Our plans are always changing. We were going to get up early today to be able to leave by 8:00 so we could go to Usulután to get flowers for tomorrow’s celebration in Alejandría. But Kathy wasn’t feeling well and the ladies decided we could to Santiago de Maria to get the flowers which is much closer. Usulután is about 50 minutes away and Santiago is only 25 minutes away but truck. Since Kathy wasn’t going to be going with us she wouldn’t be driving. So we got to take the bus. This would be my first experience on a bus in El Salvador.
Since Betty wasn’t feeling great either only Maurice, Blanca, Idalia, and I went. We left the house at 8:30am for the bus stop in the center of Berlín. We hopped on the bus, which is a converted school bus, for Santiago. At first Maurice and I were going to share a seat but the seats were pretty tiny and we didn’t fit into the seat well together. So he moved over to his own seat. The ladies sat behind me. Several people got on while the bus was parked to try to sell candy, ice cream treats, mangos, coconut water, and other various items.
We saw a sign that said, “Dios va en mi camino” which means, “God is on my journey” so we figured we’d be safe on the bus going around the curves in the mountains. And we were just fine after the bus took off at 8:45. After a few minutes a young man came around to collect bus fare from everyone which was 75¢. Several people were on the bus though it wasn’t near being full. I had a seat all to myself the whole trip. At one point a young man was playing music on his phone loud enough that most of the bus could hear, but it was good music so I didn’t mind. We passed through Alegría at 9:05 and arrived in Santiago at 9:20; only a 35 minutes drive which was pretty good for being in the bus.
The first place we headed was the indoor market, which Kathy calls Jordan Creek Mall because it’s indoors, bigger, and nicer than the market here in Berlín. You can buy lots of things that you’d need there: clothes, fruit, vegetables, meat, flowers, first aid supplies, etc. Blanca and Idalia knew exactly what they wanted and where they were going. When we found the flowers they were a little disappointed because there weren’t any roses, but they found many other beautiful flowers to buy for the celebration. Maurice was immediately in charge of carrying the flowers and, later on, the other bags. It was nice to have a tall, white person with us because he got stared at and attracted all the attention away from who he calls “the blue-eyed, fair-haired one.”
After purchasing flowers we went to a little store to buy other items for the celebration. The store was a cross between a Hy-Vee and a Target but much smaller. The ladies bought cups, little plastic baskets, candles, bowls, and cleaning supplies. I also bought a couple plastic baskets to help organize my things. We did not, however, buy the gun holsters that were also for sale in the store strategically placed by the baby wipes and brooms. Nor did we buy the “Colesterol crema” (cholesterol cream) that apparently is used for your hair. We made our purchases and were on our way.
On the way back to where the bus stop was we passed a building that read “Taller Mecanico” which is basically a mechanical workshop or store. While the Trinity group was here we were joking that the sign actually meant “taller” so it was a place for Larry and Maurice who are both very tall. Subsequently, we had to get picture of Maurice in front of it. After we took the picture a person in a pickup passed us and I heard someone shout through the window “gringo feo” which means “ugly white person.” I assumed they were talking to Maurice and laughed as I told him what they said. Not very nice, but I rarely hear name-calling like that here. Shortly after that happened a guy standing by the side of the road was trying to sell us combs. Maurice said no and immediately the guy said in English, “Don’t be greedy, my man. Buy a comb.” They had a friendly, brief exchange as we walked toward the car.
We hopped back on the bus around 10:15. Several people got on the bus making it more crowded than the first trip. The vendors came through as usual and tried to sell people things. At one point, a man got on the front of the bus and started talking loudly and holding up a jar of something. We realized he was trying to sell some sort of magical cream and Maurice said he was like an infomercial. He was an effective infomercial because a couple people bought his product.
Around 10:40 the bus took off. We thought it would be a fast bus because a logo on the back of the bus said “misil” which means missile or rocket. Unfortunately, the bus did not live up to its name and got off to a very slow start. This time every seat in the bus was occupied and several people were standing. Blanca told me that when the kids come home from school around 5pm that the bus gets really full with barely enough room to stand. Blanca sat down next to me so no one else would and Maurice shared his seat but was able to sit on the outside. At one point he had to stand up and when he did he had to duck because his head reached the ceiling. I actually fell asleep for a while on the ride home.
