Friday, February 25, 2011

Muñoces fiesta

Thursday, 2-24-11

What a long and interesting day it has been! We started off the day with tamales, eggs, bread, and plantains. Yum!!! Jenny and I went shopping this morning in Berlín. The first place we went was the Niña Luz store. It’s a little shop here in town that sells a lot of jewelry and other trinkets made by a women’s co-op. We walked up the long hill to get to the store. Jenny was going to buy some things to sell at the Christmas Bazaar for Newton Presbyterian. She ended up with earrings, necklaces, key chains, scarves, wall hangings, and candle holders. We had a really fun time shopping. I eventually broke down and bought the “huge thing” that I really wanted. It’s hard to describe. It’s something made of coffee branches and big gourds (morro) that can hold little objects. Jenny described it as a stand with tri-level baskets (see picture below).

After we finished at the store we dropped our goodies off at the Pastoral House so we could check out the market. We looked around for some clothes and other things they were selling. The market wasn’t nearly as busy as it usually is on Sundays and Wednesdays which are main market days. I was looking at a couple dresses that I thought might be fun to wear to the fiesta this afternoon but didn’t have much luck. I did find one pink dress that was absolutely beautiful but when I tried it on I realized it was a little see-through. I really wanted it but Jenny convinced me that I shouldn’t buy it. Good idea. We continued on our way through the marketplace. Eventually we returned to the Pastoral House around noon.

When we got back home Kathy told us that we’d lost electricity around 10:30am. It’s not unusual to lose electricity but sometimes I forget we don’t have it because it’s so light inside the house without having the lights on. We sat down and had a little lunch. We told everyone about our shopping adventures and how we’d managed to refrain from getting ice cream. It was hard to resist, however we decided we should probably eat a decent lunch. A little before 1pm we started to get things ready to head out to Muñoces for the fiesta.

A husky I saw on the way to the artisan shop

My new "huge thing" that I
bought at the artisan shop

We left for the celebration in Muñoces about 1pm. The truck was pretty packed full of various things for the fiesta most of which was food. It was a wild ride in the back of the truck. Imagine this: Riding in the bed of a packed full pickup on a very bumpy canton road holding on to the railing with one hand and a huge piñata in the other hand all while dust was flying into our eyes and we dodged branches so as not to get smacked in the face. Plus we were wearing skirts. Wow! What an adventure!

Once we’d arrived we sat down for a while outside the church while several people in the community finished up a meeting. It was nice to be able to rest for a while. I could have fallen asleep but fortunately we were needed before that happened. After the meeting was over we all went into the church and began the process of putting the food onto plates and then into bags. We needed to make 200 to be sure we had enough for the entire community. It was a long process but we all had a part to fill and did it well. We plated up one enchilada, 2 pupusas, and a bag of sauce onto each plate and put it all into a black plastic bag.

As we made the food for a late lunch/early dinner tons of people from the community showed up. Everyone sat down outside the church as we finished making up the plates for everyone. Manuel, who is the síndico (all things legal) of Muñoces talked for a while to the people about how they want to improve things in their community, how much the Newton delegation works for the people, and how thankful they were to the Newton church. Blanca also spent time talking to the community and giving them her “mother hen pep talk.” The Pastoral Team has been making even more of an effort lately to be more involved in the communities and work with the Directiva or committee in each community. They have been stressing solidarity amongst the community, the partner churches in the US, and the Pastoral Team in all the communities they have been visiting.

Next came the time to whack the piñatas. We had bought four piñatas and filled each with two big bags of candy. The Hello Kitty piñata was for the little girls, the boys got a Barney character piñata, the woman had a hippopotamus piñata, and the men got a Winnie the Pooh piñata. The piñatas were set up one at a time and hung from a tree by the church. They used a bandana I had around my water bottle as a blindfold and a stick from nearby to hit the piñatas. It was hilarious to watch it all! Manuel was in charge and did a pretty good job keeping things under control. As I’m sure you can imagine things could get out of control fast in that situation.

