Wednesday, June 1, 2011

San Francisco fertilizer & Alejandría visit

Wednesday, 6-1-11

Today has been another busy but exciting day! We woke up early so we could catch the truck to Mercedes Umaña where we were going to pick up fertilizer for the entire community of San Francisco. There are 101 families in San Francisco and all but 6 of them have farms. The 95 people who have farms were going to receive a 220 pound bag of fertilizer as a gift from Westminster, the church I go to. The 6 families with no farms were going to receive a food basket. Inside the basket, which was a large guacal (plastic tub) was a towel, rice, salt, sugar, lye for corn, sardines, oil, dried milk, spaghetti, coffee, cookies, soup mixes, soap, toilet paper, bleach, and laundry detergent for clothes. Both the fertilizer and the food baskets were the same price so every family received an equal amount of help.

The truck arrived about 5 minutes early which was unusual since more often than not people arrive late. I walked out to see a bunch of people already sitting in the back of the truck. Some people were getting a ride to work and others from San Francisco were there to help with the fertilizer pickup. I thought it was cool that people came to help out with the fertilizer. We climbed aboard the truck and were off. It didn’t take too long to get to Mercedes since the truck wasn’t carrying anything.

Soon we arrived at the store where the Pastoral Team gets the fertilizer. There wasn’t a whole lot for us to do but watch. However, I still think it was important for my family to be able to see the process of delivering fertilizer from start to finish. It’s not an opportunity most delegations get. We watched as the guys loaded the 220 pound bags onto the truck. Regardless of how strong people from the US think they are the Team discourages trying to lift the bags. My dad said he wanted to tell all the weight-lifters he sees at the YMCA in the morning about the people here who lift and carry these bags. Some of them are pretty small. I looked for the cat that lives at the fertilizer store but she wasn’t to be found. A little over an hour later all the bags were loaded and we were ready to leave.

We climbed aboard the truck of fertilizer and planted ourselves on top. This was definitely a fun experience for everyone. The truck moves really slowly and you sit much higher up so you can see things from a different point of view. Plus not everyone can say they’ve had the opportunity to ride atop bags of fertilizer in El Salvador. The ride back took almost twice as long as the ride there but it was fun watching the scenery slowing go by. When we got home we had a half hour break before leaving for San Francisco. The guys who loaded the fertilizer and the driver went out for breakfast so we had a chance to rest.

The food baskets

In front of the fertilizer store

The truck is ready to be loaded

Mom found a chair

Miguel counting each bag as it's loaded

Jose Deonicio loading fertilizer

Those bags are heavy

Tons of fertilizer, literally tons

Enrique loading fertilizer

Piled on top

Sharing a hug

Matt making a silly face

Look at that view

When the guys returned we climbed back aboard the truck and headed for San Francisco. Someone from every family in the community was waiting for us there. This was another wonderful experience for my family and me as well. It’s not often you get to see someone from every family in the community all together. Last year when another woman from my church and I did a census of each family in San Francisco we got to meet many people. That was a lot of fun. You have to take advantages of these opportunities when they present themselves.

As soon as everyone got off the truck went to stand next to the school. First, Miguel (the president of the Directiva) talked to everyone about the gift of fertilizer and how the process was going to go. He talked about the importance of the fertilizer and how lucky they were to have it. Then Kathy talked a short while followed by my dad. I said hello and introduced myself again to the community. Next it was Blanca’s turn. She gave her mother hen/pep talk that she’s been doing with all the communities. Like with all communities, she told them they needed to be more involved in doing things for their community and being more supportive of the Directiva (community board). My parents really appreciated this as did I. Sometimes you need to be stern in order to get a point across.

Then it came time to actually distribute the fertilizer. We went over the truck which was in the shade. Cecilia called out someone from each family by name and they came to sign for their bag of fertilizer. If they couldn’t sign their name then they put a fingerprint on the sheet. Then they went to get their bag. If someone couldn’t get their own bag (for example, if they were older) then someone else would get it for them. The community of San Francisco is very spread out so there were a variety of ways that people took home their fertilizer. Some people had carts, others had horses, and some people just carried it home on their back. If someone in the community had a truck or could hire someone to haul the fertilizer then it could be driven to their house.

