Thursday, April 28, 2016

Los Yanez


After our morning meeting with the Pastoral Team we visited the community of Los Yanez. I love visiting that community. The people are beautiful in every way imaginable; mind, body, and spirit. When we arrived, they were warm and welcoming. It’s been almost a year since I’ve visited so I was very excited.

However, they are struggling. Suffering. Just like all the other cantons (villages). We met with the Directiva in Los Yanez to learn about the struggles and needs they have in their community. Water is a big issue. It has been very dry in the community which has resulted in various crises for people. The mayor’s office has been helping out by bringing water to the community every 8 days to fill some small water tanks. The people then take their cántaros (big water jugs) to the canton center to fill them up and then they haul the large jugs back to their houses. However, the water usually only lasts for 4 days. I’m not sure how they survive the other four days until the water comes again. I can’t even imagine. It’s scary to think about.

Nutrition is another area in which they struggle. Last year most families had a bad harvest. The crops dried up and people lost a lot. Many have had to resort to buying corn and beans, which leaves no money for other essentials like oil, salt, sugar, rice, hygiene projects, etc. Sometimes the government helps out. But they tend to pick and chose who will and who will not receive help. Now, there’s not always a rhyme or reason as to why some families get chosen to receive help and some don’t. It’s just the luck of the draw, which is pretty sickening when you’re talking about people’s lives. The community is hoping and praying for the rain to come soon.

There were a few other things we discussed but we ran short on time because the rain was coming and the road we use to travel from Los Yanez to Berlín is dangerous in the rain. We pulled out the two piñatas we brought and let the kids (and adults) have at it. It’s so much fun to have piñatas in the cantons. People in this community don’t get piñatas or candy that often. I loved piñatas when I was little and I still love them today. I didn’t participate but I did get some good photos and video. It’s more fun to watch.

Now on to a different subject. Below is an insert from my 2013 El Salvador blog:

“Josseline came over to me and asked if I wanted to see the baby she had been telling me about. I said I did and followed her over to the communal house where they did the cooking for everyone. There in the hammock was Marleny’s tiny baby girl. She was 2 months old. Marleny told that that her name was Alicia (which is my name in Spanish). She said to me in Spanish, “I always said that if I had a baby girl I would name her Alicia after you because it is such a beautiful name and you are important to our family. I’ve named her Alicia in your honor.”

I was stunned. I was speechless. I couldn’t believe that someone had named their baby after me. I honestly don’t remember much of I what said. I think I managed to get out a couple words about how honored I felt and what a beautiful little girl she was. What a legacy. I asked Michelle to take pictures of baby Alicia and me. I talked to Alicia and let her know that she was a very special little girl and that she was going to be very smart and kind hearted just like her mom when she grew up. I also told her that I’d be back to visit her as soon as I could. I hope I’m able to make it back on a regular basis so I can watch her grow up.”

Well, I was blessed to be able to see little Alicia and her family today. She is 2½ years old! She walks like a pro and even talked a little to me. She wasn’t afraid of me or hesitant when I held her, and her mom explained that she shows Alicia photos of the two of us so she can get to know me. I gave her lots of hugs and kisses and talked to her about how special she is to me.

Soon it was time to leave and we said farewell to everyone. I hope I can get back to the community soon. I miss the people and everyone else in El Salvador when I’m gone. Please pray for rain and a good harvest for the people of El Salvador.

Water collection tanks

Alicia's younger brother

With the girls

Love these little ladies!

I tried to get them to do a funny picture

So beautiful!

They wanted their picture taken

Piñata time!

Lots of fun


She's always got something in her mouth

Saying goodbye

So cute!

Sunday, April 24, 2016


Sunday, April 24, 2016
We have an hour of silence to reflect on our day and what we’ve experienced. I’ve been sitting here now for half an hour trying to think of what to write. I don’t even know how to start. I don’t know where to start. Today has been a long day. I feel like I always say that when I’m in El Salvador. But it’s the truth. This isn’t a vacation for me. This isn’t a “make myself feel good about myself” mission trip. This isn’t a time for me to pat myself on the back for the good work we do. This is reality.
After spending the morning having a 2½ hour meeting, we visited the canton (village) of Corozal in the afternoon. All of the cantons in Berlín face many challenges in everyday life. In the dry season, one of those challenges is where to get water. The spring that used to fill up a cement basin in Corozal has run dry. Only a small amount of water now flows through the spring. At noon we headed out on the 1+ hour drive to Corozal.
We arrived at the basin and find several people there. What struck me the most were the children and young girls. They were standing barefoot in the mud washing their families’ clothes with dirty water. The two young girls were washing the clothes and the two small children helped fill up gaucals (big bowls) with water. The small children were getting dirtier and dirtier as they filled up the guacals, and all I could think was, “Now they’re going to have to wash those clothes as well.” This is reality in El Salvador.
Next we went to the place where the community now has to go to get water. We drove part of the way and then it was a mile trek downhill to the alternate water source. This water wasn’t much better than the first. It was still dirty. The only difference was that there was a little more water. We spent time talking to the people at the water source about their experiences with water and the struggles of having to go to a different place. After a while we made the 1 mile trek back uphill to the truck and headed home.
What’s the first thing I did when I got back to the Pastoral House? I washed my hands and feet with clean water and then I got a drink of purified water. I also plan to shower tonight. Talk about feeling guilty. It has been a challenging day for me as is each day I spend here. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have enough compassion. I feel like I don’t care enough. I feel greedy and self-centered. Even writing this feels wrong because I’m focusing on myself instead of focusing on others.
That’s where I’m at right now. Thanks for joining me. I think I speak the best through photos. So I’ll stop here. Please take time to look through these photos and contemplate on how your life differs from the people of Corozal.  
Empty water tank



Collecting water

Washing clothes






Hauling water

The alternate water source


Would you wash you clothes here?
Would you drink water here?





There are fences around the water source so the animals
can't get to it and "dirty" the water with their waste

Very dry fields

My very dirty feet

Ruta de la flores/Route of the flowers

Today was the day to do something fun with the Pastoral Team. Blanca, Cecilia, Idalia, and Margarita were able to join us from the team. They chose to do the Ruta de la flores, which means Route of the Flowers. This is in the western part of El Salvador, which I have never visited before. I wasn’t really sure what the Ruta was about so I found a description which I’m sharing below.
Traveling the La Ruta de las Flores, slowly and purposefully, is like a meander through the story of El Salvador. It's a searingly beautiful series of villages, each with a mix of colonial architecture in indigenous tones. Those who like the good life can feast on local food, particularly at the weekend markets, browse the craft tiendas, or undertake firsthand research into why El Salvadoran coffee is renowned across the world.” From- Lonely Planet
We visited three cities along the Route of the Flowers: Salcoatitan, Juayua, and Concepción de Ataco. We enjoyed good food and walked through the little craft markets in each of the towns. The crafts and other goods were similar to what I’ve seen before but there were a lot of new things as well.
We ate lunch at a beautiful restaurant called Jardín de Celeste, which means Celestial Garden. I dined on bean soup, avocado with shrimp, and a small salad. Everything was delicious and the flowers there were gorgeous! After lunch we visited one more little town and then it was off to Berlín. It was a three hour drive but we arrived in time for a pupusa dinner. Then we had a short meeting and then it was off to bed.
Tomorrow is a new and wonderful day!



Very fresh pineapple

Making drinks

I'll take one without the alcohol please

Inside a church that's being redone

Love stained glass





love, peace, harmony, life, hope




I love cats!


Maquilishuat (national tree)