The girls did well and once the piñata burst open they were all over the ground collecting it. With the boy’s piñata the head became separated from the body at one point but the candy hadn’t fallen out so Manuel helped to get the candy out. The women really loved the piñata! At one point, after the piñata had broken open, a little boy tried to get some candy off the ground and he was nearly run over by one woman. He was fine and I didn’t feel too bad since it technically wasn’t his turn. There is no mercy when it comes to piñatas.

The men’s piñata was probably the most fun to watch. We really wanted one particular older man to start. Jenny nicknamed him grandpa. He was in his 80s and walked with a cane/walking stick. They didn’t blindfold him since he was older and we didn’t want him to get hurt. But when he lifted up the stick and took his first swing at the piñata we were all surprised. He hit that thing harder than anyone else had! It was like watching a major league baseball player hit a home run! I could not believe how hard he was able to hit that piñata. It was amazing! It soon burst open and the men ran to get candy. He was able to get a handful and Roberto, the president of the Directiva, also handed him a bunch. After that he hobbled back to his place on the hill with Winnie’s head to look for more candy and to take the wire inside it home. All in all the piñatas were a great success.

After that we began to hand out the food to everyone. We handed it out to people in the same order that we’d done the piñatas. First the girls made a line in front of the church and we handed out the plates of food and pop. Then the boys, then the women, and finally the men were served. Most people found a seat on benches, chairs, or the ground and ate their food. Once we’d finished we handed out the leftover food to the women of the families and also the Directiva. There wasn’t a whole lot of leftover food because the Pastoral Team ladies are really good at estimating how people will show up for these events. Then everyone participated in picking up the trash and mess we’d made.

Warren and Linda took a little time to say goodbye to the community and thank them for inviting us into their homes. Linda closed with the song, “Amazing Grace.” Soon people began to leave. I went over to “grandpa” to say goodbye and to show him the pictures I’d taken of him on my camera when he was hitting the piñata. I couldn’t understand everything he was saying because he was missing most of his teeth and it’s harder for me to understand older people when they speak Spanish. But I got the point of what he was saying and he seemed to understand me. I gave him a hug goodbye and walked to the truck. We waved and said goodbye to everyone in the community.

Loaded up in the back of the truck

Hola Jenny!

Our little friends

Jenny and Ms. Hippo

Cecilia wanted Pooh

Roberto got stuck holding Barney's friend

Not much room to stand

Getting food on the plates

A giant tub of lettuce


Mmmm, the enchilada shells

Done with the food

200 plates in bags

People begin to arrive

Blanca talking to the community

Many people showed up

Kathy found a baby to hold

Manuel talking to the community

I want this one!

Baby Emerson

Whacking at Hello Kitty

Grabbing some candy

Passing out candy

It's the boy's turn

The head and body became separated

No Kathy, you don't need to dance with Ms. Hippo

The ladies go next

Hit it! Hit it!

What a crowd of people

Here comes "grandpa"

Watching her husband

He's a mad man!!

Look at him go!

Grab as much as you can!

Back at his seat with his prize

Time to hand out food

Everyone helped out

Very tasty

Roberto and Manuel talking again

Valentina enjoying pupusas

Linda singing "Amazing Grace" for everyone

I think he's a pretty cute old man!

I showed him the photos I took

Back at the Pastoral House:
I can carry this upstairs

And I did
(It was heavy!)

When we arrived back at the house around 5pm we discovered there was still no electricity. This usually isn’t too much of a problem during the day because it’s so light inside the house that we don’t leave the lights on. Obviously, it’s more difficult to do things in the evening and at night without power. It certainly makes me appreciate the electricity at the Pastoral House a whole lot more. Without electricity there no lights, internet access, TV, radio, clock, or fan. I didn’t want to use my computer because I did not want to drain the battery. The stuff in the fridge and freezer were getting warmer. And that’s only what I have available to me at the Pastoral House.

I can’t even begin to name all the electronics that I have in Iowa which would not function without electricity. I am a very lucky person. Not only can I afford all my gadgets and electronic devices, I can also afford the electricity needed to power them. Going to the cantons has given me somewhat of an idea of what it’s like to be without electricity out in the country. Now, even though some of the cantons have electricity, they are still very limited. Sure a few houses have a TV or a radio but not many. Many people only use the electricity to light one bulb in the house and use it only during the night because that’s all they can afford to pay for. Sometimes they don’t even do that. It is always humbling to think about how millions of people in this world live every day.

