05 October 2009

Door County - Journey home

Since we had a long drive ahead of us and Alan wanted to be home by the time the boys got back from cross country practice, we decided (much as it killed us…) that we’d have to skip the Inn breakfast at 8:30 and leave at 7:30. Judy was crushed that we wouldn’t be there for breakfast but she offered to leave us some fruit and coffee cake in the den at 7:00. So we had coffee/tea, fruit and coffee cake before heading out. John and Judy were bustling about in the kitchen getting breakfast ready for the others so we just popped in to thank them and say goodbye.

We hit the road and started our journey home. It was pretty much just driving and driving…stopping occasionally for gas or food. We won’t talk about the wrong turns and backtracks…

The only sort of adventure was when we were on a 4-lane divided highway and coming up behind a big, extended cab pickup. I saw something moving…it looked like a dog standing on the back bumper. That obviously couldn’t be right. I said something to Alan and he said, it can’t be a live dog…it’s got to be stuffed or something. Then we both saw it move.

We got closer and figured out the truck was pulling a small trailer…like you’d haul a snowmobile on…and the dog was indeed alive and pacing around on the trailer. We were horrified. What kind of idiot would do that?!? All he had to do would be hit a bump and the dog would go flying off the trailer and into following traffic. At best the dog would die instantly and at worst it would cause a multi-car accident.

We talked about did he/didn’t he know the dog was there. But then I thought, as a long-time dog-owner, what it’s like to have a dog. I would bet the guy didn’t know the dog was back there. He probably got into the truck, the dog hopped on the trailer, and he pulled out without a thought. The trailer was low enough, he’d never see the dog in any of his mirrors. By the time we came to that conclusion, we’d passed him and traffic wouldn’t allow us to slow down enough to get beside him and try to get him to open his window so we could yell to him. An exit came up and we decided to pull off and get right back on, which would put us behind him and we could catch up to him again.

However, as luck would have it, he also pulled off at that exit. Alan got out and flagged him down. He rolled down his window and Alan asked if he knew he had a dog on his trailer. He said, “What?!?!” Alan repeated it and he jumped out of the cab and dashed back to the trailer. He had no idea the dog was back there and was ever so grateful we told him. He thanked Alan repeatedly and shook his hand. He put the dog in the back of the pickup and we all went on our way.

04 October 2009

Sunday pictures

Drawbridge at Sturgeon Bay
Ships at the marina, Sturgeon Bay

Simon Creek Winery

Stone's Throw Winery

Squall coming up across Green Bay

Door County - Sunday

Morning was pretty much like yesterday except John played the grand piano as everyone was gathering for breakfast. And breakfast was Swedish pears in the tulip glass, Mexican strata and hash brown casserole.

We left around 9:30 to catch a 10:30 cruise out of Sturgeon Bay. We got to Sturgeon Bay but didn’t find the boat place until after 10:30. It turns out that they didn’t get anyone signed up for the cruise so they canceled it…they needed 20 and we’d have only made 2 had we been there on time.

So we toddled up the street to Sunset Park and played a couple rounds of disc golf on the 6-hole course there. I’d done some research before the trip to see if there were any courses in Door County and this was the only one I could find. Reviews of the course were not stellar…most commenters (likely better players that we are) said it wasn’t challenging, it was only 6 holes and it’s lakeside location left it completely covered in goose poop. It was certainly a bit easier than the course we’re used to in Waukee…we actually parred some holes. And it was definitely covered in goose poop. I didn’t really want to pick up the disc after it hit the ground. Oh, and it sprinkled on us off and on while we played. But we still had a great time.

By the time we’d played 2 rounds, it was after noon and we decided we should go winery hopping. AFTER wiping our shoes on any cleanish grass we could find and washing our hands.

We headed north out of town toward Simon Creek winery…one of the 2 that John said were his favorites. I’d quizzed him on what kinds of wines he likes because his recommendation wouldn’t be worth anything to us if he liked sweet wines. He didn’t so we thought it worth checking out his faves.
We tasted 4 wines each and like the Chardonnay the best. I also kind of liked the Door Co. Cherry, even though it’s a little sweeter than I typically like. It wasn’t cloying and syrupy like some fruit wines. They had live music all afternoon but we decided to press on and check out the other winery before committing to anything.

We headed north again and decided to have lunch in Baileys Harbor. We’d finally learned our lesson on ordering food in Door County and the two of us split a walleye cake sandwich with potato salad. We hit the road again to look for Hwy E and fairly soon discovered that we’d driven past it. We got straightened around and headed west on E to find the winery. It wasn’t well marked and we kept driving and driving. Finally, we stopped at a roadside bar to ask where it was and the bartender pointed across the street. Sure enough, that’s where it was…we just couldn’t see the sign from the direction we came.

For $5 you could taste 5 different wines and keep the glass. Between us, we tasted 10 different wines (it pays to take a buddy wine tasting!) but didn’t find anything we liked any better than the first place…and everything here was more expensive. And we weren’t in love with anything at the first place so we decided not buy anything and headed back toward the Inn.

We stopped at a combo roadside market and antique shop we’d seen on the way out. We bought some honeycrisp apples and continued on.

I tatted. Alan read. We rested and snuggled a bit. We headed out later to walk around Sister Bay and shop for a supper spot.

