12 June 2010
I got up around 6. There was running water so I had a lovely hot shower. I finished packing and tidying the room Marcia and I had stayed in. We had breakfast and said our goodbyes then left for the airport around 8. Kathy had heard there was a bridge out around San Vincente and didn’t know if it had been repaired yet so she didn’t want to chance taking the usual route to the airport. We went another way that was slightly longer but was sure to go through.
We saw 4 dead dogs in the road on the way. I’ve always been amazed that we don’t see more roadkill considering that everything runs loose but in all the times I’ve been here, I’ve very rarely seen ANY roadkill. 4 times today seems kind of remarkable.
We followed a cane truck for a while that had several guys on top of the cane. They were horsing around and I was afraid one or more of them would fall off. One of them got off at a police stop then the truck turned off the highway shortly after that so we didn’t have to follow it anymore.
We got to the airport and said our goodbyes to Kathy and Joe. Almost as soon as we entered the airport, I started coughing. We noticed that all the staff were wearing face masks and wondered why. After we got our tickets, the agent told us we might want to wait outside for about 20 minutes since they were spraying pepper gas. Then he said no, his supervisor said we should go straight to the gates on the upper floors where the air would be better. I couldn’t stop coughing, I had SUCH a tickly in the back of my throat. But once we got through the security station and to the gate area, I was fine.
All bags get searched at the gate on entry. I went in; Marcia went walking. Our plane’s status is On Time. We should be on our way in about and hour or so.
I spent most of the flight knitting, since I had an aisle seat and there was no one next to me. There was a little old lady in the window seat and I greeted her when I sat down. She didn’t have a book or travel companion or anything so she must have been kind of bored. She would engage me in conversation periodically. Sra Maria is 78 years old. She’s on her way to Chicago to visit her children and grandchildren for 3 months. It’s her 8th trip there.
She started by asking me if I were a student. I told her no and a little about the project in Berlin. She lives in Ilopango but knew where Berlin is. She asked if the churches involved in the Berlin projects were Catholic or Evangelical. I said they were different…Presbyterian, mostly. She said she was Evangelical.
She also has a son in Guatemala that she goes to visit. I told her it’s great that she can travel like that. She said that she has some pain in her legs and it’s not always easy but Gracias a Dios she still gets around.
When they passed out the Customs and Immigration forms, she said something I wasn’t catching but eventually asked her if she wanted help filling them out. She said yes and handed me her passport and tickets. I put down the tray table between us and started filling out her forms. When it came to the questions that couldn’t be answered from the passport, I read them to her (and tried to explain them when she didn’t understand them) then recorded her answers. There was a spot at the bottom of one of the forms for her to sign and when I told her that, she said, “No puedo” (I can’t) which is when I understood what she’d been trying to tell me earlier…that she couldn’t read or write.
One of the forms was one I’d not seen before and I wasn’t sure what to do with some of the questions so I stopped a flight attendant to ask her. She said she’d been meaning to get back to Sra Maria to help her and thanked me greatly for stepping in to help. She took the form and Maria’s passport and then brought them back filled out. I handed everything back to her and told her everything was complete. She thanked me and tried to give me $3 for helping her. I wouldn’t accept it and told her I was happy to help.
Leaving the plane I wished her a good trip to Chicago and went up the jetway. There was a whole line of wheelchairs waiting and I assumed one was for her.
I had no problems through Customs and Immigration. There was a HUGE line at security but it ran like a well-oiled machine and it didn’t take as long as it looked like it was going to to get through. The rest of the trip home was completely uneventful
11 June 2010
I was up around 6:30 and ‘showered’ (no running water) then Marcia and I reviewed some of the books before breakfast. For the most part, they keep excellent records and everything fiscal is transparent.
I ate most of the breakfast…pancake, fried egg and half a roll. I couldn’t eat the beans.
At the end of the meal, Javier and Cristian showed up to watch Copa Mundial (World Cup) on the TV in the office. The picture isn’t the best but it’s good enough.
When we got there, we rested a bit, met Otilia’s mother, daughter and grandson, then started the walk to where they go every day to get water. We started by continuing UP the mountain until we got to a deep ravine where we started a very steep, switch-backed trail down into the ravine.
At the bottom of the trail (but not the bottom of the ravine) we came to where water runs or seeps (depending on the season) from the rock face where it’s collected in pilas (cement tanks). People come here on a daily basis to bathe, wash clothes and collect the family water for cooking/drinking that they carry back up the ravine.
