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.