03 September 2011

El Salvador 2011 - Day 8

Slept, but overly well last night. However, there was running water today so I could have  real shower.

After that, I tore apart my bed on the off chance that the earring I lost was in there somewhere. I also moved the bed away from the wall so I could check under/around it. No good. I suspect it's out in the cantones somewhere.

I did some organization and pre-packing to get ready for the trip home tomorrow then went to breakfast.

Alisha and I were supposed to leave at 8:00 with some kids from the cantones but she'd been up all night with the after effects of something that did NOT agree with her. She wanted to wait to make sure the medication she took for it took hold before we hit the trail. New departure scheduled for 9:00.

By 9, she was looking much better and said she felt up to the trip so we gathered up the young'uns: Mauricio (Cecilia's brother), Elmer (Cecilia's son), Giani, Patricia and Yaniera... and headed out. We met Numan a couple blocks from the Casa and he joined our band.

We got out of town and started up the mountain when Alisha said she couldn't go on. She felt really ill. She wa going to turn back and Numan was going with her. The rest of us continued on.

The girls had never been to the Cross before...a couple of the boys had. I heard Numan discussing which way to go. He wanted to take the direct way (straight up the mountain) but Mauricio said we were going to take the longer way, via switchbacks.

It took about an hour and 20 minutes to get there. We didn't walk very fast. The view from the top was incredible! You could see the whole town of Berlin. I could pick out the church, the high school, the covered market, the soccer field. It was clear, there was just a bit of a haze of moisture in the air but everything was there. There was also a cloud rolling in from our right, between us and town. It was cool to watch it creeping along on its little cat-feet.

We admired the view for a bit then headed back down. We went down the direct way. It was really steep. Giani and Elmer zipped ahead. Mauricio hung back with us girls. I told Mauricio that the other boys were like deer...I was like an elephant. Another small joke I could make in Spanish...

We got back to the Casa around 12:15 and I went in search of Diet Coke. Tienda Rossy was closed so I went to Tienda la Nina Mercedes (where I got 3 yesterday) but they didn't have any. I got a Gatorade instead. The woman tending the store asked me how long I would be in town. I knew she was asking because if I were going to be in town for a while, she'd get some Diet Coke for me. However, I told her today was my last day.

We had lunch...a burger thing, some macaroni salad and veggies.

We had the follow up meeting with the Team from 1:10 until 4:00.

We were scheduled to go to Alegria for supper later but Blanca suggested we go earlier to look around town a little. I was all for that so we might get back a little earlier for packing and picture files exchange.

As it turned out, it was starting to rain as we were leaving the Casa. Alisha, Cecilia and I were in the back of the pickup. We picked up a handful of people on the way and opened the tarp to cover them. It never rained hard on the way but when the truck is moving you run into a lot more of them.

When we got to Alegria, it was raining harder so we went straight to the restaurant instead of walking around. The food was good and we had music from a man, his 2 sons (17 and 13) and his nephew. The Team picked the songs from a song list he had printed. They were good! I liked the man's voice and when the 13-year-old sang, I couldn't believe the voice he had. They're a very musical family! I bought a CD from them for $5.

It rained pretty hard most of the time we were eating but by the time we were done, it had stopped. We walked around the town square a bit. They have a sort of mini festival on the streets around the square on Saturdays and Sundays. There were street vendors selling food, sweets, jewelry, etc. I bought some candy at the sweet vendor that was basically pure sugar with a little caramel flavor. I looked for earrings so my one ear wouldn't have to go home naked but didn't find anything. Pretty much everything was either huge or heavy on the bling. And I'm just not a bling kind of gal.

Back at the Casa, we did a chip swap to exchange all the pictures we all took. I also got all the recordings of the meetings from Alisha. Kathy printed my boarding passes for tomorrow. Although, since I have to show a passport, I still have to stop at the desk. I don't have bags to check, though. And we don't have to get up in the wee hours to get to the airport. It will still be a long day tomorrow.

