Monday, November 9, 2015

A Bittersweet Farewell (Saturday)

compliments of Janet Elwer...

A great ending to an amazing week. Our week with the family was completed with an authentic Salvadoran meal which ended up being the best meal of the week! The neighborhood children quickly learned there was a piñata on the premises and soon joined in the fun. 

The neighborhood children join in at the
closing celebration for some piñata fun.
There were hugs and tears as we left this family we quickly learned to love and admire.

The sunset on Saturday night seemed a nod from God, "Good job."

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Our Last Day on the Construction Site (Friday)

compliments of Cicily Dennis...

The concrete, sand, or soil is cleaned off all of the shovels and trowels, the homemade strikers are clean and ready for another day, the plastic homemade trowels are in the trash. We are at rest after another very busy day.

The days will continue for the wonderful extended family of Maria who is deeply embedded in our hearts. They will continue making homemade and inventive solutions to construction needs while we return to our life at home forever changed.

Never again will we take things in our lives so much for granted. We are each blessed with so much.

Yesterday we had a full working day with no rain. 45 minutes after we arrived back at our hotel, the heavens dropped with a long heavy downpour and another during the night. We were secure in our rooms or the restaurant with no holes in the roof. We knew that Maria et al were dealing with dripping ceilings and muddy floors in all of their rooms!

This morning we discovered erosion in many areas and the sand that we needed to sift was water logged making that job and others so much more difficult. We dealt with the extra work that that meant for one day. They deal with issues like this everyday!
Sifting sand to remove the larger stones in order to 
make smoother concrete.
It was a bittersweet day as well. Because it was our final day, there was a wonderful celebration, formal ceremony of thanks, and very special Salvadoran foods. Delphina, Maria's daughter, was able to leave her job to be with us for the first time all week. It was special for her to see what she left last Sunday as flat ground and see her house taking shape.

The Family: the mother, brother, sister, and children of 
Delphina, the home owner on our last day of construction.

Many, many tears and a zillion hugs (or so it seemed!) as we bid "Adios!"

Friday, November 6, 2015

Receiving More than We Give (Thursday)

Compliments of Eric Mason...

Greetings from El Salvador. As day 4 comes to a close I learned some things about myself and what it feels like to give back.

The family we are building for, and side by side with, are simply a ray of sunlight every day. The smiles they have on their face when we show up in the morning are just one of the reasons Jackie and I are here participating in this build. I think the only time there is something less than a smile is when I ask one of those simple questions, I think in English of course, that they can't understand.

The smiling children and grandchildren of our homeowner
As you can see from one of the pictures I was in charge of taking a pick ax and chopping up the clay floor preparing it for a concrete floor to be poured. This entailed taking out roughly 4 inches of clay in two 10x10 rooms.

Many of us have done jobs or things we weren't excited to do in life, as I'm sure you'd agree. I can tell you I was so proud and full of energy in the sweltering heat, to take every swing with that pick, knowing we were one step closer to a finished home.

Working with this group of giving, selfless people is an experience you all should have an opportunity to experience. This group in El Salvador is so diverse and yet so focused with the end in mind. It has been so easy in reminding myself why I committed to taking this trip with them.

We have leaders, strong personalities, some with construction knowledge etc. What we don't have is any one individual who is here for the wrong reason. We all bring pieces to the puzzle that assure our mission is accomplished.

In closing I can't express how rewarding an opportunity this has been for Jackie and I. I have taken so much away from the locals...I hope I have left with them as much as I have taken back.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Busy & Productive Day (Wednesday)

by Patsy Carlson

What a busy and productive day we had! The weather was perfect, except for a brief rain shower around 1 pm as we ended lunch. Again, we had students helping who were there to practice English and also to learn about service. It was a crowded work site with many tasks. Mostly we laid several more courses of cement block, continued hauling the different mixtures for concrete, and finished leveling the ground for the latrine.

There are two mixtures of concrete. One is very "chunky" in substance and it goes inside the blocks to hold the rebar in place. The other is smoother in texture. It goes between the blocks and requires a steady and experienced hand to fill the cracks. There are not enough trowels for all of us, so we take turns and partner up to hold the bucket and push the concrete in with our hands when it won't go! Our other big job is to sift the pebbles out of the chunky sand for the smoother concrete. It's a dirty job, but less back breaking.

We also spent time with the children in the family, providing crayons, drawing paper, paints and coloring books. The children are delighted at the attention, and the parents are pleased as they provide the sweat equity on the home.

Yasmine drawing and coloring with supplies we brought
We left the site at 2:30 today so we could take in an historical site. Not far from our work site and our hotel is a monument and museum dedicated to the Salvadoran people who were massacred in 1981 by their own government. Over 600 children alone were murdered. We were all moved by the very recent history of the area. The country continues to heal and move forward from this difficult period.

