It has been a very long and interesting day for all. The day started out pretty well. Breakfast was delicious and I got Lynn’s extra plantains which always makes me happy. The tortoise came out to visit us while we were eating so I went out and feed him some bread. Then Lynn, Kathy, and I went out to the market to buy some shoes for the women at the house. It was sort of a gag gift because they said they needed better shoes for the walking we were going to be doing today in the cantons. So we got them some very flat, non-treaded, plastic shoes. Beautiful!
It is Independence Day here so there were lots of people out on the street. We saw tons of people in uniforms for parades, bands, and a few fancy dresses. I ran into several teachers from the school I taught at and stopped to talk with them for a while. It was wonderful to see them again!! Sadly, something is now going on at the school on Friday and they won’t be there so I won’t be able to visit. Major bummer. I’m just glad I’ve seen so many students and teachers out and about in Berlín.
Around 8:30am we piled up 40 gift packages in plastic bags and backpacks and put them in the truck. Then Blanca, Cecilia, Kathy, Lynn, Tito, and I hopped in a headed for San Francisco. When we arrived in San Francisco a few people were waiting for us at the church. We talked very briefly with some people in the church around 9am and then 12 of us were off to do the census.
There are several caserios (like little neighborhoods) in San Francisco. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take the truck because another truck was stuck in the road. Plus the road was very muddy and the hills we went down were so steep the truck might not be able to make it (down or up). The first house we went to visit was in the caserio of Cimarron. It was pretty close to the church. There was a husband a wife there with their three children and one on the way. The youngest boy (3) was walking around with a machete. Again, not unusual. We asked for their names and ages. We told them where we were from and why we were walking around the canton. Then we presented them with a gift package.
Then began the long descent. And I mean LONG descent. We had three more families to get to in Cimarron. But it wasn’t too bad because it was all downhill, which I think it much easier. Of course, that meant we’d have to go back up the mountainside at some point. But it was a nice walk. We all talked and Lynn and I sang a bit. It was hot but overcast so it wasn’t unbearable. We stopped several times along the way to enjoy the scenery and take pictures.
Then we reached the second family. We repeated the same process with the first house. We introduced ourselves, took the information, and gave them a gift package. At this house they had sugar cane growing. Several of the guys cut some for us then stripped the outer layer. The inside was pulpy and sweet. You chewed on the pulp to get out the juice and then spit out the pulp. Very tasty. It was really fun to see what real sugar tasted like. I explained that we really didn’t have sugar cane in the US, that it was imported. Sugar is one of the main exports of El Salvador.
It was a nice to have a break, but if we were going to do more houses then we’d need to pick up the pace. So down, down further we went to the next house. We reached the next house at 10:50am. Only one woman was there because everyone else was working in the fields planting beans. We talked with her a little and gave her a gift package. We took a photo of her in front of her flowers. Then it was time to move on.
We started the long trek back up the mountainside to visit the last family in Cimarron that wasn’t there when we’d visited earlier. It was a beast of a climb. I mean, we had basically walked 2.5 miles straight down the side of the mountain and now we had to turn around and walk back up. For those of you who have been to the cross in Berlín, this was much longer and just as steep. Everyone was huffing and puffing. We finally made it to the fourth family. The husband, wife, and their daughter were there for us to meet. We took the census info, gave them a gift, and headed back up the “road”.
I was dripping with sweat from every single pore on my body. I have only been this sweaty a few times in my life. My calf muscles ached from the steep incline of the hill and my lungs cried out for air. I couldn’t imagine living down where those people did. Every time they want to go to the market to get food, soap, clothes, medicine, or anything else they had to walk up and down this hill. It really took a lot out of me. It took a lot out of everyone. Several times we stopped to take a break, drink some water, and get some air.
It was 11:35am and then the thing we were hoping wouldn’t happen, happened. It started raining. Here we are trying to hike up this steep mountain on a road that’s full of mud and then it starts pouring down rain. At first it felt refreshing, especially after being covered in sweat and yuckiness. But then it just dumped on us. It is, after all, the rainy season. Luckily, I had brought a plastic bag with me to put my camera and little notebook in.
At one point it was pouring so hard that we stopped in at someone’s house to get out of the rain. Kathy, Miguel, myself, and another man with us went inside. They put out some chairs for us to sit on. How wonderful are those people!?! It was pouring buckets and they opened there humble home to us so we could not become totally waterlogged. Cecilia, Blanca, and another woman were ahead of us, and we were waiting for the rest of the group to catch up with us. Pretty soon Lynn, Tito, Daniel, and Miguel Sr. came along and they were dripping! We all looked like drowned rats.
