Sunday, September 12, 2010

And on to Berlín we go

Saturday, 9-11-2010

It has been a long day! I rolled out of bed around 7am and went down to meet Lynn and Kathy for breakfast. It was a little odd: cereal (like Corn flakes), milk, and juice. I couldn´t drink the juice because it has melon in it which I am allergic to. I tasted the milk and drank a little of it. It was different than the milk we get in the states. More like whole milk, but with a different taste.

At 8:30am Alfredo came to pick us up and we headed out to see some archaeological sites. I saw a man walking a husky on the way there!! Huskies are my favorite dogs!! First we went to Joya de Cerén (Jewel of Cerén). When we got to the site we went into the museum first to read about the history and see some artifacts they found. Here is a bit of history: It is a Mayan farming village that has been preserved and is remarkably intact after it was destroyed by a volcano around 420 AD by the Ilopango volcano and then covered in ash by the Loma Caldera volcano in 600AD. The villagers were apparently able to flee because no bodies have been found. The site was discovered by accident in 1976 when a tractor crashed into some of the ruins. It is often compared to Pompeii and Herculaneum because of its level of preservation and is often called the Pompeii of the Americas. What makes El Salvador interesting in relation to archaeology is that excavation is an ongoing program. New discoveries are being made all the time with a renewed focus aimed at conservation. It was named a World Heritage Site in 1993.

Inside the museum they had some lava bombs, lots of pottery, cántaros, furniture, a deerskin headdress, old teeth that had been pulled out or had fallen out, oxidian (which was used for jewelry and utensils, etc.), and other items. Molds of corn, beans, seeds, cacao, and other foods were found. They were formed when the lava hit them and then instantly set on fire and then the fire was put out by ash. The bones of rats and ducks and the shell of a turtle.

After the museum we went out to see the excavations. We could see the 14 different layers of ash that have covered the site. There were several little communities and we could see the different structures. There were little dwellings were people lived, kitchen, meeting areas, and saunas, which are called temezcals. I remember seeing these when I was in Pátzcuaro, Mexico. Our tour guide said that the women would often give birth in these places. Inside the structures where people lived you could see where the bed was. You could also see the walls and little niches inside the houses. We saw the door entrances and lattice-type windows that let in air and sunlight. One structure that was really neat was a one that belonged to a shaman, or curandero. They were all sorts of things inside that house. And lots of little niches too. I wish I was able to remember more about the structures.

Our tour guide also pointed out several different plants in the area. There was a really thorny tree that is said to be part of the underworld and the top part of it is the heavens. We also saw cacao, which I had never seen before so I was really excited. That is where chocolate comes from! As far as I am concerned, we should be worshipping those plants!! After the tour we stopped off at the little artisan market at the museum. I got a piece of pottery and a mask that were replicas of what was found at the site.

Out next stop was San Andrés. Unfortunately, the museum was closed. But we didn’t have a ton of time so it worked out. Here is some history: San Andrés was the capital of a Mayan lordship with supremacy over the other establishments in the Valley of Zapotitán. This is where the important Mayan dignitaries would have lived. The ruins were first discovered in the 19th century but excavations didn't start until the late 1940s. The investigations and excavation in San Andrés have been primarily of the political-ceremonial center. There are a few pyramid type structures and ceremonial centers in the area. Findings show that San Andrés has business dealings with the Mayan villages in Copán (Honduras), Teotihuacán (Mexico), as well as other Mayan villages in Belize and Guatemala. An indigo workshop was also found in 1995 when work was being done.

As we were leaving we saw a guy nearby mowing the lawn...with a lawn mower. It seems really out of place and looked like it would be a ton of work. We also saw another guy with a giant rifle up on top of one of the hills; for protection, or course. This did not seem out of place. I was able to get a quick photo. We stopped to look at where the indigo workshop was and I think I saw a Torogoz (the national bird of El Salvador) flying away, but I can't be sure. We also stopped at the little artisan shop here to check out some interesting jewelry.

