Monday, March 21, 2011

Letter From El Salvador: Day Three- Return to Huisisilapa

During the delegation, Northwest students and teachers participated in two one-night homestays in the community of Huisisilapa. Families returning from refugee camps in Honduras in 1991 founded the community, starting with a swath of overgrown land, and the few belongings they had brought with them. In the initial years, community members taught students to read under the trees. Today Huisisilapa has elementary school all the way through high school, a dream few rural communities have realized. This next excerpt describes returning to Huisisilapa for the second homestay.  
The next day we arrived earlier than usual, around 9:30 am, after a decent distance traveled to the soundtrack of “The Sound of Music”. We got off the short bus, throats hoarse from a good group sing-a-long, and dispersed to go to our various home stays. That morning the plan was to participate in the Polaroid photography project, in which each family, as well as those who were staying there, had their picture taken. Then each person photographed was asked to attach their image to a piece of paper and write about their personal hopes and dreams, as a form of intercultural and personal exchange within the household. For this morning activity, however, we were only taking the images.

The large group was split up into three smaller ones, based on where within Huisisilapa you lived. The separate groups walked from house to house, taking images, as well as being able to see the various homes in which their friends were staying. It was a fun opportunity to tour the community, as well as share with those who participated. Walking and talking took up a good portion of the morning, and by the time we returned to our various homes, it was time for lunch. The food in Huisisilapa is incredibly fresh and delicious. It’s surprisingly inspiring to be sitting in the backyard one minute, looking at the bananas in the trees, and the next minute, seeing it on your plate as you sit for the meal. The families are incredibly kind and observant as to what you like and what you don’t, what you’ve been eyeing, or talking about, and what you haven’t. It reinforces their generosity and kindness. The afternoon, which initially was chock full of meetings with various groups from within the community, was made more relaxing when many of those meetings were canceled, in favor of rest and time with families during the height of the afternoon heat. Personally, as well as many other students, I spent time with my family by doing the “Hopes and Dreams” Polaroid project with them. Paper was also given to those members in the family who didn’t participate in the photo project, and together we all drew. We had a really good time drawing, writing, and talking together, and before we knew it, it was time for dinner. The project, in my eyes, was very successful in that it brought our family to a level of higher interaction and comprehension. The final products were beautiful to see. That night, an intercultural exchange was planned for the entire community. We had spent the night before in the hotel rehearsing for our miniature talent show. We brought a wide range of talents to view, such as miming, singing, and various forms of dancing. In Huisisilapa, we all gathered in the courtyard of the school in a large circle. It was a huge turnout from the community, with even a few dogs getting a bit stuck in the crowds, curious to see where everyone was going. The acts were presented in such a way that the students from our group would go, and then those from the community, so that it really was a shuffled presentation of culture. The performances given by the community were great, many dancers performed, including a team of break dancers. A community based rap group also presented a few of their originally written pieces, to which many of the youth knew the words by heart. The most popular act of our group was the impromptu solo mime performance given by our own mime extraordinaire, Scott Davis. The children were going crazy for the funny guy pushing down an invisible wall and pulling at a rope that wasn’t there. Scott lead the rope to a confused dog, trapped in the center of the circle of spectators. It was funny until the dog stopped running away, and started to come at him. In any case, it was popular with almost everyone, as were the other student performances. Afterwards, another dance was held in the same courtyard. I don’t know what was said about the first dance, but I’ll just say that it’s pretty hard to have a dance when you’re the only one dancing, and there’s about fifty people staring at you. In any case, this time it was extremely different. Everyone in the community, especially the youth, joined us in dancing for hours. Many students found a nightlong dance partner, whether in another student, a community student, or one of the many young children who really, REALLY love to dance. It was an incredibly fun event that relaxed some of the social stiffness that we had encountered during the prior visit/dance.

No comments: