Friday, May 31, 2013

Heading home -- reflections on El Salvador

I'm flying home now. I keep thinking about El Salvador, and want to jot some notes on my impressions.

First of all, I love the people -- they are warm and kind. I never met someone who didn't greet me warmly -- even with a "buenos" or "buenas" as we passed in the street. The hotel staff were beyond accommodating and kind. While I know gangs are a problem here, I never felt unsafe -- except for being near the Roman Catholic Cathedral in San Salvador which I was warned was a highly dangerous area -- even there I didn't feel scared.

I was moved to tears at many points -- especially touring the place where Abp. Oscar Romero was killed and his home. At UCA, touring the museum and seeing the clothes of the Jesuits who were killed exactly as they were executed -- blood stains and all -- has left an indelible image in my mind and heart. Also, being at La Quesera -- seeing the massacre site and hearing the story -- was overwhelming for me emotionally. It is important to see in understanding what has happened in this country. It is beautiful, but there has been too much blood shed. Now with the truce with some of the gangs, my prayer is for lasting peace. Certainly going from 14 murders per day to 5.6 murders per day is a great start -- but more of this good work has to be done.

Being part of the Episcopal Diocese of El Salvador's ordinations at the start of their convention and being at their convention were a highlight for me. It was wonderful to share in these moments with our companion diocese. More, it was good to bring greetings from Los Angeles! Jon Bruno's name was mentioned so often -- he is much loved, and people in the diocese are very grateful to him for his love, care and support. It is a wonderful reflection on us as a diocese.

I will miss having pupusas for breakfast every morning. We all ate a LOT during this trip, but lost weight. I think for me it was walking and sweating -- a LOT. I don't remember sweating this much even when I was in the Philippines. At one point in Anemona it was as though I was under a full blast shower -- Julie said it was just pouring off me. I felt sorry for the people sitting next to me in the van afterwards.

I will miss seeing Mr. Donut shops and Pollo Campero shops all over. I'd yell out in the van each time I spotted one. At one point, Arcelio, our first driver, asked me if I want to stop and get a donut. "I don't like to eat donuts" I told him. He about fell out of the van laughing. He was so surprised -- "Why do you keep pointing them out?" he asked. "Because there are so many of them -- and they remind me of all the Dunkin Donut shops I saw in Korea!

From May to October it's very green -- I love the fire trees! From November to about April it's try, and things turn very brown and dusty. I found this interesting in thinking about the climate at the Mayan ruins, for example, or the change in temperature and humidity as we headed up the mountains. In a matter of an hour -- you can be 10 degrees cooler. This isn't unlike Southern California!

I loved the art work and handiwork of artisans such as Fernando Llort, the potters at Shicali and the Anil maker Irma who we met in Suchitoto. There is a deep beauty in this land that is reflected in the art. Not only were there murals painted almost everywhere, houses were also colorfully painted in places such as Ataco. I bought two new small suitcases to carry my purchases home in -- those platters are heavy and the nativity set is bulky -- and I didn't want to put them in my checked luggage in case anything should break. Steve doesn't yet know we have two new pieces of luggage!

I loved seeing the ladies with the frilly half aprons!

Human rights is still an issue here. I am grateful to organizations who are addressing issues. I'm especially grateful to Foundation Cristosal -- a very talent group of people dedicated to the church and to working with communities to address human rights issues. Cristosal is using the socratic method to work with communities through process -- they work with them to determine the root of the problem, not the presenting issue -- and then work with them to resolve the REAL problem.

The Episcopal Church in El Salvador, though small in number, is mighty in its works. I was so impressed by the projects achieved in this church -- from the work at El Maizal, the El Carmen, etc. Also, the Sexual Diversity ministry there is a powerful witness to the level of commitment Bishop has in ensuring ALL are welcome in the church! This also includes gang members -- which he has taken flack for. As he clearly states, "they need God -- they need us -- and we will not turn our back on them." The Holy Spirit is alive and well in this place!

I loved visiting cities, campesinos. With the exception of one brief moment, it never rained on us! It may have been overcast, but even being overcast couldn't mask the beauty of this country. Most of all, I am so grateful to George Woodward, Shelley Denney and Julie Bryant -- the best traveling companions anyone could have. We made new friends -- such as Edgar and his wife Rosa pictured here (friends of George's). We travelled together very well -- and I'm looking forward to being with them again on another trip to El Salvador in the future -- I'm hoping for June 2014 when the next diocesan convention will be held. I'm hoping our loved ones can come with us on that trip.

Thank you for following me on this trip. I hope to keep you updated about mission and ministry in the diocese and wherever my travels take me!

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El Salvador Day 10

We went to the Cristosal offices this morning -- nice offices near the hotel we are staying at. It was good to see and hear about the work Cristosal is doing.

We headed up to Anemona which is by San Martin. Anemona is here because of Hurricane Ida -- 4 hours of intense rain caused land slides. Milagro, the president of Anemona 2 ran door to door walking people in the middle of the night -- houses slid down the side of the cliff, or were covered and destroyed by mudslides from above. She had people stand in the middle of the street in the downpour. Four people died, including a mother and a newborn. At first light they could see the disaster that happened.

There are 16 communities there -- made up of about 168 families. They moved to where they are now -- they do not own the land. It was uninhabited at the time. they set up homes on roads and railroad right-of-ways that weren't being used. They built roads. They've done a lot to get basic services such as electricity and water, but they still don't have legal status here.

Electricity became a headache for them and they made some mistakes. First they set up electricity illegally -- the energy company came, and they negotiated with the energy company in an attempt to become "legal". At that time the energy company charged them one rate, which translated into about $40.00 per month per family -- the energy company based that on the number of electrical appliances, etc. they saw in the houses. Unfortunately, that wasn't a good way to account for electrical use. The intercommunal board worked on the problem. Cristosal started to work with the intercommunal board by knocking on the doors to talk to members of the legislative assembly to totally legal -- and they won this! At that point individually meters were put on each house -- reducing the cost to about $5.00 per month on average.

There is lots of support from the government regarding water. That project went quickly -- they have water, and they pay about $1.00 per month for their water bill. They are currently in the process of trying to install water in each home. Anemona 2 has received the official document to make this happen -- Anemona 6 hasn't received this yet, but hopefully will have this soon. Right now, though, residents have to fill up water jugs and carry them to their homes. Also, currently there is no sanitation system there -- that is something else that needs to be installed in the communities.

The intercommunal board was a board born from the necessities of the different communities. The board has three main goals: the legalization of water, the legalization of electricity, and the legalization of land for them to own where they are right now. The result is that last year legislation was introduced into the assembly for this. The fruit of this work is that they have had visited from functionaries in various branches of the government. Everyone who has come out to see what is happening here is supportive of this. Cristosal has been working on this with the intercommunal board. If you're reading this and thinking "but they stole that land" -- well, technically no. It is state owned and there is a statute that says the state can be petitioned in certain circumstances to give or sell the land to the people. These communities fit into the category to acquire the land.

Legalization of the land is an urgent matter for them. They were accustomed to living in one area, which they owned -- but were forced to move out due to the mudslides. Right now they are living close by, but don't own this land. The primary thing they have been fighting for is to be comfortable and safe -- that's why they are seeking legalization. This place has good access to highways, the city and schools. If they had to move they don't know now where they'd go. Now they have basic services -- but if they moved they'd have to start all over again.

From Cristosal, Jose Lopez is in charge of the work to help with the legalization of land in Anemona. He shared the following: he is working with different people in the government to make this a reality. Public works, housing, the Salvadorian equivalent of the IRS, etc. Each time they have received favorable responses. Assemblyman David Rodriguez, a former priest and FMLN member is the one that is spearheading this in the assembly. Jose and the intercommunal board have faith that they will receive legalization and will one day own the land. There will be a few changes that will have to be made -- for example, the houses too close to the train tracks would have to move a little because a wall will be built between the houses and the train tracks. Also, if a family currently sits on 2 lots, they'd have to move onto just one lot. The title would transfer to family members -- it cannot be sold. This is done to protect the rights of women -- where in some areas when title is finally given, the husband took the title, sold the home and walked away -- leaving the woman with nothing.

