Sunday, October 31, 2010

Los Gigantes de El Salvador

Again, here are my latest pictures from El Salvador.  Album 3 is the newest.

I am now done with my trip in El Salvador and writing this post from The Bagelry in Santa Cruz, CA.  If you ever come here, toast a garlic bagel with egg salad.  There are a lot of hippies, a diva in juicy pants, and a few hipsters hanging out here.  Four mothers with infants have passed through.  There is also one person working on her computer next to a table of douches.  Its great!  In addition to quality bagels, many social groups are represented.  Alright, well here is what I came here to type:

I would like to start things off with another video.  I am sharing this video to show off that i am all that represents manliness when preparing breakfast in the Salvadoran mountains with my machete, yet I still appreciate a good Kermit The Frog song from time to time.

I bought a legit machete and leather case from the hardware store in town, and finally began to fit in a little more with the community. Besides being able to cut firewood at any given moment, other machete bearers would salute me with more frequency. I used it for coconuts, unnecessary yardwork (aka practice), and sometimes a little trailblazing. Also, if i took it with me on a hike to the waterfalls all the naughty theives kept their distance.  I have done some hedge trimming with it for my mom since arriving in California.

Naptime at the Juayua market

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Firewood cart
When I last wrote, I was finishing up the construction of the pump house.  That all went according to plan, and has been done for quite a while now.  Bert, "El Jefe," came down from San Francisco for a week.  He's the Project Leader for my group, and we had a week of exciting events starting with the completion of the pump house on his first day.  He was accompanied by Lauren, my original peace corps. volunteer helper and housemate, for a little reunion.  As a thank you for all of her work that was instrumental in getting us connected with the community there, we took her to the hot springs i had visited about a month earlier.  During the drive out there, we passed a bunch of people with firewood carts.  They start on the top of the pass and have these soapbox derby style carts which are loaded with cut firewood sticks.  Then, all the wood is brought down to the towns for sale.  The featured picture shows everything, but I like this one and this one a lot more.  On her last night, I went with her and Isabel, a fellow peace corprs volunteer, to the bar and got into it with the owner and bartender.  They accused us of unknowingly being spies for the US government.  Isabel was offended and spent a few hours arguing that she was there for the love of humanity, and I kept thinking, "AWESOME, I'm spying!"

Lindsey stuck it out after falling out of an orange tree
Alongside Bert, Lauren, and Lindsey, we set up meetings with departmental mayors, village development associations, Peace Corps. head honchos, and the local engineers involved in our project.  Since we had a lot of waiting to do (described below) we began research on our next project with the community.  My group is in its second year of a five year commitment with San Juan de Dios.  One day, the mayor of Juayua invited us to visit a small village outside of the city who was in desperate need of 32 new latrines for all of its residents.  The existing latrines were in terrible condition, but we chose not to investigate more there because our main ideal is cooperative efforts, and in this project the solution is clear; we would just be providing funding.

Bert receiving applause after giving a speech to the community of Santa Elenita

 We also visited a small community of 160 people from the same family who did not have any running water.  The residents of Santa Elenita had to walk a half mile up a steep hill from the closest spigot with a fifty pound water canister on their heads multiple times a day during the dry season.  We were a bit more passionate about this project because the correct solution is not quite so cut and dry.  Awaiting responses from a few private landowners regarding permission (again!) to lay pipe crossing their land, we visited the community a bit more in depth to research the quality of life.  A makeshift town meeting was in session within ten minutes of our arrival, and we explained to them how we work and what we'd like to do for them.  They all gave us a tour of the area, realizing that few houses had flooring, one house I saw just had tarps for walls.  The level of poverty there was grave, but the residents were all smiles and positivity was present whenever we saw them. 

Watching the Giants v. Phillies with Lindsey, Bert, and Jikke
I had been watching all of the Giants postseason games in the hostel there via streaming.  It was definitely a great use of that $20.  I watched them take it to the wire with the Braves, then a very tense series with the Phillies, and even the beginning of the World Series with Texas.  It was very exciting for me, and this is a fantastic clip.  I felt kinda like an ass for watching sports from home while down there, but Giants in October doesn't happen all that often.  A fellow Giants fan, Bert went with me to the market and we bought a $9 BBQ, and we had two Giants BBQs while listening to KNBR or watching the game (depending on the mood of the bandwidth gods at the time.)  I am ready for them to take it all tonight.

Bert took off after seven days with a lot of new and exciting information to share with the rest of the team in San Francisco.  It was by far the most interesting and productive week I had while down there, and we both had a lot of fun getting it all done and talking about them Giants.

Field engineering work
During my last few weeks in El Salvador, my housemate Jikke and I cooked a lot of dinners together and went on a few platonic dates to the pupuseria around the corner.  The rain completely stopped about a month ago, so I also took many trips out to the waterfalls in the late afternoon for a quick swim.  With little work left to do at the pump house, the remaining task was to complete the electrical connection from the existing power lines to the recently installed lines.  This proved to be a painfully long process.  Being the "project manager" I felt responsible for making this happen, but it still felt weird to me to go pressure the community leaders to get the permission so the project would get completed while I was still in the country, being that it was purely a benefit for them.  Between my visits to the community, little progress would be made in achieving this.

Celebration day as the pump house is completed
We were also still waiting for the delivery of the pump from Germany, and it took a bit longer than expected.  The day Bert arrived, I found out that the pump wouldn't be in country til the very day that I left the country!  In the end though, the tardiness of the pump was not an issue because  the community still hadn't gotten the permission documents signed!  So, on my last day, I arranged a meeting with the VP of the community and gave him all of the relevant paperwork, along with a letter detailing the project.  I felt bad leaving without having finished the project, but I also felt that my departure date was set before I arrived in El Salvador, and the community leaders knew the timeframe of my stay the entire time.  I chose not to stay and see the completion of the project because I didn't want to feel like a babysitter.  I'm confident that all the means are in place to get it finished quickly, its just a matter of a signature and a phone call for the installation.

On top of that, I was really excited about being back home after two months to visit Sonny and to go to Chicago.

A few days ago, I attend the West Coast Regional Workshop for Engineers Without Borders, it was really interesting.  I learned a bit more about sustainable development in rural communities, focusing on clean water and renewable energy delivery.  If you thought this project was cool, there are hundreds of others happening all over the world.  It can be a very constructive way to help rural communities abroad and strengthen the bond between countries.  You can be a pseudo-diplomat!  Even if you're not trained as an engineer, there is a lot you can do!  //endplug

- pa panamericano!

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Those startling horses!

1 comment:

  1. awesome cody!
    any chance i can see you before you hit chicago?