Saturday, November 9, 2013

Life in San Francisco

Today was to be our first day in our sister community of San Francisco, and we were excited to see our brothers and sisters of San Francisco. We had a yummy breakfast of pancakes, beans, and eggs. Then at 7:30pm we piled the guacals and ourselves into the pickup truck. We picked up the a couple police officers in town, our muscle for the day, and began the trip to San Francisco. The main reason the police were accompanying us was to improve the relationship between the police and the Pastoral Team and between the police and the community. The road to San Francisco is going to be paved so the entire road was dug up. However, we had gotten permission from the head of the construction crew to use the road. Otherwise it would have taken about 2 hours to get to the community using a different road.
Proof we rode in the back of the pickup

Waiting to take off

Riding on the bars because there wasn't much room

The road to San Francisco under construction

Bridge to nowhere?
No, it will help people get across the road
when there is a lot of rain and flooding.

So close together

Pickups full of people:
A common method of transportation
We arrived in the San Francisco and were greeted by several members of the community. We chatted for a while until more people had arrived. Then everyone gathered inside the church for a short celebration. The Delegate of the Word, Daniel, who is like a lay minister, gave a short introduction of the community. Then the musical group performed several songs for everyone. We all stood and clapped along to the music. Next was a prayer led by Daniel and a presentation from the director of the Directiva about their partnership with Westminster.

When the community was done expressing their gratitude for our visit, it was our turn to introduce ourselves. Michelle, Maggy, and I stood up in front of the group and talked briefly about ourselves and our lives in the US. Then Michelle read a letter of support for the community of San Francisco on behalf of Westminster. Katherine translated the letter for the congregation. Everyone applauded when Michelle finished reading the letter. Then Blanca stood up to say a few words to the community about the partnership and what it means to have a partnership with a church in the US.

Arriving in San Francisco



Looking down at the road

Welcome brothers and sisters to our community
of San Francisco (Saint Francis of Assisi)
Sister Church Westminster

San Francisco church

Daniel, Delegate of the Word


The president of the Directiva, Miguel

Reading the letter of support

Blanca talking to the group

Listening attentively

Holding her cousin
After the short celebration we prepared for a meeting with the Directiva. The Directiva is like a community leadership council that is elected by the canton of San Francisco. We talked about our plan for the following days and the Directiva also presented information about different topics important in their community.
School: There are 4 kids finishing high school this year from San Francisco. They attend the high school in Berlin. Regarding the school in San Francisco, there are:
Kindergarten- 22 kids: 11 boys, 11 girls
1st grade- 14 kids: 8 boys, 6 girls
2nd grade- 20 kids: 13 boys, 7 girls
3rd grade- 16 kids: 10 boys, 6 girls
4th grade- 19 kids: 7 boys, 12 girls
5th grade- 12 kids: 6 boys, 6 girls
6th grade- 8 kids: 2 boys, 6 girls
7th grade- 47 kids: 25 boys, 22 girls
8th grade- 33 kids: 17 boys, 16 girls
= 199 kids
Agriculture: Some years there’s a good production and some years there’s a bad production of crops. The two main crops are beans and rice. Right now there’s a good crop, but it has been raining which could hurt the bean crops. This is problematic because the crops are what sustains most of the families in San Francisco. This year the two basic crops have been cheap to sell; this is bad for families because it means that families don’t get much money for their crops when they take them to the market. And unfortunately, there are no other jobs for people other than to harvest beans and corn and then sell their harvest. They sell part of their harvest because they need to be able to buy what they need for their home such as oil, salt, sugar, soap, clothes, etc.
Economy: The economy is a factor that affects people at the local and national level. Some communities have it worse than others. The economy affects education because there are no resources for people to pay for education or food, especially when there are big families.
Health: It is difficult for people in San Francisco to get their health needs met when they are sick. Right now, in order for people from San Francisco to get medical attention, they have to go to the canton of Virginia which is a 2 or 2½ hour walk.
Jobs: It is difficult for people to find a job after they get done with high school because of the lack of opportunities. Not many people who live in the canton of SF have outside jobs though some people move away from San Francisco in order to find a job.
Coffee: Right now the daily pay for harvesting coffee is $5. In other parts of El Salvador the pay is even less. The people harvesting coffee are expected to work from 7am to 4pm. And it is not easy to find jobs harvesting coffee. If they do find this kind of work, it may only be for a week and it is a seasonal job.
Part of the Directiva
After the meeting we all sat down to lunch in the church provided by the community. We had chicken, rice, vegetables, and tortillas. We decided to divide up the translators (Maggy’s idea) so Katherine was with Michelle and I was with Maggy. Most of the meal we spent chit chatting with the police. We talked about life in the US, what it was like in El Salvador, and all of our lives in general. One man had been a policeman for 18 years and the other for 14 years.
When we’d finished eating lunch it was time start the door-to-door census. We were also handing out cards signed by families at our church and guacals full of food. A guacal is a large plastic tub that is used for washing hands, washing clothes, storing food, and much more. Each guacal was filled with a large bag of rice, 2 bags of lye for corn, 3 bags of sugar, 2 bags of salt, a packet of spaghetti, 3 bags of Ramen noodles, a bag of oil, and a package of cookies. There were no beans or corn included in the bags since most families have more beans and corn than they’re able to sell and not enough of the other essential items.
Several filled guacales

