Unfortunately, saying goodbye is always hard and it never gets easier. But like Kathy says, “It’s not ‘goodbye’, it’s ‘I’ll see you soon’!” Because we will be back. It may not be as soon as we’d like, but we’ll get to return. We love the people in Berlín and San Francisco dearly and they love us too. Cecilia showed Lynn how much she loved her by making us pancakes again for breakfast – the third time this week! We also had eggs and beans. I like to put honey on my pancakes, the way they do there. Then I spread some of the beans and eggs on the fresh bread they have delivered. It is delicious!!
After breakfast we finished up last minute packing. I went up to Kathy’s office to sit in the hammock chair again. One of these days I need to buy one to take back to the US. Then came the hugs from everyone and goodbye. I gave big hugs to Idalia, Cecilia, Blanca, Balmore, and Jesús. We had said goodbye to Miguel and Otilia, the other two members of the Pastoral Team, yesterday. We thanked them again for all the hard work they do, for us and for the community. Without them, the mission couldn’t be done. And with that we were off.
We left the house around 8:30am and it takes a couple hours to get to the airport. All of us were tired and Kathy was coughing a lot. She’d caught a cold from someone earlier in the week. We didn’t talk much because we were all pretty fried from the week. It was an amazing week but it takes a lot out of everyone. I dozed for a little while in the backseat. When I woke up around 10am we were passing a maximum security prison. There were guards all around, including by the road and in the forest area around the prison. They all had guns and were wearing black masks. It was a little creepy, but no uncommon. Actually, I realized by looking at pictures in the newspaper, La Prensa, that police often have these black masks over their face when making arrests, etc.
Around 10:30am, about 12 miles from the airport, the ride got a little bumpier. Kathy said something like, “Does it feel like it’s bumpier? I think we have a flat.” We slowed down and looked out the window and sure enough the tire was flat. We saw a furniture store a little ways up the road so Kathy drove us there. There was a man that saw us coming and waved us over to a grassy area. Unfortunately, he didn’t know how to change a tire. Not a surprise since many people don’t even have cars. And in El Salvador there’s no AAA you can call. Lynn decided to make a bathroom break since we didn’t know when we’d be getting to the airport. I followed her so I could get another toilet shot.
When we got back to the truck three other guys were there trying to help out. They were trying to get the spare tire out from under the car. I guess there was some sort of “key” (like a long pole of some sort) that was needed to unlock the spare tire. Kathy had it in the truck but for some reason it didn’t fit. So the guys got their own “key” out to get our tire. The key must have been too long because then I saw them sawing it. But the spare tire was also flat. Uff da! The two girls from the store who had brought us out chairs to sit on also called the owner of the furniture store. Kathy had asked about getting a taxi for us but the owner of the store showed up a few minutes later to personally give us a ride to the airport.
This was the second time this trip we had got stranded somewhere (the first time being caught in the rainstorm in the canton) and the second time people had reached out to us to help. We are very fortunate for the great generosity and hospitality of the Salvadoran people. Without them, wouldn’t have had a place to rest when we were caught in the rainstorm and we may not have made our flight back to the US.
When the owner showed up we piled our luggage in the back of his truck, which wasn’t exactly a pickup. It looked like those small semi trucks with a flat bed and short railings. Lynn and I rode in the back with our luggage. I have always wanted to ride in the back of one of those. It was only a 20-minute ride to the airport. When we arrived we say our goodbyes to Kathy. It’s hard to say goodbye to her. I wish we had more time but we needed to get moving and she needed to get her tire plugged and filled. Plus it would have been rude to keep the owner of the store waiting for us after he graciously gave us a lift. Lynn and I paid him $20 for the ride and gave one last hug to Kathy.
