Monday, August 28, 2017

Day 4-6 - Homestays in El Bario

by Sarah Ludwig

On Day 4 we visited the community of El Bario for the first time and met our homestay families. We also toured the school and were warmly welcomed by members of the community board. That afternoon, we began our Spanish classes!

The following morning, when we returned to El Bario for our two night homestay, we also began our school visits and English classes.

Much was learned during these few days, and each person had a unique experience.

Day 10 - Saying Goodbye at the Beach

by Sarah Ludwig

After our final night in El Bario with the our homestay families, we traveled to El Zonte... the beach! We enjoyed swimming in the pool, eating by the water, and reflecting on our amazing 10 days together.

The swimming pool - always a hit.

Yogi and the resident iguana

Much time was spent admiring the waves and rocky coastline

Final group dinner

 The whole crew :)

See we are silly too!

Day 8 - Work Hard, Play Hard

By Ari Standish

Today we woke up back at the hostel after two nights away with our host families. After breakfast, we left for the Santa Anita agricultural co-op. We worked different jobs to prepare a building for the police to live in. We had to clear an area for a septic tank amd a sidewalk, and prepare concrete for the rooms. We all had different jobs, like hoe-ing and shoveling the grass, picking up trash, taking out a tree, and reinforcing a road. We took breaks in the shade, with cokes and coconuts. 

A little before noon, we stopped for lunch, which was tortillas, rice, beans, chicken, and veggies. People from the Santa Anita community made our lunch, and we all ate together.

Then we drove back to the hostel for a quick clothing change, and headed to the lake. We had always looked out at the lake from the hostel balcony, and it was even more beautiful in person. We set out on two boats, and the lake was absolutely breath-taking. The water was still, with lots of floating plants, and there were huge mountains in he distance. We also liked the flowers growing on  the lake, which smelled like watermelon  if you got them wet. 

Our guides told us how the lake was man-made, that towns were flooded to create it. The lake was used during the civil war; the boatman took both the army and guerillas across without giving either side any information. We made a stop at Bird Island, which is home to around 20,000 birds. There are also crocodiles in the lake, but they only come out at night.

After the boat ride we came back to the hotel for free time. Some of us shopped in the town square, while others swam or napped. For dinner, Tita made us Mexican-style quesadillas with beans. After dinner we relaxed, played games, or packed (it's our last night in the hostel!). Then we had reflections, where we played a quick game and had check-ins about our goals for the trip. We were all very tired after such a long and interesting day!

Day 7 - History in San Salvador

By Ann Baier and Thomas Sutfin

We spent the day in San Salvador learning about the history of El Salvador.  The first of  3 sites we visited was the Monsignor Romeros Center at the University (UCA).  Here our guide is telling us about the artwork in the Chapel with Ann translating

Below is a portrait of Monsignor Romero, the Catholic Archbishop who spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture. He was assassinated on March 24th, 1980. 

A photo of our group  learning about the assassination of 6 Catholic Priests in the Rose Garden of their residence in 1989. (Our guide is pointing to the Rose Garden.)

The clothes the priests were wearing when they were assassinated

A beautiful church in San Salvador - Iglesia El Rosario

On the drive home from San Salvador to Suchitoto we encountered a major rain storm. The downpour cause flooding of the roads.

After diner that night we cranked up the music and danced!!

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!