Part of the census
Today we delivered packets to the caserío of Los Cruces, which is a “neighborhood” in San Francisco. We were able to drive about half the way to the caserío then we had to get out of the truck and walk because the road was too bad to drive. It was a long and hot walk down. But it was worth it when we had the opportunity to meet each of the families face to face in their own homes. Words cannot begin to describe how we felt as we met each family. Every family and every person was unique in their own way and greeted us warmly when we arrived at their home. People were so grateful that we took the time to walk to their homes to get to know them. Almost everyone offered us a chair when we arrived. It’s hard to sum up our visits in words, so I’ll use pictures instead.
The first family we met








How many people in the pickup?
13 (you can't see me or Katherine)

Taking pictures of each other

We're so cool

The good part of the road

Cool tree

Katherine and I rode up on the railing

So many men. So many problems.
On bicycle

Beautiful view

Now it's time to walk


Hanging out


More beautiful faces

Bird friend!

And walking back up



An abandoned building

Daniel's family

New baby!

So precious

Maggy and friends



Similar skin color





Just hanging out


Sadly, the wife/mother of this family died a few
days ago. She was at the river and was struck
by several rocks and dirt. Unfortunately,
accidents like this are not uncommon

With one of the former high school
scholarship recipients

She's 16 years old and hoping for
children soon.


He really wanted to see the camera







Baby Josue


Hammock time



Biking up the hill

With another high school student

And up we go


A policeman for each lady





Like father, like son

When we’d finally finished delivering gifts and cards to over 30 houses, we drove back to the church. Several members of the community had coffee and cookies waiting for us. We were only able to stay a short period of time because we could see the rain clouds approaching. The ride back was uneventful and there was more room in the pickup because we’d handed out all the guacals.  
We got back to the house by 5:00pm and by 5:15pm it had started to rain. A beautiful rainbow showed up over the city Berlin. We took pictures and then just stood for a while listening to the rain. I ended up taking a short nap because I was exhausted. Dinner tonight was spaghetti and empanadas (smashed plantains with beans inside). Delicious!! I forgot to take a picture because I was so hungry I ate without thinking. I needed energy. Tomorrow is another long day!




gringainelsalvador said...

Thank you for sharing the lives of the people of San Francisco with us. I hope the beans don't get rained out this year.

Matt said...

It's great that they are paving the road. Hopefully that will make it much easier for people to travel around. As always, fantastic pictures of all the families.