02 September 2011

El Salvador 2011 - Day 7

Breakfast was fried eggs,, beans, cheese sandwiches and fresh bread. I made a sandwich of the bread, egg and beans.
We were supposed to leave for a bean delivery at 8. By 9:25 the truck still wasn’t here. A little before 10, the Team decided not to wait any more. We loaded up the pickup with the beans for the second community we were planning to deliver to this morning and headed out.

We had to drive through the AWOL truck community (San Felipe Arriba) on the way to the second community (La Llanes) and talked to some people in San Felipe about where the truck was. There was some sort of miscommunication but the guy we talked to was going to get the truck lined up and hopefully have it there by the time we came back from La Llanes.

La Llanes is in the back of beyond… Much of the road there is a narrow dirt track but the view is incredible. We could see the San Vincente volcano, the valley below and far off in the distance, the ocean.

We got to the community center, unloaded the truck, and waited. And waited. Eventually, we were all invited up to one of the houses we’d passed on the way into town and plied with elote, atol, riguas (a corn pancake made of pureed corn, salt and oil; cooked in banana leaves on a comal) and tamales that kept arriving in tubs plus one very large mango a little girl brought us. It was our very own corn festival.

All the food came from people who’d received corn and fertilizer in the spring and wanted to say thank you. We had to eat some of everything in order to not be rude but we’d need a whole village to eat it all. Most of it came back to the Casa with us.

Random things from La Llanes…

Driving into town, a woman was bathing in the street in front of her home. She was topless with something draped around her hips and pouring water over herself. This is not unusual. These people live in dirt floor homes so pouring water inside the house would just make mud. And no one has a separate, private place for bathing. You bathe where the water is. No one thinks anything of it.

The guy at the all-community meeting yesterday who was wearing the Norwalk shirt is here.

While we were waiting near the truck, two boys were playing with a classic toy. One of them had the wooden version of a small, short stick tied by a string to a wooden, sort of ball-shaped piece with a hole in it. The idea is to hold the toy in one hand, toss the ball-shaped piece in the air and catch it by the hole with the little stick. The other boy had the same sort of toy, only instead of the wooden ball-shaped piece, he had the top of a plastic drink bottle.

The boy with the wooden toy was José Carlos (12) and the one with the plastic version was Oscar Antonio (11).

Somewhere along the way I realized I’d lost an earring…I have no idea when or where. It might be in the bedding I’ve been using, it might be in the bed of the pickup, it might be (probably is) lost for good.

After La Llanes, we went back through San Felipe and the truck was there. We gave the Directiva president the census list and they were going to take care of having people sign for their seed and return the list to the Team on Sunday.

After the corn festival at La Llanes, no  one really wanted lunch so we chilled for a while and then headed out for the  final bean delivery of the day, to Alejandría.

I rode in the back of the pickup with Alisha and Cecilia and Negrita (the chicken that had been living in the back yard since the all-community meeting). I would never say it to her face, but Negrita is a very ugly chicken. Her feathers are a nice, glossy black but her neck is featherless and red. She looks like a vulture. I’d seen a lot of neck-featherless chickens and asked Alisha about it. She said it’s just the breed…it has nothing to do with pecking order.

Back at the Casa, we chilled and caught up with journaling and emails. Supper was spaghetti with hot dog slices in it and a side of beans.

Kathy, Nancy and I played Yahtzee for a while. Nancy smoked us with all her bonus Yahtzees. She is the Yahtzee queen!

01 September 2011

El Salvador 2011 - Day 6

Cohetes (homemade fireworks rockets) started around 6am to kick off the Independence month celebrations.

We have an all-communities meeting this morning. Kristi is coming in from San Salvador to translate. By 8, people started arriving. Nancy and I served coffee and pan dulce to people as they arrived. Some people brought chickens (live), bags of corn for elote, avocados, etc. Just because they wanted to. The coffee and pan are paid for from the house maintenance account and the Team feels strongly about providing something for meeting attendees because they give up their morning and some walk a long, long way. The Team doesn’t ask for anything.