I think this would be a good place to mention Earth Hour, which is Saturday, March 26 at 8:30pm (your local time). Not only is it a stand against climate change but I think it can also be a way to remember people who don’t have electricity. So I want to encourage everyone to participate in this easy, one-hour event. I would love to do it here at the Pastoral House. We’ll see how the ladies like the idea. If nothing else, I can at least turn out the lights where I am at that time. Check out the website:

We left at 6pm for dinner in nearby Alegría to say goodbye since the delegation is leaving tomorrow for San Salvador. I thought we were going to the usual restaurant so I was surprised when we stopped on a different street at a restaurant called Mi Pueblito. The view from our table was beautiful. It was getting dark and you could see the valley below. I ordered the beef dish that came with potatoes, rice, salad, cheese, and a tortilla. The menu wasn’t nearly as large as the one at the other restaurant but the food was pretty good.

Shortly after we started eating we were plunged into complete darkness. The lights had gone out at the restaurant. We just couldn’t escape the dark. We all started laughing and talking about how this was going to be an adventure. Someone who worked in the restaurant turned on their car headlights so we could see our food a little bit. Blanca and Kathy had brought small flashlights with them so we set those up as well. The waiter came by with several candles that he lit and set on the table. Unfortunately, the wind was so strong that they were all blown out. We relit them and managed to keep two going. It was dinner by candlelight in El Salvador with good friends. What more could you ask for?

About 10 minutes later the lights came back on. We laughed again and wondered if the lights were on in Berlín. We blew out the candles to conserve what was left of them. Soon we’d finished eating and were heading back to Berlín. It gets cooler at night here especially in the back of the pickup. Warren had left his jacket at the house so Linda lent him her purple long-sleeved shirt. Naturally, we had to give him a hard time about that. But it was a pretty ride back. You could see so many more stars than when you are in the city. At one point Kathy pulled over alongside the road so we could look at all the lights in the valley. Above and below was thousands of twinkling little lights. It is always an amazing sight.

As we arrived in Berlín we could see that the whole city was dark. People were standing outside their houses talking. There’s not a whole lot to do in town when there’s no electricity so people stand outside and chat. We got back home at 7:50pm and the electricity wasn’t on at the Pastoral House either. Kathy said it was unusual for the electricity to be out for that long. The store across the street from the Pastoral House was closed. They’re usually opened later but when the electricity is out everything shuts down. Thankfully, Jenny and I had thought ahead and bought a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy that evening

We walked inside and Cecilia lit several candles. Having red wine by candlelight sounded like a nice idea. I used my tiny flashlight to find the wine while Jenny got us a couple glasses. They weren’t wine glasses but it didn’t really matter since we were drinking it in the dark. Jenny and I poured ourselves a glass and relaxed. Kathy had a tiny glass and Linda joined us with some water. After a while Kathy and Linda went to bed while Jenny and I stayed at the table to chat. We sat back and reflected on the trip.

To our surprise, the lights came back on at 8:35pm. We could hear several people cheering from down the street. It was good to have the lights back, but we were a little dismayed because we’d planned on getting to bed early. But of course, now that we had electricity, that didn’t happen. Kathy came down briefly to say hi. She had also planned to get to sleep but needed to respond to some of the 31 emails she’d received. I decided to work on my blog for a while since I knew it was going to take a long time. Jenny sat next to me and was on the computer as well. Around 10pm we decided to call it a night. It was earlier than I usually go to bed so everything worked out just fine.

Dining on fish

Kathy's shrimp looked tasty
(note the candles on the table)


Group shot

Group shot with Warren

I'm cold!

Nice purple shirt you have there, Warren

The flash on my camera lit up the room



Anonymous said...

You are having fun aren't you! Great pictures. A little snow tonight here- don't you miss it! Love to you, Martha

Anonymous said...

What a fun party! Looks like everyone loved the piñatas. I like the "huge thing" that you bought.

Kevin Pokorny said...

My favorite? Grandpa. The pictures are heartwarming of the people. I feel like I was there with you.