Saturday, September 18, 2010

Read Alisha's Blog!!

Alisha was one of the delegates here last week.  Every night she faithfully wrote wonderfully detailed blogs for each day.

I'm going to 'cheat' and suggest you read those.  I might write a bit here and there about some of the things we did from my perspective - but for now - from her writings, you can see why I don't write much while people are here.  The end of the day arrives and I'm exhausted!!  (And Alisha is a LOT younger than me and a night owl to boot - that's MY excuse anyway).

so here is her link:


Not only does she share the day - but she embellishes with facts and information that she has looked up to give more meaning to some of the things we see and hear.

So thank you Alisha for letting me 'pirate' your blogs.  But I'm giving grateful credit where the credit is due!
Love you girl.
And I miss you and Lynn already!

Excitement at the end of the Week


This was the day of the end of my two back to back delegations. Granted they were small ones – but it still requires the majority of my time and effort to ‘attend’ to our guests. This is by no means a complaint. I love when there are people here. It is a very important part of this work – helping people/congregations to stay connected with their partner communities and to help strengthen the bonds between them and the Pastoral Team.

So it was a sad day to wake up to – but on the other hand – I sort of looked forward to catching up with the things that got pushed aside while our company was here. And my poor achy self needs time to recuperate from 7 days of door to door walking out in three different cantons.

So Lynn and Alisha did some final packing, we had breakfast and they said some tearful good-byes – not good-bye really – more like ‘see you soon’ – but it was sad nonetheless for them.

We were on our way by about 8:15 a.m.

We made it to the Litoral (CA2 for those who have a map). This is the large highway to the south of us that parallels the coast. We go through Mercedes Umaña, then down to San Vicente, then head south to the CA2. From there we continue west to the airport.

We were on the CA2 for about 10 minutes when I felt – actually heard a strange sound. And soon I felt an odd difference in the way the car was moving. I felt like I was riding 'lower.' I figured out what the problem was pretty quickly with a glance out the window and to the front.

Dang. We had a flat!!!! Fortunately, it didn't pop and make me lose control!

We had LOTS of luck today in many ways (although I think it was the hand of God protecting us). We were about a half block away from a place selling furniture ... a store I’ve always wanted to check out! (That was the first bit of ‘luck’) and I could slowly make my way across the street to their yard.

The old man working there saw our problem, and waved me to a grassy spot to park. Nice old man … luck #2.

Unfortunately, he had no idea how to change a tire. And this was my very first ever flat tire! Amazing in my many years!! But there were 3 men in another pick up who had stopped to look at the stuff in the store and they worked on getting the spare tire out. The ‘key’ to ‘unlock’ the spare tire from its secure place under the bed of the truck was not long enough. Hm. So seems we couldn’t even get the spare out. But the guy from the pick up had one that worked and they took care of that for us! (#3)

(Meanwhile, the two young ladies brought us chairs to sit in).
(#3 ½)

I explained to the two young ladies working the store that the ladies I was with needed to get to the airport and was there a way to somehow call a taxi? We were only about 12 miles away from the airport at this point. One of the young ladies called the owner ... he arrived about two minutes later with his big truck. He must have been almost there anyway! He very kindly took the two ladies and me to the airport. (#4). They got to the airport in plenty of time (#5). Then he drove me back to the store to pick up the flat tire and the spare (which also happened to be flat). We drove about 1 mile - if that - to the tire repair place. 15 minutes later and only $4 poorer ... I had two nicely repaired tires. (#6+)

There was a piece of BONE in my tire!!! I can only assume I picked it up out in one of our many canton driving days – it must have punctured the tire but the piece acted like a plug so no air escaped.

Probably hitting a pot-hole made it un-wedge a bit and then lose air.

The tire repair guys found the problem immediately and were able to remove the culprit, they put a patch inside the tire as well as set a plug in. They said I could drive with this tire for quite a while. Just get the air checked every once in a while to watch for slow leaks. (Any opinions as to that piece of advice from those in the know out there??)