The meeting started around 8:30 with a prayer and singing let by Balmore. Around 8:45, people are still arriving. Everyone moved out to the back yard where there is more space than in the chapel.

That was a good idea until it started to rain. Everyone picked up chairs and moved back to the Chapel, which didn’t have space so they moved the pickup out of the garage bay and the meeting moved there. Also a good idea, except for when trucks and street noise drowned out the meeting.

After lunch, Nancy and I went to the market to hunt fruit. I got some star fruit, more liche and we got some cheese for tomato/cheese sandwiches. We also stopped at the ice cream store and got a couple half-gallon ice cream containers (mango and chocolate/vanilla).

In the afternoon, we did bean deliveries to Casa de Zinc, Casa de Zacate, and San Isidro. These communities are much lower down the mountain and it was really warm there. In Casa de Zacate, the community decided that those getting 40 pounds of seed will give 20 pounds back after the harvest; those getting 15 pounds will give back 10. They decided on their own that because they were given freely, they would also give freely.

The Directiva there is also asking the people who receive 40 pounds to pay $2 and people who receive 15 pounds to pay $1 for the transportation to get the seed delivered. The Directiva collected the money and made it clear that the money was going to the Directiva, not the Pastoral Team.

We asked about yield and were told that the 40 pounds of seed beans would yield about 400 pounds at harvest. In this community, people also were commenting on the quality of the beans.

Today, everyone brought their own bag. When they got the bag off the truck, they would dump the beans into the bag they brought and put the empty back in the truck. Some people were dumping the beans into plastic bags. One woman dumped hers into a plastic bag and then put the bag on her head (which is how women carry loads here). I just hoped the bag wouldn’t break, giving her a bean shower.

Back at the Casa, I went across the street to buy diet Pepsi but they didn’t have any. Nancy was going to Mili’s for beer and I went with her to see if Mili’s had some. They didn’t, but we’d passed another little shop on the way there so I thought I’d check on the way back. They didn’t have any either. I should probably mention that the concept of “diet” or “lite” versions of things here would be strange. If people splurge to buy something as frivolous as cola, they’d want the full-sugar version. There was one more shop, a half-block off the street we were on and I tried there, too. It had 3 cans of Coca-Cola Lite and I bought them.

We decided it was time for the tomato and cheese sandwiches but discovered that the Team had used all the tomatoes for the all-community meeting lunches yesterday. We were crestfallen… But then Cecilia went off somewhere and came back with some tomatoes. Where she got them at that time of night, we don’t know.

Kathy and Nancy sliced tomatoes, onions, green peppers that someone in the community gave us that day and the cheese Nancy and I bought at the market. Nancy mixed up some mayo with basil and garlic powder for spread. There were only enough fresh rolls left for everyone to have one but boy! were they good! I took the leftover veggies and chopped them up, crumbled the cheese on it and mixed in a little of the mayo concoction and made a salad of it. Throw in some liche and star fruit for dessert… Heaven!

After supper I finished the second mitten, did the dishes then called it a night.

31 August 2011

El Salvador 2011 - Day 5

I slept really well last night. I was up before Nancy. I’d planned to shower before bed last night after the long pickup ride, by the time we got home, I just couldn’t face a dump-shower. I used a wet wipe on my face and got rid of a lot of grime, let me tell you.

This morning is more bean deliveries. This afternoon is another bean delivery and a community meeting in El Recreo.

8 men (plus a driver) arrived in a truck arrived around 8 and began loading truck, carrying 3 of the 40 pound bags at a time. I wanted to take a picture of it…which is when I discovered that my camera battery was dead…and that I hadn’t packed the charger for it. Alisha and Nancy volunteered to take any pictures I wanted. I also checked with the other women to see if anyone had a charger that would work with my battery. They all had Canons and mine is a Sony. However, Kathy’s old camera was a Sony…she dug out the charger for it and I hoped for the best.

