Wednesday, October 13, 2010

San Salvador Day One

Pamela and I are visiting Steve's sisters in El Salvador. We woke up at zero dark thirty and to make it to the airport by five in the morning for an early flight. This trip is nothing for Pamela, a seasoned traveler who has spent a week in Germany, gone on a ten-day drive from Colorado to the spit in Homer, Alaska, and lived three weeks in a high-rise apartment in Santiago, Chile. She has traveled to El Salvador and Guatemala several times.

Going on trips gives me a chance to measure Pamela's progress. I noticed that she deliberately shared jointed attention a couple of times. As we flew over Louisiana, she thought she saw the bridge over Lake Ponchartrain and pointed it out to me, "What's that bridge?" We lived in Louisiana for four years and drove up and down the bridge so many times I lost count. Then, as we were descending into El Salvador, we were flying over the Pacific Ocean with no land in sight. Very calmly but emphatically, Pamela said, "We're not splashing!" Not only that, she was a great companion on the airplane: she helped me with the spelling of Apu (from The Simpsons) and gave me the Roman numerals for Livy's 601: DCI. She did not even freak out when they cut off Direct TV and I told her that I was not going to pay to see more.

This was the first international flight for her babies. I like having the babies with us because they cue people into the idea that Pamela is not your average traveler. During our ninety-minute layover in Houston, we spent a half hour at Borders Bookstore. The cashier noticed the babies with crocheted clothing, and said to me, "I do that too. My daughter tells me to stop because she is running out of room to store their clothes." Later, Pamela wanted to buy some Junior Mints, so I gave Pamela some cash and pointed her to the line of this friendly woman. She was extra kind and patient with Pamela during the transaction. I love meeting people who get it in unexpected places.

We spent time at both of her aunt's apartments, and Pamela adjusted well to the change from the big houses in which they lived on previous trips. She was not even upset when we could not do a thing with her Tía Julie's computer, which I later had to fix, being the continental geek that I am. When she couldn't get the television in one room working, she watched from another room. She accepted that most of her cousins were gone to college abroad or working and living on their own and that everything she had once known was completely different this time.

We went to dinner at a restaurant in the hills of San Salvador's extinct volcano. Pamela ate two huge pupusas (thick tortillas stuffed with beans and pork). She thought I had ordered papas fritas (French fries) for her. When she realized that we had not asked for them, she spotted the waitress, threw up her hand, and said, "I want some French fries!" Pamela did not realize the waitress's attention was on a different party, but I loved how she used all forms of communication with a total stranger. As we were leaving the restaurant, Pamela's Tía Julie leaned forward for a peck on the cheek. Pamela understood the body language to mean "look where I am looking" so Pamela turned and looked in the direction where Julie was looking. I realized what happened and touched Pamela on the shoulder and made kissing sounds. Then, she turned and gave her tía a kiss!

Before Julie turned into bed, I asked for her observations about Pamela so far. Julie said that Pamela is much more comfortable with her body and uses her hands more naturally. She wants to join in conversations and listens to what people say. She makes clear decisions and then takes actions. For example, Pamela wanted to look out the window of Julie's apartment on the fifth floor. The height must have worried her, so Pamela closed the window before looking out. At dinner, she knew exactly what she wanted and ordered it in English. Pamela speaks more coherently and is much easier to understand.

She is much more patient and flexible. The moment Julie got home from work, Pamela was ready to go out and eat. She waited for us to talk and make arrangements with Tía Patty. At first, we sat at the terrace of the restaurant because of the view. As it grew darker, the wind began whipping through us all and Pamela agreed to shift to a table inside where it was warmer. She waited for her French fries and for us to pay the bill. We rode to the restaurant in Julie's car. Pamela rode back with Patty and I with Julie. She easily adjusted to changing circumstances.

Pamela is sitting with her Tía Patty in this picture. As the week unfolds, I will ask Patty for her thoughts. Patty visited us for three weeks when we first started RDI and I look forward to her insights.


Marsha said...

I am so happen to share your daughter's accomplishments. What an exciting time for you both. It's an inspiration to read your blog. Wendy

Stephanie said...

What a wonderful trip, and it's great to hear how well Pamela is doing with joint attention and such.