On Monday afternoon I decided to cook a nice, fresh “Sopa de Chipilin” – soup of Chipliin, which is a leafy vegetable here in El Salvador. The vendor lady came by in the morning, and the bunch (manojo) of chipilin was so inviting, I couldn’t resist.
I’ve never cooked Chipilin soup before, but had a good idea how to make it: flavor it with chicken bullion, and add chopped onion and tomato. I was cruising along with the tomato and onion, and decided to sautee the onions translucent first when it occurred to me – oh! Must de-leaf the stems completely and clean the Chipilin first BEFORE going any further. Can’t just chop it up and throw it in like Cilantro. Arg!
So we begin with this exercise in patience.
The chipilin plant has plentiful, and small – flat oval shaped leaves, about the size of your thumb.
Stems are not pleasant in the soup, so all leaves must be removed from the stem and cleaned. I prefer to de-stem before rinsing as the water makes the leaves limp and more difficult to remove.
It wasn’t too time-consuming, but lengthy enough that in thinking of my fellow Americans back home, say coming back from work, rushed and blood rushing from fighting traffic, I thought “Nah….most Americans would neither have the time nor patience to deal with this Chiplin cleaning activity.” The soup is better left for a Sunday off.
Throughout all of this, I am reminded of many lessons in patience one learns while living in El Salvador, lessons that are aggravating at first, but become old hat and quite normal over time.
Waiting in line at the bank to pay bills, make deposits, anything. Waiting for people to get a task done – say a construction job or other service. A construction task on American time will take 3-4 times the length and many interesting meanderings along the way – “ohhh we ran out of saaaand. Ohhhh they didn’t have sand at the Ferreteria so we had to go to the other/will have to wait till tomorrow….Oh….well we had a problem with… (pick a flavor).” Fortunately, we have done all our own construction tasks ourselves, but we witnessed with much humor the dynamic duo who worked on the house we rent. Well, if anything, it gave 2 men a job for almost 3 months. Getting a document notarized. Going to the attorney’s office and working with his assistant. ‘The lawyer is not in and he’s the notary, but I have papers with his notary seals here – only thing is we must print out your document on one of these papers with the seal, because I’m not authorized to notarize anything myself’…. Trying to figure out which DAY the garbagemen come. Oh, that’s right, they don’t have a particular day. You listen carefully for the sound of the garbage truck and run like HELL with your garbage bags when you hear them coming. Getting almost anything done with a bank teller or cashier. The amount of time they spend in paper shuffling, checking/re-checking something, making small talk with another employee in the middle of your transaction while you sit there, waiting. Confusion about which procedure to follow, announcing “permiso” and checking with the manager for several minutes before returning to finish. And the STAMP. That ridiculous STAMP. In almost every money-exchange transaction beyond a grocery receipt, the notorious STAMP has to come out, and often several pieces of paper must receive its inked impression. Cashiers in El Salvador are so deft with the stamp, and it appears they take pride in how fast they can stamp several receipts between merchant and customer before happily handing you yours. OK…………
Generally, waiting is a common activity here, but now that I’m part of the “we” here, I can say – we all take it in stride.
I am reminded of a funny moment I had nearly 20 years ago in Charleston, South Carolina. My good friend Kristy had flown to meet me in Charleston and accompany me on my U-Haul trip up from SC to Boston. Before we left, I told her “I have to pick up my shoes at the cobbler on the way – almost forgot”. It was autumn of 1992. My friend was absolutely RAVING about how gorgeous and wonderful Charleston was. Would love to live here, she said. I had been living there for over 5 years, so was accustomed to everything Charleston offered, including its Southern ways. We walked into the shoe shop, and I asked for my loafers, which had needed re-soling. The thin, beyond middle-aged black man I always worked with there walked up to the counter. “Let me see if I can find them,” he says. “Sure”, I said, taking a seat in the waiting area. Kristy and I were the only customers in the shop, and there may have been 1-2 other people behind the counter besides the gentleman working with us. We sat. And waited. And waited. I think the shoes weren’t “quite done” when I arrived, though I’d dropped them off at least a week earlier. In fact, perhaps they re-soled them entirely while we waited. I didn’t know and didn’t care. I sat waiting patiently, no worries, while my friend, with every moment that passed, began to get more, and more, and more IRRITATED.
After leaving the shop, my friend announced “That’s it. I could NEVER live here.”