We walked back up the steep trail, but we did it without 40 pounds of water on either head or shoulder.
Back at Otilia’s house, we bought chips (like Doritos only they were Buenachos and promoted by Nacho Man). Otilia’s mother served us atol…a traditional drink made from corn flour cooked with water or milk and served warm. I kind of liked it. Kathy said it’s sometimes really thick, sometimes kind of disgusting, sometimes it’s really good. It all depends on who made it and how.
Otilia brought out her birds. Two of them are parakeet-like things that she got while I was here in September. At that time, they were tiny, mostly fealtherless and pretty ugly. Alicia fed them mashed watermelon from a spoon. Another bird looked like a type of dove and there was also a fledgling bird of some sort.
We got back to the Casa around 12:20. I bought 2 cans of pop. When I got to the top of the stairs, Miguel, Blanca and Cecilia were sitting in chairs obviously resting after the walk. I looked at the three of them then started to dance a little jig as if to say, “Hey, I’m not tired.” Everyone laughed.
We had another meeting with other members of the team. I put a new battery in my camera. We got ready to head to Alegría for supper.
Alegría is a town further up the mountain and along the ridge. There’s a restaurant there where we traditionally take the Pastoral Team for supper on our last night. It was looking a little threatening as we were leaving with Ale driving and Kathy in the cab, the rest of us in the back.
Part way up the mountain, we drove into a cloud bank. Just about the time we hit the edge of Alegría, it started to rain. Then to pour. We all were crouched down in the back trying to use the cab to stop some of the rain. I had a rain jacket on and got my camera inside it. The only part of me that got really wet was my hair. I had my arms spread over Blanca and Idalia to try to help them stay a little dryer.
Once we got into the restaurant, it REALLY started to rain…it dumped buckets and was very windy. Leaving us to wonder if it would let up by the time we wanted to go back down the mountain.
The 10 of us had meals and hot drinks (since we were all wet and cold except for Ale and Kathy who’d been in the cab). The total bill was $65. I had pollo asada en cebollada (grilled chicken in an onion sauce) with rice and salad that was very tasty.
When it was time to go, it was still raining but not quite so hard. We talked about making 2 trips so that everyone could ride back in the cab but the Salvadorans said no…we’d all go back at once. Then insisted Marcia and I ride inside. I gave my jacket to Blanca. Marcia gave her’s to Cecilia, who in turn handed it to her brother Ale. Otilia and Idalia also rode inside with us.
Back at the Casa, we met with Otilia about the water filter project for about 2 hours. We reviewed the books and planned for the coming year.
I swapped pictures with Kathy and Marcia then went to bed.
10 June 2010
Her church is going to fund ‘care packages’ for each family in her community and she was getting the items to show people what they were buying.
We stopped at Haydee’s pupuseria so I could get some of her hot cocoa to take back for Alicia.
At another store, I got a bag of powdered milk that I buy every time I’m there. I don’t know exactly how it’s different from the stuff I can get in the States but I know I can’t stand powdered milk from here but that stuff is great in oatmeal or coffee/chai so I buy some every time I’m there.
Then we went to the women’s cooperative that has the cool coconut shell earrings. We got a bunch of earrings and necklaces to sell and I bought a necklace for myself ($2).
I stopped at Tienda Rossy on the way back and got a couple cans of pop ($1).
We met with Otilia, Blanca and Cecilia on some Team concerns then walked to the Brisas del Sol (breezes of the sun) school. This community was mostly washed away in mud slides a couple years ago and relocated here. We helped them buy land for a school and then the parents and teachers with transportation help from the Alcaldía (mayor’s office) dismantled and moved the school from the old location to this location so that the children wouldn’t have to walk all the way back to the old location to go to school every day. Hopefully, in the next year, they’ll have a new school completed with an additional classroom, a bathroom and kitchen.
We went back to the Casa for lunch…uisquil (a squash-like vegetable) relleno, rice and salad. The Pepto helped…I was actually sort of hungry.
Our afternoon plans were to walk to Alejandria, the community where Blanca, Balmore, Cecilia and Jesus live. It’s about a 45 minute walk and it looks likely that we’ll get wet. I have a poncho but it’s one of the super-cheap ones…you’re lucky I you get a single use from it. Since we were a little late leaving Brisas del Sol, we were behind schedule. That in itself is not a problem but the later in the day it gets, the greater the chances of rain and that we’ll get wet on our walk.
