Sr. Liza: A Letter Home

This morning around 5:30 we were awoken by a strong tremor of 5.4 magnitude. Earthquakes are usually only declared when it is a 6.0 and above. We are all OK, no damage or injuries reported in the country. The epicenter was near the coast. Our little house on the hill held up quite well. Just our nerves were rattled a bit. I did not move from my bed. I’m a survivor of 3 earthquakes 7.0 and greater. How I managed to be at the right place at the right time beats me. But I can assure you once it hits a 7, there is little you can do but wait it out wherever you find yourself.

We seem to be getting into rhythm with some of the customs in town. San Sebastian is a small town. Aside from farming, there is not much to do. So neighbors, at the end of the day’s work, go visit others. Our place is a new favorite. To visit you always bring a little “something”. Maybe some homemade cheese, tamales, fresh tortillas, some fresh grown herbs, or other home grown product. Yesterday we had Fabian’s family over in the afternoon. Fabian is a good friend of the Salvatorian men. He works on a small plot of land that belongs to the Society (of the Divine Savior). In our beginning days here, we met his wife, 6 adult daughters, and I am not sure how many grandchildren, but we met them all. I believe his two adult sons are in the U.S. Yesterday, Fabian’s wife and all her daughters came over to visit. We made coffee and popcorn. We were completely out of bread!

This morning we had Mr. Demetrio over for a long morning visit. He is an older neighbor who lives nearby. He lost his mother about 20 days ago and has been quite sad over his loss. I’m glad he came today. He had come by yesterday morning and was not looking good. I was home alone making lunch. He did not want any coffee or anything to eat. He did allow me to give him a glass of water. He left soon after. But this morning he came by again with fresh potatoes, tamales and homemade cheese. He was looking much better and was happy to see the other two Sisters home with me. During the conversations I walked in to say hello. Sr. Yenfa pointed toward me and said, “Now she is a real Gringa.” Mr. Demetrio came over, put his arm around me and said, “No she is not, she is one of us, we are all the same here.” Sr. Yenfa had no idea what she had said or why Mr. Demetrio reacted. Sr. Yenfa looked at me puzzled and asked what Gringa meant in this area. I explained to Yenfa where the word Gringo actually came from, then she understood and Mr. Demetrio reminded us the word was never used in the region due to its negative connotation (otherwise Gringo or Gringa is used loosely in many Spanish-speaking countries without a problem). Mr. Demetrio stayed quite a while and told us many funny stories of his long lived life.

The 3 of us who are home right now, Sisters Yenfa, Jovelina and myself (Sr. Vera is in Brazil visiting her ill father), joined all of the Society and Lay Salvatorians for the 8th of December celebrations. We attended the Catholic Church in the nearby village of Cerezos. It was also their feast day. The responsibility of the choir was quickly taken over by SDS Lay, the Society members and Sr. Yenfa who plays the guitar. Fathers Fernando and Lorenzo from the Spanish Vicariate concelebrated with Father Santi. Sister Jovelina and I sat with the large group of Lay Salvatorians. After the homily, there were several baptisms. After that, each SDS group went up front and renewed their vows or promises. It was quite the testimony. The people were very impressed and honored to share the special moment with such a large group of SDS. After the Mass, there was a big lunch for everyone, cooked by the people in their small village hall. We had tamales, chicken, rice and tortillas. Everyone ate, and shared conversation and laughs together. Later in the evening we joined the Lay Salvatorians at a special dinner and meeting they had with Fathers Fernando and Lorenzo at the Salvatorian house “down” the hill from us.

Christmas is just around the corner. Posadas have been planned all around town, but otherwise things are quiet. The financial part of Christmas is hard here because of the very visible poverty. There are no blinking lights on the houses, or big sale signs in the few store windows, no people rushing around with packages as we see in the U.S. So, through my eyes, Christmas looks pretty low key. The big focus has been the Posadas and the Mass on Christmas day. We will be getting together at our little house with Fr. Santi and Mariangeles on Christmas Eve for dinner and prayer.

Until next time, I wish everyone a very prayerful, peace-filled Christmas and New Years.

Sr. Liza Segleau, SDS

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