This coming Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. Next week I will begin a 4 week blog series on Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. This week I just have a bunch of unrelated stuff I wanted to tell you about.
Last week, they (I need to use this term because the public transportation system in El Salvador is operated by a number of companies and I have no idea how it is all organized, so I will use the generic "they") decided to run a direct bus from San Salvador to Sensuntepeque - one in the morning and one in after work. For the same cost, I can take a bus that takes an hour or less (rather than the usual 1.5 -1.75 hours) because it only makes 5 stops instead of 25 or 30. Because there is a "regular" bus at the same time, and the number of customers are split, so there are always seats. Since it is so quick, generally there are 8-10 ADES staffers on it. It is quicker, more comfortable, there are lots of people I know and there is usually great music. I love the DIRECTO as it is called!
Also for reasons I don't understand, there has been a lot fewer people on my San Salvador bus coming home at night. This means that I have gotten seat on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the past two weeks. It still takes about 2 hours. It does eventually get very, very full. However, it is nice to be able to sit and to be able to put my back pack on the floor. Don't know if this will continue, but it is lovely.
There are so many things that are so interesting to me about Christmas in El Salvador. Here Poinsettias are called Pascuas (Easter). I find this amusing because it is a Christmas plant. Last week at the the Mall, there was Santa. He has a Santa station much like you would see in any Mall in Canada. I find it amusing that here in this warm country, the Santa House is all decked out with fake snow. The first time I saw the skinny, Latino Santa speaking Spanish to the kids, I found it kind of odd. Somehow I hadn't made the leap to a multilingual Santa. An English speaking Santa would not be useful here!
ADES is hosting a Conference of people who work in agencies working with poor people. Delegates are arriving today from Mexico, Central and South America. The Conference will last for 3 days with everyone going home on Sunday.
In general planning is done with a lot less lead time here. It would be relatively easy to get 4 people together for a meeting early next week here, unlike in Canada where everyone's schedules are likely booked. I haven't yet seen anyone with a 2012 daytimer, whereas in my office in Canada people have likely been booking 2012 meetings since October. I became aware of this conference about a month ago. In my mind, not a lot of time for an International Conference. The program looks great and I am looking forward to attending a lot of the sessions.
The Conference is being held a former grand hacienda in Guacotecti. It went from being a private house, to a seminary and now it is being converted into a small rural campus of the Lutheran University of El Salvador. A group of staff visited the site on Monday. On Tuesday staff were going to clean and move in furniture. It is an empty building. Mattresses, chairs, tables and dining tables are being moved from ADES to the Conference Centre. Staff also came to assess the stability of the water supply and the adequacy of the plumbing. In the end, repair work was not required, but we had a plumber on standby. Also on Tuesday plans were made to spray for mosquitoes as there is a bunch of overgrown vegetation nearby. I have organized meetings and conferences, but the most set up I have ever done is moving around tables and chairs!
I was at CIS for the "set-up" on Tuesday, but I'll be around and will help with the "clean-up" all day Monday, as will all of the staff who are not otherwise occupied. Managers, the Executive Director and front line staff will all roll up there sleeves. A very different experience!
So this has been an interesting couple of weeks. On November 6th, I participated in a service at Westminster United Church via SKYPE. It was great to be able to share with people more about what I am doing and thinking about here and to be able to be part of the service at Westminster. It has been awesome to share this service with my friends Ignatio and Lissette here. When I showed Lissette the article I had written about the service and I showed her the parts that I had written about her, she cried. She said that she had never been important enough to be written about before. The people at ADES want to see the article in Spanish. My good friend and loyal Spanish/English expert Andrew is working on a translation for me. I have attached a copy of the newsletter if you want to check it out. They are pleased that people in Canada want to know about them. Also, in this month's United Church Observer is an article that I wrote about the mining issue. I didn't make the on-line version and I forgot to get it scanned. I will and I will attach that link next week. I will also work on figuring out how attach the newsletter. Techie stuff is still not my strength!
Finally, some good news about the "girls". Katherine, the youngest, is finally on a medication that seems to be clearing up her lung problems. In fact the improvement is so significant that there is talk that she will have her eye surgery soon. This is awesome. She has been so sick for so long that it is great news that finally there has been a correct diagnosis and medication to correct the problems. Her sister Negeli had a number of complications after her eye surgery including ear and eye infections, but these are clearing up too. Thank you for all of your prayers and concern for these two children.