These are Mary Alice’s thoughts from our trip:
It’s been a couple months since our visit to El Salvador and looking back, it seems so surreal that we walked, talked, ate, slept, and lived for the entirety of 5 weeks in three isolated, impoverished communities of Morazan. We ate tortillas and beans at every meal, bathed with buckets and washed clothes with brushes every afternoon, watched the sky pour down rain on an already extremely muddy landscape every evening, and slept in hammocks every night hoping to God that the fleas would not be biting especially hard. In the moment, it wasn’t necessarily an extraordinary nor a glamorous abroad experience. It was just a different lifestyle and one that all of us were completely capable to handle. It was a lifestyle where the day actually begins and ends with the sun. It was a lifestyle where one could produce almost as much as one consumed. A lifestyle that could push a person to both the brink of exhaustion and relaxation. It made one question their choices and actions back home, the significance of possessions, a home, a family, a community, the passing of time, and the true meaning of silence. It was a lifestyle that we are all grateful to have experienced and now, hopefully, have learned a little bit more about ourselves and what we want from the time we have left in our lives.
Being as it may, we especially hope that we positively impacted the communities where we worked this summer as much as they impacted us. By the end of the trip, it was obvious that “la gente” were excited about the gardens and their potential yields at the end of the summer. The gardens were doing well and although some plants were attacked by insects, no one seemed discouraged or even reluctant to plant again and hope for better results the next time around. The majority of the beds had plants growing, already with trellises poking up in between to accommodate their rapid growth. A variety of different veggie seedlings were growing in the “semilleros”, or seed beds, that would later be transplanted in the plant beds, maximizing the amount of space used and plant diversity in the gardens.
By now, the communities should be enjoying the influx of fresh, organic green beans, radishes, onions, cilantro, squash, melons, and cucumbers from their gardens. Instead of eating plain beans and tortillas everyday, “la gente” can infuse their diets with new tastes and nutrients for a more varied and healthy lifestyle. Hopefully, other community members unaffiliated with the gardens have noticed the garden’s benefits and are considering joining the initiative next season. We also hope that those working in the gardens are considering building their own private gardens on their land with the knowledge and skills they learned this season in the community gardens. With this extra production space, they can continue to eat vegetables often and even sell the additional produce for extra income. More importantly though, we hope the communities feel a sense of pride and brotherhood in combining their resources, time, and efforts to create something productive and beneficial in their lives that will help them address some of the issues linked to poverty that they face daily. It was an honor to be part of such an initiative and we are more than ever inspired by their enthusiasm and dedication to the gardens and their overall commitment to benefiting their communities as a whole.
It’s been a little over five weeks since we returned from our project with FUNDAHMER. The time as gone very quickly and we’ve all seemed to re-adjusted to our lives. In about a week classes will begin; we’ll reunite with all our friends, most of which we’ve not seen since we we’ve returned from El Salvador. I wonder if we’re different from before the trip.
During the second half of our trip we partook in some really exciting events: we were in La Hacienda during the celebration of their patron saint, and on that day woke from the sound of firecrackers being set off to call everyone to the capilla (chapel). At the chapel we had quesadilla cake and coffee, followed my mass, then a community lunch a marathon of movies relating to El Salvador’s History, an inter-village soccer tournament, and finally a dance at the elementary school! It was such a fun day! A few days later, we returned to San Salvador one weekend intending to visit the beach, but were prevented from doing so due to poor weather. Instead we visited el Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen, which had several very interesting exhibits about artists in El Salvador, and the University of Central America (UCA) and learned about the Jesuit martyrs who died their during the Civil War.
In considering the lasting impact our trip had; it would be so nice to see pictures of the gardens now. When we left all three were teeming with healthy seedlings. There was plague affecting the beans in Flor del Muerto if I recall correctly, and in Hacienda, some kind of insecto had carried away many of the rabino seeds, but other than that, most everything was growing well. I hope the communities are diligent about saving seeds and that each family eventually cultivates its own garden.
We visited a local elementary school two days during the project to discuss 1) the components of a balanced diet as well as its importance and 2) how to read a packaged food label. I wish we had prepared better for these activities, and that we had continued to prepare lessons for the school relating to nutrition. The language gap ended up being quite a bit wider than I had realized, preventing the students from understanding the lesson very well the first day. The situation had improved by the second day, so hopefully they found our discussion about fresh fruits and vegetables interesting.
