The teachers of all my classes were at school today so all my classes were held. Yay! There were no problems and the kids all behaved themselves pretty well. The scheduled class times were off more than usual. By the end of the day I figured we were off by at least twenty minutes. While teaching my fourth period class I actually thought they’d forgot to ring the bell to signal the end of class. But sure enough it went off at 11:25 (class usually ends at 11:05). But this is El Salvador, and things move at a different pace here.
During my third period class someone came in to tell us that it was time for food. I guess this mid-morning snack is a daily happening. The sixth grade teacher, Carmenita, whose class I was in invited me to eat with her and the kids today. We walked behind the main building of the school to the “kitchen” area. There were 5 women making pupusas and serving up juice. I was given two pupusas and some juice in a bag. The pupusas were tasty but different than I’d had before. Carmenita explained that they had rice in them, which I later realized meant the dough was made from rice flour. I wasn’t for sure if the juice was made from pure water so I took it home to ask the ladies at the house if it was safe to drink.
Around 1:40pm today Kathy, Miguel, and I left the house to walk to Westminster’s sister community of San Francisco. I’ve been to San Francisco several times before but had never walked. When Kathy suggested yesterday that we walk to San Francisco I leapt at the opportunity. I love walking around the community and understanding what it feels like to walk to a canton. This walk was especially important to me because of San Francisco’s relationship with Westminster. I wanted to know what the walk was like when people came to Berlín from San Francisco.
The walk was 2 miles and took us about 40 minutes. We went at a pretty leisurely pace and although the terrain was rugged at some points it wasn’t too steep. From one point on our walk we could see Berlín in the distance. Miguel also pointed out a road below us leading to Alejandría, where several members of the team live. Since it is the dry season everything is covered in a thick layer of dust. From far away everything looks lush and green, but from up close things look brown.
I recognized the cross by the side of the road the second we got to San Francisco. Up the hill a short ways was the church. And as luck would have it, my friend, Maria, had just begun to make her way back home from getting water. I immediately ran to her and gave her a big hug. It was great to see her again!! We were able to catch up a bit before my meeting in the church. She is a wonderful and beautiful person. Seeing her is always a highlight of my trip to El Salvador.
Maria and I are close to the same age; she recently turned twenty-six. She has two boys, Noah, who is 6, and Christian, who is 4. Upon seeing her I noticed right away that she was pregnant. She told me she was due later this month. Imagine that: 8 months pregnant and she had walked over two miles to get water from a “river” to take back home. This is the water she and her family will use for cooking, cleaning, bathing, and drinking. She will carry the water in a cántaro on her head the whole way home. Remember, the cántaro is the large jug that I attempted to hold on my head in Alejandría (see my Alejandría blog for a description of my complete failure to move once I had the cántaro on my head).
We talked a little longer and then I had to leave to meet with a youth group. I thanked God for the timing of our arrival. A few minutes later and we would have missed her completely. I am excited to see her again when I return to San Francisco with Westminster. It will be good to spend more time with her, and hopefully I can visit her house on my next trip.
Kathy, Miguel, and I then went into the church to meet with the church youth group. The leader of the group, Niwman Oswaldo Cruz Hernandez, created the group a year and a half ago. It started out small, with 11 members, and has grown to 30 adolescents and young adults. 21 members of the youth group were present today. Niwman had each member introduce themselves and tell us how long they’d been with the group. The group members range from 10-29 years old, though most of them were teenagers. Some of the youth had been members from the time the group was formed and it was the first time for one boy.
As I watched Niwman interact with his peers I could tell he was a natural born leader. He saw a need in his community and designed a group that would help fulfill the need. The church youth group has study sessions, holds discussions of certain issues, and has themed get-togethers. The underlying purpose of the group is to be a support system for one another. It is a place where they can turn during struggles and joys in their lives. What is even more amazing is that it is a Christian youth group. It is wonderful to see these young people brought together through their love of God and their community.
The group recently held an event in San Francisco and invited kids from the 16 other cantons in the Berlín municipality to join them. 175 youth showed up for the event. These kinds of gatherings are held so the youth of different cantons can get to know each other and form connections. The youth group was extremely grateful to the Westminster senior high kids who donated $350 from their Christmas wreath sales so they could hold their get-together. The contact with this group was originally made in September of 2009 by Michael Sinklier during Westminster’s yearly visit to El Salvador. Lacking funds to hold an event in San Francisco, Niwman made the initial request for money on behalf of his group, and within a few months the money was wired to El Salvador. A photograph of the senior highs at Westminster is hanging in the church in San Francisco.
Some of the kids from the youth group have generously offered to walk with me to the cross in Berlín on Saturday. I am told it is a very strenuous, hour-long walk up the mountain, but the view is supposed to be spectacular. Only a few of the kids have been to the cross before. It will be a new experience for most of us. Hopefully those of us who haven’t gone won’t struggle too much on the way up. We’ll be meeting here at the house around 9am on Saturday.
After about an hour of talking and taking pictures, it was time to return to Berlín. Kathy, Miguel, Wiliam (a member of the youth group), and I began the walk to the house. It was a pleasant walk back with not too much sun. I saw a couple of piggy friends along the way and we were also able to go past the cemetery in Berlín. It is beautifully decorated and filled with colors; very different than most US cemeteries.
Upon returning home we all sat around the table and talked. There is rarely a lack of topics for conversation in this house. After a while everyone busied themselves with other things. While Miguel was watching a Spanish soap opera with the ladies I stayed at the table and talked to Wiliam. It was nice to get to know a member of the youth group, and, as always, a good opportunity for me to practice my Spanish. Eventually Miguel came back in the room and the three of us sat around chatting for forty five minutes. We talked about San Francisco, the church, the youth group, traveling, family, and a few other things. It was fun to have bonding time with some people from San Francisco.
“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to the new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never ever the same" ~Flavia Weedn
Kathy and Miguel on the trail to San Francisco
Walking on the road for a while
Dust covers everything here
This is actually a green plant
We're getting closer
The valley below
The road to Alejandría is down there
On horseback with water
The cross at San Francisco
Friendship across the miles
Picture of the Westminster senior high kids hanging in the church
Miguel, Reina, and Daniel
Members of the youth group present at today's meeting
Niwman talking to the group
A great group of kids
The front of the church
Outside of the church
Where the retaining wall will go
Heading back to Berlín
A pretty nice walk
There I go
Ankle deep in dust
The road home
The cemetery in Berlín
So many colors and flowers
There is much love here
Check out Kathy’s blog for a great description of today’s events!!