Today has been a very busy day indeed! It started around 7:10 as I was about ready to leave for school. Idalia told me to come into the other room. I came in and found a pigeon had flown in and couldn’t figure out how to get out. I asked her if we needed to help it and she said yes. So I put my things down and climbed up on the table to retrieve the pigeon. I grabbed it as delicately as I could and carried it outside. I put it on the steps and it flew away. Idalia told me I was very kind.
I walked up to the school and made it on time. Thank goodness. I hate being late. When I arrived at my classroom the door wasn’t open yet. All the first graders from the classroom next door were outside playing with a ball. Each time someone kicked the ball they all shrieked in high pitched voices and kind of laughed like hyenas. It was probably the most annoying sound I heard all day. But soon the bell rang. The teacher for my class finally showed up and let us into the classroom.
I hadn’t been able to celebrate my birthday with this class last week so I wanted to do it today by learning fun words and playing Lotería. Before I got started the class sang me Happy Birthday in Spanish. I was really sweet. Then they presented me with two gifts: a hat made by the teacher and a scarf that one of the kids made. I love them! I saw the teacher and student making them last week and commented on how interesting they were. I gave the kids and teacher a hug and then modeled the hat and scarf for them. They all laughed and smiled.
My brain must not have been functioning because for some reason I wrote down on the board that it was Monday. After I’d written it the teacher looked at me really strange. Then she told me it was Tuesday. Duh. Where is my brain? During the class we were playing Lotería and the kids looked confused when I read the word “catrin.” Well, that’s because Lotería is normally made in Mexico and the word is Mexican slang. So I explained to the kids the “catrin” is like an elegant man. They thought that was funny.
After I was done with classes I tried to get home as quickly as possible because I was going with the Pastoral Team and Jerry to the canton of Santa Cruz today to deliver the water tanks and food packets. I bought some toasted plantains on my way home to eat. As soon as I got back I got my things ready to go and then grabbed an apple, cookies, bread, and another apple to eat. As I was stuffing my face Blanca started laughing and said that I was eating like “perico” (parrot); I was pecking furiously at all my food. Kathy told me that we’d be eating lunch in Santa Cruz so I didn’t need to eat so much. Oh good. I was pretty hungry.
Soon it was time to leave. Instead of riding in the cab of the pickup Jerry and I decided to ride in the back of the big truck with some of the water tanks and food packets. There were two other giant trucks full of water tanks as well. Little did we know what we were getting into. We piled in as did several other people from Santa Cruz who’d come to the house to help. On the way out of Berlín we stopped four times to pick up more people. I was pretty squished on the bench next to everyone else but it was a fun experience. They all said that I could go inside the cab since there wasn’t much room and they didn’t want me to get sunburned, but I said I preferred to ride outside.
On the way there I saw a blue morpho butterfly. It was beautiful! I’ve always loved that kind of butterfly. I didn’t move fast enough to get a picture but it was nice just to see it. It normally takes about an hour to get to Santa Cruz but on the giant truck it took about 1 ½ hours. I also saw several pericos (parrots) and heard them squawking. They asked if I liked the pericos and I responded that I did. This conversation is important because it played a part in what happened later in the day.
When we arrived in Santa Cruz there was a small group of people waiting for us. This group grew bigger until eventually there was someone from every family in the community in attendance. The big trucks were driven onto the local soccer field. Once everyone had arrived the president of the Directiva, Edwin, spoke for a while about the generous gift of the water tanks. He thanked God, Jerry, and the Pastoral Team for not only recognizing the needs of the community but also for responding to those needs. After he spoke Blanca, Cecilia, Kathy, and Jerry all talked for a short period of time. There’s always lots of talking before a project commences or a gift is given. I love that the people in the cantons remember God when giving thanks. They inspire me every time I see them.
Next came the fun part: giving away the tanks. There are around 45 families in Santa Cruz and each one was going to receive and water tank and a food packet. Before receiving the items they had to sign for them, just like people do when signing for fertilizer. If people aren’t able to write their name then they put a fingerprint next to their name. One by one the water tanks were unloaded from the truck and people carried them to a spot on the soccer field. It was incredible to watch people getting their tanks. Everyone was smiling, excited, and talking; like it was Christmas morning and they’d all gotten really wonderful gifts.
In some cases people had brought their children with them to get the tanks. It’s always wonderful to see the children and older adults at these kinds of things. Many times other people from the community help the older adults carry heavy items. I’m not sure how heavy the tanks were but they couldn’t have been too light. But people were carrying them around like they weighed nothing. The strength of people in this country astounds me. Everyone seems incredibly strong. Even the older folks who look very fragile are deceptively strong.
The whole process took about an hour. I will let the pictures do most of the talking. They are able to express a meaning that I cannot seem to capture with words. After the tanks were handed out the president of the Directiva spoke again briefly about the gifts and giving thanks to the people involved in helping the community. There were lots of handshakes and hugs from everyone and then we were whisked away to Oscar’s house for lunch. The people grabbed their tanks and began the walk back to their homes. I wanted to stay longer to watch everyone go but I was told to go into the house for lunch.