So we drove back to the furniture store ... the store owner put the old tire back on (not the spare) and off I went. (I gave him $10 for gas as a thank you). And Lynn and Alicia had given him $20 for the 'taxi' ride to the airport.

Oh … and I bought a chair. haha.

I bought a rocker for Blanca's dad. Maybe it was a gratitude purchase?!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

September 8th 2010 – Door to Door

This has been an incredible 3 days. And we have one more to go.

We have a visitor here from the States and he is visiting ‘door to door’ each family in the two cantons he has partnered with.
What a gift this visit has become.
These are new partnerships. And one of the best ways to get to know a community is to walk. And Jerry has been willing to do so.
We visited 43 homes in Alejandria over the course of two days (Monday and Tuesday). Today we visited 39 homes in San Lorenzo. We have 43 more to visit tomorrow in the same community.

We are taking photos of each family and asking simple questions about the type of work they do and if their children are in school, etc. Most of the answers are similar. For example: most of the people in San Lorenzo work on the coffee farm in that community – this is a farm owned by one man who lives in San Salvador. They are care-takers of the small homes they inhabit, they ‘clean’ (prune the coffee trees, get rid of weeds, plant new trees, etc.) and then they pick the coffee in their little area when in season.

Some people have a small plot of land they rent to grow corn and beans to eat all year. Some do construction work when it is available or do other spot jobs. Some sell what little they have (fruit) to make ends meet.

One great thing we learned in San Lorenzo – the vast majority of children under the age of 18 are in school. But most walk an hour to go to a school in Berlin. There is only one teacher at their community school. She teaches Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders. God bless her!!

Here are some things that are new to me – and somewhat interesting to have learned.
- In San Lorenzo, to rent a ‘manzana’ of land (equivalent to about 1.68 acre) for corn and beans could be anywhere between $40 and $100 per year. This is usually paid at harvest.

- Coffee farm workers might earn $4 per day.

Interesting people:

- We met a 94 year old man who has 84 people as a result of his life: 6 sons and daughters… with multiple grand-children, great grand children, great-great grand-children and great-great-great grand-children. How cool is that?

- We met a 43 year old woman with a 25 year old husband

- We met a 70 year old man with a 22 year old wife with a 2 month old babe. (Can I hear an “amen” ??)

- We met a couple of grandmother’s taking care of their grandchildren while their moms were off working.

- We met people who have to walk an hour and a half to get to work – hand planting, weeding and harvesting their crops – growing just enough to eat with a little more to sell.

This going door to door has been a wonderful experience. I’m totally exhausted but very satisfied. We have one more day of visits. I’m anxious to learn more.

Friday, September 3, 2010

UCA, MAG and FIDA - Confused yet??

What a joyful day.

A full day was spent with Juan, Cerferino and Gladis from El Tablón Cerna.

I have written in the past about the Cooperative that is being formed in Cerna with the help of the University of Central America (UCA). It’s been quite the long process – which is nothing new. Because things are always a process here …

But they’re close to being ready to function. The UCA has just about all the paperwork done for the actual legalization within the Ministry of Agriculture (MAG). And they are still working on the funding. Which brings us to this blog. Mario – the lead person at the UCA who has been with the process since the beginning almost 2 years ago – asked if I could help out by taking and accompanying members of the co-op to San Miguel for a meeting with MAG. I happened to be free so of course I said yes. I knew we were to go to the MAG office but I didn’t really know for what – he only said it was to ‘defend’ the co-op.

I then met with Ceferino (the president of the co-op) here at the Pastoral House to confirm details of travel. The meeting was to start at 8 a.m. so we decided we needed to leave here by 7 a.m.

The three of them arrived on time having had to walk from Cerna because there is no transportation that early. They began their journey about 5 a.m.

Blanca and Cecilia accompanied us. They had some shopping to do for another community project. The plan was that we would pick them up after the meeting – I would call when we were done. We all thought we’d be done by noon.

