We had the opportunity to visit three schools today that St. Boniface supports. The first was the elementary school in El Recreo. The school has kindergarten through 3rd grade in the mornings and 4th to 6th grade in the afternoons. It is located right next door to the church and museum. We went inside the gates to see the kids and their classrooms. I went over to the pila where a couple kids were filling up cántaros. I asked if they had running water every day at school. They told that they did. I know the houses in El Recreo don’t have running water but yesterday I saw that there was a water spicket where the whole community could get water. On one hand not having running water in your home makes life much more difficult for people but I am glad they have a water source that runs every day.
After chatting with the kids I went over to see the kitchen. It was similar to the kitchen at the school where I teach and similar to school kitchens in other cantons. Different moms help out in the kitchen to make the kids their daily alimento (food/nourishment). The food is provided by the government. Just like at my school they had a poster up on the wall of the food the kids would be eating and how often they would eat certain foods every week. For example, they serve rice every day, beans twice a week, milk twice a week, and a fortified beverage three times a week. There’s other food that’s served as well and the rice and beans are built into the alimento, like having bean pupusas. It’s been interesting to learn so much about the food that the kids receive at school.
The St. Boniface delegation divided up and a group went into each classroom to visit with the kids and the teachers. They had brought some scratch art stickers for the kids to do. I walked from room to room to see what the rooms were like and what the kids were doing. I was very impressed with how nice the school was. Everything was very tidy and the teachers had all made an effort to brighten up the classrooms with decorations and art created by the students. I’m guessing they have more resources than most of the marginalized schools I’ve visited before. Soon it was time to say goodbye to the kids and move on to the next school. It was tough saying goodbye because we’d gotten the chance to know a lot of the kids in the previous two days in El Recreo.
The gates to the school in El Recreo
The elementary school
Filling up a cantaro
Filling up the pila
Moms working in the kitchen
What will we eat today?
Food, quantity, and how many times
each week they eat certain foods
Lining up for food
Mural at the school
Kids in kindergarten
I want a life free of violence
Don't play with my rights
Educate me with love
Maggie working with the kids
Laurie and Charles making stickers
Jeannie's having fun!
The next school we visited was an elementary/middle school in the canton of Montañita that has 1st through 9th grades. This canton is not in the municipality of Berlín but in the municipality of Alegría. However, it is much closer to El Recreo (a part of Berlín) than the other middle schools in Berlín so after kids from El Recreo finish 6th grade at the local school they can go to 7th through 9th grade in Montañita. St. Boniface supports the third cycle (7th through 9th graders) at this school because many of them are from El Recreo. There are about 60 students in the third cycle.
We spent time looking around at the area where the third cycle classes are held and visiting with the students. This was a little more awkward than visiting with the little kids. Like kids in the US, once kids here reach 7th grade they start to act a little different (which is why I only have 1st to 6th grades at the boy’s school where I teach). The classes here were much quieter than the classes we’d visited at the elementary school. I watched as Maggie and Ella talked to one of the classes and Pete translated for them. They tried hard to get the class engaged and asked them questions but mostly the students were silent. Sometimes we gringos can be rather intimidating. After a while we said goodbye to the class. I told them I’m sure it was fun for the students just to have them visiting the classrooms, especially since they’re both blond. Welcome to being blond in El Salvador!
We went to check out the computer lab at the school which was really nice. It was air-conditioned so the computers didn’t overheat. It wasn’t really cool because there was a window pane or two missing from the windows which let in heat. For some reason the English teacher was inside the classroom and we spent a little time talking to him. He had learned English in the United States which meant he had better pronunciation than many English teachers. He said he’d seen me before in Berlín and we chatted a little while about teaching English. Then we said goodbye and moved on.
The elementary/middle school
After leaving the elementary/middle school we visited the high school (10th to 12th grade) in Montañita. Students from the canton of Montañita attend this school and as well as students from El Recreo. St. Boniface financially supports the high school students from El Recreo who attend school there. The school is named after a woman named Randy Lowsky King (1970-2003) who was an American teacher that supported the school. The school is now supported by her family through the King Family Charitable Foundation. It is also supported by the municipality of Alegría, La Geo (geothermal plant), and a couple non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
We weren’t able to spend a lot of time there because the students were getting ready to take exams. And not all the students were there since only some of them had exams. But we were able to spend a little time chatting with the students and able to see inside their classrooms. After that it was time to head back to the church in El Recreo. The high school students that are being supported by St. Boniface left with our group to go to the church for a special lunch.
The high school
The main building
Getting ready for exams
Chatting outside the classrooms
Back at the church in El Recreo the rest of the high school students joined us. Several tables had been put together inside the church for us. We ate fruit, tortillas, chicken, vegetables, and Coke for lunch. It was all delicious and I imagine it was a lot of work as well for the people cooking. When lunch was over St. Boniface handed out some playing cards and shirts for the students. All the students put on their shirts and we took a big group photo outside the church on the steps. Other people from the community were there since it was St. Boniface’s last day in El Recreo. We spent quite a bit of time saying goodbye to the community. This is always the hardest part for delegations. There are always lots of hugs and sometimes a few tears when you have to say goodbye.
Eating lunch with the students
In front of the church
A group of us piled into the microbus to go see a fumarole nearby called Ojo de Ausol that Mike had discovered when he was looking on Google Earth. We’d talked about it and decided it’d be a fun place to see. Now, it wasn’t huge but since it was close we decided it wouldn’t hurt to take a look. It had been pouring down rain and we missed the turnoff so the driver had to turn around but we eventually made it. It was still sprinkling but we all jumped out to go take a look. There was a cement wall around the fumarole which was a newer construction (probably built by La Geo- geothermal plant). TJ let some of us women stand up on his leg so we could look over the edge. We were only there about 5 minutes but I’m glad we stopped; I always like checking out new places.
They got rained on
Looking over the wall
There's the hole
Pete looking around
Cow in the mist
Getting back into the bus
Rained on but happy
The rest of the afternoon was spent getting things packed and ready for the delegation to leave early tomorrow morning. That night we went to the hostel La Casa Mia up the road for dinner. It’s a tradition the night before the delegation leaves to go out to dinner. We’d ordered ahead of time so we didn’t have to wait long for dinner. I sat at one end of the table with the Pastoral Team and one of the new delegates who wanted to learn more about the life of the Pastoral Team. It was a really great conversation; one that would be good to have at the beginning of the week with all the delegates. After dinner we made one last trip to the Nevería for ice cream and then it was time for people to hit the hay. They had an early flight the next day.