We parked at a city park on the shore and walked out on a pier then over to the swimming beach, watched the clouds change over the bay, listened to the waves…it was very peaceful. We decided to walk up the street and ended up at the Mission Grille…a former church converted to an upscale restaurant. We were perusing the posted menu when it started to rain. We stood under the eaves for a bit to see if it would be a short shower or a longer rain. It was settling in to be a rain. We didn’t really want to eat there but we decided to go sit at the bar and have a glass of wine. We chatted with the bartender, talked, occasionally glanced at the football game on the TV, and just hung out for a while. By the time we’d finished all that, the rain had stopped and we walked back to our car.

We ended up eating at Al Johnson’s…another Swedish-themed restaurant. They had Swedish food but they also had other things. Alan had the special…half a baked chicken with mashed potatoes and veggies. I had the cheese ravioli with marinara. Both were very good.

Back at the Inn, I finished tatting the heart I was planning to leave with Judy. All the people who had been there for the weekend were gone except for us. There was a whole new crop of guests there now. 5 of them had come together and they were playing cards on the coffee table in the great room. Alan and I poured brandies and curled up in wing chairs with our books.

At one point, Judy came in to see if anyone needed anything and went into the kitchen to get a bottle of water for one of them. I followed her in to give her the tatted heart. She was thrilled and thanked me many times and hugged me.

It was a wonderful evening and cap to the weekend!

03 October 2009

Saturday pictures

View of Sister Bay from the end of the Inn driveway. Fall color...

The Eagle Bluff lighthouse

One of the roads through Peninsula State Park

The 30-gal fish boil pot when we arrived, with potatoes rolling in the boil

The fish slabs getting ready to go into the pot

Taking the fish and veggies out of the pot after the boil over


Full moon over Lake Michigan and the remains of the fish boil

Door County - Saturday

We woke around 7 but lazed around a bit longer. Alan went to the nook down the hall to get us coffee and hot tea while I showered. Then he showered and we went down to breakfast and met the other guests. Heinz and Char had the room across the hall from us. Debbie and Rachel are next door. Joie and Dawn are in the room downstairs by the front door and Bob and Katie have the back room downstairs.

Breakfast was a feast! … OJ, granola with yogurt and Door County cherries in a tulip glass, caramel pecan French toast, a brown sugar coffee cake, and Door County sausage with apples. It was all incredibly good. I couldn’t eat it all but Alan helped me ‘clean my plate.’ Rachel was running and didn’t want the big breakfast so Judy brought her a bowl of cereal and some fruit.

We all sat around the table chatting for a while, trying to see if it was going to clear off or keep raining. John said we could sit as long as we wanted…although he did let us know that in the 8 years they’ve been running the place, the record is 12:15.

Alan went out to check the rain situation and came back proclaiming it “not raining” so we all headed out. Joie and Dawn are checking out, as they’re here for one night only. The rest of us went on our way. I spent some time wandering around the outside; exploring the deck, bird feeders and woodsy trails.

We made some phone calls about bay sight-seeing cruises and then decided to head to Peninsula State Park, near Fish Creek. We got in line to pay the daily use fee ($10) and started driving through the park, stopping whenever the mood struck us and walking trails whenever they looked interesting.

Eventually, we ended up at Eagle Bluff lighthouse with a tour starting in 5 minutes so we paid the $4/person and took the tour. I’d toured the lighthouse the last time I was in Door County (about 10 years ago) but I thought this tour seemed more detailed. I think it lasted for the better part of an hour.

The lighthouse was built in 1868 and the last keeper left in the mid-20s.Much later it was turned into a historic site and refurnished as it had been. A lot of the items on display were from one of the actual keeper families…a family with 7 sons, one of which was still living in the area at the time and helped immensely with the history and descriptions of what life in a lighthouse was like.

After the tour, we wound our way out of the park and to nearby Fish Creek. We found a parking spot on the street and decided to eat at the restaurant that was right there…the Pelletier. I had a Wisconsin brat and Alan had a pub cod sandwich. Just like I did last night, Alan decided to forego the bun and just eat the fish.

After lunch, we decided to wander among all the little shops in the Founders Square area. At one time they were mostly tiny cottages for vacationing folk but now they’re unique little boutique type shops.

We decided to go back to the Inn to rest a little before heading out again to our fish boil reservations. When we got there, John and Judy had gone out for a bit and taped a note to the banister (our room key had let us into the house). We realized we’d forgotten the name of the place where we were supposed to have supper. While Alan shaved, I called the number left on the note to get the info from Judy. (The Square Rigger in Jacksonport).

By the time we headed out for Jacksonport, it had clouded up again. It had never been actually sunny all day…all trip, in fact…but it has gotten darker. Driving back from Fish Creek there were ominous clouds looming over the bay. Looks like they caught up with us.

We headed across the peninsula on Hwy57 and got to our restaurant. The fish boil had started…the 30-gal pot was on the fire out back, the water was roiling and the potatoes were in the pot. We watched a bit and asked the fire-tender how long until the onions went in. He said about 5 minutes and then the fish about 5 after that. We went back inside and had some hors d’oeuvres of pickled fish, crudités, fried mushrooms, etc. and a glass of wine. We went back out in time to see the fish go in. It cooked a while and they it was time for the boil-over. They take a can of kerosene and dump it on the fire. The fire wooshes up into a huge fireball and water and steam boil over the lip of the pot with the extra heat. Then we watched as two guys ran a pole through holes in the baskets holding the fish, potatoes and onions and hauled them out of the cauldron and into the restaurant. They dished up the plates with 2 slabs of fish, a few potatoes, some onions a pile of steamed veggies that didn’t get cooked in the pot. After they served everyone, the waitresses would walk around and ask if you needed help deboning the slabs of fish. I had her do one of mine so I could see how they did it then I did the other myself. There was a dish of cole slaw on the table as well as a basket of bread. They came around later with platters of fish and potatoes to ask if anyone wanted more. Then there was the cherry pie and ice cream for dessert. There was certainly no shortage of food!