We headed out about 1:30, no problems. We stopped partway down the mountain to pick pepitas…a pod thing with seeds in it that grows on trees. The seeds are surrounded by a white ‘fluff’ only the fluff isn’t dry. You open the pods, suck the fluff off and spit out the seeds. They were nice…lightly sweet.
Joe helping Cecilia pick pepitasAt Blanca and Balmore’s house, it started to sprinkle. They were afraid it would rain on us so Cecilia called the house to have Alejandro pick us up in the truck.
We went to Cecilia’s house and met her mother and 2 boys. At one point, the boys monkeyed up a tree to pick marrones ( a type of cashew that doesn’t have the nut growing at the bottom of it). They would pick them and throw them down to someone on the ground. Cecilia washed them with clean water and cut them up for us so we could try them. They had a taste and texture that was kind of like a cross between a pear and an apple.
Blanca said that there are 2 types of marrones…marron japones (Japanese cashew) and marron indio (Indian cashew). The Indio type is the one that makes the cashew nut we know.
I filled my camera’s memory card around here so I don’t have many pictures after that and none of the fruit we ate.We visited Jesus’ house. He wasn’t home as he was at work but we talked with his mother and aunt.
Then we continued down to the bottom of the ravine, crossed the stream and then started up the other side where Alejandro met us with the pickup.
When we got back to the Casa, I used Kathy’s computer to back up all the pictures from my camera’s memory card then delete them from my camera. Tomorrow, I’ll be able to take more pictures.
09 June 2010
I had an alarm set since we had to be up and on the road early today. I didn’t hear it go off, though, with earplugs in. Marcia woke me. There’s no running water today, which means we’ll probably have running water tomorrow and the day we leave for home. (I hope, I hope, I hope…)
We had breakfast at 6 and we are supposed to be on the road by 6:30. I glanced at the front page of yesterday’s paper…Brad Pitt is jealous of Johnny Depp. Hmmmmm…
We left the Casa at 6:45 and arrived at the Tazumal archeological site about 3 hours later. We walked through the museum, wandered the site, took some pictures and then did some souveniring when we left the site.
Our bus driver told us that yuca con chicharron is a local specialty and we should try it so we stopped at a street-side vendor and partook. We all got smalls…that was plenty for me, some had seconds. I was feeling a little “off”…
The woman preparing them got out a small, Styrofoam plate and lined it with a piece of banana leaf. Then she put a gob of mashed yuca root on it (the root of the yuca plant, it grows in long roots about as thick as my wrist), topped it with cotillo (a sort of slaw with shredded cabbage, carrots, onions, jalapenos in a vinegar base), a tomato-based cooked salsa (very slightly spicy), and some pieces of fried chicharron (pieces of pork fried crispy, like bacon, only the pieces are much thicker than bacon). They were $1 per plate. It was very good, you just have to keep brushing away the flies.
I’ve seen yuca root grated and fried like onion strings but never boiled and mashed like this.
The total bill for 11 people with cold drinks and tip was $20.
On the way back, we stopped at another archeological site…Joya de Cerén. This one has an active archeological dig going on. The village here was buried under volcanic ash around 400 – 500 AD. Now, you can walk around the top of the dig areas which are covered with roofs and see the layers of ash and dirt as well as the house construction and placement. Since the people living there at the time had little warning and basically just fled, there was an incredible amount of artifacts recovered in great condition. There wasn’t digging going on while we were there but you have a great overhead view of the sites.
Joya de Ceren archealogical site
The area between the dig sites is beautifully planted and landscaped. It’s like a botanical park. We saw several torogoz (the national bird of El Salvador)…it’s a cool bird with blue and green coloring and a distinctive tail that looks like 2 circles at the end of strings. When they take off and fly, they go fast. Luis (our driver) also pointed out cacao trees with pods nearly ripe (where cocoa beans come from…the pods grow from branches like most tree fruits but they also grow directly from the trunk, like Brussels sprouts) and the yuca plant that contributed to our lunch. I’d always assumed that yuca was the same thing as our yucca but they’re not even close.Torogoz - national bird of El Salvador
As we were leaving, the women wanted to hit the restrooms before we hit the road but we discovered they were locked. We were talking about stopping at a gas station when Luis came back with an attendant to unlock them for us. As we were trouping back to the baños, I said to Cecilia, “Amigos en lugares altos, no?” (friends in high places). She agreed.