Some in the community work in agriculture, but thats seasonal. Some collect cans and plastic and bottles, always thinking about ways to earn income to put food on the table for their families. Climate change and weather affect this community negatively. After storm 12E in 2011, the community reported to Cristosal that they were fine because they hadn't lost any lives. But they looked sad. When probed by members of Cristosal it turned out that many lost all their crops (their income), and they couldn't work. The storm lasted 8 days and the people couldn't get out to go to whatever day labor jobs they could find, which when you are living day to day severely harms your family.

Cristosal works with families and the board to problem solve/reflect on what they could do in their situations. They began to work on economic security of each family. Walter of Cristosal is in charge of the project to create a savings and loan for the community within the community. It is the hope and goal to raise enough for the cooperative to offer scholarships to students to go to college.

We took a walk around the community and saw where the houses slid off the hills -- above and below -- two separate slides. We went to Milagro's home for lunch -- delicious! Fried chicken and rice with vegetables and chicken soup. Milagro has beautiful blue eyes, but is having problems seeing due to cataracts. She can't afford the money for the surgery. She has made her living by picking up used clothing from Catholic Charities, fixing them up and then taking them up into different communities to sell. I told her she is a miracle (that's what her name means). I leave you with pictures of our lunch, Milagro, and her family and friends.

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Location:Anemona 2 and 6

El Salvador Day 9

Olivia from Foundation Cristosal picked us up and 8:30 and we were on our way to La Quesera. Noah met us, and we transferred to his pickup truck. 4 of us were in the cab (front and back seats) and the rest road in the back of the truck. This is not uncommon in El Salvador -- I saw many people riding in the back of trucks -- even on the highways. We had to transfer to Noah's truck because we had to go through some rivers and travel along some rough roads.

We arrived at La Quesera monument. It was in a beautiful spot. Noah explained the story of what happened there, based on the account of someone who escaped -- only 6 people made it out alive from that massacre. Over 600 were massacred. The soldiers started by bombing in a circle around the bottom of the mountain, forcing people to the top. They kept this up -- moving the people closer and closer to the top through bombings. Then the soldiers moved in, encircling the people. Men were separated into one group, women in another group, the children and youth in another group. The men were killed, the women were raped and killed. The babies were killed by being impaled on stakes. The mural depicts the slaughter, and includes an image of Oscar Romero. The large metal "box" that we were sitting on -- we didn't find out until Noah told us -- was were the remains of the 600 were buried in a mass grave.

Noah provided us with a background on the guerrillas and the soldiers, and what happened during the war. Such atrocities were carried out -- so many murdered. Noah asked me to offer a prayer at the end -- I couldn't. I simply said we need to have a few moments of silence -- there are no words to express comfort in the wake of what happened there. In this picture is a view from the mural -- once a year a priest from the Roman Catholic Church offers a mass here in memory of those who died.

We went back down the mountain and went to a place called El Conacaste -- an open air restaurant. Olivia helped with ordering -- I saw what looked like roast chicken -- I really wanted a piece of that. I asked for "pollo" -- and was quickly told that this was "gallina" -- pollo indio -- kind of like a free range small bird. Turns out it came with soup. There were innards in the soup (which I pulled out and put aside -- I don't eat those), along with something I thought was a button mushroom. It wasn't. It was the tiny egg that was in the chicken when it was slaughtered. I figured that out pretty quickly, and fished the other egg out of my soup and put it to the side. Otherwise it was an absolutely delicious soup!

After lunch we jumped back in Noah's truck and headed to El Carmen. The roads were much rougher going up to El Carmen -- the road had been basically washed out by a horrific flood. The company who runs the dam that released all the water was supposed to, according to the President of El Salvador: 1. rebuild the levies. 2. dredge the river. 3. build flood shelters. 4. contribute to replacing the crop that was lost due to the flooding, and 5. repair the road. To date (and it's been 2 years) the only thing that was done was to build the storm shelter. If this kind of deliberate flooding happens again, it will totally cut off the people from the town below. As it is, the children walk down the hill every day (and trust me, it's far), and back up. They leave their school shoes at the bottom at a house of a nice woman. They walk barefoot through the mud -- they don't want to get their school shoes dirty.