The dining room has huge windows that look out onto the back yard area where the fish boil happened and to Lake Michigan beyond. There were clouds hanging over the horizon but the full moon did peek out at one point and I went out on the deck to take a picture of it.

Once again, we waddled out to the car and drove back to Woodenheart. John met us at the door and asked if we wanted a fire. Sure! Heinz and Char were watching TV in the den upstairs. They came down to the fire and we poured brandy and had a very pleasant evening in comfy chairs with our toes up to the fire.

02 October 2009

Woodenheart Inn pictures

The front of the Woodenheart Inn, Sister Bay, WI The back walk around the Inn

The front porch

Whimsical planters made from old boots

The great room with fireplace and grand piano

The Heart Room where we stayed

Door County - Madison and arrival

We had a leisurely morning, got up around 8, showered (sans shampoo ‘cause we forgot to pack any and the Motel 6 doesn’t provide it), checked out and went to Burger King for breakfast. We ate, finished the jumble and most of the crossword in the paper then hit the road to Madison at 9:30.

In Madison, we met a high school classmate of mine at Dobra Tea Shop. Anita and I met for the first time in about 5th or 6th grade and haven’t seen each other in something like 19 years so we had a lot of catching up to do. It was a lot of fun and Dobra and the State Street area were very cool places to be.

We left the tea shop and walked a bit up and down State Street, shopping for a lunch spot. We decided we weren’t really hungry yet and moseyed on toward Door County in the rain. Nothing new there. We drove the night before in pretty constant rain and it’s rained off an on all day. The clouded sky is nice for driving and at least in the daylight, the rain isn’t so bad. But last night in the dark, on strange roads, in the rain and with truck traffic, it wasn’t a lot of fun.

We arrived in Sister Bay and found our B&B…the Woodenheart Inn. The inn is a log-style home with lots of cute landscaping, nestled into the woods.

We were greeted most graciously by our hosts for the weekend, John and Judy. They had a pot of hot spiced cider on for us and, Boy! did that hit the spot after the chill and rain. They showed us around the great room with the 2-story stone fireplace, pointed out the deck and gazebo off the back of the house, the walking trails leading of into the woods, the dining room where we’d have breakfast in the mornings, and then to our room…the Heart Room…one of the 3 upstairs accommodations.

All 5 rooms have a theme (heart, apple, cherry, garden and Millie, I think) and were mostly decorated in red and white. Our room had hearts stenciled around the upper part of the walls, wrought iron or hammered metal hearts on the curtain swags and towel bars and other little heart knick-knacks scattered tastefully about. The bed had a great, white quilt over the bed and a hearts (of course) quilt folded over the foot of the bed. We had a red/white gingham loveseat on one wall, a nice closet with extra pillows, hangers, a white noise machine and a flashlight. Everything was so comfy and nicely appointed we just kind of wandered around with our jaws hanging open at how wonderful the place was.

We headed back out to the car to get our bags. John told us there were umbrellas behind the front door and to help ourselves…he noticed we had run to the inn in the rain without any. We brought the bags in, hung some things in the closet then went out to supper. We ate at the Sister Bay Café (recommended by Judy). It was a Scandinavian themed café on the main street through town. Alan had almond-crusted walleye filets; I had the special which was salmon chowder and a lake perch sandwich, because I wasn’t all that hungry. When my food came, it was on a plate that was half fresh fruit salad…big chunks of cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple and strawberries. It was more than I could possibly eat so I didn’t eat the bun, just the fruit and fish. It was way tasty.

After supper we waddled back out to the car and back to the inn. We were again met at the door by Judy, who offered us hot tea or coffee. We declined (politely) and decided to relax and read in the great room. She asked if we’d like a fire. We would! So John built us one. We got our books and sat on the couch and decided we didn’t feel like reading, we just wanted to sit and listen to the crackling fire.

Not long after, Joie (as in Joey…I’m not sure why he spells it that way) and Dawn (a couple from near Green Bay) came in. We all introduced ourselves and Dawn snuggled up to the fire as she was chilled. John pointed out the decanter of apricot brandy and glasses on a side table and told us to help ourselves. Dawn wanted hot tea, so John brought her a carafe of hot water and basket of teas.

A while later, Debbie and her daughter Rachel came in from a trolley tour…more introductions and fireside chats. Then Joie and Dawn headed to their room.

We had all commented on how gracious and accommodating John and Judy were…always asking if we wanted or needed anything, ready with advice on restaurants or local attractions, offering umbrellas or maps or hot drinks or anything we might need. We joked that if we asked them to make the rain stop, somehow they’d see to it.

01 October 2009

Door County - First leg

Hit the road at 6:34. We drove east on 80 then north to Cedar Rapids then northeast to Dubuque. We found our Motel 6. It was very clean and looked newly remodeled. For a cheap bed and shower, it was perfect for us.

10 September 2009

Schools, water filters, restaurant in Alegria

It was a quiet night…no more cat fights outside. Other than the sprinkle last night while we played Loteria, I don’t think it rained…the porch chairs were dry in the morning. I hope that doesn’t mean it will rain on us all day like Tuesday…

I pre-packed a bit while Jane “showered.” I pulled out clothes for today and to travel home in tomorrow then packed everything else except the stuff I’m leaving here. I’ll pack more tonight after dinner in Alegria and do the final pack tomorrow morning before leaving for the airport.

