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.