d love to do. So Alejandro went with me to the coronation. We didn’t really know what time it was going to start; somewhere between 6ish to 8ish. We left around 7:15pm. We watched some people ride the mechanical bull for a while and chatted with some of Alejandro’s friends.
At 7:30pm the process of the coronation started. First there was some guy on stage singing for probably 30 minutes. He was all dressed up in costume and sang beautifully. It was a lot of fun. Very loud, but very fun. Then the noise makers began to go off signaling the queen’s approach. A few little girls in fancy dresses accompanied by young boys let the procession. Next was the previous queen and then the queen to be. They all went up on stage and sat in their elegant chairs. Someone announced the people on the stage. The previous queen stood up and thanked God and her family for their support during the previous year. Several things happened next: the previous queen and the new queen switched seats, the previous queen presented the new queen with a crown, the new queen was given some kind of staff (not the right word), she received a sash, and finally a red robe. Very impressive.
A young man got up next to say a few words to the queen about her upcoming reign. I couldn’t follow everything he was saying but what I could understand made me laugh. He was talking about her duties as queen and how wonderful the job was. It was like he was wooing her or something like that. Alejandro almost started laughing because I had a hard time controlling my laughter. I’m not sure why it was so funny to me. I think it was just the theatricality of it all. After that was over the new queen stood and gave a brief speech thanking everyone and all that jazz. Finally, there was a processional off the stage.
By then Sergio had arrived to relieve Alejandro from “gringa bodyguard duty” so he could go eat. It’s hard not to be able to go wherever I want at whatever time I want here. I’m very grateful that there are people who don’t mind hanging out with me at night. We walked around town for a while looking at all the sights. There is so much to see and I love walking around at night. I even went on the Ferris wheel again. I was much less worried than my first experience and really enjoyed it this time. Then we watched another procession as the queen went into the dancing area. The music was wonderful. I was told the band is one of the best in El Salvador. Shortly after that I returned to the house. I got home around 10pm. It would have been nice to stay out longer but that would mean someone would have to stay up and wait for me to come home so they could open the door for me. That wouldn’t be fair to the women here or Kathy so I try to get home before they all go to bed.
“I don't think of it as working for world peace, he said. I think of it as just trying to get along in a really big strange family”
Big Strange Family (Brian Andreas)