Today has been kind of a crazy day. I got up and went to school at 7:15 as usual. During first period on Thursdays the kids have something called “formación” which is a kind of civic exercise of some sort. They also have it on Monday during 1st period. The problem with that is the director scheduled me to have classes during that period. And because formación takes up most of first period on Thursday I don’t have much time to teach afterwards. My fifth grade section B class is only scheduled for English classes on Tuesday during hour 2nd period and Thursday during 1st period. So they’re really only getting one class a week, which is less than the other classes I’m teaching. Hopefully the director will be at school tomorrow (he wasn’t there today) so I can see if we can change my class schedule so that I teach fifth grade section B during the 2nd period. I knew planning my class schedule wasn’t going to be that easy. Last year we changed my schedule three times before it was “just right”.
After 1st period I went on to my next class, sixth grade section A. I told them that today was a going to be a special day because my birthday is tomorrow. They all applauded. I started by teaching them some important words associated with birthdays including happy birthday, party, candy, and how old are you. They enjoyed that and afterwards I put a sticker on everyone’s paper. Next I asked them if they knew how to play the game Lotería, which is kind of like Bingo. “Sí” (yes) they all shouted. Lotería has pictures on it of various items along with the name of the item and you try to fill up each space on your card. I got out the cards for the game and passed them out. Then I realized that I’d forgotten the cards you use to call out the words at home. Great. I told the kids what happened. “Porque soy anciana,” I told them (Because I’m old). They all laughed.
The teacher cut up some extra copies of the cards that I had to use as the “calling cards.” In the mean time I passed out two pieces of candy to each kid. I’d planned to do this at some point during the class and I told them that I’d do it now since I’d forgotten the cards and they had to wait. Eventually we were ready to play the game. I called out the different items in Spanish and then repeated the word in English (this is an English class, after all). The kids did well at first and then it seemed to get louder and louder. They were really excited and kept saying “falta tres” or “falta dos” (I’m missing three or I’m missing two). We had several winners and I passed out suckers for the kids who won. Shortly after that the bell rang.
I walked to my next class, sixth grade section B, for 3rd period and found that the door was shut. I asked a student where the teacher was and he told me she was gone today. That means no class today. So I went back to my fifth grade section B class thinking I could teach during the 3rd hour but that door was also shut. This was confusing to me because the teacher and students were there during 1st period. Well, it turns out that it was her turn to cook in the kitchen this week so that’s where she was. So I decided to go to my 1st grade class, which I typically have during period 4, to see if I could teach now, during period 3. Not a problem.
Well, as soon as the bell rang and it was time for class to start (I did all that walking around in between classes) it was time for my first grade class to get food. So they all left. I looked at the various posters and other things in the classroom until they returned. By then we only had about 20 minutes left of 3rd period so I decided to spend the last 20 minutes reviewing the alphabet and some important birthday words. I gave them all stickers after they wrote down the couple words I had selected. They had their free time for ten minutes and then returned to class. I decided to also spend period 4 with them since that’s when I typically teach 1st grade. By then my schedule was so messed up I figured whatever I did didn’t really matter.
We spent the time playing Lotería. This was also crazy but in a different way than 6th grade. After I called out the item if they had it on their card they said, “Sí!” But if they didn’t have it then they wagged their fingers and said, “No!” I told them that I didn’t need to know if they had the item on their card or not. Plus they kept getting up and running to others kids seats to see what they had. So today we worked on the English phrases, “Sit down” and “Are you ready?” It didn’t take them long to figure out what those phrases meant. They sat down when I said, “Sit down” and they all said, “Sí” (yes) when I asked if they were ready. At the end of the period I gave suckers to the winners and two small pieces of candy to everyone in the class.
After my 4th period class I left school because all the teachers had a meeting to go to. So I only ended up teaching 2 of my 5 classes today. I meant to get some pictures but that just didn’t happen. That’s school in El Salvador for you. It’s always an adventure. Apparently they had a crazy morning at the Pastoral House as well so we “ordered out” for lunch. We had chicken, rice, salad, and tortillas for lunch. We also had a delicious fruit drink made with fresh pineapple, apple, and marañon fruit. I love these drinks!
This afternoon around 2pm Kathy, Cecilia, and I left to go to San Miguel, which is a city about 45 minutes away. The canton of Santa Cruz, which is not partnered with a church in the US, received money for water collection tanks from someone wanting to help out the community. This is huge for the community because even though they have running water it only runs once a month. They will be able to fill those tanks with that water during dry season when they’d otherwise have to walk a long ways to get water and take in home in their cántaros (plastic water jugs).
All of the work to order the tanks and negotiate the price was done over the phone. But to ensure transparency, the Pastoral Team wanted to go to the store where they were purchasing the tanks so they could get a receipt. These are the kinds of things that the Pastoral Team is doing now to demonstrate to the people in Iowa that the money being sent down is being used properly. Delegates who come down are able to look at the records, account, and receipts from all the things that have been done with their money. For example, when people from Westminster come down (the church I go to) the delegates can look at all the records and receipts for things in San Francisco (our sister community).
