Thursday, March 10, 2011

Manure & more manure

Wednesday, 3-9-11

Today we delivered fertilizer to the canton of El Recreo. As I’m sure you can imagine I had several ideas for what to call my blog. A couple of the runners up were: “Mmmanure” and “Look at that pile of poo”. There were some others I’d thought of that I won’t post here. But let me start at the beginning of the day. We hopped into the truck and headed for Mercedes Umaña this morning at 8:30. We had to pick up fertilizer to deliver to the community of El Recreo. As I’d written before, the fertilizer is purchased by some churches in Iowa for their sister communities here. People are in desperate need of fertilizer for their crops because not much grows without it. And with the poor harvest last year people need as much corn and beans as they can get. Plus, fertilizer is more expensive this year than in previous years. People need it in May and the later you wait to buy it the more it costs.

On the way there we heard several bugs called chicharras making noise outside. They’re basically like cicadas and are only around here this time of year. They kind of sound like some sort of machinery. One flew into the Pastoral House last week and landed on the table. I scooped it up and released it back outside. Blanca told me that when they die there is a seed inside them (in their stomach) and plants grow out of them. Pretty neat!

We arrived about 20 minutes later. They had already started loading bags of fertilizer into one of the two trucks. The trucks are like big cattle trucks that we rent from someone in the canton of El Tablón. The man, Raul, and his sons drove their two trucks from their home over an hour away to Mercedes and then to the canton of El Recreo to help us deliver fertilizer. There were a couple guys helping to load the fertilizer onto another guy’s back but it was basically one man who actually had to put the fertilizer on his back and carry it to the truck. Those bags are 220 pounds (100 kilograms) so it’s a lot of work especially for one guy. But he managed to get them all loaded. They loaded 135 bags, enough for every family in the community. That’s 29,700 pounds of fertilizer!

We were ready to leave the store in Mercedes at 9:45. I really wanted to ride in the back of the big truck with the fertilizer so Cecilia and I climbed aboard with two other guys. It was then that I realized I hadn’t put sunscreen on that morning. Oh well, too late now. I’m going to be out in the sun this morning anyway so I may as well enjoy my ride in the back of the truck. It took about 45 minutes to get to El Recreo because the truck had to move pretty slowly. Kathy, Balmore, and Blanca passed us in the pickup on the way there. I loved looking at all the trees and the scenery. I don’t think I could ever tire of riding in the back of trucks. It’s so fun to look around and watch the world around you.

We arrived at 10:30 and saw that a large group of people had already started to form. Before everything began the president of the Directiva made a couple announcements about the fertilizer. Then Balmore spoke about the church, St. Boniface, that provided money so they could have fertilizer. Blanca spoke about the process of getting fertilizer for the community. We don’t just go to any place and buy fertilizer. The Pastoral Team looks around for the best prices and puts a lot time into making sure the families receive their fertilizer. The fertilizer costs about $53 a bag and came to a total of $7,102 for the whole community.

Then began the process of people receiving the fertilizer. I sat down at the table with Cecilia who had a list of every family in the canton. The Pastoral Team has done this many times before so they have it down to a fine art. One by one Cecilia would call off the names of the head people in the family and they would come up to sign their name. If they couldn’t sign their name because they don’t know how to read or write then they’d leave a fingerprint. They’d put their pinky finger onto a stamp pad and Cecilia would guide them to the box where people sign their name/leave a fingerprint. Then they could go get their bag of fertilizer.

People had a variety of ways of getting their fertilizer home. Some had trucks, carts, horses, or just carried it. Many people stayed around for a while sitting on their bags of fertilizer and watching the activities. After a while I got up from my chair so the president of the Directiva could sit down and work on her own list of families. I walked around taking pictures and saying hi to people. I wandered over to where Blanca and Kathy were. Blanca gave me a charamusca, which is basically a popsicle inside a plastic baggie. It was delicious. I got the cebada flavored kind since I couldn’t eat the melon kind. Cebada is a popular drink down here made from barley, vanilla, sugar, and water. I’m still not sure if it has strawberry in it or not. It’s always pink and very tasty.

