Sunday, July 30, 2017

Day 3 - Go Green, El Salvador Style

By Sarah Ludwig and Nate Secrest
It's been a very busy trip so far! We are a bit behind on blog posts so a quick summary of our second day is below, again we are hoping to post pictures asap, sorry for the technical difficulties.
We began the second day with a tour of a nearby permaculture farm. The guide, Daniel, explained the guiding principles of permaculture and took us on a tour of the farm. We were amazed by the biodiversity of plants and birds on this small piece of land, including a line of angry red ants across the path that we were all careful not to step on.

We returned to the Plataforma Global to make delicious pupusas for lunch! We partnered with youth from El Bario to learn how to make the yummy fried delicacies.

After lunch, we ventured to the Women's Cooperative for games and exercises also about environmental sustainability with the youth from El Bario. We learned and laughed a lot, getting to know each other better and also learning about our own environmental footprint.

Our final group activity in this very full day was a hike to a local waterfall called El Cubo. After leaving Suchitoto, we walked down a steep switch backed trail.  At first many parts had garbage laying to the side of this narrow single track trail. The lush green hills opposite us had evidence of farming communities in the distance.  Many acres (here land is generally measured in "manzanas") filled the hills with milpa or corn.
As we descended into the trees we were stunned by a huge caterpillar city clustered together on the the multiple trunks of this tree.  Perhaps the largest, fattest, most crazy looking caterpillars I have ever seen! We gawked at this majestic clump for a solid minute. As we left this congregation we stumbled upon a few outsider caterpillars on the ground and other trees along the trail.  
When we reached the river, the balancing game began.  We jumped from rock to rock trying not to slip into the water. To add to this challenge, we also had to dodge soaking wet shirts and shoes caught between the rocks.  It was sad to see all the left behind garbage either left by others or washed downstream from other towns and communities.  Nate remembers thinking to himself " this place is so beautiful but my eyes keep being drawn towards the eye sores."
Our eyes were drawn away from the garbage when Nate almost stepped on a huge turtle! It blended in so well with the rocks I thought it was a rock.  We watched as the neck of this multi decade old turtle elongated to show us the head and eyes of this wise creature. 
Not to be outdone by this totally cool turtle, El Cubo's waterfall was just around the corner. We left one amazing find only to have that experience be topped by the magic of El Cubo.  As we entered into it's mystic waters we were gifted with bats flying 2 feet overhead. We could go on and on about the sights and sounds but I'll let this picture do the talking!

To show our appreciation for this wonderful waterfall, we worked together as a team to clean up some of the trash in the pools and along the river heading back. If you ever get the pleasure of visiting, we hope you will do the same!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Day 2 - Breaking Barriers

By Elinor Steffy
Today we took a hike and played basketball. Now, I realize that is an extremely mundane opening sentence, so I will elaborate. We got to sleep in a bit since we were all tired from our flights yesterday, then we took an exciting truck ride to Cincera. We loved feeling the breeze as we zoomed down the road!

Upon arrival, we went on a gorgeous hike in Cincera through the forest while learning about the El Salvadoran Civil War. 

Our guide Rafael shared stories about the war and about the huge effect it had on his childhood, youth, and whole life. He began working at the age of 12 as a campesino (farmer) for a hacienda that treated and paid it's workers extremely poorly. To aid the growing forces to fight the injustices against the common people, he joined the FMLN, the revolutionary forces, at only 15 years old.

The hike was a little over two miles, and youth from El Bario, the community where we will do our homestays, came with us. Despite the language barrier we could all understand one thing: we were very hot! We hiked up to a gorgeous lookout tower, climbed up the rickety stairs (one was covered in vomit) and enjoyed a breathtaking view of Lake Suchitlan. After the hike we descended back into the valley and cooled off in a nearby waterfall. It was so refreshing!!

Later in the day we went to the basketball court and played with some of the locals. Even though I was very rusty, having not played in two years, we all had fun! The beauty of basketball (and other sports - soccer is the most popular here) is that it can bring people together in a way that not much else can. You don't have to speak the same language, believe in the same god, or agree on politics, you can just love playing basketball and understand the word "foul".

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Day 1 - Hemos llegado! We have arrived!

By Yogi Sharma

It was a long, tiring but uplifting day. Ari, Callum, Elinor and I traveled together to San Salvador, where we met Nate, Sarah, Sebastian and Caleb at the airport. The immigration checkpoint was refreshingly simple and not stressful. After hanging out at the baggage claim, we headed out to meet Robert and Sonia. There was a long wait with them until Elijah and Rylie showed up, but everybody had fun playing card games, practicing Spanish and English with Robert and Sonia, and eating airport food. The B. S. card game was probably the most "unquakerly" thing we did. :) I appreciated everybody's patience and lightheartedness, even though it was after long flight for all of us. 
On the way to Suchitoto, we sang, we took nap in the bus, we talked some more, and best of all ate pupusas (a delicious El Salvadoran food similar to a quesadilla but with thicker tortillas that are closed on the sides). After driving through the lush green forest area and some villages, and seeing some cattle by the roadside (which surprised some), we finally reached the Plataforma Global, where we are staying until our homestays on Thursday.

The swimming pools were a pleasant surprise in the humid heat, and everybody was in them in no time. After taking a leisurely stroll through the Suchitoto town square, a delicious dinner was waiting for us (thanks to Tita and Lilliana). Reflections were coming next!

We all reflected on our first day in El Salvador. We were grateful for good experiences, and surprised by some others. A warm welcome by El Salvadorean people was a common theme of our gratitude and we could feel the start of a fun-filled journey and memorable experiences in the next 10 days. With that longing for memorable experience, we went to bed, looking forward to a long day ahead.
 Walking to Suchitoto Town Center

 Suchitoto Town Center and Church

Delicious Dinner!