So much has happened since our last post! As some of you know our original project was to construct a school house for the children in the area we were staying in. When the funding from another organization did not come through for the school teacher we had to change our project to a womens center. We were still really excited about the project and looking forward to getting started! However, the planning of the project was taking too long and was becoming less and less feasible so our plans had to change again! We learned a lot about patience and flexibility when working in a foreign country. We worked to find a new project that would meet both our communitites needs and fit into the goals of Nourish. Fundahmer presented us with the idea of builiding pilas (Arnie I’m sorry if I spelled it wrong!) which we decided was an exciting option. A pila is a water storage basin with a cement top on one side for dishes and laundry and household duties. Water in the area is a difficult thing to come by and the people are in dire need of it. By providing pilas we are alleviating some of the water issue by allowing them a storage space to collect and hold larger amounts of water. One very unfortunate aspect of this was that we were no longer able to stay in Gaucamaya, El Tablon and Cerro Fuego. We moved to the neighboring community of San Pedro. We were very dissapointed that we had to leave the families that we had become so fond of but we also got to interact and meet more people in the area. Once we had finally started our construction of the pilas things ran smoothly and the project was a success! The people of Morazan had a strong impact on my life and have opened my eyes to the world. They have implanted a strong desire in me to continue participating and implementing projects like this. I am happy to be home but sad this trip has ended. This experience was worth every cold shower and spider in the bathroom, it was worth every ridiculously long hike and the bug bites. Anything unpleasant that happened on this trip (including my scabies which is still itching) is a tiny drop of water in a rainstorm of experience. When you leave for a trip like this you think of the physical impact you are going to have, whatever project you go to implement. I have realized that there is so much more than just the project that comes out of an experience like this. The interactions we had with the people in these communities are just as valuable as the actual projects we bring. This was a truly moving time of my life and I cannot wait to go again.
We have been staying in Gaucamaya for the past several days. I don´t think anyone was expecting the hike that we were going to encounter. It´s quite literally mountain climbing. The people of Gaucamaya have been so hospitable and very friendly! With our things its about a half an hour hike to the central church where the three communitites meet. We were split it to two groups. Sally Sama and Rachel stayed with Francesca at her home. Sean Arnie and I stayed with Maria and her family. The first day we ate dinner and then the girls left to go to their home. We were sitting outside their home and everyone was standing there waiting for us to entertain them. It took a minute but finally we got out our soccer ball and taught the kids how to play monkey in the middle. The whole family enjoyed it. The next day we took the long hike back up the the church to help Fundhamer distribute corn. I huge supply truck came in with bags of corn and beans. The people were so precise on how much each family got. They measured exactly 25 lbs of beans. After that we hiked down to the river and got to play in the rocks. Sometimes I feel like such a little kid here and other times I feel like I have been growing more in these past couple days than in the past year. It´s a different way of life from the one I have known for sure. There has been so much happening that it is hard to write about it all. Yesterday we were up at the soccer field which is a flat area up higher in the mountains. It started to storm so we were running back down to our home. Martina´s kids were with us and as we were going back Ricardo (our guide from Fundhamer) got a little behind with Rachel and Arnie. Sean and the girls got a little ahead of me and our favorite little four year old whose name even Ricardo can´t pronounce. Our little buddy stopped to wait and I wasn´t going to leave a four year old in the forest in a storm by himself even though he knows it better than me. Once he saw the rest of them coming he continued so I followed him. He ended up taking me to his home the right at the fork instead of to Maria´s where we were staying. I was waiting out the storm when Ricardo and Sean come running out of the woods like jungle men to rescue me. Some rescue. We are happy that has been the only incident of the week. We are moving to El Tablon today and then we will be staying in Perquin for two days this weekend. Construction on the community center begins on Wednesday. I think we are all excited and kind of dreading how much we are going to sweat. I will try to post again later.
We all send our love to everyone at home,
Jenna, and everyone here from Brown and Miami
We arrived in San Salvador last night after some minor delays to our flight in Houston and then again in San Salvador. There was a storm that we were waiting to pass which made for a bumpy ride. I don´t think I was the only one glad to touch the ground. The air was really muggy since it had just stormed but as we were driving to Fundhamer´s National Headquarters we were getting our first taste of El Salvador. We were all very excited to start the process of getting to know each other and the country we will be spending the next month in.
We woke up and got ready to greet a new day excited for what was on the agenda for the day. We attended Catholic mass at Romero´s tomb. Romero was the Archbishop in El Salvador when the civil war began. He was the voice of the voiceless in El Salvador and was a humble inspiration and leader to the people here. I was truly awestruck when we stood in the square outside the cathedral were Romero is entombed. The fact that hundreds of people were murdered where I stood by their own army is hard for my to imagine. I tried to think about what it would be like for me to be at my home and going through the same experience.
We also visited several other places in the city. We were supposed to go up to hike and get a great view of the city but the weather turned sour on us and we were delayed. Instead we visited a museum that is housed in the oldest public jail in San Salvador. The museum gave us especially insight into the culture of the Salvadorans and some of the struggles they face. I was glad that we got to visit the museum but we do hope to return to hike and get our great view of San Salvador. Along with the museum we visited a park that hosts a monument to the past a present of El Salvador and to those murdered in the civil war here.
We depart for Morazan in the morning. We recieved very exciting news that we will be staying with three communities in the same area! Guacamaya, El Tablon and Cerro Fuego are the three places we will be staying. The language barrier for me has been frustrating because I really would love to hear what everyone I have met has to say. Having translation is great but it lacks the true feel you get when speaking to a person directly. I am slowly picking up language here and there. Everyone at Fundhamer has been very friendly and eager to help me learn. I have twenty eight more days to learn from the Salvadorans and hopefully I can have some impact on them as well. I will be posting more from Morazan later this week!
Jenna and the Nourish Team
Everyone on the Nourish Team from Brown and Miami is very excited to make our way to El Salvador! We have been working very hard to plan this trip and we are anxious to implement everything we have worked on! We will be flying out on May 21st which is quickly approaching. We have thirty days in El Salvador which I feel is going to fly by! We are staying in Guacamaya which is in the department of Morazan. I am excited to experience a new culture and get to know our host families! We are all also ready to begin construction on the school building in the town which is much needed. It’s a new challenge and I believe all of us are looking forward to it. I know we are especially thrilled about working with the children in the community! Before we go we are hoping to collect some school supplies to take with us. My hope is that our time in Guacamaya will leave a lasting impact on the community. There will hopefully be a lot of posts and even more pictures to keep everyone updated about our time in El Salvador!
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.