The truck left and we followed in the pickup.

We arrived in El Tablón Centro before the truck. Women were sewing school uniforms at the community center. Blanca and Cecilia reviewed the census list with the Directiva president while we waited for the truck to arrive.

In the clearing, all the men were sitting under the shade of  tree on one side…all the women were in the shade of the buildings on the other. Blanca asked the women who were getting seed to move over to where the men were so that everyone could be addressed at the same time. The Directiva president used a bullhorn to talk to everyone. There was some prayer, some applause for the Team, and an explanation of how the process was going to work.

While all that was going on, people from the community wanted the Team and gringas to have some atol. It was really good…not as thick as what we had at the Casa but tasty.

On to Santa Rosa... This is a small community of 48 families. Oscar (Directiva president) really wanted us to have lunch at his house so we ate there instead of going back to the Casa for lunch. We had chicken, veggies in broth, tortillas and frog-egg fresco.

On our way back to the Casa, we had to detour around cemetery construction in Berlín and came at the Casa from a different direction. There was  a place about 3 houses from the Casa that had a dog that looked a lot like Callisto. Alisha and I went back to find it but it had apparently gone inside.

Kathy’s old camera battery charger worked! I have a camera again.

On to El Recreo… everyone gathered at the church and they had a community meeting about the driver that takes people to/from El Recreo/Berlín. The Directiva wanted a vote and there was some discussion Mostly people wanted a posted and reliable schedule.

Then they did the bean giveaway, we had a meeting with the Directiva, walked through the museum and returned to the Casa.

We had pupusas for supper. I knit for a bit but was really tired and my feet and ankles are huge. I went to bed early.

30 August 2011

El Salvador 2011 - Day 4

Happy Birthday, Dad!

We’re off to La Palma today. It’s going to be a really long day. We’re to leave at 7am, drive to San Salvador to get Alfredo who’ll drive us the rest of the way to La Palma…about 5 hours total. We’re also going to El Pital, the highest point in El Salvador. We’ll then retrace our steps back to the Casa and probably get there around 9:30. I like La Palma but that’s a long day…most of it in the back of a pickup.

We noticed an unusual number of dead animals on the road. Idalia counted 4 possum-like things, 4 dogs and a small pig. Some were really hard to identify, but we think we also counted a dead watermelon, sack of cement and pair of pants. After that we kind of gave up on the road-kill bingo. Although at one point I did see  flock of vultures clustered around the end of a bridge. I couldn’t tell what they were collecting over but it was big and dead.

We met Alfredo “at the naked lady”…there’s a round-about with a statue of El Salvador del Mundo (the naked lady) at the center.

On the way out of San Salvador, we stopped at a gas station. I got pop and a Bon o Bon. The Bon o Bon was a chocolate covered sandwich cookie thing. The filling was peanuty and the cookie part was light and kind of bland. It was actually pretty tasty in an innocuous sort of way. The really interesting thing about it was that the label was in Spanish and Arabic.

We also saw something called Bubu Lubu that we decided to get, just because of the name. It had a sort of stiff, marshmallowy layer with a sort of gummy fruit paste layer, all covered in chocolate. Not bad, but not something I’d get again.

We arrived at El Pital around 12:15. El Pital is 2730 meters and about 8 miles from the Honduran border. The park is beautiful with lots of flowers, bromeliads, and picnic areas but it was too cloudy to see a real view down to the valley. The road to the top is very steep and winding but, in general, pretty good. We drove through a couple cloud layers on the way up. The last 3 km are really rough, though.

