Followed by a four-hour long meeting in the morning Sue and I decided to walk to San Francisco while Nancy, Kathy, and the Pastoral Team went to Corozal to deliver beans. Sue and I both go to Westminster Presbyterian in Des Moines, Iowa which partners with the canton of San Francisco. Miguel, who lives in San Francisco, came to the Pastoral House to walk with us. We saw lots of interesting things along the way: kids from my school, people flying kites, caterpillars, butterflies, pigs, etc. It took about an hour to get to there from Berlín. When we finally arrived we discussed what we wanted to do. We decided to look at the church and a new tank project that’s in the works.
First we went to the church. The church was built in 2009 and the retaining wall was built in 2010. The retaining wall was needed because this part of the country is especially prone to landslides and the community didn’t want the church being destroyed in the heavy rains of the Salvadoran rainy season. The church has recently been hooked up with electricity in late 2010/early 2011. It’s one of the few places in San Francisco that has electricity other than the solar panels people have in their homes.
We talked about a couple future projects that the community might want to do for their church. Something that should be done sooner rather than later is another retaining wall behind the church. After that it would be good to build a water drainage system so that water isn’t collected behind the retaining wall by the road. Farther into the future the community could clear some of the weeds and bushes away from the other side of the church to plants flowers. And in front of the church they’d like to have a cement patio sometime inside of just dirt/mud.
Miguel and Sue at the beginning of the walk
A bunch of trash by a sign that says "No dumping"
The city of Berlin from far away
Road to San Francisco
Butterfly on the retaining wall
The retaining wall
The church in San Francisco
Electricity meter hooked up to the church
Miguel showing us where they want
the second retaining wall
Looking down on the first retaining wall
Water collection tank for the church
Mushrooms growing by the church
(We did not eat them)
After seeing the church we went to learn about a new water tank project that’s being done in the community with the help of a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Fondo Ambiental de El Salvador (FONAES). The first phase of the project was done one or two years ago with 28 tanks installed and now they’re on the second phase with 22 new water tanks being installed. Since people do not have running water in their homes the water tanks are used to collect water during the rainy season for cooking, cleaning, bathing, drinking, etc.
We arrived at the first house and they explained what was being done. The NGO provided the community with the money via City Hall. The first thing that needed to be built was a base to put the tanks on. Cement was purchased and they are now in the process of laying concrete at the homes where the tanks will be built. The Berlín City Hall is looking into buying the large water tanks at a place in San Salvador. The community will pour one more layer of concrete and in 15 to 20 days they should be able to put the tanks on the property. Along with the water tanks FONAES also provides the family with a small, terra cotta water filter.
We moved on to another house to check out where another water tank would be. I recognized the house as one of the places I visited in May with my family. As we approached the house we saw that the woman who lived there had large granadillas (passion fruit) growing on her property. I’d heard about the large passion fruit before but hadn’t seen any. We also saw the beautiful passion flowers from which the fruit grows. We stayed for a while to chat with Maria. Both she and her two daughters, who are both in high school, are doing well.
Sign about the new water tank project
Walking past a retaining wall built by the school
Showing us the cement patios for the water tanks
The concrete was already hard
A large passion fruit about 6 inches long
New passion flower
More passion fruit (granadilla)
An open passion flower
Another cement patio
Miguel asked what we wanted to do next and I asked how far away the river was. He said it wasn’t too far and we decided to go check it out. I first went to see the river when I was here with my church in 2007. As I made my down a steep hill that first trip I kept looking for an actual river only to find out that it was a place where water ran from the side of the mountain into a large, man-made cement basin. This is where a majority of the families in San Francisco got their water. They hiked down to the “river,” filled up their cántaros, and hiked back to their houses carrying their cántaros on their heads.
Some things have changed since my first visit. Not as many people need to go to the river to get their water during the rainy season since my church made a donation of smaller water collection tanks a few years back to collect water during the rainy season. And the last time I went to the river it was during the dry season so there was no water in the cement basin (pila). I expected there would be water this time. After quite a ways of walking we eventually made it to the point in the road where we headed off on a little trail. It was steep and very slippery but no one fell.
When we reached the bottom we found that the pila was full of cool water. It looked a little cloudy but I think that was due to minerals deposited in the water. We walked up to see where the water dripped out of the dirt wall. It was clear and very cool. Miguel got a drink, telling us that the water wasn’t contaminated like many of the other water sources in the cantons. I believed him but decided to stick to my bottled water just in case.
After checking out the main pila we went down the trail a little further to see another water birthplace. The area where the water collected was much smaller but it still felt very cool. I really like being down in that area. I rinsed off my hands in the water and splashed some on my face. It felt really good especially since I was hot and sweaty from all the walking we’d been doing. I stood there for a few moments enjoying my surroundings. I liked being in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nature.
Soon we needed to head back. The walk up the path was strenuous and we were all sweating by the time we reached the road. I tried calling Kathy on her cell phone since I knew that she was going to be driving by sometime to pick us up on her way back from Corozal but I had no signal and neither did Miguel. We figured we’d keep walking back toward the main part of San Francisco and Kathy would drive by eventually. And if they’d already passed us then we’d just have to walk all the back to Berlín. Thankfully, we heard the pickup rumbling about 10 minutes later. We all hopped in the truck, grateful to not have to walk any further.
We drove to the main part of San Francisco and dropped Miguel off at his home. After saying goodbye we headed back to Berlín. It was a good afternoon and I was ready for a shower!
Spiderweb along the wall
Flowers growing along the dirt wall
A curtain of leaves
I like this tree
Walking down the path
There I am!
Down to the pila
I can see the pila
Where water is collected
Moss growing on the pila
The water in the pila
Miguel getting a drink
Sue checking out the water
Steps up to the water source
Looking down at the pila
Looking at all the lush, green plants
Sue by the pila
Walking down to the other water source
Miguel checking out the water
I'm feeling the water
Little water pool
Drip, drip, drip