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.