Day 340 - Going-away group shot
Today the community of El Progreso, where I've done most of my work over the past year and a half, threw me a going-away party. I arrived early to get some work done on the world map, which is right next to the kitchen. When I walked by, I noticed that an entire flock of chickens had given their lives for the day's activities.
The party started at two, with a formal ceremony. Veronica, the director, told the story of how it came to pass that I first arrived at the school in El Progreso, and some of the work we've gotten done since that time. She expressed gratefulness for my work here, and said that I created a space for myself that no one else will ever be able to fill.
After this, Sebastian got up and spoke and presented me with a commemorative plaque on behalf of the community (I've posted a picture of it with a translation here). Then it was my turn to speak.
I talked about how meaningful my time working in El Progreso has been, and said that if I had started my work there any earlier, I would have just moved there. I thanked them for the plaque, and said I would post it in any and every office I have in the future. When people ask me what it's from, I'll tell them (after translating it) that it was given to me by the kindest, most sincere, and warmest community I have ever known. I said that when I am asked what the people of El Salvador are like, I will describe the people of El Progreso—because it was there that I saw and experienced the best that this country and it's people have to offer.
After this, the mother of one of my students got up and read me a poem from her son, and one that she had written herself. Just when everybody was starting to get a bit emotional, the women in the kitchen announced that the chicken was ready, so we all got up to eat. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, a number of people came up to me to wish me well, and to ask to have a picture taken with me.
I've still got a little bit more time, so today was not the final farewell, but it was difficult nonetheless. Memories of El Progreso will always define for me my experience in El Salvador. My time would not have been nearly so rich if I had not discovered this vibrant and welcoming community, so it will be hard to say that final goodbye. But I trust that they will not soon forget me, and that I will be able to come back and visit often in the future.