Alejandro and the cross he painted for Companeros.

Alejandro (Cecilia’s brother and one of my English students when I was here teaching in ’04) came by with the painted cross he made for Companeros. I gave him $25 for his work. Kathy said the wood cross cost him $5 and I know a cross of that size at the artisan market would go for probably $20. He signed the back and Kathy put clear packing tape over to keep it from smearing.
Kathy told us at breakfast that Balmore is very sick. He has a high fever. They’re taking him to a clinic later today. He was fine Monday when we went to El Mozote…but he’s not now.
Breakfast was fried eggs with salsa, boiled platanos with cinnamon, and beans.

Some of the homes and trails on the way to the Conception school.

After breakfast we loaded up in the truck with Alejandro riding escopeta (shotgun) because Kathy didn’t know the way to a marginalized school in Concepcion. The road there was very steep, very narrow, and very rough. Good thing we had a 4-wheel drive truck…

The kids were so excited when we arrived…they’d never had visitors like us before. There are 2 teachers there for over 100 students in kindergarten through 6th grade in 2 rooms. In the morning, it’s kindergarten and 1-3 grades. In the afternoon, it’s the rest of them. Since we were there in the morning, it was mostly the younger kids although some of the older ones had come early because they knew we’d be there.

There was a water hydrant at the school and these kids had filled their jugs there and were walking home as we were leaving.

We played with the kids some, they sang songs and we sang Itsy Bitsy Spider for them. Then Kathy took group photos of the grades, we met with the teachers (one of which was the principal) then headed out.

We went back to the Casa to drop off Otilia (who had a meeting to attend) and Alejandro. We also picked up Miguel then went to a San Francisco school that is right on the edge of Berlin.

It was similar to the first school (only more students) and still with 2 teachers. There was a poster on the wall with a bunch of men’s portraits on it and Lynn asked me who the guys were. I didn’t know so I asked Miguel. He said it was a poster about their Independence Day coming up on September 15th. He said the men were the people who signed the declaration that freed El Salvador from Spain. We talked a bit about how they celebrate…it’s a lot like our July 4th…with parades, street carnivals, food and music. Personally, I was just amazed and pleased that I could ask the questions and understood enough of what he was saying to be able to translate it for Lynn (who speaks no Spanish).

The San Francisco school water tank and bathrooms.

We also played and sang with the kids a bit. There was one little girl who was leaning up against the classroom door frame and I knelt down to talk with her. She was asking me the names of everyone in our group and how old they were. She asked my parents’ names and how old they are. She was 5 and in the kindergarten class. Her name is Katarina.

When she finished the interrogation, she ran off with half a dozen of the other little kids and they played some sort of game that involved one child squatting down in the center of the others, who are holding hands and moving in a circle while singing a song about a cucaracha (cockroach). At some point they all run pell-mell screaming and the squatting person tried to catch one to be the next cucaracha. I think. I’m not really sure. I didn’t understand any of the song except the word “cucaracha.” But I saw several rounds of the game to sort of get the pattern.

Earlier, I had asked Miguel if it was going to rain…it looked like some dark clouds coming over the mountain. He said not until afternoon or evening. But as we were loading up in the truck to head back to the Casa for lunch, it started to sprinkle. It was a 10-minute trip and while we didn’t get completely soaked, we got pretty damp. At one point, as we’re all standing in the back getting wet, I say, “Hey Miguel, is it going to rain today?” He laughed and said, “Possibly.” Then we both laughed.
Back at the Casa, Cecilia was frying fish for us for lunch. I went across the street to get a cold diet pop. Alisha made a paper bat to hide in Lynn’s suitcase. Michael wanted to make a box…timing himself after we gave him grief about how long his first one took. I asked Veronica what her favorite color is. She said, “Blue.” Then I asked her what her second favorite color is and she said, “Yellow.” So I made an origami box for her in yellow and blue. I was going to show her the 6 nested boxes I made and gave to Blanca but she must have taken them home.

Grinding stone artifacts at the El Recreo museum.

The rain started to taper off after lunch and we thought it would hold off for a while so we decided to proceed with our trip to El Recreo scheduled for the afternoon. They have a nice little museum there of artifacts…pieces of pottery, little figurines, grinding stones, etc) that were found when they were digging the foundation for their new church.

Afterward, we met with a few members of their directiva…Hector (the president), Francisco (the water filter liaison for the community), Antonio (Delegate of the Word, a lay leader of the church), Patricia (coordinator of the women’s sewing group) and Isabela (another member of the sewing group). We talked about various issues and successes they’re having and then went to Francisco’s house to see his water filter.

Francisco and his mother at the door of their home.

He lives with his mother and they’ve had the filter for about a year. he talked about how they’d had so many fewer illnesses since they got the filter…without the diarrhea caused by contamination and parasites, they’re both much healthier.

A top-down look at the water filter (bottom right of the picture), the clear jug filling with clean water (bottom left) and a cantaro (jug used to carry water) with the water that is dumped into the filter.

We went back to the Casa and stayed just long enough to pick up Miguel, Milagro and Cecilia to go toa restaurant in Alegria. Alegria is a larger community that Berlin that is further up the mountain. We had 12 very nice meals (I had grilled shrimp that were almost as long as my hand), drinks (beer, mixed drinks, pop, bottled water), and 3 meals to-go for the team members that stayed at the Casa. All that plus tip came to $101.

