Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday: Painting, lava and the Ocean

Well, we woke up at 7:00 this morning and started our last day with the usual cereal and making our PB&J sandwiches for lunch.  Then after reading a poem called "Apology to my Brothers and Sisters in Developing Countries by Joyce Rupp" we got into the van for the drive to Las Delicias. 

Today we were doing a lot of touch up painting around the day care center.  We also got to go watch how the corn was ground into cornmeal with a machine right near where we were working.  It's definitely a lot different than just driving to the local super market like we do back in the states.  The women have to soak the corn in order to take the outer shell out, then they'll take that corn down to the grinder where it is ground into a mushy substance.  Then they make the mushy cornmeal into tortillas.  Unfortunately so many of us were exhausted we couldn't stay for the whole day.  Lynette let us take a break and help make tortillas with the women again, we were still not much better today than we were yesterday. 

Because we were all so exhausted, we cleaned up early and we got to drive around and see some of the country side.  We stopped and saw a lava field from a volcanoe that exploded over 100 years ago.  It was really neat for all of us to see, the volcanic rock extended for miles into the distance.  Miguel, our driver went out and got us all some volcanic rock to take home with us. :)

Next, we stopped to see a site where there was a horrible mud slide during 2001.  According to Miguel, about 350 people were affected.  Sadly, only an 8 month old baby, a 5 year old girl and 2 cats were found afterwards.

Finally we drove down to the ocean.  I was really excited about this because I had been asking all week if we were going to go to the ocean, I've never seen the ocean before.  It was really pretty looking out over the water.  Many of us walked around the beach taking in the sun, looking for shells and taking pictures.  We saw some fishers out in the water with their nets.  Lynette and Miguel took us up to the pier where there was a fish market.  It was really neat to see how it all worked, despite the nasty smell.  We saw the fishermen skinning, salting and selling the many different varieties of fish.  We also saw them letting the boats down into the water for more men to go out fishing.

Tonight for dinner we had a traditional Salvadoran meal of Papusas.  Papusas are basically a tortilla stuffed with beans and cheese.  They're really tasty!  We also had the rice and salad that accompanied every other meal this week. 

To finish out our amazing week, there was an awesome band called Sierra Madre that came and performed for us.  They were really fun and loved Romero.  A lot of their songs were about Romero but they also had songs about poor children, friendship, and Salvadoran Pride.  They had us dance for the last song which was quite interesting.  Steph and Kelly really got into it. :)

Well thats about it for the week!  We're headed out bright and early tomorrow morning at 4:00, our flight leaves at 7:30.  We definitely don't want to miss this one!  Good Night!
~Molly Long

Tortilla Thursday

Thursday - RISE AND SHINE! It's 7:00am and it's time to get ready for the day. Today we moved on to a different work site that is only approximately 40 minutes away instead of over an hour. On our way to Las Delicias, we witnessed a tractor trailer parallel park, yes that's right a tractor trailer parallel parked right in front of us.. Now that's what I call talent!

At Las Delicias, our project for the day was to paint the exterior of a day care. Unfortunately, there weren't any children there for us to play with, but we really enjoyed Team El Salvador bonding, especially trying to teach Kelly and Keem (Kim) how to paint using a roller.

Part of the painting crew

Project FIAT has a feeding program at Las Delicias where food is provided to all the elderly and the children on their way to school. Each day parents of the children help make the food and serve it. Today we had the opportunity to make tortillas for the children and adults to eat. We were quite the entertainment for the Salvadorans because well, we were terrible at making them and they laughed at us the entire time. It was such a great experience to serve the children their food. They were speaking to us in Spanish so they also used hand motions to show us what to do. It really made us appreciate what blessings we have in our own lives.

After we finished painting the exterior of the day care, we cleaned up and headed to a different work site that Project FIAT has been working on. As soon as we stepped out of the car, a Salvadoran child, Oscar came running up to us, gave out free hugs, and immediately jumped into Kayla's arms. She then gave him a piggy back ride for a while while he held on tight and kept calling her,  "caballo" which means horse.

Steph and Kelly also had the experience of an adorable Salvadoran child jumping over their heads, several times, but no worries, he cleared their heads every time!

When we returned back to the house after our long day of painting and playing with children, we were entertained by a group of folklore dancers from a nearby university. It was clear that the dancers loved what they were doing. It was an enjoyable way to learn more about the culture. The last song, they pulled all the ladies onto the dance floor and tried to teach us how to dance, let's just say we should all stick to painting, well except for Keem with the roller.