Unfortunately, this is not the kind of rains that stops. So after a while we all went back outside into the rain. When we caught up with Cecilia and Blanca the rain had slowed a bit. They handed us some black plastic bags for us to put our purses in to prevent them from becoming totally ruined. Then we kept on walking up the mountain. In the pouring rain. On a muddy, wet road. It was an interesting experience. A humbling experience.
We got divided into two groups and I was in the group in front. Miguel told us it was only another 20 minutes to get to the car. At one point the group in front stopped to wait for the others to catch up. Cecilia had some crackers and jocotes with her that we eagerly snatched up and ate. It was past noon and all our stomachs were rumbling. On the upside, I was no longer covered in sweat. Yes, I was completely soaked but it helped to wash away all the grossness.
Pretty sooner it started to rain again. Really hard. So I walked back to the truck with a few other people while Kathy and Miguel waited for the second group. Not sure why we did this because when we reached the area where the truck was parked we just stood in the rain waiting for everyone else. But it was all good. I had a chance to practice my Spanish and get to know the others in the group. However, it took an hour to get from the house where we stopped to the car. I think Miguel’s concept of time is a bit off.
When the second half of our group arrived we all walked to the pickup. It was 1:30pm. The rain had slowed again and we got cookies and coca-cola out of the car. We munched for a while and talked about what we wanted to do. It was decided that we’d be done for the day because the rain probably wasn’t going to stop and it would be very hard to do more of the census. The people here know the rain very well.
So Kathy hopped inside the pickup while Blanca, Cecilia, Lynn, Tito, and I got in the bed. There was no room inside because the 36 other packages were in there and they needed to stay dry. And guess what happened then. It started raining again. And not just raining, it was pouring. It can be very dangerous to be out in that weather in a truck because it could hydroplane or one the roads because it’s extremely slippery. So we needed to get back to the house quickly and safely. Thankfully, Kathy knows what she’s doing and how to handle the canton roads.
Then it started to rain even harder!! By then we were all freezing. It was COLD! My lips turned blue as did my fingernails and part of my hands. It was shivering and had goosebumps. But we were all laughing hysterically in the back of the truck. I think it must have been some sort of defense mechanism to keep from feeling the cold even more. It felt like cold hail was hitting us all over and the wind from standing in the back of the truck was icy. I clutched the black plastic bag that my purse was in and prayed we’d made it back to the house quickly.
By the time we reached the house I was so cold and stiff it didn’t want to move. But I had to get out of the truck. We walked inside and up above the garage area. Idalia brought us some towels to dry off with. Then Lynn and I both changed clothes. We were soaked through and through, and unfortunately, things don’t here very quickly.
At 2pm we sat down to a delicious lunch of chicken, rice, and tortillas. It tasted marvelous. I had some hot tea to help keep me warm. Lynn, Kathy, Tito, and I all say around and talked at the table for almost an hour. We weren’t going anywhere and it felt good to sit down. Eventually Lynn, Tito, and I walked out to the area by the garage to chat for a while. We talked about all sorts of things and rested our weary bodies. After 2.5 miles of walking down the mountainside in the heat and walking 2.5 miles back up the mountainside in the rain we needed a break.
Tito took off around 4:30 for home. Lynn and I chatted a little more and then decided to walk around town a bit since it had stopped raining. We needed to stretch our legs so they wouldn't be sore. We took umbrellas with us just in case. Sadly, much of today’s Independence Day festivities were cancelled because of the rain. We looked around for a specific pancake mix for Lynn but couldn’t find it.
One the way back to the house we stopped at the hostel called La Casa Mia for a drink. Lynn had a coca-cola and I had a Pilsner (Salvadoran beer). We talked a bit but had to get back to the house before dark. On the way back saw some guys doing their business on the street. Not sure how to put that politely. Watering the ground? Again, not unusual. We tried to keep from laughing and told Cecilia what we’d seen when she let us in.
No one was really hungry for dinner so we skipped it. Kathy talked to Lynn and me in the chapel for a while about some things she’d learned about Father Romero. We discussed the war and the future of the country here. We also talked about San Francisco and what we need to discuss at the meeting tomorrow. It was some pretty serious conversation. There is a lot to discuss. Lots to think about.
And with that I say goodnight. Breakfast tomorrow is at 6:30am and we need to be to San Francisco by 8am. Pray for no more rain!!!