Back at the Casa, we did some packing, settled up with the Pastoral Team and basically got ready to leave in the morning. Balmore is sleeping above the chapel so he doesn’t have to make the 45 minute walk back to his house. He has some sort of inflammation and will need several months of recuperation and medication. He’s supposed to rest…but it’s harvest time.

On the way to the airport. This is travel Salvadoran style.

09 September 2009

Celebration in San Francisco

I slept reasonably well…except for the cats caterwauling in the space outside the bedroom window all night. It rained last night just before bedtime and probably in the night as well, since everything is wet this morning. But, hey, there’s running water today so, Hot Showers, Yay!

Here's a showerhead. There's a heating element inside the head powered by the electric box on the wall. It's on-demand hot water...but it only works if there is water to the shower head.
If there's no running water, you scoop water out of the pila with the plastic pan and pour it over your head. When there is running water, you fill the pila from the wall spigot.

Jane and I were up around 5:30. I turned on the spigot for the main pila (like a cement stock tank, it holds all the water for dishes and the like between running-water days) and the one in our bathroom. I turned on the hot water pot and Jane made real coffee when she got out of the shower.

Cecilia was up and starting breakfast for us around 6. Pancakes today!

We dressed for the celebration and found that we all were wearing stuff we’d bought here. My orange dress, Lynn’s embroidered tunic, Alisha’s pink shirt, Jane (and most of us) in El Sal earrings. Only Michael didn’t have Salvadoran items to wear so I loaned him the leather bracelet I got at Puerto del Diablo, since he didn’t want to let us pierce his ears. The wuss… :-)

The decorated church before the celebration Mass started.

A group of boys at the window by my chair.

The crowd of people inside (and outside) the church waiting for Mass to begin.

The bishop blessing the structure with holy water.

We rode to San Francisco in the back of the pickup and picked up more people en route. At the church, the band started playing around 9:30, welcome was at 10 and the Mass started shortly after. After the mass was a short ceremony and ribbon cutting. Then they cut the ribbon into small pieces and everyone there was given a little piece to pin to their shirt like a miniature Salvadoran flag.

There were these guys with big firework things…cohetes...like bottle rockets only about 4 feet long and home-made of bamboo and paper and whatever the zoom and bang parts were. They blew off a bunch of them when the Bishop arrived and periodically after that. I got some pictures from my seat by the window of them fooshing upward but I wanted a close up picture of the rocket itself to see if it was as home-made as it looked from the window. After the Mass, I tracked down Miguel (the elder) and asked where the fireworks guys went…I wanted a picture. He tracked them down and one came back to the church with a rocket in hand.

Rocket man with a bundle of cohetes.

I have a healthy respect for all fireworks. They’re impressive and fun but I also know they’re very dangerous. These guys were holding the rocket part of the thing with one hand) while lighting the fuse with the other and letting go when it started to lift off. All I could think was, “My God, what if it doesn’t go up before going off…”

We went to the school for lunch with the bishop and various dignitaries then had another meeting with the directiva at 1:30. After the meeting, we went to view the water tank/filter project that Foneas (a local NGO in cooperation with the French government) is piloting in the community.

We went back to the Casa. As we were regrouping, I realized I’d lost the coconut shell part of one of my earrings. Having stood in the back of the pickup on the way home, earrings flapping in the wind, I could have lost it anywhere. On a remote, off-chance I checked the bed of the pickup…and got lucky. It was there! I borrowed Kathy’s needlenose pliers and fixed it.

The pan dulce (sweet bread) lady came around 4:00 (as she does every day) and we hit it hard. We decided that we wanted more of the cookies so Ceci walked us up to the bakery where the pan dulce and cookies come from. Michael bought a bag of the heart cookies…probably at least 2 dozen…for $1.25. Lynn got some chocolate-cookie center things…6 for 60-cents.

Kathy, Jane, Michael and I sat around the table nibbling goodies and talking about filter projects, relations with the Alcaldia (mayor’s office), youth groups, etc. When we sit around talking, there’s just no telling what subject may come up.

Supper was tacos from a restaurant on the corner of the square.

After supper I finished the book I’d started on the plane and got a book from Kathy’s stash. She likes to read and when delegations visit they often leave books with her to read. This was one of those. She’d finished it and liked it and it was on my Books To Read list so I was happy to get it…Friday Night Knitting Club.

Alisha broke out a Loteria game she brought (Mexican word bingo game…in Spanish). We started playing and Otilia’s 14-year-old daughter, Veronica, wanted to play too so we got her set up and started a new game. Eventually it was all of us plus Otilia and Kathy playing. It was great to have a game that everyone, young and old, Spanish and English speaking, could play together.

After Loteria, Kathy brought out a trabalenguas (tongue-twisters in Spanish) book and we took turns reading them aloud. Cecilia didn’t play Loteria or trabalenguas…El Salvador was playing Costa Rica in soccer and she was glued to the TV. However, there was no doubt when El Salvador scored. You could hear the whole barrio cheer.

We had a discussion with Jane, Michael, Kathy and me about the directiva meeting and the new youth group in San Francisco. Lots of exciting stuff going on!

08 September 2009

Painting, rain, rain, rain, and rain

I woke around 11:30 last night and saw light around the bedroom door. All lights are supposed to be off and the doors bolted before we go to bed so I got up to check it out. All the house lights were on and the front door was open. I was momentarily concerned until I heard voices and followed them to find Alisha and Michael out on porch talking.

I went back to bed. I didn’t sleep nearly as well as last night but not bad. I woke up around 5 to a strange noise. I took out an earplug to better identify it and it turned out to be a torrential downpour. I took out the other earplug and lay there listening to the storm. The power went off briefly but that didn’t repeat.