We cannot believe we only have one day left in El Salvador. We are learning a lot about El Salvador and the culture, but we are also learning a lot about ourselves and how fortunate we are all for everything we have. We cannot wait to share this experience with all of you when we get back to the US.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday: Leaping, Arm Wrestling, and Newsworthy Adventures

Wednesday: Happy Leap Day! We celebrated a little bit by jumping up and down. :)

We're a little bit tired from the heat and sun (it's 40 degrees Celsius in Ilobasco - that's about 100 Fahrenheit. In other words, really freaking hot), but not tired enough to want to come back to the cold and snow in Erie. We went to breakfast this morning at Nekal, a restaurant along the way with a fabulous view of the mountains and the lake, and had pupusas and real hot chocolate made of a chocolate bar dissolved in hot water. Here's a picture of one of the pupusas - doesn't it look good?

Once breakfast was over, Bruce guilted KBT into ordering a cake (her words, not mine) in Spanish. She doesn't speak Spanish. She ended up drawing a dollar sign with a question mark next to it to figure out how much it costs. But her efforts were well worth it when we got to eat it for dessert tonight at dinner.
Then we headed on to the school to say goodbye to the children and Don Miguel and decided to spend the day in the city because we got there too late to start working. In the city, we saw the church, grotto, cinema, shops, and park. We went to the shops and bought a bunch of new Salvadoran treasures. :)

For the second half of the day, we went to see the church where Archbishop Romero was killed and the museum that they have across the road. Romero was killed while he was saying mass. He had heard that there was a threat on his life, so he decided that he would be the only one near the altar during that mass and did all of the readings himself. At the end of the homily, a car pulled up in front of the church and one of the passengers shot Romero while he was preparing the gifts at the altar. Standing up on the altar and looking out the doors to the church, it was easy to see anything that was on the street outside. I can only imagine what it would be like to know that there was a threat on your life, see the gun point at you, and just stand there and let it happen to protect the people in the church. His story is quite inspirational. Oh yeah, and we'll be on the Salvadoran news on March 24th. :)

We then went to the University of Central America, where 6 Jesuit priests, the housekeeper, and her daughter were killed one night during the Civil War. They were the voice for the poor, and they were killed for defending the rights of the powerless. It's hard to believe, but the pictures don't lie - they died a graphic death. Their deaths brought the Salvadoran Civil War to the forefront of world news. The Salvadoran government lost international support and a few years later, a peace treaty was signed and the war ended.

It was a pretty emotionally heavy to lighten things up, we did some arm wrestling to keep up a service trip tradition (thought Susan would like that one). Fearless Leader Molly's family showed up for a quick visit and we had some time to take a family photo :)

Well, we're exhausted and taking an early night tonight so that we're refreshed and ready to start at a new worksite in the morning (and we even get to sleep in until 7:00!). So we're signing off for now. On a side note, do you remember that time that we missed our flight? Yeah, so do we. And it's a lot funnier now.

Hasta luego! -Steph :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday: UNO, volcanoes, and Chocolate!

Hola Todos!  Hoy es el cuarto dia en El Salvador. 

Today we weren't awoken by air horn which I was very grateful for, it was a much nicer way to begin my day.  We did a little bit of site seeing on our way to the school (note the beautiful landscape picture below).  Once at the work site we continued working on the additional classroom.  Something that really was fun today was that Kayla, Molly (Linehan), and I went and spent some time with the kids during their recess with the intention of playing UNO with them. Unfortunately (but not really) there were WAY too many kids interested in playing the game, so we made up our own (which was so much more fun).  We used the UNO cards to go over numbers and colors with the kids (in English- because they only know Spanish), and the kids just loved it.  We had about 30 kids swarming us wanting to play and the most amazing part was that they wanted to learn.  We all had a good time (Even Kayla who knows "un poco" Spanish took charge for a while and played with the kids learning the new Spanish words "color" (color) and "numero" (number) in order to communicate with them).  The teachers even allowed us to continue playing with the group that was supposed to be having gym class after recess was over.  We were also invited to see a science experiment of the kids-a classic one- a volcano!  The kids were divided in groups and had made their volcanoes using local clay.  They put in baking soda (loads of it) and cool aid (for coloring) before adding vinegar and BOOM! Explosive volcano action. 

