Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ants Like Tears and Other Observations

There are silly little things I discover almost daily mixed in with the bigger issues of the country!

I woke up with my eye feeling a bit wonky and teary. Not oopy like with pink eye … just feeling bothered and watery. So I took an antihistamine and put a Visine A drop in the bothersome eye. I had a tissue handy to swab gently at the tears as they fell …

When I was called down to breakfast, I set the tissue down next to the computer.

Upon return, I started in again on the work – I’ve been trying to clear my desk of all the random little notes and projects I have going. As I was typing and organizing – I felt a tickle on my hand. It was one of those teeny tiny ants that are all over the place. If you have ever been here you know them. They are ever present and every where ('every where' in two words on purpose for emphasis)! One should always look before one puts a piece of pan dulce in one’s mouth. One never knows how many are currently feasting on said piece of said cookie!

So I shook my hand to get rid of it. They don’t bite. They just tickle. And I kept on typing. But pretty soon I felt another tickle on my hand. Hm. I looked down and they were swarmed on that tissue I was using to dab my eye. Salt water attraction?

Can’t leave anything sitting on the desk! And all food up here in the office or my room is in Zip Lock bags! I feel the need to protect those little Snickers bars that Mike sent me well! Stingy me!

Chickens run funny. And they don’t know enough to run to the SIDE of the road so they run weaving in front of truck. Lucky for them I don’t like to cause harm to any living creatures here.

Dogs and cows own the road and feel no need to hurry nor move from their resting spots. Again ... lucky for them my 'do no harm' attitude.

After having to drive a different truck while our red one is in the shop getting its annual check up and myriad of little and not so little fixes … I will NEVER take for granted a quality vehicle on our horribly maintained country roads. So what if it costs over $1,600 every year to maintain? Ouch followed by a big sigh. I guess that is why I have a credit card … (with a zero balance!)

A final thought for the day:
If I were smart, I’d have my dirty clothes hanging on the line. Not to dry … but to get washed! It’s raining buckets.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Come and meet the Pastoral Team!

Hey everyone!

I'm hoping that lots of people come out to the Des Moines Social Club (1400 Locust) on the 29th of August from 3 p.m. till 7 p.m.

There will be music, 'tapas' also known as 'bocas' (munchies), a silent auction, lots of info about the work of Our Sister Parish. Our church partners will be creating displays about their specific projects with their communities. And something really cool: the Pastoral Team and I will be on live webcam to share a bit of our work and answer some questions.

Tickets are $20 each. It is best to pre-order (515-276-4991), but you can also get them at the door. All proceeds support the work of Our Sister Parish.

This is sponsored by the volunteer group of Companeros who directly support the work we are doing here in El Salvador.

Please come out to support this work and have some fun and enjoy lots of food!
Thank you!

August 22nd 2010 – Two Delegations

This morning at 4 a.m., in the pouring rain, our latest delegation departed. (And then I crawled back into bed to sleep a little more). And I woke up to no internet.

So this is a good time to sit and write now to post later. I don’t even know where to start. It has been a great couple of weeks. Ivwas in Iowa till the first week of August and the day after I arrived back here in Berlin, I had to go back to San Salvador to pick up a delegation.

That was a fabulous week. They were from my home church in Iowa and there were only 3 people - which is a VERY small group. That week flew by. There were many positive things about that week as well as a few disappointments. Those that visit regularly and have been coming for a long time (in the case of this church for over 12 years), get to know the realities of this country pretty well. And some things can be extremely frustrating.

On the same note …

The delegation that left this morning was made up of 4 brand new visitors. A couple of members of their church had been here before (quite a while ago), but there was really only ‘intellectual’ knowledge of the realities here from what they had read in books (and they had read plenty in preparation for this trip!). What they saw and experienced first hand here seemed to create some frustrating conflicts in their minds in the realization that what seems, on the surface, such a basic thing – can be so ‘troublesome’ for all involved. For example: you need to teach 9th graders what they need to learn to be able to enter and be successful in High School – not just pass them on. If English and basic computer is a requirement to enter high school – then have a teacher capable of teaching those things. Don’t allow the teachers to check the box that says ‘pass’ unless they have actually taught the material and then only if they truly passed. So many things here set people up for failure.

And what can we realistically do about it? Nothing on a country wide scale. This is an issue like so many others that can only be rectified by a government that will acknowledge a problem and find the resources to deal with it.

The temporary solution in this case could be to find someone who can give Saturday workshops for 3 – 6 months. Not a teacher per se - but a tutor who can teach the basics to those wanting to go to high school. Offer it to all the 8th and 9th graders so when they enter 10th grade they won’t start out 10 steps behind the others and ultimately fail those two classes that first trimester. That kind of failure, that kind of struggle is often enough to motivate a student to just give up and quit school.

And the younger students who see the older students struggling might not even bother with 8th or 9th grade knowing that they will be in the same situation. And if that is the case… why even bother with 6th grade?

What an ugly cycle.

So we’re going to do some investigating. We plan to talk to the school board, the principal and the teachers in this community to find out what is really going on. Then the Pastoral Team, together with the assistance of the partner church, will try to find a solution for these students. We know where to find some tutors who are willing to trek out to the canton. And we know that the students will attend. We just want to make sure that our helping won’t step on the toes of the Ministry of Education so that they chose never to support these basic requirements in this community.

Here is another case where we see a huge inadequacy. The parents are upset but they don’t know how to go about demanding changes. Perhaps we can help with that, too. To help them learn how to raise their voices appropriately.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

August 5th 2010 – I’m Back but leaving again!

I just returned from a 2 week visit to the States. I actually got a week of vacation in (visiting really cool places like Yosemite and Glacier National Parks) and then I spent a week at Synod School where I was able to present a class about the mission here as well as attend classes for myself. That was a good week (but very tiring).

So now I’m back. And as usual upon return, there were lots of things to catch up on: good news, not so good news … updates on things that were up in the air before I left …

I got to Berlin yesterday afternoon and THIS afternoon I have to go back to San Salvador to pick up the Heartland delegation. There are only 3 of them this trip so the week should be relatively easy. But it will still be a full week with minimal computer time.

Observations from abroad:
As I was sitting in the airport restaurant eating my guacamole burger (yum) I was thinking about all the people bustling about and eavesdropping on snippets of conversation here and there … and I was thinking that possibly the majority of the people there are clueless about the realities of the poor in developing countries.

I wasn’t being judgmental … a little at first maybe – but I snapped myself out of that attitude because it was wrong. It is just the way it is. We are born into our life (you can insert your own philosophical thoughts on why we are who we are and born into our worlds as we are) and we are products of our environment and upbringing. And our culture and society.

And some of us stumble upon opportunities to see the bigger picture and some of us (lots of people really) try to do something about it in whatever capacity we are able.

The bigger picture can be overwhelming though.

Personal observations:
Feelings of guilt … feelings of insecurity… feelings of hypocrisy…
I have a huge variety of emotions that run through me when I go back to the states. I do love being in El Salvador and working with the Pastoral Team. I love the people we serve. I don’t mind (usually) the relatively Spartan lifestyle – knowing it is far better than what it could be!!

But when I’m in the states, I really enjoy the creature comforts. And I could see myself falling into the attitude of taking all those things for granted and using them without thought of those who are without. I’m talking about amenities such as water availability and relative purity, constant electricity, wonderful roadways, trash pick up, stores and stores and stores where I can find anything I need or want at any time of the day or night, being out at night even, the ability to get in out of the rain or constant dust. Machines to wash my clothes and dishes. Carpet.

I really still am somewhat spoiled. I don’t like that in me.