Explanation for the title of the blog will come later.
I slept well last night. It was a short a night for me because I didn’t get to bed til about 1am. I’m a bit of a night owl and definitely not a morning person. I woke up this morning around 7am. It rained all last night but I heard nothing. There was running water this morning. Yay! And the shower has a heater on it so I was going to get warm water. I went in and kept waiting for the water to get warm, but nothing happened. Hmmmm. I guess the heater in that bathroom was broke. Oh well. I sucked it up and took a cold shower. It’s cool here in the mountains of Berlín in the morning so cold water isn't exactly pleasant. Like many times before, I thought about the people in the cantons. I wondered if they ever stopped feeling cold after taking a dump (bucket) shower in the morning. I wondered how often they were able to shower since many places don’t have running water. Though it is getting better in the cantons, it is a far cry from the luxuries we have in the states. I felt really selfish for wanting a warm shower. Shouldn’t I be happy that I have water? Lots to think about.
Breakfast this morning was fantastic as always: fried plantains (my absolute favorite), beans, and eggs. I’m not sure I could ever get tired of plantains. Lynn gave me her two so I four in total. What a porker. I just didn’t want the food to go to waste.
After eating Lynn, Kathy, Cecilia, and I went to the market to get laundry soap balls for the care packages for San Francisco. Ceci showed us where they get them and what ones were best. Lynn, Kathy, and I carried the four boxes of soap back to the house. I eventually got to carry two boxes since I’m the youngen' of the group. Kathy told us that most women here would carry two boxes on their head. And thus began my feelings of inadequacy. You know, I’ve never felt like I was inadequate as a woman in the American culture. I can do all those things that society tells us women should know how to do: cook, clean, be social, stay in touch with family, take care of kids, make babies (not yet), look fabulous (thank you very much), etc.
The comment about carrying the soap made me think, as I have many times before, about what it would be like to be a woman growing up here. If I was throw myself into this environment and asked to live by myself I am not sure I would survive. I have made tortillas a few times but not certain I could do it by myself. I could maybe get by cooking a few things, but I have a feeling I’d end of botching a pot of beans or plantains. I’ve tried recreating some meals in the states, but they never turn out right. I cannot carry things on my head for long distances. Or short distances. I would probably die of dehydration if I had to work in the fields here. I can do laundry (everything is hand washed), but not at the same rate of most of the people here, including the kids. I have washed towels before though I doubt I could do sheets or blankets. It’s hard!! I thought about it all some more as we walked back to the house.
The turtle greeted us when we arrived back at the house. He still doesn’t have a name yet but he is pretty darn cute. We were thinking it’d be funny to paint on his shell something like ‘guard turtle’ or ‘Property of La Casa Pastoral’. Not sure how he’d feel about that. Kathy fed him some bread and he munched away at it. After feeding him Lynn, Kathy, and I walked back to the market to look around. Kathy was looking for some shirts to take to New Zealand with her and Lynn and I just love looking around.
As we were walking to town we saw a small parade with little kids dressed up and a band playing. I think it was for Independence Day, which is Wednesday. The kids were all very adorable. I can’t wait to put pictures up on my blog! We ran into several people we knew at the market. We saw Daniel, who is a ‘delegate of the word’ in San Francisco. We talked to him for a while about going to San Francisco, some people there, how everyone was doing, etc. It was great to see him and we’ll get to see him again in a few days!! We also stopped to see Haydee and get some chocolate from her. It is tasty and is great for hot chocolate. I saw Sergio briefly while I was buying something and told him I had pictures for him at the Pastoral House.
I also ran into 3 students from the boy’s school where I taught earlier this year. It was so wonderful to see them!!! I recognized those 3 right away. I gave them all hugs and told them that hopefully I would be able to visit them this Friday. I have pictures for the teachers so hopefully we can see them. I love those boys!! There were some hard days but all in all I loved being there. And I am so glad they remembered me! I had this fear that I’d come back and everyone would have forgotten who I was. I’m glad that didn’t happen.
We decided to join Kathy and Cecilia at the church service at 5pm instead of going in the morning. So at 10:50am we went back to the house. Miguel, a member of the Pastoral Team who lives in San Francisco, was there. Lynn and I talked to him for a while. I was able to translate most everything he said for Lynn. That also made me very happy because I was worried I would forget the Spanish I knew and my ability to understand what people say. But it all worked out. We talked about changing the itinerary a little bit because on Tuesday people from San Francisco can go to Berlín to get much needed food that is being handed out. They wouldn’t be in San Francisco that day if we went to do the census. And food is obviously much more important. So we’ll probably be doing the census on Wednesday and Thursday.
Miguel said that there are several people who are sick in San Francisco. His dad has been working especially hard and was worrying about getting things done. His dad also wanted to see us on Tuesday but said he won’t be able to see us until Wednesday. I’m just glad we’ll get to see him at some point. We talked about San Francisco getting electricity and the new water tanks for a few families. Changes are being made and things are improving, but life is still a struggle.