When we arrived at El Carmen there were two boys playing -- one of them, Brian, is Noah's godson. They were cute -- they followed us wherever we went. Noah shared with us that the mortality rate in El Carmen is high among newborns. One of the boy's grandfather took a look at the boy when he was born and announced, "that one won't make it." He did, though!

The condition of the road makes getting into and out of El Carmen very difficult. There is only one truck up there. The people there told us that in the rainy season Noah is the only person they see -- he's the only one crazy enough to drive up there. Walter spent time with the members the poultry cooperative. They have a new business plan as the location and working of the old chicken coop was poorly planned and designed. Cristosal helped them with the new plan. The first goal is to produce/raise 500 chickens per week to sell. The business plan calls for "full capacity" operation of 500 chickens per day. This would be a big boon for El Carmen. In addition, Cristosal is working with them on repairing their water pump. The woman in the picture lost her arm as a child after a plane dropped a bomb.

While Walter was speaking with the board, Noah took us on a walk through El Carmen. He pointed down the road where the new poultry area would be. We then walked to Lupe's house. Noah asked Lupe if it was okay for us to come to talk with her. She said of course! Lots of chicks running around, with hens and a rooster. Her home was very simple -- an outside room to cook, and the main part of the house. Noah explained to us, and Lupe concurred that Lupe started cooking for the guerrillas from age 10, making tortillas. She shared that she would put the tortillas in a plastic bag and swim with them across the river to take to the guerrillas. The soldiers never stopped her. When she was a little older she joined the guerrillas -- and served them as a cook. Lupe is said to be the best tortilla maker. I told her the next time I come I want her to show me -- she promised she would.

We then went through the soccer field up another small hill to a house that was nestled next to a cliff. The owners of the house, Concepcion (known as Con) and Alfonso, donated the land next to their home -- again, perched near the cliff -- for the building of the church. We walked to that spot -- it has a beautiful ceida tree (I think that's the way you spell that). Alfonso was badly injured during the war. Most of his right forearm was gone, along with now having a misshapen hand. When he was injured, he laid in a mud puddle for a week before being captured. As part of the trade negotiated for the release of Duarte's daughter, Alfonso was sent to Cuba and then to Germany for treatment. When he was found, there were worms in his arm. He has learned to be a carpenter.

I admired the oven in Con's back yard -- she took me to see it. She makes rice bread. She told me that she puts the wood in, and starts the fire. When the bottom of the over and the top are hot and the fire is ash, she pulls out the ashes and puts in the bread. The oven holds the heat for a long time. I told her I want to bring my husband back here so she can show him how she makes the bread -- I know Steve will love that -- to make bread in that beautiful oven!

Noah told us that after a disaster, it was the Episcopal Diocese of El Salvador that went up to help them. All the members of the El Carmen community became Episcopalians after that. According to Noah (through members of the community at El Carmen), an evangelical group came and tried to proselytize the community -- the community ran them out of town. Same thing happened when gang members showed up. This is a wonderfully kind, but tough group. The picture here is where the church will be built.

When we went up to El Carmen, Noah pointed out the bridge that was built by Cristosal and the people
We left El Carmen, and went back down that extremely bumpy road, crossing rivers to get to the main road. Guillermo met us and we got back in the van and headed back to San Salvador.

That evening, we went to a Pupuseria with a wonderful panoramic view of San Salvador -- at night it was glistening! It was nice and cool up there, which was a welcome relief for me. Mariachi came and sang, which was fun. I had two pupusas, pictured here. One was beans and cheese, the other cheese and loroca (I think that's how you spell that) -- it's a kind of flower. I couldn't get the people of El Carmen out of my mind. So isolated. I thought about the things I take for granted -- the comforts I have -- that they most certainly don't. The access to all kinds of foods and diversions.

