Anybody who knows me, especially in the last year and a half, knows that slow is not a word that describes how I work.  I walk fast.  I type fast.  I like meetings to be fast.  I don’t know what to do when I don’t have 3 things to do at a time.

That’s not an option here.

The working pace here should infuriate me, but it doesn’t.  It does amaze me though.  Here in the CRIPDES office, editing a Word document might take a whole morning.  In a meeting, we might spend 30 minutes talking about things people already know and for no particular purpose.  In a community meeting, 5 people might make 15 minute speeches saying the exact same thing.

But it’s not about poor work ethic or laziness, I think it has a lot to do with being an oral culture.  I come from a visual culture, where, thanks to the internet and accessibility of technology, recording and sharing written information is super easy.  Invitations can be sent out via email, meeting minutes can be posted for anyone to look up, and if I need background info on anything, I can just google it.  But in a culture where those technologies are not widespread and accessible  — and much of the population has limited literacy – people depend on the spoken word.

So even here in the CRIPDES office where computers and internet are (sort of) available, we’re surrounded by, and employees are coming from, that culture where information is spread verbally.  So when you ask a question, the answer is lengthy and gives more back story than I was hoping for, and sometimes doesn’t even answer the question.  And more importantly, it explains the whole process of the junta directiva meetings, which can last anywhere from 2 to 5 hours.  These meetings are a space for information to be spread throughout the community, and for background to be given to all sorts of things.

It’s also a space where people process through things.  When you write something, like I’m writing this blog, you have time to think about the words you’re choosing and what exactly you want to say.  But spoken conversation, by nature, is a bit more about processing through thoughts as you go.  If you think of something you meant to say after the meeting, there’s no going back and emailing the group with follow up commentary.

These meetings, and the slow conversations, are how we know what is going on in the world around us in rural El Salvador.  It is the space where we connect with each other and bring our stories, ideas, and concerns together in one big slow cooker.

As for me, I’m getting really good at doing nothing or doing things slowly.  It’s good for me.  But I also get really excited when I get to multitask J


3 thoughts on “Slow

  1. Catie I am so enjoying your blog. Thank you very much. This one you’ve so aptly titled “Slow” (and an earlier post where you talked of the meetings) reminded me of something I read recently by Leslie M. Silko, an American Laguna Pueblo Indian who says that among Pueblo peoples, written words can be highly suspect because the true feelings of the writer remain hidden. She goes on to say that Pueblo Indians don’t think of words as being isolated from the speaker and words are not thought of as being alone. Words are always with other words and other words are almost always in a story of some sort. She says the use of specific language is less important than the one thing — which is the “telling.” She says Pueblo expression resembles a spider’s web with many threads radiating from a center and crisscrossing each other. The structure will emerge and one must simply listen and trust that meaning will be made.

    This past Saturday the East Side Group met and Jeff had printed several of your posts for us to read together aloud. As you know blogs are displayed (and thus print out) most recent post first – making ordering the printed pages a bit difficult. Mostly our reading was true to your words and chronological, but when it occasionally strayed, it was quite amusing. You probably had to be there to fully appreciate this particular nuance of your blog, but hopefully you can imagine.

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