Saturday, July 30, 2011

San Lorenzo church update

Saturday, 7-30-11

I wrote a couple weeks ago (July 12) about the old Catholic church in the canton of San Lorenzo being redone. They’re fixing up the walls on the inside and the outside of the church. I’ve visited the church a couple times since that first blog to check on the progress and take more pictures. It is looking beautiful! Below are more photos of the church.

Working on the front of the church

Scraping old paint off the columns

Working on the side of the church

Lots of work

Hauling cement

Making concrete

Precariously balanced

Standing on a board that's being held up by another
board that's being held up by an old metal rung

The other side of the church

Lots of scraping

Signs of hard work

Working inside the church

Things piled up in the middle of the church

Making more concrete

The front of the church

Smoothing the sides of the walls

It's going to be beautiful!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Happy Students Day!

Friday, 7-29-11

Today was “El Día del Alumno” (Student’s Day). I wasn’t for sure what would be going on but I was prepared for anything. Cecilia told me she didn’t know if I’d have all my classes because there was some meeting for parents at school at 9:00am. But as it turns out I taught my first three classes as usual. In between my second and third class I bought myself a Coke. Then during my fourth period class it appeared as though the whole school was running around so we didn’t have class. Instead I spent time chatting with the kids. Then somehow we ended up having a contest where the kids balanced broom handles on their hands for as long as possible. One of the kids did it for 52 seconds. After that we moved outside the classroom for the contest and the same kid balanced the broom on his hand for over 2 minutes. It was a lot of fun!

I’d heard earlier in the day that at some point there’d be ice cream. The ice cream hadn’t made it to the classroom I was in yet so I went out in search of it. Along my way I walked by one of my 5th grade classrooms. They were making their own food for Student’s Day and invited me in to join them. So I went inside to see what they were making. The students prepared a huge sandwich for me with chicken and vegetables inside. I sat down to eat with them. It was absolutely delicious.

When I’d finished eating I thanked the kids and continued on my hunt for the ice cream. A little boy from my 4th grade class joined me on my search. We looked all around the school for the ice cream but couldn’t find it. Eventually we returned to the classroom. And it was there that we found the ice cream. Hooray!! All the boys got in line for some ice cream. Then the teachers scooping up the ice cream handed me some as well. I’m not exactly sure what the flavor was but it tasted a little like what I imagine the “gum” flavor tastes like. Not my favorite but I forced it down. I’m never one to turn down ice cream.

Then came another surprise: more food. Several of the moms of the 4th graders had cooked up a special lunch for their kid’s class. They brought in a couple large pots full of food they’d whipped up. As soon as another mother came along with the tortillas they started serving up food for all the kids. When they offered me food I said I’d just have a little bit. But the concept of “I’ve already eaten; I’ll just have a little” does not exist here. So I got a plate full of chicken, rice, vegetables, and tortillas. It was very tasty and I amazingly managed to finish it up.

When I was done I thanked everyone for the food. By then it was noon and time to go home. I rolled myself to the Pastoral House and told Cecilia that I would not be eating lunch. When she asked why I listed off all the food I’d eaten at school. She just laughed. I’d say it was a pretty good Student’s Day.

Broom balancing contest

Taking the contest outside

Don't let the sun in your eyes

You can do it!

Tough competition

He eventually won

Pretending to eat my ice cream

Not pretending to eat my ice cream cream


Don't let it drip

Some of my second graders

Too cute

Take a picture of me!

About to enjoy his ice cream


Group shot

The ice cream bit the dust

With and without ice cream

Very happy

Ice cream makes everyone smile

He was being silly

Good pals

Waiting to get food

Serving up food for the kids

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A bit of excitement

Thursday, 7-28-11

I just had a little bit of excitement. I was working at my computer in the dining room area when I decided I needed to be done and go to bed. I was walking into my room when suddenly a cat came running out. I screamed as it flew by me and ran into the other room. Alejandro must have heard me scream because pretty soon he’d run down the stairs and into the main house. At that point the cat ran into the kitchen, jumped up onto the stove, and then to the cabinets above.

I turned to Alejandro and said, “Qué debemos hacer?” (What should we do?) Neither one of us was sure. My concern was getting scratched or bitten by the cat; I didn’t want to get rabies. Now, normally it’s bats and dogs that transmit rabies to humans but cats can as well. And even though getting rabies isn’t common in the US, I remembered reading that rabies is still highly endemic in El Salvador.

Eventually I decided I’d try moving the pot the cat was crouching behind to see if it’d move. Alejandro opened the door while I climbed up on a chair by the stove. I had a stick with me just in case the cat came at me. But as soon as I moved the pot it jumped down onto the counter and ran out the door. Whew! No more cat in the house. I thanked Alejandro and he went back to bed.

So the question of the hour is: How did the cat get into the house? Well, I’d left the door open as I often do at night until I go to bed. I guess the cat must have come in at some point while I was working and snuck into my room. The cats (which do not belong to us) don’t normally come in the house during the day because there are always people around, but at night I’m the only one in the main house. However, I’m not too concerned about that cat coming back. I don’t think I’ll ever see that cat again. The poor thing is probably traumatized.

Can you see the cat head?

The cat was pretty scared

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July Compañeros report

July 1 – 3
Taught English classes at school. Had a little birthday party for Cecilia’s nephew, Freddy. Central Presbyterian church delegation arrived. Went to El Tablón with the delegation to celebrate the inauguration of the new cooperative (chickens and bees). Taught community English class at the Pastoral House.