I wonder when I come back to El Carmen -- will the road be repaired? Will it be gone? Will Con and Lupe be there to teach us bread and tortilla making? I hope all will be with -- I pray all will be well.

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Location:La Quesera and El Carmen

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

El Salvador Day 8

Down at breakfast early, I was ready for whatever this day would bring. Or, really, so I thought.

Sitting next to me in the van was Kenia, whose family lives in Los Calix. She works for Foundation Cristosal, and was a joy to talk with in the van on the way over to Los Calix.

When we arrived there we were lead to the "templo", which is a tent made of wood with a roof. There is a cross at one end -- so powerful to see a "templo" -- a church, in the middle of this humble community -- a wooden "tent" with a cross at one one. The Gospel of our Lord is powerful here!

The dream of this group is to create an compound for the church and the community. More on that in a bit. Kenia, as the project manager for this project. Not only is she from this community, she is an attorney, very bright, and very motivated. Kenia became the first member of the community to attend and graduate from college in 2010. I was so impressed with Cristosal for hiring her -- what a stroke of brilliance! A bright light shining. More, as I found out later and did not appreciate when I was hearing all of this, one man sitting next to her, who spoke so eloquently about the needs of the community AND the environment, literally with one hand, was her uncle. A powerful voice and force for change, and someone who is open to collaboration and the movement of the Holy Spirit. Beautiful!

We heard from the members of the Bishop's Committee of the Church -- Cristo Rey. Initially in this project more members of the community were involved. Their input and support were garnered for this project. Very smart -- this MUST be a collaboration to be successful. Their input was sought and honored, as was the input of Bp. Barahona -- a wonderfully intelligent and practical man (hence the kitchen and storage building). As the work wound down it is now left to the faithful of the Bishop's Committee. They were present, and it was clear they were very active in all of this. They come together to dream together -- how beautiful is that? More, working with Cristosal, those dreams will come true.

It was also gratifying to me to be here in Los Calix after having preached at the ordination to the transitional diaconate of Fr. Antonio. Apparently he has been called "Father" for a while, for that is who this community of faith sees him to be. A quick smile, a warm heart -- describe him well. Hard working, he and his family (here he is seated at far left next to his wife) moved here two years ago from El Maizal, where his wife Arili had family close by. A move that Cristosal helped with, with director Noah Bullock literally putting all their positions piled carefully and with love in his pick up truck, with the family in the cab and back seat of the cab. I was moved to tears to hear that -- this IS mission and ministry. Caring enough to move a family, preparing their home for them in advance. Their home was donated to them by a member of the community -- Daisy -- a wonderful woman whose family own the casita that Antonio and his family now live in. The part of her family who owns this now lives in the United States.

After going over the plans for the new compound with the Bishop's Committee, including the plan for a "super mercado" -- we went to Fr. Antonio's home for lunch. I'm excited about the plan for a "super mercado" to serve the community, and to be a source of income to sustain the church. Brilliant! Now, the group just has to come through with the business plan! Well, at Fr. Antonio's home we were treated to the most delicious lunch -- green beans Rellenos (never had that before -- one word -- DELICIOUS!) and rice with veggies. Loved this meal, served separately with tortillas and broccoli -- yum!

After lunch we headed over to La Villa Tortuga, for a boat ride on the swamps among the mangroves. Wow -- so beautiful! I was put in a life vest, and was lead by our boat driver to the side of the boat. I had to wade out into the water and they pulled the side of the boat low so I could climb in. Okay, thank GOODNESS I bought Keen shoes (thank you Julie Reid!), and thank goodness my legs and arms pulled me up. Fr. Antonio wanted to carry me piggy back to the boat -- well, THAT wasn't going to happen. See that woman with the shades and the big hat -- that's me!

We road for about an hour in the boat through the swamps. It was beautiful! We saw capuchin monkeys in the trees, birds -- you name it. It was amazing. And it was cooler than what we'd experienced at Los Calix. I had been perspiring non stop for over 4 hours, and was grateful for the breeze. More, I was grateful for the time spent with these wonderful people. What a blessing!

