This past December, my family and I traveled to the remote and interconnected islands of Tular, El Salvador. Upon arriving in San Salvador, our local friends came to pick up my family (5 of us in total). We all hopped into the vintage looking Jeep, and my brother and I squeezed in the trunk area. Although a bit hot and humid, the breeze that came through the open rear window made our car ride enjoyable. Three hours later, we arrived at the their humble home where we would spend the night before heading out to Tular the next day. The rest of the family waited for us with open arms and ready to fill our hungry bellies. From the moment we stepped off the airplane, my family and I were welcomed to the fullest. Family and community is surely a big part of the culture here.
The next day, we woke up at around 4 am for another two-hour care ride. This time, our trip led us to a pier. As the sun slowly started to peak over the horizon, we eagerly waited for our ride – a locally made canoe. I placed my bags in the back and jumped in. On this boat ride, I learned the reason of why we woke up so early that morning. The tide from the ocean gradually recedes as the day goes back. To reach our destination, we had to traverse through an intricate web of narrow rivers. Therefore, if we waited too long, the rivers would dry up, and we would not be able to get through.
Approaching the islands of Tular, I could hear the music and chants of the indigenous people. They were waiting for us with a celebration. It was amazing to see people from all five of the interconnected islands come together as one community to celebrate. The Mass was filled much emotion. We heard sermons from the pastors from each island and sang many joyful songs. Again, I felt so welcomed, and it made my trip much more meaningful. After the Mass, we spent the day chatting with community members, passing out rice and beans, and getting our first look at the church we had helped fund the year before.
At the end of the week, I reflected on our time in El Salvador. The peoples of these islands valued family and community. Not surprisingly, this resonated deeply with my own personal core values. They welcomed us every minute of the way. They us saw as a part of their community and that means a lot to my family and me. I hope to return and visit the friends I have made in Tular soon.