You know those rare moments in life when everything is perfect and you know you’re doing exactly what you should be doing and you’re so full of joy you might burst? That was my day.
Eight members of the San Francisco youth group showed up at the house around 9am. We were heading to the cross at the top of the mountain. Kathy snapped a quick group picture of us before we left and we were off. We walked through part of Berlín toward the mountain ahead. I chatted quite a bit with everyone once we were on our way. Niwman and Wiliam stopped to talk to the priest for a few minutes and get breakfast. The rest of us got some chips and orange drinks at a little store. Then we continued on our way. There was some discussion about what way we were supposed to go. We got to one point we all stopped while Niwman called some people on the phone. We were near Brisas del Sol where the landslide had happened not long ago.
As if turns out we weren’t going in the right direction. So we turned around and found the right trail. Two of the guys I’d met a week or so ago in the Colonia of Jardín were there waiting for us on the correct trail. Dimas, Sergio, and their nephew accompanied us up to the cross. Dimas has been there several times before. The older brothers were both carrying big machetes which I thought was awesome. Many people carry them to clear the path. I also felt like it gave us some protection.
It was a long and steep trek up the mountain; over 5 kilometers all together. Definitely the steepest trail I’ve ever been on. Talk about a major workout! But it was a lot of fun going up and we kept a slow, steady pace. I had the chance to talk to almost everyone on the way up. Veronica, Niwman, and I talked for quite a while about El Salvador, the church, San Francisco, Spanish, and other things. We stopped a couple times to look out over the city and to take pictures. I must say that I surprised myself in how well I did walking. I think I’d built the walk up in my head too much. Don’t get me wrong, it was very hard, but I think we all did a great job. For most of us it was our first time to the cross. At one point the ten year old girl who was with us started to run. It thought, “What the heck” and the two of us ran for a few hundred feet. She stayed close to me the whole way.
It took a little over an hour and everyone was sweating profusely by the time we reached the cross, but the view was worth it. You could see the entire city of Berlín and where some of the cantons were. I could even see the giant trees that are in the town center. To the north you could see Honduras and to the south the ocean. The cross itself was large and white. From Berlín the cross looks very tiny but up close it is huge! The breeze at the top was refreshing and made me forget how hot I was. Plus, I was surrounded by good friends.
We formed a circle and said a prayer thanking God for the experience and the opportunity to spend time together. Then we sat for a quite a while by the cross to take in the spectacular view. We sipped water, relaxed, and took it all in. I felt so happy to be with people who care deeply about each other and God. They are amazing and loving people. Around the cross there were lots of little ants around that bit pretty hard. The girls were quick to help me brush them off my skin and point them out when they were near. I really felt like they were watching out for me and wanted me to be comfortable.
A few people went off to see what was around the little area. They came back and told us about an old well of some sort. So we all went to check it out. Then we walked back to the cross and discussed what kind of games we might like to play. Yes!! I love playing games! How awesome that they wanted to play some actual games as a group. Usually when I suggest playing fun games like the kind they had in mind people look at me like I’m crazy and say that’s something little kids do. They are definitely my kind of people.
The first game we played kind of reminded me of “Doggy, doggy, where’s your bone?” We all stood in a tight circle and one person stood inside the circle. Those of us on the outside passed around a ring behind our backs while the person in the middle tried to guess who had it. It was hilarious and so much fun!!
The second game we played involved a tree. One person wrapped their arms around the tree while other people tried to pull the person off the tree. It was like tug of war with one team against one person. Several times we ended up falling on the ground after pulling the person off the tree. But we picked ourselves up, dusted off, and did it again. What fun!
The next game we played was basically tag. Even after hiking up the mountain we ran around like crazy chasing each other. We jumped over rocks and sticks trying to catch each other. My strategy was to run around trees and dart quickly to the left or right so as not to be caught. We ran around till we were tired.
The fourth game we played was a dancing game. We all stood around in a circle and held hands while singing a song. The person in the middle had to dance around the circle and do a little “shake” at the end. Everyone laughed and whistled at the person in the middle. Then the person in the middle closed their eyes, spun in a circle, and pointed to someone. Whoever was being pointed at had to go next. I loved this game!
The last game we played was called cat and mouse. It was similar to duck, duck, goose. On the outside of the circle was the “cat” and inside was the “mouse”. People in the circle joined hands. The cat went around the outside of the circle three times and then the mouse darted out of the circle. The object of the game was to run out of the circle and try to get back in without being eaten by the cat. Pretty soon I got to be the cat. My strategy here was not to run after the mouse because I knew I’d tire quickly. So I stalked my prey. I stood close to the circle and made the mouse run around, making him tired. And my strategy paid off! I got my mouse!
Before heading back down we stood in a circle and prayed once again. Veronica even sang for us. She has a beautiful voice. I love that we greeted and left the cross with a prayer. If we had more time we could have walked to the lagoon at Alegría. But they had a meeting at 2pm and I was going to El Tablón with the pastoral team. We made plans to do that the next time I was here.
The trip back down the mountain was faster but very steep. I really had to watch my step and be careful not to go too fast or I’d go crashing down. I did lose my footing a couple times but nothing too bad. The dust kicked up back in our faces more on the way down than they way up.
Most of the time I spent talking to Sergio after I heard him say “Be careful” to me in English. I asked what else he knew how to say in English. “Very little” he said. People here are so modest; he actually spoke pretty well. He asked me to ask him some questions in English and then he’d reply. We practiced for a while. He said it was easier for him to understand what people were saying than to speak English. I said I was the same way with Spanish. The hardest thing for him was pronunciation. I told him that I thought pronunciation in English was hard. I explained about that much of English was not phonetic and that each vowel made multiple sounds, so you basically had to memorize the way words sounded.