After a while I got up and went to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. Then I “showered”…no running water today. I’m kind of headachy this morning. The bed is still a bit saggy in the middle and uphill on the edges. I should do some yoga…but probably won’t.

Did! And it did help.

After breakfast, we went to San Francisco and cleaned the doors and windows of the church in preparation for painting them. Then we met with the Directiva (town council) while things dried.

We had brought the paint and brushes with us from the Casa…2 gallons of cerulean blue, oil-based paint and 4 or so brushes. We hadn’t, however, brought drop cloths or tarps or paper with us to protect the floor. And since it’s a brand new, tile floor and the celebration is tomorrow, we have to be really, really careful about getting paint on it.

People in the community scrounged around and got some newpapers and paper sheets that we could use. Since the floors were wet from the washing, we also got some boards to put on the floor. Then we could put the paper on the boards and keep it dry so we could move it from spot to spot if we needed to since we were a little short on paper.

Miguel thinned the paint (I don’t know why) and poured it into smaller containers and we started to work in groups. I worked on a window with Jane and a woman named Jesica. Jesica held the paint container for me and Jane kept the window from swinging so that it stayed in place over the papers we’d put down. The thinned paint didn’t cover very well and was extra drippy. It was really hard to do a good job.

I don't have any pictures of this because my hands were all covered with paint.

While we were painting it started raining again. As I may have mentioned, it doesn’t just rain in El Salvador, it POURS. The church has a metal roof and with the torrent hitting it, the sound inside the church was deafening. Pretty much all non-essential conversation ceased for a while.

The original plan was that Blanca would make our lunch and bring it to us in one of the moto-taxis that zip around town. However, they have a really hard time making it up the mountain if the road is wet. After all that rain…it was wet. So we had to go back to Berlin for lunch.

Luckily, about the time we were done painting and it was time to head back to Berlin for lunch (1:00-ish), the rain stopped so we didn’t have to get soaked in the back of the pickup on the way back. We took a couple of women and several children with us. They needed medicine for one of the kids and hitching a ride with us saved them the 45-minute walk.

For lunch, we had hamburgers, macaroni salad, veggies (carrots, green beans, and a couple types of squash-like things…all whatever was available from vendors at the market that day), and watermelon.

After lunch, Kathy and Blanca went to pick up the flowers for the celebration tomorrow. It rained again while they were gone but not quite a torrential downpour this time.

While they were gone, Alisha and I did some yoga. I told her about some of the partner or group poses we’d done in my yoga classes and she was intrigued. I know I’ve seen a book somewhere that was called something like “Yoga for Two” but I don’t remember any specifics. After that, Jane, Lynn, Mily, Alisha and I sat on the porch and chatted while waiting for Kathy and Blanca to come back.

By the time Kathy came back, they decided it was late enough that it was going to be a very quick trip to San Francisco instead of the more-extended, help-decorate trip originally planned. Since they weren’t going to do more than drop off the flowers and return, we decided not to make the trip. Instead, we walked to various stores looking for film for Lynn, earrings from the women’s co-op that Kathy told us about, ice cream at the Nevería and some beer.

While we were walking around town, we suddenly heard Lynn yell, “Get away!!” She had been at the end of our little group so we turned around to see what had happened. Apparently, this guy had touched her butt then tried to stick his hand in her front pocket. He was shirtless, dirty and extremely scruffy…obviously drunk and a very bad pick-pocket. It was my 8th trip here (including one 5-week long trip in 2004) and I’d never had anything like that happen.

We made all our stops and purchases (1/2 gallon each of strawberry and (Oreo) cookie ice cream at the ice cream store, several pairs of earrings between us at the co-op, film from a tienda off the square and beer from the tienda across the street) and were heading back to the Casa when Jane saw a cross-dresser on a balcony up the street from the Casa. Kathy says there are several and the one she knows best is very nice.

Back at the Casa, we were sitting around the table chatting when it started to rain again…3 times today so far.

In the price-check department…of our market purchases that afternoon, the earrings were handmade from coconut shell and $1.50/pr, the ice cream was 2 - ½-gallon containers of hand-packed ice cream for $8, one roll of 24-exposure color film was something over $8, 9 dozen flowers (in Hawaii they’re called ginger flowers, I don’t know what they call them in El Salvador) and 3 potted trees came to $20.

Supper was pupusas (bought, not Cecilia-made), baked platanos stuffed with cheese and cinnamon, and ice cream for dessert.

After supper, Jane, Michael, Alisha and I put the vitamins and ibuprofen we bought into 30-count plastic bags. When people come to the Casa asking for vitamins for their kids, the team can hand them a ready-made bag now. Part of the reason we brought specifically children’s vitamins was because last week a father came to ask for vitamins for his small children and the Team didn’t have any. The last medical delegation had left them a stock but it was all gone. The dad who had asked came back as we were leaving for San Francisco that morning so we actually got to meet him, his wife and their 2 children.

We also put little pads on the bottoms of the dining chairs. Blanca said she had another little job for us for tomorrow but said it was a surprise and wouldn’t tell us what it was.

Alisha has been terrorizing Lynn this week with bats…or at least the threat of. She drew a bat on the white board of the Casa with the message, “I’m watching you, Lynn” and talking about putting on a bat costume in the night.

