Summer 2023 newsletter
Josh Wetmore, El Salvador
I did it. I crossed the big hurdles. I went out of my comfort zone. I was out of the woods.
After three weeks of irregular schedules, unexpected travel, rushed important life decisions, and the stresses of signing a lease on a new apartment; after buying new furniture, and moving — all in a not-yet-mastered second language — things were finally calm.
I sat in the backseat of a 12-year-old white Mazda pickup truck returning from a normal work day and for the first time, I’d be going home to a new, idyllic apartment, with furniture, utilities, food and all my stuff. I couldn’t wait to get home and enjoy my new house. I had the feeling that the rest would be cruising downhill.
At first, it was. I walked the over half a mile of steep declining road from the bus stop to my green metal front door. Sweaty and tired but content, I unlocked the padlock, slipped inside, and climbed up the stairs to my second-floor living space.
My normal routine when getting home is usually to wash my hands and then, yes, use my phone. This isn’t because I’m addicted to it — or at least that’s what I tell myself — it’s because there aren’t unlimited data plans in El Salvador. I always save certain unnecessary but desired cell phone activities for when I get home and can connect to WiFi.
In all honesty, I didn’t do those two things in the order I should have. I went to the phone first and quickly realized the WiFi wasn’t working. I have some technical understanding but, after resetting the router and jiggling some cables, I had done all I could and knew I’d have to wait for a technician to come on another day.
Disappointed, I texted the technician and, finally, went to wash my hands.
When I took the apartment, I was told that there wasn’t always water, but that it was rare not to have it. That’s actually good for El Salvador. Most people who can afford it, have a tank or cistern to store water for when the pipes aren’t flowing. Some areas only have water service for two six-hour chunks a week, but everywhere I had lived here had tanks and I had never been without water before.
Oh yeah, and I remembered that I no longer had a washing machine and needed to wash my clothes by hand tomorrow.
I could feel frustration starting to boil — frustration at the lack of things I thought I deserved, that I had earned with my resolve and can-do attitude over the past three weeks. I was frustrated that my idyllic apartment was so flawed and frustrated that I now needed more resolve to fix or work around these new setbacks.
Then, as I walked into my bedroom, I thought about Sonia, who took a valuable day off to help me pack and move everything. I thought about William, who gave me advice on where to find things, about Sor Ana Rosa, who understood when I had to abruptly leave work to go back to the States, about Bertha, who sold me the furniture I needed, and about Veronica, who found the apartment for me in the first place.
Almost none of them have access to WiFi or hardline internet. None of them have washing machines. Most of them either do or have dealt with more significant water insecurities. None of their houses are as big as mine.
In light of all of their kindness, in light of them helping me put together a living space so much grander than their own, without complaint or jealousy but instead with genuine joy, how could I possibly feel disappointed and unfortunate by my current circumstances?
I then remembered why I am here in the first place. I wanted to better understand the realities of life on the margins of society. I wanted to be better able to empathize with people who weren’t given the opportunities, advantages and creature comforts I’ve had my whole life. I wanted to be humbled by God and by these incredible people.
And God gave me exactly what I asked for.
I wasn’t out of the woods. But that should never have been the goal. The goal was to walk through the forest together.
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