Every two months the Pastoral Team has a meeting with people throughout Berlín and the cantons. People from the Directivas of the communities and sometimes other community members meet at the Pastoral House. There’s always a greeting, prayer, and reflection which takes about a half hour. Then for an hour there’s a theme that’s discussed. Past themes have been people talking about their harvests, what organizations and institutions are working with their communities, and sometimes they’ll have a guest speaker, like a police officer talking about how to keep things secure in the cantons.
After that someone from each community represented will give an update on what’s going on in their community and the Pastoral Team will let the community know about upcoming projects and delegations. Today, instead of having a formal meeting, the Pastoral Team was taking everyone to the beach. The purpose of this trip was to reward the people who regularly come to the meetings at the Pastoral House and go to meetings in their own community as well.
We’d hired Raul from El Tablón to drive everyone to the beach in his big truck. The truck arrived a little after 7:00am and we were on our way by 7:30. There were about 25 of us all together. A few people rode inside but the rest of us were outside sitting on wooden planks in the back of the truck. It was a 2-hour, bumpy ride to the beach, but I enjoyed having the experience of riding a long distance in the truck. I like to be able to look around at my surroundings to see what’s going on.
Driving to the beach
The little girl liked to watch us
A carao tree with red flowers
We got to the beach around 9:30am. We were at Playa El Espino, our usual beach destination. The ladies looked for a spot to rent that could accommodate 25 people. We found one and the owner began stringing up hammocks for us. Vendors immediately came around selling things. I ended up with a little ice drink that had different flavored “syrups” on it. It was like a snow cone but 10x better because the syrups were natural and incredibly flavorful. After that a guy came around selling coconuts. I bought one which he cut open for me so I could drink the water inside. I sat on the beach and sipped my fresh coconut water.
Little by little people began wandering onto the shore. The tide was high so we didn’t have to walk far. There also weren’t many shells yet because of the high tide. We waded around, walking up and down the beach. People found lots of little crabs and others were digging for little creatures that surfaced when the tide rolled in and out. Eventually people went in further to swim in the ocean. It felt great to be back at the beach swimming around. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. I’m guessing several people had never been to the beach before. The concept of vacation is often foreign to people who live in the cantons and a lack of easy transportation further prohibits people from seeing the ocean.
Lunch arrived around noon. Most everyone had ordered fish, except the Pastoral Team who ate a chicken someone had brought for them. There was rice, salad, and tortillas with lunch. It tasted good after playing around in the water. I washed it all down with some coke. We only had a little while after lunch to swim and collect shells before we had to leave. It’s a 2-hour drive back and from there everyone else has to get home to the cantons somehow.
Since the tide had started going out there were more shells on the beach. Being the perpetual beachcomber I looked around for shells. It reminds me of when I was little and I use to stay on the shore looking for shells because I was afraid of the water. I thought about my dad, who died three years ago on May 11, 2008. We used to go to Coco Beach in Florida every summer with my stepmom’s family. And even though I loved the beach I rarely went into the water. Today I hoped he was looking down on me and could see how far I’ve come. Every time I see the ocean I think about him.
We made it!
Glimpse up the shore
Planning, planning, planning
Snow cone with payapa juice, pineapple juice,
coconut milk, and tamarind pieces. YUM!
The hammocks are up
Lounging by the water
Before he hit the beach
Balmore didn't leave his hammock
Sipping coconut water on the beach
Walking the shore
Ahhh! A crab is stuck to his finger!
Looking for shells and other critters
A beautiful sight
Oscar loves the beach too
A short phone call
She found a crab too!
Swimming with Elida
Lots of birds in the sky
Dogs often roam the beaches
The tide is moving out
He convinced her to go into the water
There goes Kathy
Watching everyone play
She got in a quick cat nap
The cow decided to join us
Soon it was time to leave. We all piled up into the big truck. Several people got coconuts for the ride home. I decided to have another one as well. It was probably not my best idea because about 15 minutes into the trip I realized that I needed to use the restroom. I decided to tie up the bag that the coconut water was in and set it aside for later. I contemplated what I would do if I didn’t think I’d make it back to the house but I will not share that here.
I was really tired and actually caught a few quick zzzzs as we drove along the highway. Another not so great idea. We were driving down the road in the back of a giant truck used to haul people, fertilizer, corn, etc. It’s all open air. We’re sitting on wooden benches that aren’t nailed or tied down and we were at the back of the truck where it’s the bumpiest. But no one fell out of the truck and all appeared to be going well. Or so it seemed.
As we drove further up the mountain we could all see the rainclouds ahead of us. We had a sneaking suspicion that it was going to rain. Not long after we saw the clouds it began to pour. Kathy and I had both brought plastic bags to put our cameras in and put those bags inside our purses. At the front of the truck we could see that someone had a tarp. Then the tarp was passed back to us in the back. Turns out it was a giant tarp that would cover everyone in the back of the truck.
So here we were going down the road in the back of a big truck while it’s pouring down rain and we have a giant tarp over all our heads. I found it all very comical. I decided this moment was too priceless and got out my camera to take pictures. We were, after all, under the tarp staying drying. It was definitely an experience I won’t forget. After a while the rain slowed and we all peeked our heads out from under the tarp. We got almost home when it started to rain again so we once again covered up with the tarp. By the time we were at the door it was almost ready to downpour. Glad we made it home mostly dry and I made it to the bathroom.
Of course, the people from the cantons still had to get home somehow. A few were able to drive part of the way with Raul but the rest had to walk home. Some stayed to chat a short while and others left right away. We say goodbye to everyone and got cleaned up. Overall, it was a good day at the beach.
Saying goodbye to the beach
The coconut man's moving stand
Loaded back into the truck
Hello from under the tarp
At least I'm not wet!
We all fit underneath
Additional: The next day I realized that the tops of my legs were sunburned. Even though I’d put on sunscreen all over before going to the beach and at the beach I neglected to put some on before the drive home. My mistake; I was wearing shorts. The only time that women from the Iowa delegations ever wear shorts here is to the beach. Compañeros and the Pastoral Team feel it is inappropriate for women to wear shorts during their time here in El Salvador, and I absolutely agree with them. Thus, the only time I have ever worn shorts here was to the beach. And since I never wear shorts I wasn’t thinking about the sun burning my legs. Again, my mistake. In the future I’ll either remember to put sunscreen on my legs or never wear shorts again.
Additional additional: I forgot to mention earlier that most people in El Salvador do not wear swimming suits to the beach. You swim in your clothes.