I'm amazed that it's already Christmas Eve and this is the first moment's respite I've found to sit down at the computer. Between making mexican dip and dessert for Christmas day, I thought I could find a bit of time to write about my recent little adventure in Central America.

"Quechevo" is a Salvadoran Spanish equivalent of "cool". Having learned it from a friend who lived in El Salvador, it was put to good use while playing soccer with kids in a makeshift shantytown of people displaced by last year's earthquakes. I learned how to properly head a soccer ball from a 11-year old boy named Seryio. The ball many times ended up in the sewage filled ruts that ran along side the dusty road - we all made disgusted faces, but I didn't want to embarress them by not touching the ball. I scrubbed myself quite hard in my cold shower that night.

That is a brief picture of how I spent my time in El Salvador. Playing with kids, giving out soccer balls, toys, treats, and Christmas presents in shantytowns, impoverished enclaves, orphanages. We helped set up medical clinics and eyeglass clinics in these same communities, and part of our group helped with temporary housing construction.

The last night was spent on the coast, in a beautiful spot overlooking the ocean, volcanic rock and sand. I got up at 5 a.m. to sit on the cliff and watch the sun rise over the Pacific: The moment that molten ball of fire peeked over the horizon I shall never forget.

There are so many things to say,and I have such little time. Indeed, I have had very little time to even mentally digest all that I saw and experience. Arriving back to the North American Christmas has been interesting.

One thing I should not fail to mention is how wretchedly ill I became on this trip. Humbled to the point of vomiting into a filthy grate, kneeling on warm pavement as people pass by... That was indeed an experience I could have foregone, however, and experience it was. Poo talk at mealtimes became commonplace as we suffered stomach cramps and diarrhea, and for some of us, something I coined a term for: "The Double Exodus". I can't even imagine how aweful it would be to suffer and die from dysentry or cholerathat way.

That being said, El Salvador is a country struggling to stand and move forward. It's highways are surprisingly decent, cities bustling, a struggling tourism business along it's shores despite the caution issued to gringos. We were cautioned alot by the locals, but despite heavily fortified homes, armed guards everywhere, and alot of guns, it was a completely uneventful 10 days. Only one bag was stolen.

It's a country lush, hilly, with over 2,000 extinct volcanoes, dominating coffee and sugar exports, with tantelizing limes and pomegranets, kind, helpful people, and delicious 30-degree weather. I loved the change in humidity and the riot of roosters and wild birds as the sun rose at 6 a.m.

Sigh. Winter doesn't have it's same appeal at the moment, although spending time skating yesterday with Martin, Rob and Jordan was certianly lovely. I must rush off to find a decent outfit and finish the dip now.

Merry Christmas all. Those of you in Sweden we miss you very much, and I wish we were all together. Thank-you for the presents and cards and drawings.

May everyone find this Christmas quiet enough to hear His voice.


un dressed

Someone, whom I love and respect, once said that sometimes people know us better than we know ourselves. I often think about this. We are far more predictable, transparent, obtuse, and fragile than I think we think we are. But is someone "knowing" us only their knowledge, and consequently, their opinion, of our behaviour and speech? Then do they know us, or just see us differently than we see ourselves?

Like most people, I am sure, it is a pleasing, uncomfortable sensation when someone starts talking about how they see you, particularly when people are complimentary. Why is it so hard to accept a compliment sometimes? I don't mean flattery, but a genuine, thoughtful compliment? Why is it almost instinctual to cringe, brush it off with self-effacing remark?

Beyond the compliments or encouragements, though, I always find it so weird to hear how people perceive me. I met with the director of my department today to talk about where I was at and where I should go in terms of professional development, and it was a very strange thing to hear how he knew me. It's just so different than how I see myself, and one has to wonder what is the most accurate perception.

There have been people I have known who have so brilliantly deceived themselves about their own persona it's terrifying. Or maybe it was just that I thought they deceived themselves into believing they were many things that they in fact were not, but the reality was that they led people to believe the act they put on to cover gaping insecurities.

We live in a world of medicated reality, where the true and basest parts of "us" are couched in a manner swallowable. We find the politically correct ways of saying things, talk in circles, edit our photos, wear a lot of makeup, and pray in a different kind of language. I have heard Martin say that some of the most beautiful prayers he has ever heard were raw, first prayers, complete with expletives.

Which leads me to this reality: My God knows me better than I know myself, better than any other knows me, better than I will be ever known by human or by self. And what does he see? He sees me falling asleep when I should be praying, knows those moments where explosive anger is simmering and spitting on those around me, how I don't like some parts of the Bible, how sometimes fear of what happens after death paralyzes me. And he knows my heart's desires. Do I even know my own heart's desires?

Ah, well, much rambling thought with never any conclusion. How do we come to know ourselves? A good question for which to find an answer.