The way money is collected and the process of people getting on and off was interesting. The person walking around collecting money would make several sweeps of the bus as people got on and off. When the bus stopped and new people got on he’d shake coins in his hands in front of people if they hadn’t paid yet. Occasionally he’d shake his hand in front of someone who’d already paid in which case they just ignored him. If someone wanted to get off they’d stand up and the guy who collected money would whistle. The bus driver would stop and people got off. Then the guy would whistle again and the bus would start moving.
He barely fits!
God is on my journey
Walking through the mall
I'll take some fresh fruit, please
There is no lack of food to buy here
Gun holsters next to baby wipes, brooms, and rope
Cholesterol cream? What's that for?
He's almost taller than the Taller
Infomercial on the bus
We got back to the house at 11:20. We had a leisurely lunch and spent some time relaxing before we had to leave to help decorate Alejandría. At 2:45pm we all piled into the pickup to head to Alejandría to decorate for the celebration tomorrow. We will be celebrating the recent installation of electricity and running water for each home. It is going to be a huge event with the entire community attending as well as people who helped to fund the project.
We arrived in Alejandría with much work to be done. The tent needed to be set up as well as a tarp to cover people tomorrow from the sun. The plastic streamer decorations that we’ve been working on for a couple days needed to be hung. The road and area where the tents were set up had to be watered with a hose to help eliminate the enormous amount of dust in the area. And flowers needed to be cut out of paper to embellish the large palm fronds tied up at the corners of the tents.
It took a while for everyone to figure out what they needed to do and how they needed to do it. Maurice headed down to the area where the tents were to be set up with a group of guys. Kathy, Betty, and I helped out hanging the plastic streamers. But after a while we asked Blanca if there was anything else we could do because they really didn’t seem to need our help. Blanca put us in charge of designing and cutting up paper flowers to put on the palm fronds. Kathy was handed Maurice’s camera and started taking pictures of everything while Betty and I worked on the flowers. We thought we only needed 20 because that’s what Blanca told us. But later on we needed more so we had to cut up the rest of the paper.
Blanca, Cecilia, and Idalia went with some guys to hang up the streamers at several points on the road. The guys had to dig holes for the poles to be put into the ground and get bamboo from the area. After a bit of a mix up with the poles the guys below figured out how to get the tent set up. Several ladies and a guy were taking turns hosing down the dirt to make it less dusty (this really does work) while other women carried away stones and brush from the area to make it look nicer. Everyone was doing something and by working together we got a lot accomplished.
Soon it was time to hang the streamers around the tents. Good thing Maurice was there because he’s super tall and could help hang the streamers. Kind of like the Bumble in the movie Rudolph. Everyone participated in this including the kids. Soon we’d hung the rest of the streamers on the tent. Next it was time to bring down the palm fronds and decorate them. They were tied to the corners of the tents and decorated with bows and the paper flowers we made. The finishing touch to the decorations was two palm fronds tied together in an arch at the entrance to the area. We didn’t finish until 5:30pm; 2 ½ hours of work!
Also, the reason there are so many photos was because both Kathy and I were taking pictures today as we were working. I only took 35 as we were decorating while Kathy took a whopping 267 (I kid you not!) So I spent a lot of time going through and picking out the good ones. I always thought with a digital camera I would be able to take fewer pictures because I’d be able to erase the bad ones but this turned out not to be the case. I usually take tons of pictures, probably more than I need.
We got home and scarfed down some pupusas for dinner. We spent the evening talking, blogging, and discussing other important issues. I need to get some sleep because tomorrow is going to be busy! I always say that but then I never end up getting to bed until midnight. Something is wrong with my system of doing things.
Margarita's two kids
Where the celebration will be held
Holding the streamers
Starting to decorate
Sometime you have to climb a tree
to hang the streamers
Or a pole
Or a ladder
Good thing we've got other people to help
Decorating in progress
Carrying away sticks and brush
Setting up the first tent
Flower making time
Bus coming through
Cutting the bottom of the bamboo into a point
so it can be stuck into the ground
The first tent is up
Isn't my flower lovely?
Watching the scene around them
Time to set up the tarp
Stretching it out
That is some tall bamboo
Watering the ground
Jesus holding the tarp
Putting up streamers around the tents
Tying them tight
I'm helping too
Margarita with a lot of streamers
Clearing brush from the path
I'm one of the decorations
More water needed
Carrying the palm fronds
Putting up the fronds
Bows and flowers
We need more flowers!
Cutting the bottom
Decorations along the road
Creating the entrance
The finished product