The biggest surprise for me during the day came just before we ate lunch. Edwin and Oscar presented me with a small perico (parrot) for me to take home. Really!? I looked at the ladies to get their approval and they nodded their heads. Yay!! I have always wanted to have that kind of bird! Now I have a sweet chicken and an adorable bird. Technically, what they call “pericos” here are normally what we could call “conures.” The kind I was given is called a half-moon conure (don’t ask me how I know these things). I was really excited. I gave the bird a cracker and some fruit to eat. I thanked both Oscar and Edwin for the gift!
After getting our fill of chicken, rice, and vegetables it was time to head back to Berlín. But before we left a bunch of us hopped into the back of the pickup so we could see the rest of the canton of Santa Cruz. I was glad we had the opportunity to see the rest of the canton because I’ve only been there a few times. It was hard for me to see the rest of the canton because it’s such a poor community. Granted, all the cantons around Berlín are poor but this is one of the poorest. The houses were in noticeably worse shape than many in other communities I’ve been to. I felt like crying. I’m glad the families were able to get a food packet and a water tank to help them out, but I still felt a deep sorrow in my heart.
We dropped off Oscar and his wife as someone else’s house and waved goodbye. I hope we get to see them again soon. On the way back to Berlín we picked up a young man and his bicycle. He was going from El Tablón to Berlín, where he lives. It takes him about 2 hours to get from El Tablón to Berlín. He’s out there right now helping to build bathrooms for families through the organization FISDL. The distance people travel to work, buy food, and get water never ceases to amaze me. So many people struggle every day to live. They keep me humble and gracious for what I have.
Getting ready to load up the water tanks
Load em up and tie em down
Up goes a water filter
Ready to go
He's hangng on tight
Lots of people
Holding onto the side
We've arrived in Santa Cruz
Here come the other trucks
Jerry has a toy
A line of kids following him
It's a rocket launcher!
Starting to unload
Let's get started
Taking down the first tanks
Free accessories included
The first couple tanks
Balancing on the head does not look easy
Those are huge
Signing for the tanks
Always taking photos
I love this old lady
Watching the tanks come off the truck
He didn't have to walk too far
Oscar signing for his tank
Fingerprint instead of a signature
The sheet with signatures and fingerprints
Taking a rest
Unloading the last one
All the tanks are off the trucks
Edwin talking again to the community
Lots of hands to shake
Getting ready to head home
Mission coworker job description:
Other duties as required
My conure came home with me in a little box.
On the box I wrote: "I love my conure.
Alisha's conure. Birthday present."
Showing the kids their pictures
Balancing act in the pickup
Houses of Santa Cruz
A new house being built
Homes made of logs and mud
Surrounded by weeds
Very humble homes
They use plastic to keep out the rain
When we returned to the house I went into the bathroom and took a dump shower. The water felt so nice and it was great to get clean. As I showered I thought about the families in Santa Cruz and their new water tanks. I felt guilty for having access to and enjoying the water at the Pastoral House. But I think it’s good that I remember and that I struggle with my feelings. I need to remember what life is like for people living in the cantons. I don’t ever want to be indifferent or unaffected by the poverty I see.
Sometime tomorrow we’re hopefully going to go find a bird cage for my perico, who has yet to be named. But for tonight she’s staying in a plastic guacal (basin) that has lots of holes. It’s the ones we use to dry dishes. I put in a jocote for her and some more crackers. I was told that these kinds of birds also like to eat masa (corn dough) and other fruit. Matt called me on Skype so I was able to introduce him to my perico. He also wants to get a bird someday so he was excited as well. So far I’ve received two birds as presents from people. Cecilia says we’re missing a turkey so I’ll see if I can’t get that sometime in the future (not really).
Soon it was time to head out to Alegría for dinner. Jerry and I again rode in the back of the truck. I love feeling the wind and seeing the sights around me. When we arrived in Alegría we walked down to a couple flower stores to see what they had. The ladies love looking at plants and flowers. I’ve been there once before but it was nice to go back. The flowers here are so beautiful. At one of the stores they even had a pomegranate tree!! I’ve never seen one before so I was very excited. It made me hungry for pomegranates.
After the ladies bought a couple plants we walked to the restaurant for dinner. It’s the new restaurant that we’ve been going to. In the past I’ve ordered steak, chicken, and shrimp so tonight I ordered pork. It was delicious and the restaurant changed their potato salad to french fries so I was extra excited. We munched and chatted away for over an hour. We had to drag ourselves out of there a little before 8:00pm.
When we got back I felt like my mind and body were still trying to go at 100 mph. I’m just glad I got this blog written. Right now I need to get to bed because I’ve been informed that I’ll be getting up tomorrow at 5:30am to go to Mercedes Umaña to pick up the fertilizer. Woo hoo!!
Introducing my perico
Chelita is getting bigger
They are sisters
I love her!
A different one than before
I'll take one
Can't remember the name
Fun looking plant
Dinner at Mi Pueblita restaurant
My new hat and scarf from one of my 5th grade classes
How is the duck poo in your office my fault?