Well, we were making origami boxes around the dining table with paper squares I’d brought down and Alisha went to the internet and found a bat origami pattern. I didn’t have any black paper so she made a whole family of bats in different sizes in bright red and orange and yellow and blue and green and purple. We gave them all names like Batricia, Battina, Batrum, Batsy and Battiny (for the littlest one).

07 September 2009

El Mozote, Perquin - Sept 7

I went to bed around 10 last night while the card game was still going full tilt. I went right to sleep and didn’t wake when Jane came in for bed. I slept soundly until 5. I must have gotten the earplugs in perfectly because I heard nothing all night.

I heard the water come on about the time I woke up. Hot showers today! Jane got up around 5:45. Apparently, it poured last night around 10-11. Alisha said there was some amazing lighting around 11:30. Jane said it dumped buckets. I slept through it all.

Breakfast was pancakes, beans, fried eggs, left over anonas. We left for El Mozote around 7:40-ish…arrived 10:20-ish.

We toured the site with a guide then had a reflection in the children’s garden. The short story on El Mozote is that it is the site of the largest massacre of the Salvadoran war. Somewhere around 1300 people (mostly women, children and old people) were killed in one day. There were so many people in that small village because the word had gone out that if you came to this village, you’d be safe. So people came from all over the countryside, but it was a trap. Men were taken out to a field and shot. Children were separated from their families and locked up in the church. Women were taken to another building. Older girls and young women were taken to a nearby hilltop and raped. Then everyone was killed.

We know what happened because there was one survivor, Rufina Amaya. The last time I was here, we met her and heard her story from her directly. She has since died and is buried at the monument. We happened to see a DVD at the UCA (University of Central America) when we were there and Kathy bought a copy. It’s a video of Rufina telling her story. She was 42 when the massacre happened and died at 62.

The main monument at El Mozote...the figures in front are cut from sheet metal. The plaques behind them list the names of the adults (as much as is known). You can't see it in this picture but Rufina Amaya's grave is on the ground to the left of the monument.

Part of the mural wall in the children's garden with the names of the children who died listed on plaques across the bottom.

In many cases, the actual names of the children are unknown. With no surviving family members and so many people from other places, sometimes the best that could be done is what you see in the picture..."Nephew of Dionisio Marzuez - 2 days old" or "Daughter of Agustina Perez - 3 days old"

There have been some changes since the last time. The children’s garden is the big one. It’s along one side of the church and there has been a lot of planting and landscaping that’s new. The murals on the church wall with all the names/ages of the children who died are new. Rufina’s grave is new.

The side of the church wall opposite to the childrens garden has this mural.

After we left El Mozote, we went to Perquin, a nearby town that was considered the center of FMLN (the guerillas) during the war. There is now a museum there with photos and artifacts. Since the signing of the peace accords in 1992, the FMLN has become a legitimate political party and, in fact, the current president is of the FMLN party.

We had lunch at a resort/restaurant called Perkin Lenka. It was at the top of a steep embankment and there were a LOT of step going up from the parking lot. But once at the top, the view was spectacular…especially since we could see storm clouds rolling over the mountains across the valley.

Storm rolling in from across the valley, as seen from the restaurant when we arrived.

The resort had really cool little cabins all scattered around. It looked like it would be a great place to spend a long weekend, although other than the museum and El Mozote, there really isn’t anything else in the area. We had a very nice lunch for 11 people for $80 (including tip).

When the storm arrived...

The storm we saw rolling in hit while we were eating. One thing I’ll say for the rain in El Salvador, it doesn’t do anything by halfway measures…when it rains it comes down in massive quantities. On the up-side, it had mostly quit by the time we needed to make the trek down the stairs to the microbus. We joked with Alfredo (the driver) that he was going to have to drive the bus up the stairs to pick us up. Actually, there was a guy at the top of the stairs with umbrellas who offered to walk us down but it wasn’t raining enough for me to worry about it. Although…now that I think about it, I probably deprived him of a substantial portion of his income for the day.

Back at the Casa, we paid Alfredo for his services for the week (including the Monday to come for taking us to the airport). I used Kathy’s PC to burn the photos from my camera’s memory card to a CD and clear the card so I could take some more pictures.

Before supper, conversation around the table was Lynn, Alisha, Michael and me comparing the merits of hairy chests/backs (on men). Ex-hippie Lynn thinks the more the better and Alisha voting for substantially less.

After supper I started to read when Jane asked if I wanted to play Egyptian Rat Screw with them. It’s a pretty simple game and really fun with 4 people…at least until it gets down to 2 and stays there interminably. I gave up after an hour or so and went to the kitchen to refill my water bottle. I surprised a semi-feral adolescent cat that tried to make a mad dash out of the house. It skidded sideways on the turn out of the kitchen and then couldn’t get any purchase on the tiled floor. It was just like a cartoon with its little legs scrabbling wildly on the tile and not getting anywhere. It was the funniest thing I’d ever seen and I laughed until I had tears streaming down my face.

06 September 2009

Market, Mass and Volcano - Sept 6

I slept pretty well last night (earplugs!) but still heard the roosters starting in the wee hours, the dog next door, and the church bell at 5am. When my roomie, Jane, got up around 5:30, I was awake. No running water this morning so it was a dump shower…a very cold dump shower.

I dressed for church and had some coffee. The first cup was instant, then Cecilia broke out the brew pot by my 2nd one. I got nominated to send the email to Westminster to be read at the pulpit for the service there this morning. I borrowed Kathy’s computer to do that. I hope to hit the cyber café across the street later for a bigger catch up at some point.

Breakfast was eggs with green pepper and onion, red beans with onion, fried plantains and orange drink. Jane and Alisha did dishes.