I'm very impressed with the work of Foundation Cristosal -- they are making a difference in the lives of people in a powerful way. In a way that is unique -- transforming lives not by giving money to people, but by teaching people how to get what they need done, and to have a plan that others can buy into. A very powerful affirmation of mission and ministry! Thank you Foundation Cristosal!

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Location:San Salvador, Los Calix

Monday, May 27, 2013

El Salvador Day 7

Today, Memorial Day, is our day of rest. Although yesterday, due my being down for the count, was a bit restful, this day was scheduled to be so, and happily so. I woke from a good night's sleep rested and feeling so much better.

We were picked up at 10:00 by Olivia from Foundation Cristosal, and were introduced to our driver for the rest of the trip -- Guillermo. We went immediately to Shicali, the ceramics shop we were at on Saturday. In this shop, all the goods for sale are made by people with disabilities. The woman who started this shop and work is confined to a wheelchair. I purchased two shallow bowls/platters and a square plate, as pictured here. They have a golden retriever who lives there -- she is 2 1/2 years old, and her name is Agatha -- she immediately went to Julie and Shelley. New BFF's! While I may have thrown the ball that was in her mouth, when she retrieved it and looked back -- Agatha was looking for Julie or Shelley!

We headed to Suchitoto, a beautiful city with a bloody past. While today it is a tourist Mecca, during the war people were murdered here. Shelley shared with us that there were many people from Suchitoto who fled to the area of San Andres where Amy, Shelley's daughter served. It is so sad to think that a place so beautiful was shrouded with this kind of pain. When we stopped at the restaurant for lunch, I should have noticed but didn't. At the top of the entrance was a scale -- on one side of the scale was a bomb shell that had been dropped on this city, on the other was a pile of tortillas. Make food not war?

After a delicious lunch at this very most eclectic restaurant, we headed into the center of Suchitoto. The Church there was highly touted by Shelley, and she wasn't wrong. It was beautiful. What was interesting was that there was this stray dog that fell in love with Shelley. He followed her in and stayed with her the entire time we were there. See him on the steps next to the gate looking at her? I was very moved by the flowering of the Virgin Mary, the amazing tiles on the floor, and the woodwork. More, there was a woman in the side chapel who, after she was done praying, came out of her pew and backed out of the chapel, nearly walking into me. I forgot this custom -- but I saw it in Spain. It was very powerful to watch, and the woman who backed out of the chapel had been crying. I wanted to comfort her, but I knew not to interfere. She looked at me, wiped a tear and smile as she wished me a good day. I wished her a good day in return.

The only other stop we made before heading back to the hotel on this day of rest was to the Anil shop -- the Indigo shop. Irma, the owner, opened the shop and we went in. This is an ancient art that was reintroduced by an NGO, where Japanese dye specialists came to teach. Irma spent three years studying, and opened her own shop in Suchitoto. She spent close to an hour teaching us the technique, including making an item for us to take home. She spent so much time with us, showing us the technique, showing us how to set different styles. While this was a "rest" day, I learned so much. I'm grateful for this time, for being with George, Julie and Shelley. Such great blessings!
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Location:Suchitoto and San Salvador

Sunday, May 26, 2013

El Salvador Day 6

I woke up after a fitful night's sleep feeling VERY tired. I made it downstairs for breakfast, but knew deep down something wasn't right. More on that later.

I had my "usual" -- two pupusas (they're small). Claudia, the woman who has made pupusas every day since I've been here saw me (there was a crowd around the eggs and pupusas. She waved me over and pulled out the ones she knew I'd like (meat, beans and cheese -- but browned on the outside a bit more). Today is her last day for one week -- so I'll have to befriend the new pupusa maker in the morning.

Edgar Mendoza and his wife Rosa met us at the hotel, and at 9:30 we were off for our day. Of note is the fact that Edgar was elected the Secretary of Next year's Diocesan convention for the Diocese of El Salvador. That convention always happens on the Friday and Saturday before Trinity Sunday. I believe that will be the 13th and 14th of June next year. At that meeting, the slate of nominees for Bishop will be presented, with the election taking place at a special election later that year, date to be announced. Edgar is seated at the table and is wearing the red shirt. He had just been elected and was up with this year's secretary of convention.