I watched for a while during the process of distributing the fertilizer but I also spent time talking to people from the community. I saw several familiar faces and wanted to be able to talk to some people I hadn’t seen for a while. There were many cute babies that I got pictures of and some older people as well. One little girl was selling charamuscas, which are like popsicles, but they come in bags and are often made from fresh juice. It was delicious and hit the spot on a warm day.

Riding to San Francisco

Driving past the church

Parking the truck

Listening to everyone speak

Lots of people came

It was hot out

Going over to the truck

Unloading the bags

Ready to begin

These people are strong

Signing for her fertilizer

Interesting shirt

Fingerprint instead of a signature

Getting through the list

Lots of people can't read or write

Eating a charamusca

The girl selling the charamuscas

Watching the process

His shirt says, "Someone who lives in El Salvador
and loves me very much got me this shirt"

I was excited


Dad is working hard

Food packet

Loading it onto a truck

He fell asleep

Talking to Daniel

The horse carrying fertilizer

Soon everyone had their fertilizer and we waved goodbye to the last of the people. Then we walked to the school which was in the same area to give the director and teachers some school supplies that had been collected in the US. We had bags with crayons, pens, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, and paint. The director and teachers were very appreciative. One of the teachers wrote down her email address for me. I hope to get back out there again sometime to spend more time at the school.

I wish we could have spent more time at the school but we were going to deliver a food packet to a family that was sick and not able to make it up to where we were delivering things. We drove a little ways and then had to walk through a coffee farm to get to their house. I remember the woman from when we did the census last year. She is 88 years old and her son that lives with her has OCD. I was glad we were able to walk to see them. We chatted a while and I then hugged her goodbye.

We headed back to the where we had handed out the fertilizer. The church and school are in this main part of the canton. Here we picked up corn that the community had given and Miguel paid the driver of the truck. Let me explain. Two things are requested of every community that receives fertilizer from their partner church in the US. The first request is that each family provides a “medio” of corn which is about 38 pounds. If they don’t have the corn at the time fertilizer is distributed then they can bring it to the Pastoral House later. The corn is used to feed other families in Berlín who have no corn. This is done because, as Blanca says, there is always some poorer than you.

The second request of the community is that they pay for the transportation to deliver the fertilizer to the community. The amount each family pays depends on how far away the community is from where the fertilizer is picked up. For example, it’s cheaper for San Francisco because the community is closer to town. Everyone in the community chipped in $1 to pay for the transportation of the fertilizer. This is a way for people to be involved in the gift. In the end, the amount they pay from transportation as well as the corn they give is more than made up for by the fertilizer they receive.

Meeting with the director, Cointa

The director and teachers at the school in San Francisco

Waiting to take his fertilizer home

Visiting the older woman

Maria and her son

Unloading the last bag off the truck

In front of the church

Inside the new church built in 2009

Matt helping to unload the corn at the Pastoral House

We ate lunch when we arrived back at the house. All of us were hungry and tired despite the fact that we hadn’t done a ton of physical work. The heat can really take it out of you sometimes. After lunch we were going to the caserío of Alejandría to visit the families of the Pastoral Team. But since we weren’t leaving until 2pm Matt and I decided to take a quick nap. It was only a 20 minute nap but I woke up feeling refreshed.

We all hopped into the pickup truck and began the short drive to Alejandría. We parked at our usual spot across the ravine from their homes. Cecilia was carrying a top of a table for her family’s home and Blanca had a car battery for the truck at their house. It’s not a long walk to their homes so we got there quickly. Cecilia and Idalia went to their home first to see family while we visited with Blanca’s family.

Blanca’s mother, father, sister, and husband, Balmore, were there at the house. We chatted for a while and then went for a walk on their land to see some of the fruit trees her dad had planted. She said her dad didn’t particularly like the fruit but he planted them so that when he died the future generations would have them. The first tree we saw was a gaunabana tree. This was the incredible fruit I learned about at the Secret Garden restaurant in San Salvador. I was so excited that I was able to see the tree it came from. There was only one small fruit on the tree but hopefully they’ll be more soon.