Joe was hungry and wanted to stop for lunch (I thought we already had eaten lunch…) so we stopped at a place called La Curva about half the way back to the Casa. Kathy says it’s a chain but she’s never eaten there.
Kind of a strange place… the menu said it can handle social events for up to 600 people. The tables all have white cloth tablecloths, the waiters have starched white shirts with black cravats and put your napkin in your lap for you. There are big-screen TVs all over. When they seat you, they bring you a cup of shrimp consumé.
The soccer match in progress was Argentina vs Germany and Marcia and I were commenting on how odd it looks to see players in short shorts. Everything these days is the knee-length baggy shorts that make guys look like they’re wearing skirts. Eventually we figured out that this was a replay of a ‘classic’ game from 1986 (the World Cup final). That would explain the unfashionable shorts…
I was still not feeling tip-top and didn’t want anything to eat but had 2 bottles of Coke Zero and sorbeta. Marcia got a cheeseburger and fries and it came with 2 ketchup packets. My sorbeta turned out to be a scoop of Neapolitan ice cream.
Bottom line, it’s a place with delusions of grandeur. The cheeseburger was ok but not worth the $7. Most of the menu items were expensive. We pretty much blew the budget there. Kathy said she wouldn’t be taking delegations there.
In the parking lot on the way back to the van, there was a mango tree with fruit hanging on it. The fruit hangs at the ends of ‘strings’.
Somewhere after the restaurant, traffic on the highway came to a stop. We couldn’t see why.
There was a bus a couple of cars ahead of us and in the stop-and-go traffic, a guy jumped off to take a leak by the side of the road. The traffic kept creeping on (he really had to go) and when he was done, he had to run to get back on his bus.
When we got a bit further on, we saw it was a police blockade. They do that sometimes to check IDs. They looked at Luis’ ID then returned it and waved us on.
Back at the Casa, Joe, Marcia and Kathy walked to La Nevería to get ice cream. They brought me back some mango. Major yum! It’s my favorite here and I always try to have it at least once.Water was running when got back. I took a shower and it felt wonderful! I was wiped and went to bed at 8:30.
Apparently, it rained really hard during the night…twice. I slept through them both.
Running water today! I had a thorough, hot shower and it felt great!
Today is meetings day. If we finish early enough, we’ll go to San Sebastian and Ilobosco to do some more shopping. Joe has never been either place.
I’m having coffee this morning. Marcia has tea she’s offered to share but I decided to go native today. If I put enough sugar and milk in it, it’s tasty. Usually, I just don’t want the extra calories to make coffee palatable and I like tea plain so I just drink tea.
8:30-ish we started a Pastoral Team meeting with Blanca, Balmore, Miguel, Cecilia, Otilia, Kathy, Marcia, Joe and me. Pedro was there to translate. We met from 8:30-11 when we took a 5 minute break. It rained off and on during the meeting. At times it was raining so hard it was hard to hear across the table. This is a REALLY good day to be en casa and not out doing stuff!
We wrapped up the meeting around 12:30. We had lunch, reorganized a bit then headed out to Ilobosco and San Sebastian. Ilobosco is basically a pottery community, although they have shops that sell all the usual touristy stuff too. San Sebastian is where the weavers are.
In Ilobosco, I got some souvenir pens for the people at work covering for me this week. I looked for the water bottle carriers but couldn’t find any. We stopped at this fabulous pottery place that’s off the tourist shop block. They had the coolest pots and the prices were ridiculous. A huge vase shaped thing about 3 feet tall was selling for about $30. In the States it would be many times that. I got a bowl-shaped pot about the size of a large salad plate for $4. I loved the larger pots but had no way to get any home. We went out back to see the kiln where they fire the pots and a worker was putting glaze on to be fired.
In San Sebastian, I bought 2 more scarves…same price as the market in San Salvador.
On the way out of the weavers shop, there was a goat tied up on the sidewalk. I said, “Oh, I like goats.” To which Joe said, “Those are goats?” We spent the rest of the trip pointing out the goats and cows and horses to him. Poor guy…
Kathy had some quesadilla – straight from the oven. It was so warm I could hardly hold it at first but it was very, very tasty and Kathy, Marcia and I shared a slab of it in the pickup cab.