At the bottom of the mountain was a little community with an ag co-op. They had trucks of tomatoes being sorted through and boxed up to be hauled away. We stopped and the team bought several bags of tomatoes. Kathy took one to eat like an apple and shared it with Nancy and me. It was really good and got us thinking about tomato and cheese sandwiches…
(Alisha's picture...truck load of tomatoes at the co-op)
We went down to La Palma for lunch around 3:00 at a hotel/restaurant place. The waitress suggested we check out the pool, hammocks and river below as it would take about 20 minutes for our order to be ready. I had the pincho mixto (a kabab with chicken, beef and chiorizo in addition to the veggies plus fries…real, fresh from the potato fries).

After lunch, we went to the artisan market. I wasn’t planning to buy anything but found a shirt that I loved (and it fit), a painting and a couple of gifts.

The ride back to Berlín seemed really long…my butt was REALLY tired of sitting. In San Salvador when we dropped off Alfredo, Idalia moved outside so I moved inside. It seemed to take forever to get to Berlín. In the dark, the winding roads, blind corners and sometimes no center line had us going slowly. For a looooong way, we were stuck behind a semi doing 20 miles an hour because it was too hard to pass and you just never know when you’ll round a curve and find people or animals in the road. Slower is safer, if much more frustrating.

Back at the Casa, nobody really wanted much for supper. I had some granadillas and half a piece of pan dulce.

29 August 2011

El Salvador 2011 - Day 3

It had quit raining by bedtime last night and warmed up a bit so I didn’t need an extra blanket. I slept reasonably well, although my neck is still bothering me.

I “read” yesterday’s paper while waiting for breakfast to be ready. There was an article about a puppy in Brazil that was born green…they’re calling it The Hulk. There was a big article about the US presidential elections, the Tea Party and how religion is playing big role.

Breakfast was fried eggs, beans, bread, fried tamales and fried plantains.

Blanca and Balmore arrived after breakfast with flowers…mariposas and red roses.

We started the meeting with the Pastoral Team around 8:15, took a few breaks and finished around 12:15. Lunch was steak, salad, tortillas, and fresca (drink made from one or more fruits).

Around 1:30, Cecilia, Kathy, Blanca and Nancy left to deliver beans to El Corazol. Alisha and I left with Miguel to walk to San Francisco. We took the walking shortcut…which I had never seen because I’d only been there by truck. It took about 40 minutes to walk up the mountain.

While there, we looked at the wall around the church and talked about what is needed yet to avoid erosion and protect the structure. We also talked about the solar panel on the church. Currently, it’s not working because it needs new storage batteries. It’s not critical since the church has been tapped into the power that came to the community. The Directiva needs to decide what to do about it…to decide if it should be moved to another location, new batteries purchased, etc. Miguel isn’t on the Directiva so that’s  decision for someone else.

We walked to a couple of homes getting water tanks from FONEA (an NGO). The FONEAS project includes a water filter that is basically a terra cotta liner in a 5 gallon bucket. The principal is similar to the slow sand filters we installed in most homes. Miguel says that the rain water here has a sour taste that the FONEAS filter doesn’t remove but the sand filters do. He prefers the sand filters.

We also walked to “The River” where people from San Francisco can get water. I put the name in quotes because that’s what they call it but that’s not what it is. It’s basically a place where water seeps out of a rock face. They’ve built a pila to collect the water and put in some plastic shelves to collect and funnel more water. There was about 2 meters of water in the pila…probably room for another couple meters, if that much water is available.

Kathy, et al, were going to pick us up in San Francisco on their way back to the Casa from Corazol. However, we couldn’t get a signal on Alisha’s cell phone so we didn’t know when they would be going through. We started trudging back up from The River thinking that if Kathy came through, we’d just hop on. We’d only gotten about halfway up the mountain when she did pick us up so she saved us a big walk up.

Back at Casa, I took a dump-shower (no water running in the house today so showering is taking water in a container and pouring it over your head) and put on clean clothes. I bought 2 cans of pop at the store across the street. Alisha and Nancy went to get beer. I started the other mitten.

Alisha and Cecilia went to get tacos for supper. We chatted, knitted, and computered the evening away.