One week left in El Salvador. I decided it was time to get out of my hammock at 5:27am this morning. I had been drifting in and out of sleep since about 4:00am when the gallos (roosters) bgan to grace the world wither their ear-piercing songs. The sun rose at 4:45, so the light was not strong yet and the mountain was covered in a misty fog. After visiting the latrince and putting my contacts in, I decided to get an early start on my laundry. It had piled up after a few rainy days and our trip to the city . There are no driers here and because of the sun’s absence, we didn’t want to get stuck traveling with a heap of wet clothes. I took my pile to the pila out in the back of the cement house. The pila is basically a kitchen sink that stores water in the middle and has a counter on either side to wash clothes on. I spent an hour using a bucket of water and some elbow grease to wash several pieces of clothing.Mary Alice joined me half way through with the same idea in her mind. I prayed that there would actually be enough sun to dry my laundry before we travel to the next community tomorrow.
Breakfast was at 7:00am. We had quaker oatmeal and fried plantains. They usually would eat beans, tortillas, and plantains for breakfast, but our host mother learned that we American girls love our oatmeal.
At eight, we were ready to go to work in the garden we helped to start a little more than three weeks ago. We cleared the land and dug many beds using pickaxes, shovels, and a method called double dig. When we arrived, the garden was already filled with activity. The people in the community take turns working with us in the mornings. Today’s team was weeding with machetes and working on cutting down some small trees that were making too much shade for the vegetables to grow. We helped to weed around the pipian (squash) jamaica (hibiscus) and cilantro. We mounded up dirt around the cucumbers and radish and two boys went on the path to cut large branches to create a trellis for the cukes. We dug two more beds to transplant chile, lettuce, and cabbage that we had started in nursery beds. David instructed us on how to make a foliar from the leaves of Madre Cacao and water. He says the chemicals that are found naturally in these leaves are the same as what one would find in commercial foliars. This foliar was mixes with a pesticide we cooked a week before from garlic, onion, jalapeno, and ginger. This pesticide doesn’t really kill. It just deters animals by the taste and smell.
The transformation this garden has gone through is amazing. And this is only one of three.
We went back to Emelias to eat lunch. I have been making bracelets from thread intermittently throughout the trip and just figured out how to make a zigzag design. In the middle of teaching Emelia, our host, how to make the bracelets, it began to rain. “La ropa (the clothes)!!” We all shouted. “La carrera (the race)!” laughed Emelia’s husband as all the women ran to collect the clothes from the lines before they got soaked.
After a little more chatting and sitting on Emelia’s porch, they left to go to an organizing meeting for hosting their sister community who was going to visit on Friday, the day after we leave.
The rest of the afternoon, we did Taebo and showered at the pila. (So here, they shower outside in the open. When I was showing them pictures of the snowy Cornell campus, their first question was ‘How do you bathe?’ I had to explain that we cook and bathe inside).
At 4:30, the people we had been working with in the garden all came to reflect and share thanks with us. They are all so sweet. I’m glad we had the change to support their efforts to gain solidarity and nutritional benefits. When the garden has grown, they will save seeds for next rainy season because they don’t have enough money to buy enough seeds otherwise. Hopefully they will have enough to help people start their own personal gardens as well. FUNDAHMER promises to send us pictures of the harvests when they are ready!
Then we ate our last dinner with Emelia and family. They made us a special pineapple/corn drink called atole. Delicioso!! They have so many uses for corn here- tortillas, corn coffee, corn chocolate, corn alcohol, corn hot drinks. The vast majority of families only grow enough corn and beans for themselves to survive and enough grain to feed their animals. If their harvest doesn’t last them through the dry season, they are in trouble and hope they have enough money to buy their food.
We spent our last night sitting on Emelia’s porch chatting and watching the day fade into night. Unfortunately, a big thunderstorm came, so we won’t be able to swim tomorrow in the Rio Torola because it will be dirty and strong from the runoff.
But now I’m laying in my hammock praising God for the successful and safe trip we have had so far and the opportunity to help the community start this adventure it is 8:10, I’ll probably be asleep by 8:30, after i draw a new sketch of the garden.