After chatting with Miguel we worked on putting together the gift packages. In a big towel we put laundry soap, bathing soap, 1 pound of beans, band-aids, Tums, acetaminophen, 4 toothbrushes, and toothpaste. Then we tied it all together with twine. They are beautiful!! Blanca came out to help us and Cecilia came out to. Ceci was supervising us; she was the boss and we were the workers. She was pretty strict but thankfully Lynn declared that we’d form a union. Blanca was the president, Lynn was vice-president, Kathy was secretary, and I became treasurer. Mauricio, Cecilia’s brother, even joined us to help. We got 35 packages put together. Great progress!!
We had a little lunch- chicken, pasta, and veggies (guisquil, pipian, carrots). I also had a tortilla. We sat and ate and talked to Miguel for a while. Then came time for our big afternoon plans. Instead of walking to San Lorenzo Lynn, Kathy, and I were going to the milpa (farm) of Blanca and Cecilia to help with the corn crop. Awesome!!! We were super excited. I was especially excited because I got to use a big machete for the first time. We hopped in the back of the pickup and headed for Alejandría. The road was crazy bumpy, as always, with lots of ruts and holes.
We parked the pickup along the road and had to hike to the milpa. And what a hike it was. Uphill quite a ways and along some steep edges. I was out of breath by the time we got to the top of the hill. But we made it. And I got to carry the machete the whole way which made it even better. Then we began to walk downhill, very steep downhill, and things got tricky. I had to walk slow and watch my footing. Lynn may have fallen once or twice though I’m not sure it’s that supposed to be public knowledge.
The view of the valley below was beautiful. We could also see La Geo, the geothermal plant, which is not so beautiful. Or good for the environment. There was a lot of fruit on the ground, mainly mangoes and jocotes, which attracted tons of butterflies. I saw yellow, orange, blue, black, white, and many other kinds of butterflies. It seemed like they were dancing around us trying to get us to stop and enjoy the beauty of it all.
I’d say it was maybe a little less than a mile to get there from where we parked the truck (though I could be completely off). And it was hot. Very, very hot. I was dripping with sweat, and my sunscreen was dripping, by the time we got there.
The corn was growing on the side of a steep hill, the way much corn grows around here. Our job was going to be to go down and chop down the weeds and then gently bend over the cornstalks that were brown so they could dry out and the corn could be harvested. Not wanting to fall down and roll to the bottom of the hill (which was more like a small mountain) Lynn decided to stay at the top and shuck the corn. She was, after all, a member of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and quite experienced in the art of corn shucking.
I bravely followed Blanca and Alejandro (Cecilia’s brother) part way down the hill with Kathy behind me. I was just hoping I didn’t fall and take anyone out on my way down. But we did fine. We watched once more as Alejandro explained to us what exactly we were supposed to be doing. First, we chopped down the giant weeds with our machetes. Then, right underneath the corn cob closest to the ground, we tapped a few times gently with the machete and bent it over gently so with would bend but not break. After accidentally breaking one stalk and not want to ruin the crop I had Alejandro show me once again how to properly bend it over.
I left several cornstalks unbent if I thought they were too green, deciding it would be best if Alejandro bent them over if he thought they were brown enough. It was very hard work and we didn’t work all that long. I really like whacking the weeds with my machete. I dare say it was kind of fun. I’m sure I would feel differently if I had to do it every day in extreme heat with little water for days on end. But it was a good experience and a lesson in what daily life is like for people here.
After about an hour we headed back up the hill to take a quick break and head back to the truck. Blanca and Alejandro both hauled big bags of corn up the hill. We had some water, shucked a bit more corn, and started the trek back to the car. Alejandro put the bag of corn on his shoulder and Blanca balanced a bag on her head. And once again I was back to feeling a bit inadequate. Farm work, especially on the milpas here in El Salvador, is very difficult work. So is carrying things on your head. Very heavy things. Without using your hands. Going down a steep hill. A hill that is full of mud. Wow, wow, wow! Back at the pickup Lynn and both tried to carry the bag of corn on our head. We could carry it holding on with one hand, thought I doubt we’d be able to do it for long. But as soon as we let go the bag fell. We are not skilled in balancing heavy objects on our heads.
Back at the house we took a break for a while and cleaned up after getting all sweaty at the milpa. We heard the church bells ringing and headed off for church around 5:20. It started around 5:30pm. We were all really tired but no one fell asleep. A couple interesting things happened during church. At one point some clouds (like thick fog) starting drifting into the church through the open window. It got a little cooler inside after that. We also saw a man get up out of the pew and go outside to spit and then returned to his seat. ‘At least he went outside to spit,’ Kathy pointed out to us. True, true. The service ended around 7:30pm and we headed back to the house.
While waiting for dinner we put a few more gift packages together and then wolfed down some pupusas. They were delicious. There was some light conversation followed by the three of us watching a movie in Kathy’s office about Rufina Amaya. She was the only survivor during the Massacre at El Mozote in 1981 during the Civil War. I had seen it once before but it was great to see it again. If you look back at my previous blogs during week 2-14-2010 to 2-21-2010 you’ll see one called El Mozote and Perquín. That has the story of El Mozote as well as information about Rufina Amaya and some of pictures I took when I was at the massacre site in February. She told a sad and powerful story. One that is hard to hear but must be heard. I recommend reading more about it.
For now, I bid you farewell. I am going to bed. A whole hour earlier than last night.