The other day, throwing away that chicken was actually really difficult. I hate wasting food at home, especially after reading an article a couple of months ago about people eating mud cakes in Haiti to keep from starving to death. But living here in El Salvador, it’s hard knowing that I could practically throw that chicken far enough to feed a person who is hungry. And here I am putting it in the trash. I know, the chicken was bad. It wouldn’t have helped anyone. But just the thought of wasting food, or living in excess here of all places, is just a little bit…bothersome.
The reality of our ministry focus, wealthy college students, means that we live our lives here in the top 1%. Safety issues also necessitate a lifestyle that separates us from so much of the very impoverished country we live in.
Mostly, the class differences just fascinate me. The maids here actually wear little maid outfits. Grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, they always wear the outfit. The boys on our team actually have a live-in maid. It feels so odd to eat at their house, and then just leave the dishes out on the table for the maid to clean. But the reality is that she has been working for the family that owns this house for years and years. She is 80 years old and has no other way to support herself. In fact, her life is much more comfortable than many, many people in this country. She has food, shelter, a good salary. She gets time off every week to go visit with family in the countryside. Also, she adores the boys, who call her their “abuelita.”
We don’t have a live-in maid. I’m happy about that. I like to cook. I like my space. I don’t really mind cleaning. I don’t want a maid. But even without a maid, it’s perfectly clear where we stand on the socioeconomic ladder. Our gated neighborhood has a 24 hour patrol. Meaning, a man with a very large gun is constantly strolling around the three streets, keeping watch. The guards are all really nice. In our neighborhood the houses are gorgeous, the people are private, and the dogs are as frou frou as they come. The dogs of the wealthy are all curly haired, delicate, frilly. They are practically a different species from the street dogs roving outside the neighborhood gates.
The gardeners cut the grass with machetes. It looks like back breaking work, as they swish the knives across the overgrown patches.
Men dressed like clowns stand in the intersections, begging for change in possibly the most creepy way possible.
There are more malls per capita than any city I’ve ever been to. Belying the fact that there aren’t a lot of safe places to hang out at night.
These things are really just the hints of the extremes of where I live now. Really, almost all of the time my life looks so very American. I shop at Costco, Payless, even…gasp…Wal-Mart. The only difference between the way I live my life in America and the way I live my life here, is that life here just feels more surreal. Shopping at a beautiful mall in the US is what I would consider a normal activity. Here, it feels odd.