We dropped them off at the market place and continued on to the MAG office. We arrived about 8:20. I was worried (foolish me) about being late for a governmental meeting! But the 8 a.m. meeting didn’t start till nearly 10 a.m. I had texted Cecilia at 9:45 that we hadn’t even started yet and we were last on the docket so they could find a bus and go home if they wanted! I think they were relieved!

We sat and sat and chatted till about 9:50 when we were given some coffee and a sandwich just prior to things getting started. A MAG representative came and chatted with our group to put us at ease and give suggestions for the presentation. He was quite nice.

Here was the process: 10 different co-ops were to present and ‘defend’ their projects in hopes to receive their requested funds from FIDA (International Funds for Agricultural Support – the initials fit when you say this in Spanish!). FIDA is a foundation facilitating non-governmental funds in support of rural development within the governmental structure.

There was a panel of 5 MAG people (Min of Ag) listening to the 10 co-ops requesting financial support. The 10 groups each had about 15 minutes to 'defend' their projects. The panel asked questions afterwards.

Cerna was the last on the list of presenters –

The first group was VERY formal! The man had a power point with clear data and he was a confident speaker from a co-op that had been in existence since 2004. I think this un-nerved Juan a bit!

The 8 other co-op representatives ranged from relatively humble to moderately formal. Being the last was actually a good thing because we could hear the kinds of questions the panel was asking so Juan could alter what he was going to say to speak to those things.

Juan spoke on behalf of the Cerna Co-op with Ceferino and Gladis looking on. (Most groups had one spokesperson). A concern of the panel was the relative smallness of the number of members. They also mentioned the fact that they were not quite legal yet.

This worried me a bit ... all the other groups had 40 or more members and were legal and most had been working/producing for a couple of years at least.

And poor Juan did have a couple of power point slides that had been prepared by our MAG representative, but they were not projected well - the person in charge of moving to the next slides wasn't sure which slides he needed and when. So there was some confusion. And I could see it was a bit frustrating for Juan. But no one had had an opportunity to 'practice' with this person so at least 3 of the other groups also had ‘technical difficulties.’

So now all the groups had presented and we weren’t sure what was next. No one was leaving so we sat and chatted and waited. It was about 2 p.m. They soon served us a lovely lunch. This was a nice surprise because we were all hungry. And after about an hour and a half of deliberation - the panel was ready to give the results.

The spokes-person of the panel addressed each of the co-ops one by one and shared their concerns and suggestions. Each co-op received about 8 minutes of talk. We were all on pins and needles. But in the end - ALL the projects were approved.

And the good news is - MAG/PROMEDORO approved the $23,000+ funds for the Cerna cooperative!!

This was VERY wonderful news for everyone.

After a group photo with all the co-op people there and then signing a document or two we were able to leave.

It was a happy journey home.

And icing on the cake: we made it home just in time for the ‘teacher’s truck’ at 5:30 so Juan, Ceferino and Gladis didn’t have to walk all the way back in the dark!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September 1st 2010 – Wake Up Call

I woke up this morning to the blaring sound of music. Well – blaring is a relative term. At 5:30 in the morning when all has been still (except for the roosters, dogs and roaring vehicles which I don’t hear anymore), it doesn’t take much for sounds to seem to blare.

But the music was loud! I sometimes hear a gentle distant sound of music – the neighbors might put on the local DJ once a week. That I don’t mind. But this morning… wow. It was like it was in the main house here and cranked all the way.

And it was the Salvadoran national anthem. It’s an ok piece of music – very military and distinct – but 5:30. Geesh.

Then I remembered. It is September – time to celebrate our independence! And here – they don’t just celebrate Independence DAY. They celebrate Independence MONTH. So we will get to enjoy the early wake up calls every day till at least then and perhaps beyond.

The actual Independence Day is September 15th. The Westminster delegation will be here then.

Hmmm. Should I warn them??