28 August 2011

El Salvador 2011 - Day 2

Had a decent sleep. There was some sort of party going on at the high school (a block or so up the street) with loud music and throbbing bass. I put in ear plugs which cut out the music but I could still feel the mattress vibrate.

I’d dozed on the plane some and did something to my neck…the night didn’t make it better. Ibuprofen helped!

Breakfast was pancakes (SoftCake…on previous delegations, people would buy boxes of it to take home), fried plantains, refried beans and bread.

Big news! I made a joke in Spanish. I was so proud. I was heading into the kitchen and met Blanca coming out with a plastic bag of novios (a type of bread with sugar on top…the word ‘novio’ also means boyfriend or fiancé). She asked if I wanted a novio and I replied, “No, gracias. Tengo un esposo.” (No thanks, I have a husband.). Hey, I didn’t say it was a GOOD joke…I take my victories where I can.

Apparently, with earplugs, I missed the big catfight last night. Alisha and Nancy talked about the cats fighting outside our windows. I completely missed it.

I also didn’t hear the avocado bombs. There is a big avocado tree in the back yard. The avocados aren’t very big…but they are hard and when they hit the metal roof of the bodega, it makes a big boom.

Anyway, Kathy has been collecting these little avocados and when the cats fight she tosses an avocado on the roof near wherever they are to distract them. Sometimes it works…

After breakfast, we walked to the market (Sunday is the BIG market day) on a fruit quest. We bought some of any fruit I didn’t know and we’ll have a fruit tasting later. While there, I bought a pair of flip-flops for $1. The only shoes I brought were my Tevas and wanted something to wear around the house and for showering.
Marañones japones (in bags, the fruit of a type of cashew tree), liche (on right, I know them as rambutans)
Papaya and banana across the top. Star fruit on the right. I'm not sure what the ones on the left are, but the bottom left look like peaches or very large apricots.
Red bananas and yellow bananas. We didn't end up buying the red bananas for some reason so I don't know if they taste different from regular yellow bananas.
The produce market in Berlin
Two types of passion fruit, apples on the left. Potatoes at bottom. Broccoli and cabbage on the right.
Around 10, we had a meeting with the Directiva (like a town council, the members are elected by the community) of San Lorenzo which lasted until about 12:30.

We had lunch – chicken, hot potato salad (YUM!), steamed veggies and tortillas.
I helped Kathy with a list of bean deliveries for this afternoon. I read the names from a hand-written list, she typed in to Excel so we'd have a form for people to sign.

We left around 1:30 to deliver beans to a couple of communities. The first stop was San Lorenzo Centro.

We met “Grandma”…a little girl there (Susana) was telling us about all the flowers we were admiring and that her grandma had planted them all. She took us up to meet Grandma Emma. It was entirely appropriate that the sweatshirt she was wearing said “Petal Pusher” on it. She said some of the flowers were planted 20 years ago…the white ginger (‘mariposa’) was incredibly fragrant. I don’t know what most of the others were but Idalia collected some seeds from something with purple flowers that she wanted to plant at her house. The seeds were tiny she said something about needing something to put them in. I had an idea! I had a receipt in my camera pouch and gave it to her to wrap the seeds in.
Susana and Grandma Emma with Kathy
Emma (different one, this one is a member of the directiva) took us behind the house to show us the guatuso (agouti). It’s a rodent. They caught it when it was small…now it probably about the size of a large cat but built like a rat, no tail and the mouth is set way back from the end of its nose. It smells like a big rodent, too.

We went on to Mediagua to deliver the rest of the seed. This is a new casario (very small community) that is just in the process of organizing. As long as everyone was there, the Directiva collected 25-cents from everyone to defray the organization costs. The Directiva made it clear that the 25-cents was separate from the beans...the beans and bean delivery were free to them.