July 4 – 10
Taught English classes at school. Went to El Mozote and Perquin with Central Presbyterian delegation. The group visited my school and talked to the kids in my classes. Walked to Alejandría to talk to the families of Blanca, Balmore, Cecilia, Idalia, and Jesús. Rode on big truck to La Llanes to deliver water tanks; had to stop to cut down tree branches with machete and get truck unstuck from mud. Visited Don Justo coffee finca and was attacked by ants. Walked around the lagoon and the town of Alegría. Went to El Espino beach. Said goodbye to the delegation at a restaurant in Alegría. Central delegation flew home. Taught community English class.

July 11 – 17
Taught English classes at school. Walked to San Lorenzo with Blanca and Cecilia to see progress on the Catholic church renovation. Walked in the Corpus Christi procession (held 2½ weeks late due to rain). Went to the patron saint festival in La Llanes in honor of the Virgin of Carmen- awesome!! Had 3-hour long meeting with a community. Learned how to make tamales de elote. Taught community English class.

July 18 – 24
Taught English classes at school. Had 2 very long meetings with communities. Learned that Benigno from La Llanes died (the father of 14 children). Went to La Llanes to see the family of the deceased and the community. Went to the funeral mass and internment of Benigno- very sad and very hard. Taught community English class.

July 25 – 31
Taught English classes at school. Monday- Went to San Lorenzo to see progress on the Catholic church renovation. Tuesday- Went to San Miguel to do a little shopping followed by a meeting. Wednesday- Visited church in San Lorenzo again to deliver cement and check out progress. Another long meeting. Thursday- had allergic reaction to plantains and needed to go home from school. Had a meeting with Father Cándido. Right after that had 1½ hour meeting with Manuel from Río de los Bueyes regarding the company stealing water from their community and threatening people. Friday- Celebrated Student Day at school. Saturday- To Corozal to take Chelito to his new home (will blog about that at some point). Sunday- Taught community English class. Got things ready to leave for a week for the US.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How to make tamales & riguas

Monday, 7-25-11

Tamales: A tamale is a traditional Latin American dish made of masa (a starchy dough, usually corn-based), which is steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper. The wrapping is discarded before eating. Tamales can be further filled with meats, cheese, vegetables, chilies, or any preparation according to taste, and both the filling and the cooking liquid may be seasoned.

Tamales were one of the staples found by the Spanish Conquistadors when they first arrived in Mexico and were soon widely spread throughout their other colonies. Tamales are said to have been as ubiquitous and varied as the sandwich is today.

Tamales originated in Mesoamerica as early as 8000 to 5000 BC. Aztec and Maya civilizations as well as the Olmeca and Tolteca before them used tamales as a portable food, often to support their armies but also for hunters and travelers. There have also been reports of tamale use in the Inca Empire long before the Spanish visited the new world (thank you, Wikipedia).

Tamales de elote are a favorite breakfast food throughout Central America. In El Salvador they are often served as the starchy portion of a meal. The fresh elote, or sweet corn, used in Central America has a higher starch content than that in the United States. These kinds of tamales are wrapped in corn husks and sometimes after they are cooked they are fried on a griddle. Delicious!

Salvadoran tamales are also wrapped in plantain or banana leaves. The masa is usually made out of maize (non-sweet corn), such as what is known as feed corn in the U.S. A popular type of tamale made here in El Salvador from maize are tamales de gallina, which have chicken (gallina) in them and sometimes vegetables as well. These are the kinds of tamales that people serve on the ninth day after someone dies for the rosary.

I’ve made both types of tamales. I prefer the taste of the tamales de elote and I think they’re easier to make. Below are some photos that show how you make both kinds of tamales. I only recently learned how to make the tamales de elote.

Tamales de Elote

Removing the husks from the elote (sweet corn)

The husks that will be used to wrap the tamales

Sweet corn!

Removing the kernals

Next you need to rinse the corn

Cecilia took the corn to a place nearby
to be ground. This is the result.

A liquidy dough

Put some of the corn husks onto the bottom of the
pot you'll use to cook the tamales.

Put a scoop of the dough into a husk

Wrap the dough and husk into a
rectangle then fold over the end

Wrap another corn husk around the first one

A small, rectangular tamale is the result

Ta da!

Place each tamale into the pot

Put more corn husks on top of the tamales

Add water and boil for 1.5 - 2 hours

The finished product!

Tamales de gallina

In the bowl on the left is chicken, center is corn dough mixed
with a natural colorant and tomatoes, the right side bowl is
filled with the soupy dough made from cooked maize.
In front of the bowls are the banana leaves.

Work from right to left: Spoonful of
corn dough, colorant, then chicken

Wrap up filling in the banana leaf,
forming it into a rectangle

My first attempt

Place all tamales into a bowl

Fill up pot with leaves, then tamales, more leaves, and water
Cook them for 1.5 hours and they're ready to eat!

The finished product

Riguas: I haven’t been able to find a lot of information about riguas online. All I really know is what I’ve learned from my experience here. Riguas are made from elote (sweet corn). After the sweet corn has been removed from the cob it needs to be put through a grinder or into a blender. From there it’s fried up on a griddle or something in the like. They take a while to cook and the heat can’t be up too high or the riguas will burn. They’re basically small, sweet corn fried pancakes. Kind of like potato pancakes. Riguas are often served with beans, cheese, or cream.

The liquidy dough made from elote (sweet corn)

Make into the shape of pancakes

They take a while to cook,
but are absolutely delicious!