Apparently we got stuck in traffic for about 25 minutes once we got to downtown San Miguel. I wasn’t aware of this because I was sleeping. It is really hot in San Miguel because it’s not in the mountains like Berlín is. The heat sort of lulled me to sleep. I vaguely remember Kathy saying something about me being asleep and I mumbled something back about only being asleep for 5 minutes. When I woke up we were stuck in traffic in downtown San Miguel. Lovely. Eventually we made it through and found a place to park in the parking lot for the store.
The store we went to is called Freund. I’m not exactly sure what kind of store it is. Kind of like a hardware store. One huge difference between this store and places in Berlín was that this store was air-conditioned. Wow! I guess it gets so hot in San Miguel that a lot of places are air-conditioned. I can’t imagine living there in that heat. We looked around the store for a while and the various things. I was amazed by all the things they had in the store. It was kind of like being at a Menard’s in the US. I found an area with a bunch of signs and decided I really needed to get one. I picked out one that says, “No armas” (no guns) to put in my room. Kathy got one that says, “Precaución: Zona Peligrosa” (Caution: Danger Zone) to put on her office door. We looked at other things to see how much they cost. For example, a garbage can, the kind you’d get with wheels and lid, cost $154. Yikes!
I couldn’t resist buying a Twix bar at the checkout area. I love candy, especially chocolate, and you don’t really find a lot of that here in Berlín. I also got a bag of M&Ms but decided to give them to Cecilia. I didn’t need to be a pig. We left the store after Cecilia purchased the tanks. I think they will be delivered sometime next week to Santa Cruz. We asked the parking lot attendant where the nearest pizza place was but he didn’t know. So we figured we’d drive around and find one.
We passed a bank on the way to get food. There are always armed security guards at banks. Often times you’ll also see them at gas stations, when trucks are unloading, and various other places where you wouldn’t expect to see armed security guards in the States. The guy we passed had one assault rifle strapped to his chest and was holding another one. “One AK-47 isn’t enough,” Kathy commented. I guess not. She was doing her best to get us to the pizza place in one piece. The buses here can be kind of crazy. As we were driving Kathy informed me that, “The buses take all three lanes where there are two.” The heat must have gotten to me because I just started laughing hysterically. Two memorable quotes in five minutes!
We found a Pizza Hut and parked the truck. The inside was air-conditioned which was getting weird for me. I’m rarely in air-conditioning here in El Salvador. It’s usually only in the big cities in the really nice places. Pizza Hut is one of those places in San Miguel. You don’t find Pizza Huts or other restaurants like it in Berlín. We ordered a couple pizzas to take home to everyone. As we sat and waited I began to fell strange sitting in the Pizza Hut. It just didn’t feel right to me. All of the dirt, heat, sweat, sore muscles, and simple food didn’t exist inside that Pizza Hut. It’s like life in the cantons didn’t exist when I was there. And I didn’t like that. I don’t want to forget how humbled I am by the amazing people who live in the cantons around Berlín. I don’t want to forget that life isn’t clean and worry-free for everyone. The pizza was a nice treat but I was glad to leave.
The ride back home took longer than usual. For some reason traffic was going really slow. Never did figure out why. As we were going through Mercedes Umaña Cecilia told Kathy to stop at a store so we could get Chelita some more food. I got out of the truck but no one came with me. They told me to go in and get it. “I have no idea what I’m looking for,” I said. Cecilia told me to get “Dos libras de concentrado” which is two pounds of concentrate (specific concentrated chicken food). I still had a confused look on my face and a little girl across the street took pity on me and helped me out. By then Kathy and Cecilia were laughing and I was as well. “Por cual?” the girl asked me (For what?) I was still oblivious so Kathy finally got out of the truck. Ahhh, it’s for a little chicken. Yes, I knew that. I got my food for Chelita and headed back to the truck. I told Cecilia that I also asked to buy a horse but they weren’t selling any. She just laughed.
When we finally got home around 6pm we saw that Blanca, Idalia, and Alejandro were putting together food packets. The packets are a gift from the Ankeny Presbyterian to the people in their sister community of Corozal who helped to work on the new church that was built. We set aside the pizza and worked on putting the food packets together. In each packet is 5 lbs of rice, 4 lbs of salt, 5 lbs of sugar, bags of lye for the corn, 2 cans of sardines in tomato sauce, 2 lbs of spaghetti noodles, 2 packages of soup mix, 2 bags of instant noodles, 1 bag of oil, 1 bag of dried milk, and 1 package of cookies. We got several finished and then took a break for pizza. After dinner we finished up the bags. I think we have 58. The ladies didn’t go up to bed until 9:30pm, which is late for them. It’s been a long crazy day and we’re all tired.
Stuck in traffic
That's Jesus on the back of the cab
Walking in the giant hardware store
Lots of cool signs!
$154 for a garbage can?!
$18 for a plastic tub
Lovely bus fumes
Hey! Roosevelt Avenue!
Uh-oh!! She looks mad!
Food for the packets
Bagging the rice
Putting it all in a bag
We eventually found our groove
Lots of bags
Kathy helping out
Ewww! Dirty feet!
She's trying to run away from the camera
Cecilia checking to make sure each bag had cookies