On the way back to the volunteer house we stopped by a nature preservative that Lynette knew.  It was really interesting to see all of the different plants they had there.  I never knew what a cocoa tree (where chocolate comes from) looked like never mind the fruit.  Below we have a picture of a cocoa fruit opened to reveal its seeds.  We actually got to suck on the seeds and eat the fleshy covering.  It was good, but I don't really know of something similar taste wise to compare it to, to paint a better picture for you.  We also got to try some other tasty treats like some mandarin oranges freshly picked (makes such a difference), and some juices (orange, passion fruit, and tangerine) all freshly squeezed.  I'm not sure if I can go back to the orange juice in the Caff I generally have for breakfast because now I'm spoiled.  We saw some other interesting plants like the passion fruit tree/flower and a  coffee plant (also didn't look anything like I was expecting, but I don't know what I was expecting).  Some people bought coffee here (I'm not a coffee person - I don't drink it at all - but it smelled so good, I tried a sip of Molly's and it was by far my best experience with coffee).  Besides all the cool and tasty foods/drinks we got to try it was just neat to sit down in the gazebo and enjoy the fantastic view (and company).

After dinner we watched the movie "Romero" which tells the story of the Arch Bishop of El Salvador during the beginnings of the civil war here.  The movie was very interesting (at first when they told us we were watching this movie I feared it was going to be a boring documentary- not the case).  Not only was the story engaging, but it also made us think about what it was really like during the civil war time here and all the politics, ideologies, and what not that go into a war and from both perspectives.  It really makes me think of how bad things had to get before the war formally got started.

View of the mountains on the way to Ilobasco

Group shot.. Yes we are adorable!

Chocolate anyone ?

Freshly picked, ground, and brewed Salvadoran coffee

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday: Today many of us began our day at 6:30 AM. The plan for the day was to go to Don Israel's home village. There we would help with the construction of an additional building to the existing El Salvadoran school complex. Before we left, we ate breakfast and made ourselves lunch which consisted of peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, and some crackers. At 7:30 AM, we got in the microbus and made our one hour journey to the village.

After about an hour of riding through some of El Salvador's beautiful scenery, we arrived at the school complex. We also took a quick stop at a brick making center. The group grabbed two wheelbarrows, a couple of shovels, and some buckets, to go dig up some dirt. We walking a couple of minutes to a row of village homes. We meet Nina (the Salvadoran title of respect for elder women) Consuela, who needed water for washing clothes. Instead of digging dirt, the group took about a 15 minute hike down a hill to the water well. There Molly and Nina Consuela filled our buckets (less than half way, for the students) with water. We then made our journey back to Nina Consuela's home but before we did, we took a quick stop at Don Santiago's home. It was constructed not too long ago by a group of volunteers.

The drive through El Salvador

After dropping off the water we walked back to the school complex where the truck with mortar (sand like material used to bind the brick together) had arrived. The group began the long task of unloading the truck using hand shovels. For many it was the first time in a while that they had done such labor intensive work especially in the hot Salvadoran sun. It took about half an hour to unload the truck and then the real work began.

We took several wheelbarrows of mortar to the actual construction site where it was passed through a mesh screen and mixed with water and cement to make the mix used in the construction. Others moved the wall blocks to the construction site where the volunteers and the workers laid them to begin construction of the schoolhouse. We had a great time working on their Spanish skills and learning masonry! The heat took its toll on some of the volunteers but they still worked through it to make this schoolhouse a reality.We ate lunch later in the day and continued for a couple of hours on the construction.

The school children also helped and had a great time taking pictures! I also had a chance to talk to the teachers, and I realized that they are the ones that are making a difference. At 3:00 PM the tools were cleaned up and we boarded the microbus back to San Salvador. We had a great dinner and had our reflection before going to bed for another busy day of constructing!

The schoolchildren confused about the foriegners!

Kim, Molly, Miguel, and some of the other workers constructing the schoolhouse!
Another teacher and Nina Sonia who make the ultimate difference!

 Nina Sonia and her class!
Nina Sonia teaching her class!

