I woke up quite early with someone passing in the dark street outside yelling “pan” (bread?). Was it the local baker going into work early? Who knows? Couldn’t get back to sleep so it ways a chance to contemplate the coming day. How far would the work progress? How hot would it get? Would we get to stop at the roadside lookout viewing the surrounding countryside from near the top of the mountain at Alegria?
Before I knew it, the morning alarm went off and Alex was singing. We had the usual breakfast and onto the buses. We did stop at the roadside look out in the view was a little bit hazy but still fantastic. Lots of pictures were taken in various groupings. And one picture was taken of the entire group. Missing our friends who stayed behind in San Salvador.
Before we knew it we were at the worksite. We walked over to the chapel foundations and started twisting wires on rebar, moving sand around from one pile to another to clear space for the pouring of cement, working on shoring up an erosion spot from the chapel down to the road. The group worked well together and with the local folks who are always working on the site. A small group went to meet the mayor of Umaña and learned about the issues facing the town. Once again the temperature was up near 36°C and people were careful to keep drinking water and having a rest in the shade when necessary. There was not a whole lot of work got to go around so people were constantly on the hunt to find a new job to do when one finished.
We talked with a couple of the children who were hanging around the site. One was named Christopher and the other was named Jefferson. We wondered whether that had to do with the fact that quite a few of the family are living in Tennessee now. Those in the United States are there as illegal immigrants. So they send their money back to El Salvador as a contingency and should they be arrested and egg exiled back home. They’ve built a fine looking house with that money and have a place to live when they come back if they have to. The family donated the land for the youth centre and the chapel.
Sometimes, I think that the local group would make more progress without us. But working with them together towards a common objective, I think, contributes both to them and to us in the long run. In The end, we were able to get things moved forward far enough that they could start mixing concrete with the borrowed mixer and start pouring the foundation. We cleaned out the small First Aid kit of bandages with the various scrapes and cuts and blisters that people were getting.
It was my first opportunity to travel with my grandson, Xavier. He incurred blisters on both hands digging the foundation trench and post holes so, in the end, he was used mainly for translation purposes with the workers as he is reasonably fluent in Spanish. Proud moment for a grandfather.
After lunch we received speeches from some of the local people who thanked us for being there and working alongside them. They all seemed to feel that our presence meant a lot to them, a common thread at all of the places we visited. And then it was back on the bus and back to San Salvador. The bus ride was an opportunity to take advantage of some air conditioning and to watch the view of the countryside along the way. It’s quite dry this time of year and we could see the couple of volcanos as we passed with plumes of smoke coming from the woods on the on the sides of the volcano. We’re not sure if it was just wood fires or something else. Pastor Miguel told me today that even in the wet season now with climate change there is no dependable rainfall so any crops are not all that plentiful. In the case of coffee there’s only a three month period when the crops are harvested and workers can earn money.
Once back at Centro Gabriel we met up with the group that stayed here to do a visit to the school. Both groups compared notes and were quite excited with the experiences they had had. In both cases the groups had to deal with children who only spoke Spanish or rudimentary English and discovered that they could get along quite well with sign language and just miming things. Tonight, we celebrated five birthdays that were taking place over the course of our stay here. A three-piece band entertained us for an hour. Guitar , bass, siku (pan flute) and quena (a recorder like instrument) which was a recorder like instrument. We heard an old favorite, El Condor Pasa and 4 or 5 others that were quite entertaining. The kids got up and danced like nobody was watching. All musicians were very good. After the entertainment, we retired to the dining room for cake. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s visit to the University of Central America and Cal Pipil, run by IBE.