Being Cared For By Our Salvadoran Friends
The kindness of the Salvadoran people goes above and beyond the norm and never fails to amaze. Whether it is special preparations in cooking to avoid our getting sick, caring for us when we do, making sure we recuperate quickly, or simply look out for our physical safety, I always return shaking my head in the many ways they go out of their way to care for us.
Every time we visit El Salvador, we notice more gates in residential areas including the side streets in our laid-back guest house area. Guards are posted at each gate to open them for residents and delivery persons to drive into. It’s simply a way of life.
Certainly, we are mindful of the dangers and risks of traveling to El Salvador with its high rate of homicides and inherent dangers, but we have built a network of trusted Salvadoran friends who plan and care for us during our visits. Their vigilant attention allows us to relax and do our work while we are there without feeling crippled by fear. A couple of recent scenarios demonstrate this Salvadoran care.
I am standing on the sidewalk outside one of our interview sites waiting for my partner to get out of the taxi. Out of nowhere the armed guard inside the business appears motioning for me to come inside. I point to the taxi at the curb, indicating that I’m waiting for my partner. Again, he firmly motions inside; this time he is insistent I get off the street. He does not want me lingering on the sidewalk for even the thirty seconds it will take my partner to catch up with me. When I sit in the waiting area, I spot two more armed guards – these guys are wearing bulletproof vests. Okay, I am now taking my safety a bit more seriously and am grateful that Guard No. 1 was looking out for it better than I was.
Anywhere we travel across town or across the country we receive names and business cards of trustworthy drivers to transport us safely to our destinations. Today an unmarked car rather than a standard yellow and black taxi awaits outside our locked guesthouse gate. Hmmm. This seems odd until we arrive at our destination and discover we are deep into gang territory. Thankfully our coordinator was looking out for our safety and knew the unmarked car diminishes obvious tourist presence.
Even in city taxis our driver will get out of his vehicle at the destination and double check that this is indeed the correct address before he allows us to exit his vehicle. Then his dispatcher or main office will call and verify that we have safely arrived. Our safety is carefully arranged and procured. When not taking taxis, we travel with locals who know the ins and outs of keeping us safe.
Our destination for the interview.
Today we head into a community we know is a gang territory. Our friend cautions us to hide our camera and iPad in a shabby grocery bag she lends us to avoid drawing attention to them. The missioner we meet when we arrive shares that he carries a dummy phone with him when he travels on the buses which he can easily hand over if mugged. “Gangs don’t want these; they only want smartphones,” he tells us. I leave my gadgets in the guesthouse or home.
We value the concern we receive from those watching out for our safety. Without them we could not be effective in our work here.