Kim hates pictures!
Kayla and Bruce working on the future schoolhouse

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Saturday- Spending 10 hours at the airport was not exactly on the itinerary for Sunday, but neither was the 30 min. detour or snowstorm along the way.  The nine of us arrived at the Gannon Arch with our luggage for the week and all pumped up ready to hop on the plane and get to El Salvador.  Since the night before the majority of us had not slept we caught some shut eye on the bus and were alert by the time we arrived for the airport.  However, we did not anticipate the 45 min. line at the check in.  Clearly, since it was already 5:30 am and the nine of us had yet to go through security there was no possible way to make the 6 am flight.  We were re routed to Houston on a 2:50 pm flight and told to set up camp in the airport until 9am before we could even proceed to check in our luggages.  After 3 hours of being confined to a corner in the airport we were allowed to go through security and move to the departure terminal.  There we had a delicious breakfast at Bruggers Bagels and began our airport adventure.  We had 5 hours to kill and in the time explored every book shop in the airport, they are all exactly the same, and repeatedly walked the terminals, and of course, ate.  For an airport they did have an impressive selection of gelato and frozen yogurt.  After what felt like 12 hours we boarded the plane to Houston.  The plane was practically empty so we each took a row to ourselves and settled in for the 3 hour flight. 
              The flight from Cleveland to Houston went smooth but as soon as we landed we sprinted off to the boarding gate for El Salvador because we only had a 45 min. layover.  Surprisingly, the transition to this plane went without fault and we boarded for the 3 hr and 15 min. plane ride to El Salvador. 
              We landed at 9 pm central time proceeded through customs, and got our visa before setting foot on El Salvador land. In our matching blue shirts, we stood outside the airport waiting for our van to pick us up. Within 5 minutes, Lynette had arrived with 2 vans to accomodate our luggages. We got into the van and started our hour long ride to the volunteer house. Since night had already fallen, we could not really see much but the scent of sugar canes, the sight of night vandors and their papusas were still evident. 
               After arriving at the volunteer house (which is very nice) we unloaded our luggage and settled in to our mosquito net covered bunkbeds.  We were all excited to crawl in to bed and because of the time difference catch an extra hour of sleep before getting up at 8am for mass at Don Bosco Parish.

Sunday-After being awoken at 7:40am with the shrill of an airhorn, we stumbled out of bed and dressed for mass and went downstairs where cereal was waiting for breakfast.  We cleaned our dishes and read the mass readings before leaving because the mass was in Spanish, of which the majority of us are not fluent in.  The 15 min. drive to mass was the first chance we got to see the streets of El Salvador, and it was unlike anything in the U.S.  Upon arrival at the church, the previous service had just ended and people were flowing out.  As 9am approached the service we filled and additional chairs were being brought in.  The church itself was breathe taking with the stained glass, paintings, and dome in the front.  With the rows completely full, the priest began mass, in Spanish.  After a slight technical difficulty with the microphone, he preceeded with the remainder of mass.  When it came time to greet those around us we were warmly welcomed by the locals around us.  As a whole the mass was quite different than one from the states, all the children were well-behaved, even with the hot weather everyone was in long pants or a skirt, and the receiving of sacrements went fast given the large amount of people.  We stayed behind to take pictures of the architecture then loaded the van for the drive to the market. 
               Along the way to the market the streets were filled with people coming from mass and vendors set up.  We also passed the cathdral we were orginallly going to attend but couldn't because it was being "occupied" by rebels.  We arrived at the indoor market and had an hour to haggle with the local shopkeepers.  At the end of the hour all of us came back with plastic bags filled El Salvadorian items from sandals to a mirror and smaller items like bookmarks and crosses.  We rode back to the house for a lunch of soup, tuna salad, and egg salad, this would be the only day our lunch will not consist of PB&J. 
               After lunch we gathered the toys and crafts for the orphanage and left the house at 1pm for the hour long drive.  Along the way we saw the country side, villages, and scenary, stopping on the side of the road to take pictures in front of the volcano.  Upon arriving at the orphanage we were swarmed with 40 children eager to play.  We set up at the tables with bracelets, legos, coloring books, and their favorite game, Uno.  During the two hours we were there the children went from table to table to find their favorite acitivity or went in the outside play area for a game of basketball.  At times the language barrier made communication impossible but we found ways to work through it, mainly Hector's stellar translation skills. 
             Even though we did not speak the same language, it was still difficult to leave them.  They were all so happy that we had came and in just 2 hours we were already connecting with them.  As a whole they were all incredibly well behaved, played well together, and respectful and polite.  Leaving them was hard and a few of us, including Bruce(who claimed he was most qualified), decided we would like to take some of the children back with us.  As we were leaving they all ran to the door to see us off and were still standing there when our van came down the road a second time. 
             Most of us fell asleep on the ride back but were ready for dinner.  We had authentic El Salvador food consisting of beans, rice, corn bread tortillas, and vegetables.  The food was filling and after doing the dishes we listened to Gene Palumbo talked about his experience as a reporter in El Salvador through the war.  Even though he was filled we knowledge we were all extremely tired and after reflection prepared for bed and waking up at 6:30am to travel to the work site tomorrow.
Hello All! 
We're just posting a quick message to let all of you know we arrived in San Salvador at 9pm (10 EST) last night.  We were exhausted after leaving Erie at 2:30 in the morning!  But now we are here and being hosted by Lynette and Sr. Gloria in a beautiful volunteer house.  We already went to Mass, a market and just ate lunch.  We'll head to an orphanage shortly.  We'll update you more later today!  Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers!