The Power of Laughter

As long as you can laugh at yourself, you will never cease to be amused. -A Wise Person

This almost-cliché-quote is one of my life mottos. More often than not, we take ourselves way too seriously. Whether it is or work, our studies, or how we think others perceive us, there are moments every day that we can choose to either take personally, or laugh at. I try my best to choose laughter.  A great way to test this is by traveling or living abroad. The past two months I’ve spent in El Salvador have taught me more than I imagined. Not taking myself too seriously has been a top lesson.

(Disclaimer: This post is by no means intended to poke fun at Salvadoran culture. It could just as easily be written about my day to day life in Montana, but I am here now and as a foreigner probably do more silly things than normal so that is what I will share about.)

Things I Can Choose to Either Cry or Laugh at:

1. The veggie truck. Every day, a pick-up truck drives through town blaring ranchero or rap music while a nasally, staccato, super speedy voice says something like, “Papas, tomates, dos libras un dolarrrrr,” over a loud speaker. For some reason, this really irked me at first. Every time I heard a truck engine my shoulders would go up to my ears, I’d begin to sweat and hold my breath, bracing myself for that advertisement to disrupt every peaceful part of my being.

One day, I decided to picture what this would look like in Montana: a Ford F-150 cruising down Main Street, Bozeman bumping some Wu-Tang Clan and saying aggressively over a loud speaker, “We’re selling potatoes! Eat your veggies!”

…not unlike Gwen Stefani’s passion for bananas.

I now love the veggie truck.
2. My nine-year-old host sister/child is wonderful. We hang out every day and learn a lot from one another. I can confidently say my best friend in El Salvador is a nine-year-old. That said, sometimes she forgets I am a full-grown human.

During dinner one night, the power went out. Cruz went to get a candle. As soon as she lit it, the lights came back on and Karen tried to blow the candle out but was repeatedly failing. “Put your hand behind the flame like this,” I showed her. She did, and blew out the candle successfully. “Wow!” She said, “you already know how candles work.” My only response was to slow-blink-blank-stare at her.

Some other things Karen has explained to me:

  • how capital letters work (although we disagree…)
  • what an oven is
  • what fire is
  • that chicks become chickens
  • that I shouldn’t cut the clothesline with fingernail-clippers

The list goes on, but it also contains some very useful explanations. Karen is the person I go to with many questions, and she always has an answer.

My favorite teacher running some errands.
My favorite teacher running some errands.

3. Showers are an adventure. I shower outside among the fresh air and elements, which I feel is much more sanitary than an indoor tub. It also gives you a sense of freedom. However, when you shower outside, you are never truly alone.

Beings that have been in the shower with me:

  • chickens
  • mushrooms
  • geckos
  • a giant spider
  • a giant spider with an egg sack
  • cockroaches
  • toads

One day, after a nice morning jog, I was showering as Abba’s Take a Chance on Me blared from the neighbor’s house. I was feeling pretty into it and dancing along in my flip flops under the cool water.

Our Shower
Our Shower

IMPORTANT DETAIL: A tin roof covers our shower head, and a branch from a tree in the chicken pen covers the roof.

I was scrubbing away and thew my fist in the air as Abba said, “Gonna do my VERY best, and it ain’t no lie.” Suddenly, two loud bangs hit the tin roof and sounded like fireworks going off. I let out a shriek, “IS EVERYONE OK?!” I heard laughter. “Just some chickens jumping on the roof,” my family explained. I didn’t dance as freely the rest of that particular shower, but now nothing holds me back (except toads for some reason).

4. A little dengue for your birthday. My birthday was a couple weeks ago. Katie and I decided to celebrate by taking a vacation to the beach. The day we left, we both had hot/cold flashes and sore lower backs. We thought it was from sitting so much and vowed to walk around when we reached our destination. As the day progressed, we had identical, specific symptoms including eyes hurting when we moved them, achey legs, and rashes that we thought were sunburns. The symptoms did not go away with walking, sunshine, fruity drinks, or hammock naps. In fact, I even gained a new symptom that made me run to the bathroom every time I ate (they call it “the runs” for a reason *boom boom symbol crash*). As we sat at dinner (Katie sweating and me wishing I had a down jacket) we decided to cut our vacation short and go to the clinic.

After waiting a few hours and having our blood drawn, the doctor called us both in to her office and shook her head looking at us like a disappointed teacher looks at a student who failed her test but shouldn’t have. I spared her breaking the news to us, “We have dengue,” I told her. “You have dengue,” she replied, “And you,” she pointed at me, “have amoebas.”

The next day I turned 24. To celebrate, Katie and I went to the supermarket to stock up on superfoods (oreos and gatorade) and spent the rest of the day on our boss’s couch (and toilet–Thanks Catie!) I couldn’t help but crack up from time to time as I saw little blonde Katie curled up on a pillow itching herself and pictured myself sipping my gatorade like a baby bottle with my legs elevated to try to ease the pain. Picturing how funny this story could be in the future is what kept me sane. The dengue went away, I got antibiotics for the amoebas, and we returned to Arcatao with a story to share.

I look forward to what the rest of what living in El Salvador and being 24 will teach me, and hope to keep practicing the power of laughter.


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