Sunday, March 6, 2011

El Tablón

Friday, 3-4-11

Whew!! What a long and wonderful day!! We left the Pastoral House today at 7:45 to head out to El Tablón for 2 days. When we arrived in El Tablón Centro at 8:45 we went to visit the school. One of the teachers gave us a tour of the school. They have four classrooms, two of which are new thanks to the NGO Interveida and money from Japan. The whole school has a new roof and windows. They turned the old bathroom into a storage shed and a place for garbage. The new bathrooms are nice. We got to see their kitchen where the moms of the children volunteer to cook. They have a water collection tank but it’s still hard to find water in the dry season. We also saw the principal’s office, a small library, and a second storage room. None of the kids were at the school because they were all at a soccer game.

Kathy had driven to drop off our overnight things in the caserío of Cerna which is also in El Tablón. When she arrived back at the school we began the meeting with some of the Directiva of the community and some of the school board. Blanca started the meeting and then we all introduced ourselves. They told us that they had finished building the two new classrooms in September 2010. They had the inaugural celebration on the 18th of February. The school has kindergarten through 9th grade with a total of 220 students. The kids in El Tablón who want to go to on to high school in Berlín are provided with a scholarship from Heartland Presbyterian.

The meeting lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. As with many meetings I attend in the communities, I don’t write about everything that was discussed. It’s not because bad things happen, but I feel that on several issues I need to respect the rights to privacy of the community and the church. All in all is was a good meeting and I think a lot was accomplished. We said goodbye to everyone and got back in the truck for a 20 minutes drive to Cerna.

Scott tied Cecilia's shirt to the back of the truck

Inside the school

Nice rabbit

Different way to learn vowels

Old bathroom
Note the holes in the ground

New classroom

Plaque outside new classroom

New bathrooms

I think this is a urinal

Meeting time

Learning about the school

Deep in conversation

We arrived at the school in Cerna at 10:50. The students were still in class. Everyone went into the classroom to introduce themselves. We tried to engage the kids but many of them were very shy. The kids sang us a song and we sang one back to them. They were all very adorable. I remember two of the girls from when I met them last year. And one of the girls was named Alicia! I told her it was a great name and that we needed to get our picture taken together after class was over. We finished up so the teacher could end class. I got my picture taken with Alicia and next came the meeting with the teacher.

The teacher told us that this school has two classrooms and grades kindergarten through 2nd. There are two teachers at the school but only one is working now because the other one is sick. All the kids go to school five days a week in the morning. The teacher began by telling us about herself and the school. She started working at the school 2 years ago. She currently teachers in the mornings in Cerna and in the afternoons in Centro. Her degree is specifically for teaching kindergarten which is one of the grades she teaches now. She lives in Berlín and catches a ride every morning at 6am to get out to Cerna. The ride costs her about $2/ride which is $70/month which is a lot of money because she’s only making $175/month. She also discussed a couple needs of the school that they church may be able to help out with.

Watching the kids play

Welcome Heartland!

I remember her from last year!

Beautiful little girl

Talking to the kids

Alicia & Alicia (my Spanish name)


Enjoying lunch

We said goodbye to the teacher at 12:10pm and went to someone’s house for lunch. Rice, salad, and a sort-of hamburger was our lunch. I was surprised by how quickly I seemed to eat everything. We enjoyed lunch and then went back to the school to have a meeting with the people from the newly formed cooperative. People trickled in for a while and we were ready to begin the meeting at 1:40pm. Blanca opened the meeting with questions and then we all introduced ourselves. There were 15 people from the cooperative present.

The members of the co-op spent some time talking about how everything was going. They said it was a long and difficult process to get it up and running. This had been a project in the making for almost 3 years that they worked on with the help of the Pastoral Team and the University of Central America. The co-op is raising hens for eggs, hens for frying, and bees for honey. Right now they’re building an additional building down by the hen houses. It will be divided into three rooms: office, storage, and slaughterhouse. The project is moving forward with more people from the community thinking about joining the co-op.

There are 20 bee boxes in each of the five locations. You can distinguish somewhat a difference in the taste depending on where the honey is collected. They are able to collect 55 gallons of honey about two or three times a year from the hives. They will be doing another harvest in a couple weeks. Everyone has been stung at least once by the bees and many like the bees more because they can see the results immediately. This is the first time anyone has ever raised bees and it was difficult to learn.

The eggs are being laid as well and they go into the hen houses twice a day to collect eggs. They have 425 chickens in one area and 450 chickens in another area. The chickens were $7 to purchase. They will lay eggs for about 80 weeks after which they will be sold for food. They eat about 50 pounds a day and always have water available. The eggs are harder to transport than the honey. And if they get a sick chicken they have to quarantine it to prevent the others from getting sick.

After chatting we got to go see the hen houses and the bee hives. It was awesome!! You could see where the chickens laid their eggs and where they got their food. It would have been fun to go inside but wasn’t really possible. We walked a little further down to see the hives. We couldn’t walk too far down because we didn’t want to get stung. But they did bring down a suit you wear when working with the bees and I got to try it on! Fun!! It was all made out of canvas and very hot. Then I put on huge gloves and a net over my head. It was hot and a bit ripe inside but I enjoyed the experience. We didn’t have any smoke so I couldn’t go down to the hives. That’s okay. The experience of putting on the suit to see what it was like was a lot of fun.

We eventually walked back up the hill and said goodbye to everyone. On our way back to where we’d be eating dinner someone asked if we wanted to see another bunch of hives. Oh yeah!! So we walked further up the hill to the area. There was a marañon tree nearby so we all had a bit of fruit as a snack. At first we just looked at the hives but before we knew it someone had returned from a house with several suits and smoke. Dennis volunteered to go help collect the honey. While he got the honey the rest of us hung back so as not to get stung. There was a really cool tree nearby that we sat by. The kids and Luke searched for some black iguanas but weren’t able to find any. Bummer.