We made it down the mountain in less than half the time it took us to go up it. We were a little worn out but feeling invigorated at the same time. We said goodbye to Dimas, Sergio, and their brother when we walked by El Jardín, which is only an 8 minute walk from the house.
We got back to the house around 1:00pm. Kathy came to greet us and ask about our journey. Everyone had some water and we talked about our experience. We said the next time we all walked to the cross we should also walk to the lagoon at Alegría. Kathy said next Saturday she could drive us all to the lagoon if we wanted. Our faces all lit up with joy! Thank you Mama K!!! I later told her I felt like she was the mom and we were all the kids going on a trip. I’m so grateful that I get to see them again before I leave. I am going to think of more games we can play when we’re at the lagoon. Around 1:15pm they needed to get back for the meeting. I gave everyone a hug and they headed off back to San Francisco. This was definitely a fantastic bonding experience.
“She turned to me & whispered, don’t you just love it when you get so excited you forget to breathe? & the thought of her smiling eyes still makes him laugh” Smiling Eyes (Brian Andreas)
In front of the house before we left
What do you mean we're lost already?
Let the hiking begin
Berlín and the San Vicente volcano
A finca toward the top of the mountain
We made it!
Looking down on Berlín
I can see the house (not really)
She didn't want to smile but she stayed right next to me the whole way up and the whole way down
Taking a rest
A nice picture of us in front of the cross
And an odd picture
Veronica by the cross
The well we found
The view was phenomenal
Walking back down 2 1/2 hours later
At 2:00 the people from the UCA (University of Central America) were supposed to pick us up at the house to go to El Tablón. By 3:30 they had not arrived. They eventually showed up and we left at 3:55. There were four guys from the UCA that rode in the cab and Kathy, Cecilia, and I rode in the bed of the truck. Yes!! Now, Kathy told me it would take about an hour to get to El Tablón. We arrived at 4:20- twenty five minutes later. There were two expressions that I could think of to describe how the guy drove: He drove like a bat out of h*** and he was hauling a**. I told Kathy that if we crashed at least dirt piled up alongside the road would prevent us from going over the cliff. She optimistically replied, “We’d probably be thrown over the side of the cliff from the pickup.” Ahhh, the adventures.
There was a TON of dust blowing all over the place. At one point I said, “Tengo polvo en mi boca. Qué sabroso!” (I have dust in my mouth. How tasty!) Cecilia burst out laughing and replied, “Para la cena vamos a comer sopa de polvo” (for dinner we’re going to eat dust soup).
The rest of the night she kept telling me she was going to make me dust soup. When we arrived in El Tablón we were covered in dust.
The meeting was in El Tablón Cerna about a cooperative that they are forming. The UCA will be working with them on the development of the co-op and helping them to understand how to do everything by themselves. It is a wonderful opportunity for the community and will provide many jobs for people. Plus the help offered by the UCA is free. We will be returning to the community tomorrow with people from CARE who will be providing financial support to the co-op.
I have to admit that during a lot of the meeting I was entertaining the little kids there. At first they just looked at me but eventually they came over to talk. They asked me to take their pictures and then wanted to look at the pictures. They were all so cute! After a while two of them decided it was safe enough to sit on my lap. They told me their names were Evelyn and Brenda. I ended up taking ton of pictures of the kids.
After the meeting was over we walked down the hill a little ways to look at the land. Then the lower half of our bodies were completely covered in dust. My legs and feet looked so brown that Cecilia told me my name was no longer chelita (light-skinned person) but cafecita. Café is the color for brown, so cafecita meant I was now the brown one. The people of the community seemed more excited about the project once they were on the land and talking about what would actually be done.
Then it was time to head back to Berlín. We wanted to get there before it was too dark. The drive back was insane as the ride there. One time the truck stopped abruptly and the front of me got jolted across the top of the cab. When Kathy was trying to give the guys directions to get back to the house Cecilia and I were shouting the wrong directions. Once they actually stopped because the thought we were serious. We just started laughing and Kathy called us “niñas” (little girls). Near San Francisco we picked up seven people and their dog on our way back because they were heading to Berlín. We all had a good time trying to hold on for dear life in the back of the truck. When we reached Berlín someone shouted, “Chelita” as we drove past. Cecilia and I both shouted back, “No! Cafecita!”
When we arrived back at the house the guys wanted to take us out to the best pupusería in town. So the seven of us headed out to get some pupusas. It had been a long day so I had a beer with my meal. We consumed about 25 pupusas total. It was a lot of fun and always nice to be out at night in the city. After dinner the guys headed back to San Salvador which is a 2 hour drive. They’ll be driving back up tomorrow for the other meeting.
When we got back to the house Cecilia, Kathy, and I were ready for showers. Cecilia heated up some water on the stove for us so we could take warm dump showers. Lovely!! A warm shower has never felt so nice. Right now my entire body aches from walking up to the cross, walking back down, and trying to survive the ride in the pickup. But I wouldn’t trade the aches for a minute of my day. It was wonderful!
“Everything changed the day they figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in their lives” Enough Time (Brian Andreas)
Oh my gosh! We're not gonna make it!
Cool & calm, for now
Please, God, let us live
Look at all that dust
Laying on the floor during the meeting
Another darling little boy
They wanted their picture taken
Playing in the pickup
Walking down to see the land
Checking things out
Kathy and I with a person from the UCA
Sunset in the distance