When the Team got the census list from the Directiva, there were 38 names on the list but that wasn’t exact. When we showed up, there were 3 additional families that needed beans. Blanca suggested that, if everyone agreed, they could remove 2 pounds of beans from each of the 38 bags we brought (25 pounds each) to give everyone beans. They agreed, the Directiva measured out the beans, and when we left, all families had beans.

Most people brought their own bags and dumped their beans into their own bag so that the bags we delivered the beans in could be reused. That saves the Team and donors money on the overall project.

Today was the very first round of bean deliveries. When we delivered beans, the people would be running a hand through the beans, pulling out a handful to inspect. Many people commented on the quality of the beans. The harvest from 40 pounds is enough to feed a ‘family’ for a year.

The government is giving away beans too…a program called Family Agriculture Plan. The Plan gives people 25 pounds of seed. According to the interpreter we had today, the government beans are purchased from India, China and other places. The people don’t like the government beans because they aren’t native, in most cases they’re GMO and they’ve been treated so they aren’t edible. The big problem though, is that when the census lists were provided from the communities, many (in some cases, all) names were dropped from the list without explanation. Also, the Plan requires that people go to Usulután to get their beans…not knowing whether they will actually get beans or not. From Berlín, Usulután is about 50 minutes by car. The vast majority of people in the cantons don’t have transportation other than feet or bus.

This week’s bean delivery is delivering 2 different amounts of beans. For people who were dropped from the government list, we’re giving 40 pounds of beans. For people who got the government beans, we’re delivering 15 pounds of beans to make up the difference. This is for communities that have partnerships with groups or churches in Iowa who have donated the money to pay for the beans. Others (individuals, mostly) have also donated to help cover the cantons that don’t have partnerships.

By the time we were done in Mediagua, it was getting chilly and thunder-rumbly. I was cold on the way back so the atol and elote waiting for us at the Casa was most welcome. Aminta made the atol for us. It’s basically corn that’s ‘mooshed’ in a mill or blender then cooked with water, sugar, vanilla and some cinnamon until it’s thick. It was really tasty.

Elote is basically corn-on-the-cob. It’s not sweet corn though. It’s the regular field corn that’s been picked at a certain stage. The elote we had was just corn…nothing on it. But on the street (festivals and suchlike) you can get elote loco where they might put all manner of things on it…ketchup, mayo, cheese, a brown sauce, or combinations thereof. I haven’t had the elote loco.
Elote loco at a street festival in Alegria (later in the week)
Cecilia, Kathy, Alisha and Kristi went to Mass. Nancy stayed home because she can’t see well at night. I stayed with her so she wouldn’t be in the house alone. Ok, it’s also really boring to sit through a long service when you can’t understand any of it…so I wasn’t really excited about going.

Before they left, Kathy gave us stern instructions not to answer the door or phone while they were gone. The doorbell rang, we ignored it. It rang again, we ignored it. It rang a third time a good long while, we ignored it. Not too long after that, Alejandro (Cecilia’s brother) came in soaked to the skin. When we didn’t answer the door, he’d apparently called Cecilia, gone to the church and got the key to let himself in. Poor guy.

Ceclia came back with pupusas for supper. She said Mass was still going on but she left to get us food. Kathy, Alisha and Kristi came back later. It was a really long Mass.

After supper, we had our fruit tasting. Kathy insisted on starting with the nances. They’re tiny little fruits about the size of a large marble with a pit. They smell pretty bad. They don’t taste quite as bad as they smell but I can’t imagine actually eating them by choice. The thing they most reminded me of is old parmesan cheese, but slightly fruity. If I don’t make it sound appetizing, it’s because it wasn’t.