It’s windy and cloudy this morning. We all went to scoop the market before Mass. We ran into Haydee and her daughter Mily in front of the pupuseria. Mily will be our translator later in the week. We also ran into Kathy just outside the church as we headed to Mass…which started pretty much on time (surpise!).

When it was time for communion, Kathy told us that, unlike in the U.S., we were welcome to partake if we wanted. Kathy said that when Father Cándido first arrived she introduced herself and explained a bit about the delegations that come to visit. She asked him about the propriety of her or the delegations taking communion at the church and, at first, he was confused about why she would ask. She explained that in the United States, she would not be allowed (as a non-Catholic) to take communion at a Catholic Mass. He was incredulous. It started a very animated conversation between him and the other father at the church about the theology involved. Kathy couldn’t follow much of it but after it was over, Fr Cándido reiterated that Kathy and any delegation member would be welcome to come forward for communion.

After Mass, we walked the market again. We bought 3 anonas for 50-cents so that we could sample them. I’d never seen them before…they look kind of like artichokes, only less spiky. I also bought a bar of soap for the Casa bathroom I am using, since I didn’t pack any. We stopped at a candy booth on the street and bought some sweets for the house. The women at the house like them but would never buy them for themselves. Kathy said the booth would be there all week since it was part of the early set up for the Independence Day celebration on the 15th.

Back at the Casa, it was lunch time. Cecilia had made cauliflower relleno, salad, rice and a drink made from watermelon, strawberry and apple all chopped up. I changed out of church clothes and into shorts and a tank top. There’s still a bit of a breeze and the sun is playing peek-a-boo with clouds. Sometimes it’s hot and sunny, sometimes it’s not.

After lunch, we had a meeting with Miguel to review the books on the church project. He showed us the receipts and accounting. Lynn, since she’s an accountant by trade, reviewed his work and signed off on it. Then we talked about the next couple of days. We’re scheduled to go to San Francisco tomorrow to help paint the doors and windows of the church prior to the big dedication celebration on Wednesday.

Since we were supposed to be painting (with oil-based paint) and none of us had brought work clothes to paint in, we decided to make another trip to the market to look for cheap clothes. We walked to the cheap end of the market and I scored a T-shirt for $2.50 and a pair of shorts for $1.

Back to the Casa, we decided that the weather was going to hold clear for a while so we headed out to the Laguna de Alegria with the addition of sunscreen. The Laguna is a lake inside a volcano crater. I’d been there before but I’d never seen the water level so high. We went for a walk along the lake, headed for the other side to look for volcanic vents. We didn’t find any vents but we did find a few warm holes. Vents are the holes or fissures where hot air and sulfur-smelling gases vent to the surface and sometimes you can find yellow sulfur crystals growing. Warm holes are where people have dug into the banks in certain spots. When you put your hand into the hole, it’s not hot but it is definitely warmer than the surrounding ground or air temperature.

On the way back to the Casa I rode in the back of the pickup. We stopped at the edge of Alegria to pick up a couple of guys that Cecilia (also in the back of the truck) knew. A little further on, we stopped to pick up a group of 3 adults and 4 small kids (all under 5). The bigger group got out about halfway back to Berlin. The 2 guys got out at the upper edge of Berlin. Kathy says her policy is that if she’s got time and there’s room, she’ll stop to pick up A) people she knows or B) women with loads and/or small children in tow.

Back at the Casa, I asked Blanca and Cecilia if I could help with supper and Blanca trained me on making empanadas…basically a mashed boiled-plantain paste that’s filled with a milk-and-rice-flour mixture then fried. My job was to form the empanadas and hand them to Blanca who fried them. Alisha offered to help too and Cecilia had her making quesadillas. The quesadillas there are not like they are here. There, they’re made from leftover tortillas (which are also not like tortillas here…they’re made of corn flour and a little smaller than a CD, maybe a quarter-inch thick). The tortillas are cut in half so that you end up with half-circle tortillas, then mostly separated through the straight side, like a pita. The slit is stuffed with cheese and then the whole thing is fried until the cheese melts. It’s not a runny kind of cheese so the frying doesn’t cause the cheese to run out when it melts.

Supper was quesadillas, empanadas, rice/beans and some of the sweets we bought for dessert.

After supper, Michael, Jane, Lynn and I talked about hospice work for a while. Michael and Lynn were interested. Jane has worked as a hospice volunteer for a long time. While I didn’t know much from personal experience, I knew a little from Alan having started as a hospice volunteer this summer. He works for a different hospice than Jane so there were some minor differences in how their volunteer gigs go. We priced a bunch of bags that we’ll be carrying back for Companeros. I took a shower, then read some before bed. My feet and ankles have been swelling since I got here. That’s happened one other time on a trip here. I don’t know why. Kathy said maybe the elevation. I know that standing in the back of the pickup for trips definitely makes it worse. Maybe elevating and massaging them will help…

My bed is seriously hammocked in the middle. I’m in the bottom of a bunk bed. I think it’s just been slept in a lot and the caning that supports the mattress has loosened up. I tried the top bunk and it’s better but I don’t really want to be climbing up and down all the time. Jane scouted around and found a piece of plywood in the garage that’s smaller than the bed. We put it under the mattress and it seems to help.

I read some more, lying on the bed with my feet propped up against the bottom of the upper bunk. Michael, Alisha and Jane are in the dining room outside playing “Egyptian Rat Screw”…a card game that sounds like a cross between War and Slap Jack. The most commonly heard phrase: “Dang it!” from Michael.