Next we were off to San Salvador to have lunch and meet someone to give them a package from the states. We ended up meeting at Mister Doughnut, which is not at all like Mister Doughnut in the States (or so I have told- I have never been to one). The menu was huge and had lots of interesting things on it. We all ended up getting crepes. Alfredo, Lynn, and I had ones filled with chicken and cheese. Sort of like a quesadilla. Kathy had one with shrimp. I had a drink made from cebada, which is a type of fruit. It tasted a little like strawberry milk, but less creamy and with a slightly different taste. It was pretty good. We met with the person, Marissa, and dropped off her little gift package for her. Before leaving we bought 2 dozen doughnuts- 12 for the Pastoral Team and 12 for Alfredo and his family.

Then we were off to San Sebastian to get towels for the care packages we are making for San Francisco. Today on the road we saw 4 tanks driving by but I didn’t have my camera out so no picture. I dozed a little bit in the car which was nice because I was really tired. We reached San Sebastian around 3:15pm. We quickly went inside and bought 85 large, beautiful towels that were made at the store on giant looms. Then back on the road. Lynn and I tried our best to behave in the backseat. But every once and a while we’d see Kathy writing down something and said she must be making notes of all the bad things we were doing. Along the way we also saw some cornfields on the sides of hills that seemed almost vertical. I have no idea how hard it must be to plant and harvest those crops. Around 4:40pm my window finally starting working so I was able to roll it up and down; window liberation, Kathy called it. But at 4:45 we rolled up to the Pastoral House so it didn’t really matter.

We saw Blanca and Idalia right away and I gave them both big hugs. It was wonderful to see them again!! We got everything unloaded and had a bit of pan dulce. Yum, yum, yum. We said goodbye to Alfredo and I gave him the pictures I’d had printed for him. Then we all sat around and talked for a while. Lynn and I did a little unpacking. Blanca announced that the house now had a mascota, which translates as mascot, but means pet in El Salvador. It was a turtle!!! It had come from the finca where the coffee grows. It was absolutely adorable and I picked it up and had my picture taken with it. We still need to decide on a name, but have decided that it’s a male.

They called us for dinner at 6pm. Blanca, Idalia, and Jesús ate with us which was really nice. After dinner Blanca and Jesús talked a bit about San Francisco, Berlín, and the community in general. San Francisco is supposed to be getting electricity!! Very exciting! It is being funded by a group from Luxembourg and Spain. Also, 30 families received 2 very large water tanks for their homes and several more should be getting them.

Unfortunately, times are very hard in San Francisco and everywhere else in the area. People are very worrisome this time of year. Food is very expensive and what they have left over from last year’s crops are running out. They don’t harvest again until November or December, so they have to buy their food. Beans are $1 per pound, which is a lot when most people get paid only $3 a day, and that’s if they have work at all. Because of the weather many people are sick and there is a lot of contamination in the environment. Many women come to the Pastoral House for solicitudes for scans for cancer and ultrasounds.

The people here also have to take out loans to buy seeds to plant, so they will have to sell much of their harvest to pay back the loan. The rest they eat and sell at the market to have money for things like clothes, school supplies, clothes, soap, and everything else they need to survive. You can see why toilet paper is a luxury here. As is medication of any kind. When people run out of money they can ask the city hall, church, or Pastoral House, but things are tight everywhere. The people are struggling to survive.

After dinner we did a bit of assembling for the gift packages. We divided up the acetaminophen into baggies of 100, Tums into baggies of 50, and band-aids into baggies of 38. It took a long time (2 hours) but we eventually got it all done. There will be 80 bags for San Francisco. 75 families plus a few extra just in case. The ladies even helped out which was really sweet of them. It is so wonderful to see them again. I’m excited to spend the week with them.

I wish I had more time for reflection in my blogs and to upload photos, but we’ve been pretty busy. I’m struggling to write down what I have here. Plus I’m a very verbose person when it comes to blogging. Hopefully you’re gotten a little of that here. There’s always lot to do. I’m loving it here. Right now there is a rooster crowing. Roosters here don’t know how to tell time. They seem to crow all night long. Maybe they’ll cease for a while so I can get some sleep. But I have a feeling I’ll be out before I hit the pillow.


Emily said...

have you heard of Kiva (a microlending agency doing great work for people all over the globe)? i wonder if people from the village you're in could benefit at all from it. i havent a clue what the app process is, but when i read this entry, i thought about kiva.

Matt Pokorny said...

Wow, what a great first day, and you got to see a husky and a turtle! I bet it was wonderful to see everyone at the casa again. It would be great if San Francisco got electricity. I hope that come to be.