We had no problems getting checked in or getting through security. We when reached our gate Lynn went to sit down and I looked for a place to buy a newspaper and some water. I chugged the water because you aren’t allowed to take it through security at the gate. Yes, you have to go through security again once you get to your gate. They looked through my carry-on luggage and then patted me down. We sat quietly and waited at the gate until we could board the plane. The ride from San Salvador to Atlanta was relatively uneventful. I looked over the census information and made sure I had written down what everyone was wearing and how many people were in the picture I’d taken so I’d be able to match the information with the photo later on.
We landed in Atlanta around 6:15pm Eastern time. We got through customs fine and picked up our luggage. I was glad that my bags weren’t searched and I didn’t have to explain the two machetes that I’d brought home in my checked baggage. There were a lot of people picking up bags and then getting in line again to go through the final set of customs checkpoints. Everyone was rushing and even cutting each other in line (seriously, I saw it happen at least five times). I was a little annoyed at one woman who was opening her luggage on the floor right in between the baggage pick up place and the second line. I bumped into her and said excuse me, but she gave me a dirty look. I felt like telling her that maybe she shouldn’t be opening her bag and putting her crap all over the floor in the middle of everything, but I kept my mouth shut deciding that I needed to be polite. Sometimes coming back to the US is like a cold slap in the face.
But all things considered, things went smoothly and we were able to make it to our gate with a couple hours to spare. Lynn sat down and made some phone calls while I walked from one side of the terminal to the other side in search of food. It was nice to be able to walk and stretch my legs. I eyed the Cinnabun place but decided that might make me sick. I eventually settled on a Naked Juice and a chicken Caesar wrap. The cashier was a guy from Guatemala who saw my Salvadoran purse and asked if I had been in Central America. I said that I had been in El Salvador and we chatted for a while about what I was doing there, what it like there, and the food. I always enjoy talking to people about El Salvador (could you tell?!)
Around 8:45pm we boarded the plane for Des Moines. I was a little upset when I saw the small plane that we’d be flying back to Iowa. Yikes! It wasn’t supposed to be that small. Plus I had to check my carry-on luggage at the gate which worried me because I had packed breakables in there. Delta had also put me in a seat different than the one I reserved. It worked out for Lynn because the person she sat next to let her sit in the aisle seat, but I ended up next to a very large person. Ughh. There was also a screaming kid on the flight. Now, I know it’s not the kid’s fault. It’s probably not the parent’s fault either. Flying is hard for kids and can be really scary, but it made the flight less bearable. There was also a TON of lightning and turbulence the last hour of the flight because of the storm in Des Moines. I kept waiting for the plane to be hit by lightning.
But thanks to God the guy I sat next to turned out to be a very nice person and a great seat-mate. He grew up in the Des Moines area and we had a lot in common. It was really comforting to talk to someone to distract myself from the lightning and turbulence. We talked almost nonstop the rest of the flight until the plane was safely at the gate. I think this experience has taught me that I need to work on being less judgmental and try harder to find the good that I believe exists in all people.
I also learned that I am really starting to dislike flying. When I was a little kid I was terrified of planes which wasn’t so great because I usually flew at least once or twice a year. My ears use to be full and pop a lot in the air which really hurt. The turbulence also freaked me out. I did better when I got to high school and college. I actually started to like the turbulence and found it soothing. But for some reason it’s really starting to scare me again. I don’t think it will ever stop me from traveling but it has made me think that maybe I need to be practicing some relaxation techniques when I’m flying. It’s a little ironic: Speeding down the highway in the developing country of El Salvador in the bed of a strange man’s pickup truck at 60 miles an hour surrounded by police with machine guns doesn’t faze me. But put me on a giant plane with a little turbulence and my heart starts racing.
We made it home safely and all of our luggage made it as well. We said goodbye and this year’s Salvadoran adventure came to an end. That’s the end of my blogging for now but I will be putting up photos from the rest of the week soon so keep checking my blog! You don’t want to miss the photos of us pushing the car out of the mud or getting stuck in a torrential downpour!
The flat tire
Toilet at the furniture store
The guys trying to get the spare tire
Sawing the "key"
Trying again to get the spare
Riding to the airport
Goodbye El Salvador!!