Things we have already done on the trip:
learned to throw tortillas and make pupusas (the national dish of El Salvador)
milked a goat
washed clothes by hand
Climbed 2 mountains
Saw an anteater
Saw the river full of water after an intense rain
visited the war museums and site of the El Mozote Massacre
got bitten by whoknowshowmany types of bugs
taught nutrition lessons at the school
Things to do before we go:
Help make a hammock
Make pan dulce (and get the recipe)
See the bee farm that FUNDAHMER has
Watch a futbol game
Swim in the Rio Quebrada
Learn the cumbia and dance with the community.
Eat a whole mango
I can´t believe we are half way done. The gardens are made and the plants are starting to sprout. Now we are on to making organic pesticides and caring for the garden. Today we made a pesticide by cooking onion, garlic, and chile peppers in water. They say it works.
I´m looking forward to going back to see my family, but at the same time, I don´t want to waste what time I have left thinking about home.
But everyone is still healthy and doing well!
We work a lot in the mornings, but there is still plenty of time to relax, spend time with our host families, and enjoy El Salvador.
In Flor de Muerto, Pillar´s daughter has three children. They are all so cute and love to occupy our attention. We have colored with them, read the Lorax in spanish (multiple times), made braclets, had writing races, and played games.
Friday the 11th (yesterday) the team didn´t have to work in the garden because we were going to Perquin later in the day and the kids didn´t have school, so we spent the whole morning making bracelets.
We spent the rest of Friday and Saturday visiting museums of the revolution in Perquin and El Mozote.
The words and phrases most often heard while working in the huertos
huerto: vegetable garden
acostumbrado: acustomed, as in we aren´t acustomed to the heat or usng a machete
la piocha: the flat side of the pick
el pico: the sharp side of the pick
la pala: shovel
las hormigas: ants. the nasty little things like to bite us while we are working
doble excavacion: double dig, the method we are using to dig up the big beds. It is intense
labranza minima: the quick and easy way to make a garden bed.
Where is the graduate student from Brown?
That seems to be the big question of the trip. We were told there would be a grad student here somewhere and we would be meeting her somewhere along the trip.
But, we haven´t heard anything from her yet. Maybe we will be hearing from her soon??
Greetings from Morazan, El Salvador. Maddie and Liz reporting from an internet cafe in Cacaopera. Everything is going great.
So here is a little recap of our first week in the beautiful, yet humid mountainous land of pupusas.
We started out in San Salvador, where we stayed in a retreat center for Jesuit Priests. It was very beautiful. Until Friday we were shown the city by our wonderful FUNDAHMER hosts Ana Luz, Edgardo, and Jose. We ate pupusas (the national dish) and visited historical sites dedicated to Oscar Romero and the El Salvadoran Civil War.
Then on Friday morning, we departed for Morazan via Minibus. The drive was about 4 hours. Liz slept the whole time, but Maddie says that the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful.
We were greeted by a group of women from the communities of Tablon and Flor de Muerto. After Jose gave them the instructions on how to ensure our project would be successful, we carried our luggage about 1/2 mile up the mountain to Tablon. In Tablon, we stayed with Emelia, Santiaga and their mother.
Each morning we woke up at five ((which is really 7 EST) and began our day. Breakfast. usually of beans or eggs, tortillas, and plantains, and then we headed of to work on the huerto (vegetable garden).
For three days, we dug beds using the DOUBLE DIG method. http://www.wikihow.com/Double-Dig-a-Garden on the last day we also sowed seeds of cucumbers, cilantro, onion, lettuce, chiles, and green beans.
Our garden work finished around 11:30. Then we would eat lunch (of tortillas, beans, maybe rice and noodles, maybe vegetabes and juice) and have the rest of the afternoon to wash clothes (quite an job), bathe, visit the rest of the community and platicar (chat).
Dinner is usually around six and we hit the hammock by 8:00 and are sound asleep.
On Tuesday morning we walked all of our baggage down the mountain to Flor de Muerto where we are staying with Pillar and Demasa. We also worked three days digging their huerto. Today was our last day of work.
We are heading to Perequin to do some sight-seeing tomorrow and Saturday. Sunday-Tuesday we will be in Hacienda.
So, we will try to come to Cacaopera again, probably next week, to tell how all the gardens are coming.
Welcome to The Nourish Blog Famiy. This is your first post. Hello, i just wanted to see if i can figure out how to post. Our program in El Salvador begins tomorrow! Yippie, this is going to be so fun!