But soon the honey arrived. I can’t even describe what it looked like and how beautiful it was!! Then we got to taste it. Wow, wow, wow! It was the best honey I have ever tasted. Pure, fresh, and straight from the hive. We each took turns breaking apart bits of honeycomb and eating the honey. It was deliciously and naturally sweet. I couldn’t stop eating it. We all gorged ourselves on the honey. After getting our fill we began to walk back to the house. We had only been there a short time when someone offered to take us somewhere else. We walked down past the school to someone else’s house. They had more, fresh honey waiting for us to try. Why not!? I ate even more honey and hoped my stomach could handle it (it did) because I could not resist. They showed us the machine that they used to extract the honey from the hive and then we ate a little more. This is seriously one of coolest things I’ve got to do here!!

Slowly we made our way back up the hill to our home base. But the fun wasn’t over yet. Half of the group went to go play soccer with some of the kids while the rest of us stayed behind to help make tamales and pupusas. I had never made tamales before. First, you take the corn goo (that’s pretty much what it is) and plop a bit onto the wet plantain leaf. Then you add some of the red stuff (very scientific, I know) and a bit of chicken. Next you roll and squish, roll and squish so none oozes out. You fold the end underneath and voila! You have yourself a tamale. I did okay at making the tamales, but Mark turned out to be a tamale-making king. I let him take over while I worked on pupusas.

Shaping corn dough into perfect circles with beans in the middle is not as easy as it sounds. We all tried to make then and inevitably Cecilia would end up “correcting” it before putting it on the large pan to be cooked. It was sort of a joke after a while. At one point I decided the pupusa I was working on wasn’t turning out well so I smooshed it together into a ball and rolled it out again. I thought it was a brilliant new design for a pupusas but Blanca and Cecilia just laughed hysterically. I suppose it did look a bit silly. But the important thing is that we learned, we tried, and were able to laugh at ourselves in the process.

We hung around outside for a while after everything was made. The girls at the house were taking pictures with Kathy’s camera. They had a lot of fun doing that. However, at one point, Scott was showing the girl how to do something and the camera ended up falling on the ground. For a second we thought it might be broken but then I took the battery out and put it back in. It was fine. All seemed to be going well and then Scott dropped her camera again. I let out a shrink and jokingly told the kids not to let him touch the camera anymore.

Soon the others returned from playing soccer and dinner was ready. At 6pm we all dined on pupusas. I had eaten so much honey that I was only able to eat two pupusas. But they are also very filling. We sat around the table and chatted for a while. Soon I got restless and needed some alone time in the bed of the pickup; God and I had some chatting to do. I looked up at the night sky with all the stars. It was so beautiful. I could see far more stars than I’d be able to see in the city.

Around 7:45 we gathered blankets and the rest of our things and headed to our respective houses. We were staying in four separate houses. Blanca and Cecilia stayed at the house where we’d eaten. The rest of us divided up because Kathy wanted a Spanish speaker at each house. Kathy bunked with Paige, Martie, and Brenda. William stayed with Scott and Dennis. I settled in with Mark and Luke. By 8pm we were each at our house. Our host showed us where the bathroom was and turned on a light bulb for us; this canton now has electricity!! We brushed our teeth and prepared our hammocks. Heartland always sleeps in hammocks when they stay in the cantons which I think it very neat. This was my first time sleeping in a canton over night. Yay!!

I went out to make a quick bathroom break before bed and found several little friends in the bathroom. I looked into the toilet and discovered 13 cockroaches climbing around. I quickly ran back into our room to get my camera. I am a collector of toilet photos and this was my best one yet! I told Mark and Luke so they too could see the cockroaches. Then I finally used the bathroom and crawled into my hammock. For a while I had one leg on the ground and was rocking myself side to side. I loved the sounds of the night noises. I closed my eyes and by 9pm I was out like a light.

Dusty walks down the road

Visiting the co-op area


Egg laying time

Meandering around

The hives!!

Putting on the bee suit

It's warm in here!

Thumbs up!

Fresh eggs

Sick chick

Dr. Dennis recommends drinking
plenty of water!

Cool tree

More hives!

Prepare the smoke!

It's ready to go

Lounging around by the tree

King of the tree

Dennis says hello to the bees

We'd like some honey

Thank you, bees!

Mark getting a taste

Look at that honeycomb!


And so delicious

Playing with the smoke

The most beautiful sight

The machine that spins the honey off the comb

Cutting pieces with a machete

Yes, please!

I need a little more

Enjoying the fruits of their labor

Taking a quick rest

Soccer time
Go Martie!

Woo hoo Dennis!

Paige tried not to destroy the guys' self esteem

Tamale-making time

Aminta works on pupusas

Goop, goop, chicken

Let's give the gringos a try

Mark, the tamale master

The pupusa queens

She takes good pictures!

Scott making pupusas

"I'll fix them"

Chicks get food too!

Lovely ladies

This must have been before Scott droppd the camera

Hello there


Dinner time

Cooking the tamales

He wanted to try on my shades


Nighty night, Martie!

Sleep tight, Paige!

Our quarters

Good night!


Matt said...

What a fun day. Those bees are pretty neat, I'm glad they are working out. I'm so excited for you that you got to stay in a canton overnight, and in a hammock too! I know you have always wanted to do that.

Kevin Pokorny said...

Alisha, It was wonderful to talk with you this evening via Skype!!! Love your pictures and stories, especially of the children and the chickens and bees. Your pictures tell the stories by themselves. Love to you and take care.

Mom said...

What a great experience to see the bee hives and taste the fresh honey! I hope the co-op project with the chickens and bees does well.