We also saw coffee plants with green coffee cherries already growing on them. Coffee seems to grow everywhere here in Berlín. They also have a banana tree with purple bananas. I have got to try those someday! Balmore pointed out some semillas de paterna growing high up on trees. I haven’t had any yet but I’m told they’re similar to pepetos which I have had and are smaller than semillas de paterna. Blanca’s sister, Carmen, knocked down a bunch of semillas de paterna for us to take home and try. I can’t wait to eat them.

We talked a little more and then it was time to move on to Cecilia’s house. Her mom and Idalia brought out fresh pineapple charamuscas for everyone. What luck! Two in one day! We sat eating those for a while and talking to everyone. Cecilia’s family has tons of flowers on their land. They have the maraca flowers that I love so I pointed those out to my family. After looking at the flowers we sat down again and Marvin brought in tons of pepetos. We broke into them and enjoyed the fruit. On our way out we got to see the baby puppies that were just born a couple weeks ago at their house. They were so cute!! I held one for a while but then it started yelping for mom so I put her back. I want to bring one to the Pastoral House but have been told “no” by everybody.

We walked on to Lola’s house. Lola is Jesus’ mom. We talked to her for a while about how long she’d lived in her house and the running water and electricity that were recently installed in the community. She’s been in the same place for many years but never thought she’d have running water or electricity. We asked her about a kind of flower that she had and she took us to see her garden. To go down to part of her garden area and to the bathroom is a steep hill. She quickly made it to the bottom and then called back to us to be careful walking down. People here are definitely accustomed to steep, rocky hills and walking more than us. Her garden was beautiful and we took lots of pictures.

It was getting late and we needed to head back to Berlín. We said goodbye to Lola and started walking back to the truck. Along the way we said goodbye to Idalia and Blanca who were staying the night at their houses. We walked back across the ravine and to the pickup. Cecilia and I had talked about eating a simple but traditional dinner tonight. I really wanted pasteles, which are kind of like samosas. They’re fried dough filled with potatoes and rice. We also had the toasted plantains that I love so much. Everything was delicious. It’s been another great day with family and friends.

Barbara's eggs

Nap time

Sleeping with my eyes open

Carrying a table top

Hiking up the hill
Matt's got the car battery

There's a guanabana

Purple bananas


Carmen holding semillas de paterna

Let love and faithfulness never leave you –Proverbs 3:3

Marvin is pretty handsome


Eating a pineapple charamusca

Maraca flower

Climbing the tree to retrieve fruit

I need a puppy!

Lola sporting a cool apron

A cool flower but I can't remember it's name

More flowers in her garden

Standing by her new pila with running water

Marvin drew these in the dirt for us

Playing with Chiquita


gringainelsalvador said...

Alicia, this blog entry and all what your church have done are fantastic.

Though the government here gives farmers fertilizer ("abono") and maize, it's a bureaucratic process and you guys cut the red tape for San Francisco. The good news is they are working make the subsidy less corrupt now, and rather than the local mayor/town hall distributing, they are doing it with a government agency. According to my husband, in the past mayors of towns would be in charge of distributing the subsidies, and frequently gave them only to people of their same political party or to their "buddies".

Paternas! I have eaten them a couple times, the sweet white part raw and then they boiled the green part and put salt and lemon on it.

congratulations on the good work, over 100 families are more fortunate this year.

Alisha Lundberg said...

I also have heard of a lot problems in some areas where people are cut from the lists of abono and maiz for no valid reason. I personally know several people who did not receive abono or maiz in the past and others who received more than their fair share. I think it would be a great idea if someone else was in charge of distribution. And especially with the poor crops this past year, the people really need it.

Matt said...

This was such a great day to see and meet so many people from the community. It was really amazing to see the direct impact of church projects and how the affect the every day lives of the people.