The liches were another story. They looked like the rambutans I’d had in Thailand. If they aren’t exactly the same thing, they’re very closely related. Kristi said that in Guatemala they are called rambutans so maybe they are the same. They’re about the size of a small egg (red) and covered with sort of neon green strings. They’re ridiculously easy to eat. You just put your thumbnails together on the skin and pry. The fruit just pops out like a hard-boiled egg. They’re lightly sweet with a pit in the center that doesn’t separate from the fruit as easily as the fruit separates from the skin.
(Alisha's picture) Me giving Alisha the "hairy eyeball" with an opened liche.
There were two kinds of passion fruit; granadilla and maracuya. We had the granadilla, which Kathy calls ‘frog eggs’. It’s an apt name, cause that’s what the edible part looks like. The taste reminds me of kiwi fruit only a little more tart. The maracuya is more tart yet with bigger, crunchier seeds than the granadilla and generally used for making a drink.

We also had marañon japones (Japanese cashew). There is another kind of marañon but we didn’t find any of those fruits at the market. The marañon japones fruit was kind of bland…edible and completely inoffensive but nothing to write home about. In the non-japones type of marañon, the hard shell that contains the single cashew nut hangs down below the fruit. The marañon japones also has a sort of nut but it’s not eaten.

I finished the first mitten. I’d kind of counted on the pair taking more of the week…oh well.

It’s been raining pretty much continuously since we got back from Mediagua. There was thunder and lightning early on but mostly it’s been a steady, gentle rain. We’re thinking no catfights tonight…

27 August 2011

Heading to El Salvador - Day 1

Got up at 4:45am, showered, dressed and headed to the airport. Nancy was already there and in line to get her boarding pass. I used the kiosk machine to print mine; I'd checked in on-line yesterday and got my seat assignments.

I hugged Al goodbye and headed to security.

The detector beeped as I went through and the security agent told me that wasn't for metal, I'd been selected for additional screening and stepped aside to have my palms wiped with a little piece of fabric that was then analyzed in a machine. Whatever they were looking for, I passed.

In Houston, I got a breakfast burrito, a scone and some hot tea.

At the gate I started my knitting project for the week. After a while, I noticed that the destination posted had changed...and not to San Salvador. Nancy went to check the monitors found our gate had moved so we picked up our stuff and went there. I knitted some more.

When it was closer to boarding, I went to stand by the boarding area...there's only so much sitting I can do at one time. There was a brochure display and a small girl...walking but not talking...and the girl was having a high time pulling the brochures out of their pockets and handing them to her mother and an older women next to her. The mother would get up occasionally and put the brochures back.

Then the girl started handing them to me, smiling hugely. Mom would rush over and apologize and try to distract the girl with something else. I told her there was no problem, the girl was keeping occupied. She was so focused, she just wouldn't be distracted, no matter what the mom tried.

On the plane to El Salvador, I had an aisle seat next to an older woman and a teen aged girl. Not too long after I sat down, the woman started looking for something and got progressively more frantic. I asked what she was looking for and it was her passport and travel documents.

She looked through her purse; I checked the seat pocket in front of her. We were in the process of getting out of our seats to check below when I saw an envelope kind of thing that has slid between her seat and mine. She was SOOOO relieved. I can relate, after having lost my passport on a flight to Germany once.

I started knitting again until lunch was served. By then I'd gotten to the thumb gusset of the mitten and decided to switch to puzzles for a while.

We arrived in San Salvador and Kathy met us outside the airport. On the way to Berlin, we stopped at a gas station for snacks, drinks and gas (for the truck). I got a 600ml bottle of pop for 65 cents, a bag of suspiros (a cookie that’s a lot like a lady finger…very light, crispy and tasty) for $1.85.

Gas in El Salvador is generally 50-cents higher that whatever we're paying here.
In Santiago de María, closer to Berlín, Kathy got cash from an ATM while in company. We also got some special cookie things at a bakery there that can't be gotten anywhere else. They reminded me of the pie crust things my mom used to make…only without cinnamon.
The baker in Santiago de Maria
Baked goods for sale in Santiago de Maria
Cecilia, Blanca and Idalia were at the Casa. We met Chiquita, Alisha's conure, that someone in a community gave her. She makes kissy noises when kissing you and can wolf-whistle.
Getting acquainted with Chiquita the conure