When I’m in the US I’m Presbyterian. I go to Westminster Presbyterian Church, I tithe, I belong to the young adult group and the Church & World committee, and I take communion. When I’m here in El Salvador I’m Catholic. Well, sort of. I go to mass at the Catholic Church, attend special religious events, I tithe, and I take communion (and that’s okay with the priests). Today I got to sing in the small choir at church. Each week people from different communities take turns singing. Usually there are 5-10 people that sing. Today people from Alejandría sang and read during the mass. Cecilia’s brothers, Alejandro and Mauricio, were readers during the mass as was her son, Elmer. I sang in the choir with Blanca, Idalia, and five other people from Alejandría.
Like most churches here in El Salvador there are no hymnals or Bibles at the church, and most people don’t bring their own hymnal or Bible. People have a lot of the songs memorized and they just listen when scripture is being read. Since I’ve been here for a while this year and was here last year as well, I recognize a lot of the songs. Blanca and Idalia brought books for everyone that has the songs in them. The book isn’t exactly a hymnal per se, but is just a book of songs. It’s called “El Pueblo Canta: Libro de cantos” (The People Sing: Book of songs). The book has the lyrics to almost 900 songs that are popular in El Salvador. But there are only lyrics in the book, no music, notes, or chords. People know the songs because they’ve been singing them since they were young. And as Kathy later pointed out to me, many people probably can’t read music.
I had a different perspective of the mass since I was up at the front. One thing I noticed right away was that I could understand the priest much better. This was great because I like to be able to understand people when they talk. I realize that’s probably a very obvious desire but it’s still really exciting for me when I can understand what people are saying. We stood much more than the rest of the people at the church because we were singing a lot. That was fine with me because I love singing. Plus after standing for the 1 ½ hour mass on Ash Wednesday this didn’t seem too bad. However, kneeling on the tile floor is harder on the knees than kneeling on the wooden kneelers.
Speaking of Ash Wednesday, we sang the song today that Kathy told me on Ash Wednesday was the song she wanted sung at her funeral. That’s quite a relief because I didn’t know the name of it before so I was just going to play something by The Who and hope she didn’t mind. The song she likes is called “Entre Tus Manos” (Into Your Hands) and is a beautiful song. These are the lyrics:
Entre tus manos está mi vida Señor,
Entre tus manos pongo mi existir,
Hay que morir para vivir.
Entre tus manos pongo yo mi ser.
Into your hands is my life Lord,
Into your hands I put my existence,
We must die to live.
In your hands I put myself.
Overall, I really enjoyed being a part of the choir and I’m looking forward to doing it in the future. I called Kathy to meet me after the service so we could go to the market. She stayed home to work on some things and went to the 5:30pm service with Cecilia. As I was waiting outside for her I saw Maria from San Francisco. I was surprised to see her mainly because I’ve never seen her outside of San Francisco before. She was going to the church in Berlín because after the mass was a special baptism of several children. She’d brought her little 1-year old, Maria, to be baptized. I walked in with her and we talked for a while. I got to see little Maria in her baptism dress. She was absolutely adorable. Kathy arrived and got to see her as well. But soon the baptism was going to start so we headed out.
Kathy and I walked around the market for a while in search of a few items she wanted to take home to the States when she leaves on Thursday. Inevitably, we saw several people we knew and stopped briefly to say hi to them. That’s one of the things I like the most about Berlín and market day especially. You always see someone you know. We bought some horchata from Haydee to sip as we walked along the street. I ended up getting a bottle of homemade liquid soap that smells like roses and a little gift for Matt. I’m not going to say what it is because he reads my blog so he’ll just have to wait until May.
I spent the afternoon working on things for school, my blog, and reading some things Kathy found on the internet about Berlín. I may have slipped out for a while to visit the ice cream store. It wasn’t that I wanted the ice cream. No, no, that wasn’t it at all. It’s just that I thought the woman who works at the store might be missing me. So I was actually going there to see her. It was quite a sacrifice for me to take time out of my busy day of doing nothing to go see her but I sucked it up. And since I was there I got a scoop of mango and a scoop of blackberry ice cream.
Around 5:15 Kathy and Cecilia left to go to church. Around 5:30 the door bell buzzed. I went to go see who was at the door since I knew Alejandro was going to be coming home soon. But when I opened the door I saw that it was Tito. He is one of the two scholarship students that are receiving financial help from people in the states to go to a two-year technical school. Kathy started a scholarship fund for them a little over a year ago called the “Tito and Ale fund.” Alejandro has been going to Usulután to study auto mechanics. Tito has been going to San Miguel to study English. They’re both in their final year.
I called Kathy to ask if it was okay if Tito stayed to chat. I am not supposed to let people in the house when one of the ladies isn’t here (which isn’t often). But since I knew him I figured I could call and ask. I met Tito last September when I was here visiting on a Westminster trip. He joined Lynn and me for two days as we did the census in San Francisco. Since he’s learning English he likes to take all the opportunities he can to speak with native English speakers.
We talked for an hour and a half about all sorts of things. Learning a new language, movies, church, food, family, etc. We agreed that I can work with him on his English and he will help me with my Spanish. Sometime he’s going to come by so we can watch a movie. I brought a couple down with me and I’m going to put the Spanish subtitles on. It should be fun. Speaking of English, tomorrow I start my second week of school. Wish me luck!
Those who wish to sing always find a song. – Swedish Proverb
The front of the church
Altar for Romero
Waiting to sing
Church is over
Christian, Maria's 4-year old son
With her godmother
Painting on the side of a building in Berlin