Quesadillas in El Salvador are not what I think of as quesadillas. It has nothing to do with melted cheese between two tortillas. It’s more like a cheese bread that’s about ¾ of an inch thick with a cream cheese layer baked in the middle. Yummy!
On the way home, we passed some cows grazing in the ditch and Kathy said, “Those cows are so fat! I’ve never seen such fat cows here.” I leaned over and said, “The word you need here is ‘pregnant’.”
It rained a bit on the way back. I was in the cab at this point. On the way up I was in the bed of the pickup. Marcia and I started standing up, facing forward but when we got out on the highway it was just too much wind to stand there so we sat down with our backs to the cab. Apparently, I’ve never really done that before because I didn’t know it makes me carsick. Once I realized I was starting to get woozy, I faced forward and looked at the road coming through the windows of the cab. The majority decision was that I should be in the cab on the way back.Good thing we got home when we did…it’s been raining ever since we got back. Not hard…but steadily.
07 June 2010
On the way there, we passed a huge tree of a type I’d seen before and always love. Whenever I see one, I get itchy hands/feet to climb it. The branches grow in intertwined into layers a few feet apart. If ever there was a tree made for climbing, this is it! I finally found out the name of the tree…amate. Someday, I am going to climb one of them…
06 June 2010
05 June 2010
I woke up around 5 when the dog came into the bedroom and let all the hallway light in. I hadn’t planned to get up until 5:20 or so but I wasn’t going to get back to sleep so I got up and showered and dressed.
About that time, Alan got back from taking the boys to the shuttle spot for the Dam to Dam run. It was raining and the boys had over an hour to stand in the rain before the 7 a.m. start time.
I ate a couple mangos and some crackers and read the paper before we went to the airport.
We ran into Dwight at the ticket counter. He was part of a group headed to Alaska for a cruise/tour.
Alan walked me to the security entrance, we said our goodbyes and parted.
I went to the gate and pulled out my book for the trip, “Shadow of the Wind.” It’s something I picked up at the last booksale without knowing anything about it. It just sounded interesting.
I read all the way to Denver and I was hooked almost immediately. It’s a very engaging book written in a very lyrical style. The original was written in Spanish and this translation still has the feel of how the Spanish-speaking people I know put words together.
In Denver, we landed around 9 local time (10 by my watch). We landed at gate B88 and my next flight was out of B16. That was one loooooong walk, but it didn’t really matter as I had 2 hours to do it in.
I strolled along looking for a pretzel to tide me over. I finally found an Auntie Annie’s but there was a long line, including a family with a number of small, tired children. I decided to hit the bathroom first and come back later. When I got back, there was still a line, it was just made up of different people. I got in line anyway and then saw they wanted $3.50 for a pretzel. I decided to try something else. I ended up at a Pizza Hut Express where I could walk in, grab a box of bread sticks, pay and walk out in a minute or so only $2 lighter.
I went to my gate and called Alan to see how the race went. Eric’s time was good and Alan saw him finish. Then it took them over an hour to catch up with Ryan. They’re all tired and hungry now.
I got off the plane in Houston and Marcia was sitting there waiting. We’re apparently going to El Sal on the plane I got to Houston on.
I got a mocha at Starbucks and shocked both Marcia and Joe with my foray into “the dark side” since they both know me as tea-drinker and general coffee-disliker. But hey, since Alan has been making me mochas, I confess I’ve more than once strayed into coffee-land. Granted, mocha is ‘beginner coffee’ but it’s coffee all the same.
I knitted a bootie and got the pattern written down.
While we were standing in line to board, a man said “Bienvenidos a centro America.” to Marcia and me. He then asked if we were sisters and we started talking about where we were going and doing and such. He saw the Dupont tag on my bag and said he was an agronomist with responsibility for central America and headed to Guatemala. He’s flying into El Salvador because the Guatemala airport is closed due to volcanic activity there. His name is Wilfredo and when we started talking agribusiness, we switched to English because I just don’t know those words in Spanish. His English is very good.
We shook hands when he got to his row on the plane and I continued on back to mine.
He came back to my row several times during the flight to give me his business card, ask if we had someone meeting us at the airport, etc. He also said he’d be back through the Berlin area on Sunday and wondered if he could meet up with us there. I told him we were leaving on Saturday.
That would have been interesting…there is a agro supplier in Mercedes Umaña that we stayed with the first time I went to El Salvador (almost 10 years ago…) so I know there is ‘agribusiness’ in the area but I don’t know much about it.