We sat and ate our charamuscas and talked. A little girl offered me another one and soon I finished the second one before Kathy had finished her first. Then, someone else came over with some tortillas and cheese. Not wanting to be rude (or was I just hungry?) I gratefully accepted a tortilla with Salvadoran style white cheese. There are lots of different kinds of cheese here but if you ask what kind it is they’ll probably just answer, “queso blanco” (white cheese). It was delicious and really hit the spot.

Talking at the fertilizer store

Things for sale at the store

Loading up fertilizer on one of the trucks

Stacked up

Carrying it out to the second truck

These weigh 220 pounds!

Lots of fertilizer

Not an easy task

How does he do it?

Waiting for it to get loaded
(Kathy said I couldn't help load)

This tiny bag of cucumber seeds costs $9
This is why it is so expensive to grow crops!

Riding atop of the fertilizer

They're passing us!

Hola Ceci!


Passing by parts of the geothermal plant

"Do your part" sign created by the geothermal plant
Wouldn't it be great if people followed their own advice!!

There goes the first truck

La Geo

We've arrived!

Gathered around

Listening to the president talk

Blanca speaking to the community

Getting ready to start

Standing on a cart used to haul fertilizer

Lounging around

Carrying it away

He was shy

Playing on a tire swing

Sign here please

Gathered around the table

Waiting for their name to be called

Signing the form


Many people have to use their fingerprints

He wins chubby baby award

But he's still adorable!

A slow but efficient process 

There's a lot of iliteracy in the cantons

Sacks of fertilizer

Everyone shows up to get fertilizer

Even the little kids!

I love her!

Lots of waiting

There are 135 families here

Hello caballo!

Taking a snack break

Lots of machetes

Wheeling it home

Sitting on the bags


We were finished handing out fertilizer a little after 12:30pm. We waved goodbye to people and headed back for the Pastoral House. I ate my chicken, rice, green beans, carrots, and guisquil while I worked on my blog from yesterday. I’m really trying to get caught up. I managed to finish most of it before we had to leave for the meeting in San Francisco at 2:45pm. The drive to San Francisco only takes about 15 minutes. On the way we picked up two of the members of the Directiva, Sandra and Migdalia. I hugged them both and Sandra was surprised that I remembered her name. We dropped her off with her daughter before we got to San Francisco because they needed to do something school related.

We arrived in San Francisco a little after 3pm. I went inside the church and was greeted by most of the Directiva. There was Miguel the president, Chepe the vice-president, Mirna the secretary, Jose Deonicio the treasurer, Daniel the síndico (legal things), Migdalia the 1st vocal (member), Jose Santiago the 3rd member, and Jose Maria the 4th member. The only people missing were Sandra the 2nd member, the pro-secretary (like a backup), and the pro-treasurer. With the exception of Jose Maria I’d seen everyone else who was there when I was here last year in September. It was great to see everyone again and be able to greet them by name!

We sat down and began the meeting. About 10 minutes into the meeting it began to rain, just like the meeting Lynn and I had in September with the Directiva. Lovely. I decided that we must be cursed. It’s really hard to hear anything when we’re meeting in the church and it’s raining because the roof, like many roofs here in El Salvador, is made of metal. Thus, the rain is extremely loud when you’re inside a building. Rain this time of year is weird because it’s the dry season and does not rain that often. It’s already rained at least 8 times since I’ve been here. Idalia later told me that was unusual. Right, no global climate change my foot!

After another 10 minutes the rain finally slowed enough for us to be able to hear each other. Cecilia, Blanca, Kathy, and I were there talking with the Directiva for almost two hours. Like with other communities I’ve visited, there are some things we discuss in the meetings that I won’t write about in my blog. This happened to be one of those meetings. But I think it was a good meeting that accomplished a lot. I had fully intended to take a picture of the Directiva but completely forgot. By the time the meeting ended at 5pm it was getting dark out and people needed to get home. I said goodbye to everyone and said I hoped I’d see them soon.

The rest of the night was pretty relaxed. I worked on getting pictures ready for my blog, talked to Kathy, called my in-laws to ask them a question, chatted with my parents and Matt on Skype, and ate empanadas for dinner. Who knows. Maybe I’ll get to bed before 11:30pm tonight!! Yay!

Men at work

The oven inside a bakery

Mmm, pan dulce

Lots of pan dulce

1 comment:

Matt said...

It is amazing the effort it takes just to distribute something simple like fertilizer. It is wonderful to see the efforts of the pastoral house making so much of a difference.