Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Getting Caught Up

Sorry about missing last week’s blog.  I knew last week was going to busy and my goal was to write my blog and post it on Monday.  However, there was no power for the whole day and most of us ended up going home early.  However, firstly in the morning there was a full out, agency clean-up.  This was not a sort your files at your desk kind of day.  We did heavy cleaning, gardening and washed all of the agency vehicles.   As there was no power for the water pump, guys opened up the cistern (I now know where it is).  They used a bucket on a rope to scoop water into a big rain barrel.  Occasionally the bucket would snag on part of the pump and so someone would need to lay down and lean in to unsnaggle the bucket while others held onto his pants.

My participation was not full out.  On the way to the office on Monday, I fell and twisted my ankle…nothing serious, but it was swollen a bit painful and everything was very wet due to the heavy rains, so I was very cautious.  In all honesty, the fall had reminded me of another level of vulnerability here.  I didn’t want to have to sort out  and cope with a broken ankle in rural El Salvador.   The week before I had been both to a lab and a doctor and discovered I had bacteria in my stomach that aren’t supposed to be there.  Bacteria and parasites are very common here, kind of like strep throat and ear infections in Canada.   With some good drugs, I am gastro-intestinally back on track.  This was my first real illness since I’ve been here and really it wasn’t that bad.  Kudos go out to my friends Hector and Soto.  Hector, the Human Rights lawyer, whose work I really admire, got tasked with taking me to the lab.  Conversations about “pooping” are awkward at any time and while I think he was using more subtle Spanish, I really didn’t understand the words he used and so I just explained that “it is possible for me to produce now”.   In the end, I think that I so flustered the clerk at the lab that she forgot to charge me…something that I rectified later.  Soto, my housemate, took me the Doctor and helped me explain all about my overabundance of production for the past few weeks.    In case you are wondering, a lab analysis of my poop cost $2 and the doctor visit $5.  For sure these are rural rates and in San Salvador it would be more!  However, the medications cost over $30, which was not a problem for me, I can understand how it quickly becomes an overwhelming expense for Salvadorians.  

Tuesday and Wednesday I spent in San Salvador sorting out my Visa extension (I’m good for another 90 days, the maximum time I can receive per extension) and sitting with my foot up.  Thursday was the Independence Day holiday and there was a big festival in San Isidro.  This is the community closest to the proposed Pacific Rim mine.  The Mayor is in favour of the mine, not surprising because the town will receive one percent of the mine’s revenue when it opens.  Many of the residents are anti-mining.   In the town square there were actually two festivals going on – one organized by the Mayor and one organized by the anti-mining groups.  Both rented huge sound systems to try and compete.  I was one of the few who moved and back and forth between the two.  I have to say I think that there were a lot more people at the anti-mining side and the music and entertainment was much better on the anti-mining side!

Edver is a very poised 18 year old who works in the Communications Dept at ADES.  I love this t-shirt it says "Less blah, blah, and more action.   Climate justice already!

This was one of the banners at the rally.  MUFRAS-32 is an anti-mining group named after an indigenous hero who tried to stop the massacre of native people in the 1930's.  The banner says - "The money buys our politicians but our people are not for sale.  El Salvador free of mining."  There is nothing subtle about either the corruption or the resistance. 

Part of the festival included an area where children and adults could paint pictures.    An older woman casually commented to me that it was so nice seeing kids paint happy pictures again because for a long time after the war the children's art was all about soldiers, helicopters and guns.  

A new mural was painted during the festival.  The words in the upper left are "No to mining"

At one point in the afternoon there was a funeral at the Catholic Church that faces the town square.  As soon as the Hurst appeared all the music from both festivals stopped.  As the Hurst drove away at the conclusion of the funeral the music started to blare again. 

The festival went late for here.  Late is any time after dark – 6:30 pm.   I think it was about 9 by the time everything was done and cleaned up.  The ride back to San Salvador in a pick-up truck was slow.  It was very dark as there are few street lights and there was virtually no traffic.  Even on the main Pan American highway there were only a few other cars.  The world, particularly in the country side but also in the city almost stops when the sun sets.  In part I think this is why things start so early in the morning.  There are lots of people up and on the move by 5:30 (when it is light). 

Friday was a comp day for all those who participated in the festival on Thursday.  I spent it in San Salvador.  I worked on the notes from my "editor" for my article that will appear in the United Church Observer in November.  I'll attach a link when it comes out.    While there is likely a way to post my blog through the general internet, I don’t know how to find my “posting page”.  It is set on my computer (which I keep at the office in Guacotecti) and so without it , I can’t blog.  Alas, this post had to wait until the following week!

When I was in Canada, my friend Chris Redmond explained to me that virtually every large city in the world has a church in English for foreigners.  I doubted him, explaining that I didn't think such a thing existed in San Salvador.  Chris is very modest about the breadth of his knowledge, but he is truly the most well-read authority on just about everything, that I know.  Sure enough he found me the Unity Church in San Salvador.  This weekend I decided to check it out.  I discovered that it was about an hour bus ride to the big shopping mall that I know and then about a 10 minute cab ride.  This was all very doable in terms of transport. 

I had tears in my eyes for most of the service.  It was such a gift to be able to worship in English and to really understand what was going on.  The music was upbeat and was helped along by a worship band made up of youth.  All of the words on the hymns and other parts of the service are shown on a screen using power point.  It was not the same as my cherished Westminster, but it felt comfortable.  A few people were very kind to me and I had nice chats with them.  I am really looking forward to getting to know that Church and its people.

We have had a lot of really heavy rain lately.  People warned me that September was tropical depression time here.  That means it rains like I have never experienced rain.  There are huge issues with erosion.  At the ADES office compound a tree has just fallen over.  Basically there was no longer enough soil to support its root structure.  It is a very tall tree.  Today, a youth on the maintenance crew is cutting part of it down with a machete. I thought you would enjoy some photos.  
Wilder chopping down the tree with a machete.

The tree that fell over.  In the background is the new dining room and kitchen.    It is going to operate as a training program for women and youth who will open a restaurant.  

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