I had a splitting headache -- so I took some tylenol, but not before the headache had affected my stomach. Not good.

I was scheduled to preach and celebrate at 5:00 at San Marcos. On the way, we decided to stop at Tazumal and take the Ruta de las Flores.

Tazumal is an amazing archeological site of Mayan ruins. It is thought that there are 5 pyramids built on top of each other. The oldest dates from the 400 AD the newest about 1200 AD. What was most interesting was listening to our own Julie Bryant describe how the Mayans maintained the structures (she learned this during her many trips to Belize). In this particular case, there were bodies excavated, which were assumed to be human sacrifices. The grounds were immaculate -- well cared for. Apparently when this site was initially excavated cement was used to cover the steps and facade to secure it. Archaeologists have since learned that this is not a way to protect the ruins, and adjustments have been/are being made.

We then got into the van and headed to Ataco, Ahuachapan. It is a beautiful town. There were many people in the town square, and food and other vendors were all around. What I loved about this town is that many of the buildings are painted in bright colors or with murals. It started to rain just a bit, but stopped quickly. I had my umbrella up for less than a minute! We walked around the town -- Shelley had been there before and remembered a shop that she had liked. We stopped there -- lots of great items to purchase.

We walked around a bit more and stopped for lunch. We found the most interesting restaurant -- RESTAURANTE SIBARITAS -- it has an outside seating area as well as an dining room. I was immediately attracted to it because of the ornate iron work and the beautiful flowers on the patio. The picture here is of Shelley admiring these hanging vines -- the flowers were beautiful! I had a bowl of soup which was, as stated in the menu, "gentle on the stomach". Others had either pork or chicken -- everything was reported to be delicious -- certainly my soup was!

We made our way back to the car, and by the time I got there I had lost most of the color in my face, and the headache was back. A "pow wow" among my fellow travelers resulted in a call to Bishop Barahona to tell him we weren't going to make it to San Marcos. A call was placed to the Church in San Marcos as well. The service was scheduled for 5:00, it was 3:00 -- and I knew I wouldn't make it. I was grateful, very grateful to Edgar for his help with this. Also, Arcielo, our driver, was wonderful. Shelley Denney kept saying to me, "there is NO color in your face". She gave me more tylenol and we began the trip back to San Salvador.

I asked to stop along the way back to San Salvador to get some fresh air and to move a bit. The group was great about supporting my need not to talk. I didn't mind if others did, but I didn't have enough energy to do so myself. Me not talking -- wow, you know that doesn't happen often! I was very sleepy once the second headache started to subside.

We stopped at a little town called Apaneca - also with pretty painted buildings. The town square was smaller -- just a five minute walk around the square and we were back on the van ready to go.

We did go into Juayua, and walked around a bit. Shelley wanted me to see the Black Jesus in the Church, which was a lovely building. You climbed steps that took you up behind the cross. It was powerful to stand up there behind the cross, and be able to see down to the chancel and nave floors. It was also amazing to see the different statues from that vantage point. I spent a few minutes in quiet prayer for family and friends.

As we left the church we walked along the town square -- again filled with people and food booths. According to Shelley and George, this is a Sunday thing to do in El Salvador -- everyone comes out into the square. There were also lots of side streets with ample shopping in the street and in side alleys. It was in the square that we discovered the city was hosting a "get to know reptiles" day. George decided to participate. I think it looks good with his purple shirt!

We got back into the car and continued our trip back to El Salvador. I fell asleep for a bit, something I never do. I was getting some color back in my face.

On the way back we went through Nahuizalco -- the furniture vendors along the side of the road had all KINDS of furniture for sale. It was amazing to see stall after stall along the roadside. We ended up back at the hotel around the same time mass would have been ending had I been able to be there -- and as San Marcos is about 1.5 hours away, well, I am glad to be sitting quietly blogging. I do miss not being with the people of San Marcos, though -- I was looking forward to that!

I'm ending this blog post with some other pictures of our day. I'm hoping for a good night's sleep!

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Location:El Salvador