Monument of the massacred Salvadorans

We only have two days left to get these walls as high as possible! We have been invited, a few at a time, to tour Delphina's existing home. The floors are dirt (which means very muddy during the rains!) And the roof is tin with many holes. Yet it is neat and tidy with bits of color and beauty. We are humbled and want more than ever to get this build as far as possible.

Hasta mañana!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Full Day! (Tuesday)

by Patsy Carlson

Our day began as a drizzling rain fell and fog rolled in. By the time we finished breakfast the rain had stopped but the day still looked questionable. It proved to be a gorgeous day, of full sunshine, which meant hot and humid from the rains.

We began the day visiting two homes in the area that were completed by Habitat in the last year. It was great to see what homeowners can do with their simple homes. Both were lovely and so were the owners, and very proud to show their homes.

Our work today involved several projects. We needed to move more of the block, build a retaining wall, level the ground in two areas (one for the future latrine), mix more concrete and (finally!) begin laying the block for the walls. We went up 3 courses today which meant there was plenty to do.

Here we are working on the second course (row) of cement block.

Four students from a school in San Miguel came with their teacher to work with us and practice their English. The teacher was Jesus, who was our habitat leader on two previous trips. It was great to see him in his new role and it was fun to hear the students and our team members sharing their English/Spanish knowledge (or lack of)! Jesus took several photos of our group with his students; check out the photos shared on the Ss. John and Paul Facebook page!

You could really feel a change today as our team and the family and skilled labor were working together with a lot of laughter and good-hearted teasing. It all made the day very enjoyable.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Beginning Construction and Celebrating All Souls (Monday)

by Patsy Carlson

The day dawned bright and early with roosters crowing and all ready to head out on our first work day. Our work site is about 30 minutes from the hotel. We traveled on some roads that did not seem fit for beast, let alone a 15 passenger van! We were warmly greeted by Delphinia's mother, her son Jaimen, and a work crew that included Delphinia's sister, Reyna, who was ready to do sweat equity as we do with Habitat in the states.

The foundation and trench work were done and they were ready for the metal rebar framework to be placed in the trenches. This would make the house more able to withstand earthquakes. Concrete needed to be mixed and poured into the trenches all around the perimeter of the house. No cement truck shows up in this part of the world! A special ratio of sand, gravel and cement is mixed by hand with shovels. All of which is hauled by wheel barrows over uneven ground, up and down hill. Our crew was up to the task! Not only were the trenches filled, but also 1200 cement blocks were moved from the road above the site to the perimeter of the work site. All of us used muscles we hadn't used in a long time! Tomorrow we may be moving slower. Lunch is served on the site, as well as fruit and Gatorade for breaks.
Mixing cement by hand

Several in our group took time to visit a cemetery over lunch and saw the graves all decorated and people gathered for this holy day. It had started raining before they returned. Their van ride was pretty treacherous on slippery, muddy roads!

We are at the end of the rainy season here in El Salvador. It did rain for about an hour in the afternoon. Of course everything turned to mud and we were all a mess by the end of the day. Our warm showers back at the hotel never felt better!

We closed our evening after dinner with a shared prayer for the Feast of All Souls. Our time today was so very blessed with hard work and new friendships.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Getting Acclimated and Our Orientation (Sunday)

by Patsy Carlson

We arrived in San Salvador on Saturday. We walked to a local papusa restaurant and enjoyed excellent food and company.

We were up and to mass by 8 am on Sunday morning. We had read the news of Pam Meeker's death and we're all aware on these holy days in honor of all saints and all souls. The prayer of the church is truly universal. Not speaking the language never hindered our ability to pray. The deacon was from the states and he even mentioned us and welcomed us from "Ohio." It didn't matter. We felt welcomed.

Then we were on the road in a small bus for 4 hours to Hotel Perkin in the mountains near Honduras. Lots of slow and crazy traffic on a Sunday! This is a holiday celebrating the Day of the Dead. Many roadside stands are selling decorations and foods for graveside celebrations. Our travels were slow on two lane roads behind semi trucks and buses on mountain roads.

We made a stop in San Miguel to buy work supplies. The Habitat tools here really take a beating so we decided to purchase some buckets, shovels, trowels and wire cutters to make the job a little easier. These supplies will stay with Habitat at the end of the week.

We finally arrived at a lovely hotel high on a hill with a beautiful view. We had a meeting with the Habitat office and met the masons, Oscar and Sam, who will work with us this week. We also met Delphinia, and her son Jaime, who will live in this home. Her brothers will also work with us.

We had an orientation with Irene and Fleur, our two interpreters and Habitat employees. They are great fun and will be with us all week.

We are all ready for a good night's sleep and anxious to get to work tomorrow! Will send pictures from the work site at the end of the day.

Thank you for your prayers!