I was up earlier today than usual, 6am, so we’d be able to get to San Francisco at a good time because we still had many families to visit for the census. Later I realized I didn't need to get up that early but it was too late. We had a delicious breakfast: eggs, beans, bread, and more pancakes. Lynn was very happy that Cecilia was making pancakes again. I ate a lot in hopes of having enough energy to last throughout the entire day.
Around 8:45am we left in the pickup for San Francisco, and at 9:00am 11 of us began the census today in the caserio of Las Cruces. We visited 22 families in that area. There was some steep, muddy walking but nothing compared to yesterday. Like the day before we walked in and introduced ourselves, giving each person a handshake or a hug. We asked for everyone’s names, ages, and how they were related. Then we gave them their gift and took a picture of the family. We let them know that we’d bring the photos back next year for everyone to have.
In Las Cruces we saw several people we know very well. We saw Daniel’s house and his wife and kids. He is a Delegate of the Word in the church in San Francisco and has been accompanying us during the census. We also saw Reyna, who is a Delegate of the Word and recently got married. Two of the girls from the youth group that I got to know when I was here this spring lived with Daniel (his daughters) so I was able to say hi and give them the picture I’d brought for them.
We were also able to see our very good friend, Maria, in Las Cruces. Maria is my age, 26, and recently gave birth to her third child, a little girl named Maria Luisa who is 6 months old. Of course Lynn and I had to hold her and give the family lots of hugs. We talked to her for as long as we could before we had to move on to the next family. We promised her that we’d see her tomorrow at the celebration at the church.
After finishing up with the caserio of Las Cruces we went on to Los Jimenez. We saw 7 families and then made a stop at the school. Lynn and I presented the teachers and some of the students with all the stickers that were collected by the women of the Eve Circle. They were very excited to receive the gift and I took a picture them with the packages.
We saw four more families and then headed to Miguel’s house for lunch. Lynn and I hit the bathroom so I could get another picture for my toilet photo collection. They served what looked to be soup without the broth. There were noodles, chicken, potatoes, carrots, and several other vegetables. I had a tortilla and some orange drink with it. It went down very well.
After lunch we did a census of the 5 families that live in the area. I was able to give Miguel and his family some photos I had of them. I also gave Niwman, Miguel’s brother and the leader of the youth group, photos I’d taken earlier in the year. I also learned that Niwman was married with two children, which I did not know. He is 29 and his wife is 21. They have two children ages 5 and 2.
We moved on to see 15 more families. At the first house we stopped at I saw two of the girls and one of the guys that were in the youth group. I gave them big hugs and talked a little. I gave them all photos I had taken of them when I was here in February and March. It was wonderful to see them again, and to be able to see them in their homes. They’ll be at the church tomorrow so I get to see them again. Yay!
Everyone today was extremely grateful for the gifts and for the visit. It was wonderful to be able to walk through the communities to see each person’s home and meet them. Though we didn’t have a lot of time to spend at each house I am really pleased that we were able to meet everyone. I had never seen much of San Francisco before this trip; only where the school and church are and where one family lives. I feel like I have a much better understanding of what it means to live in the cantons.
There were several things that really stood out today when taking the census. For example, at most places the whole family was not at the house. Much of the time at least one person was out in the fields working. Some of the children were at school and others just weren’t there. I also saw a LOT of really young moms; the youngest being 15. Though it is common here for young women to have children it is still a shock to see a 15 year old holding her baby. The one I am thinking of lives with her 23 year old husband and her 25 year old brother.
Many women who had small infants were breastfeeding them when we arrived and continued to do so when we did the census. This is one of the most natural things in the world, like being born or using the bathroom, but it was still surprising to see. That isn’t something we see very often in the US. Especially women breastfeeding in front of strangers without any covering. Or women breastfeeding in front of men not related to them. You could pretty much see everything. I have also seen women breastfeeding at the church before and during meetings.
But it is a part of life here. It is a part of life everywhere. I wonder how breastfeeding one’s own child became something that most people do only in the privacy of their own home or in the bathroom when they’re in public when on the other hand we seem to have no problem seeing half-naked women sprawled out in magazines, on TV, in the movies, etc. Breastfeeding, no but sex, yes? Hmmmm. That seems odd to me. NOTE: According to Iowa Code § 135.30A (2002) a woman may breastfeed the woman's own child in any public place where the woman's presence is otherwise authorized.
Something else that was interesting, and I personally think a little weird, were the old men who have young wives. There was one man who was 50 and had a 26 year old wife. I said that’d be like me dating Kathy. At another house was a man who was 73 and had a 19 year old wife. So he was 54 when she was born. Wow! I said that would be like Kathy dating Lynn’s 2½ year old grandson. I’m still having a hard time processing that. I know things are different here and many women marry older men, but it still kind of creeps me out.
When we were driving to the next set of houses we noticed that we’d passed a house. When the truck stopped we asked Miguel why we didn’t go to that house. It was the "Jesus house", he told us. They believed Jesus was coming soon and didn’t want anything to do with us believing we were the anti-Christs. Not a problem. Not everyone wants to meet us and that is just fine. There was only one house where people did not want their picture taken. I’m not sure why and I didn’t think it was polite to ask or push for a picture. They very gratefully accepted the gift package and thanked us for coming.
In total, we visited 55 families today. Many people had 2, 3, 4, or 5 children living with them. One person had 9 children. The youngest person we saw today was 40 days old and the oldest person was 93 (although the 93 year old was in bed and we didn’t see her). We saw many adult children living with their parents and children of their own. We also saw children living with only the grandparents. I also figured out how old some of the mothers were when they had their children. Two women were 14, one was 15, three were 16, two were 17, two were 18, one was 19, and 6 were 20 years old. So 1/3 of the women we visited had had their children when they were 20 years old or younger.
We got back to the Pastoral House around 4:15pm and were ready to relax. It had sprinkled a little while we were in San Francisco but not for long and not very hard. For that we were very grateful. Lynn and I chatted with Tito for a bit and then he took off. Dinner tonight tasted wonderful: hard-boiled eggs, green beans, and French fries. It hit the spot. After dinner we talked with Cecilia and Blanca about San Francisco, the census, and the meeting we’d be having tomorrow with the community.
I decided to look over the census material to see how many families we’d seen today, who we still needed to see, etc. while Lynn looked at the finances for San Francisco. She and I also gave the ladies of the Pastoral House and little sack of goodies. Nothing big, just some soap, candy, towels, and a book of prayers in Spanish to say thank you for all the hard work they do and for taking such good care of us. These are amazing women who put their whole hearts into helping others in their community. They do it full time and for free. To me, that is incredible!
Tomorrow we finish the census and meet with the community of San Francisco in their church. It will be wonderful!! It’s also our last full day here, but I want to be in denial about that for a little while longer. Until tomorrow!