25 January 2006

Companeros - Day 6

Today was a canton (small dirt-floor community) visit day. Our first stop was San Francisco, to Miguel’s brand new house with his wife and 9-month old son. 6 months ago, when I was there last, they were living in a very small room in his parents’ house. Now they have a place of their own. Since San Francisco is Westminster’s sister canton, I spent a lot of time talking with him about the solar project and the community and how things were going. The solar project is still short about $6,000 from the Self Development for People grant money. About half the homes now have the transformers that will allow them to plug in regular AC appliances. And some people have discovered problems with the panel installation…they were installed in a prime location for the sun at the time of installation but didn’t take into account how the sun moves to a different part of the sky the other half of the year. Most of them don’t have enough cable to be able to move the panel to a better location so some people are not making much use of the power part of the year until they can get the cable work done. And there are some homes that don’t have panels at all…those who decided not to participate in the original project or, as in Miguel’s case, new houses that have been built since the project was completed.

From San Francisco, we went to Heartland’s new community, a casarillo (a subset of a canton) of El Tablon (Kathy), then Virginia (Dallas Center’s community – Nancy) and Las Delicias (Wakonda Christian’s community – Randy).

Virginia is having some internal issues. The community is somewhat divided on what sort of projects should be done and who should be doing what.

Las Delicias (where we had lunch in one of the homes) has a great water project going. They had some issues with the tank cracking during the deluge last fall and Randy spent a bit of time discussing causes and options with the community leaders that met with us.

After that, it was back to the Casa. It had been a very long, hot, dusty day riding in the back of the pickup. We’re all pretty exhausted. I’m sunburned. Everybody makes a beeline to the nearest shower. I decide it’s the best opportunity I’m going to get to take the tubes of thread to Sonia at the prison so Walter and I head that way. He talks through the gate to the guards and they let us in. Then someone goes to get Sonia who gets searched in a room just off of where we wait for her. She shows me what she completed since I left the day before and gives me back the bracelet I left with her as a model. I give her the tubes of thread and thank her profusely with a hug. The hug was spontaneous but I thought afterward that I probably shouldn’t have done that. As cool and reserved as she was, I’m guessing she’s probably not a hugger. She said she’d make a bunch of bracelets from the thread I gave her and get them to the Pastoral Team to give to me.

Walter and I walked back to the Casa and found that the meeting with the Pastoral Team was scheduled for about 10 minutes. I’m the only one who hasn’t showered yet and I feel incredibly grubby after a day in the cantones. I went up to the women’s room and said I was going to take a shower but everyone said I didn’t have time. I said I was going to MAKE time. As soon as Nancy got out of the shower I was in for the quickest shower of my life. I felt infinitely better and was not the last person to arrive for the meeting. However, after the meeting, when I went back to the room, I discovered that I really hadn’t done all that good a job of showering as the white towel I’d used and then hung at the foot of my bed looked positively filthy. But hey, it was the best I could do in the time I had and without a washcloth to scrub with.

After the meeting, the Pastoral Team took us to a restaurant in Alegría, a slightly-larger than Berlin community just up the mountain, for supper. I had camarones (shrimp)…huge ones, grilled with onions and green pepper. Everyone had sides of rice/beans, a type of pico de gallo, spicy grilled veggies and ensalada (salad) with a piece of queso fresco (fresh cheese) on top. It was seriously good, even though the head, eyes, antennae and legs on the shrimp Kathy and I had creeped out a couple of our group.

Back at the Casa, Bob talked to us a bit about the relief efforts after all the flooding with the hurricanes last fall. On our canton visits, he’d pointed out some of the places where the roads to the cantones had washed out or where “end of the line” was when they were trying to deliver emergency food packets to those who lost pretty much everything. Even having been to the cantones, knowing how they live and hearing Bob talk about it, I’m sure we still don’t really have an idea of what it was like to live through that.

Earlier, Milagro had asked me to take a look at the psychologist’s printer…it wasn’t working, she said…so I took a look at it. I booted everything up and created a document in Word that printed fine so I told Milagro that it looked like it was working ok.