Friday, January 4, 2013

Names and faces

Today the entire AFLV group went to Las Delicias. Chelsea and Holly went to the school house to help out and play with the kids. The rest of us (Miquel, Laura, Griffin, Tricia, and I, Sonja) went to the construction site for the house we are building for a local woman with six children. The main focus of the day was building the metal columns that will go in the trenches to support the concrete that will later be poured for the foundation. My job was to cut wires into a certain size to tie the rectangular bars to the long metal rods. I think we got about five of them done today and each is about 15 feet long (that is a very rough estimate). I also helped out by twisting the wires onto the metal rods. There were also a few people that moved a large amount of sand that was delivered up to the work site.

The woman and her children who we are building the house for were there at the site today as they have been in the past. They are very willing to help and often do a better job than I may be doing. I got closer to two of the girls named Ana and Diana. Diana is the youngest one and is very shy but today we bonded over a little kitten, or gatito, that lives on the site. We both held and pet the kitten. She never spoke to me but she did let me pick her up. Ana is older, in second grade, and she was helping me twist the wires. She also liked to play with me and the other volunteers on the site. She was a bit of a jokester and would hang on to me; she was my little monkey.

It has been great working at both the sites. Everyone is always smiling and in a good mood despite the hot weather and hard work. The language barrier can be a little frustrating but we make do with gestures and with the help of Miguel who is fluent in Spanish and Laura who is a Spanish major.

We went up to the school building to join Chelsea and Holly and the rest of the Villanova group. We ate lunch and some played with the children. At this point I was not feeling very well at all so I attempted to take a nap. I think the heat and hard work got to me. I’m not used to the heat considering I’m from Alaska and go to school in Colorado. I’m feeling much better now after a shower, nap, and eating dinner.

We left the site at 2 (earlier than usual) to head to the University of Central America. We didn’t get there until about 4 because there was bad traffic due to construction. When we did get there we first visited the chapel on campus. It has quite a bit of El Salvadorian art work. Much of it is depicting the struggle and pain caused by the civil war. It specifically is about the 6 Jesuits and 2 women who were murdered by the army in 1989.  There was a museum up the hill from the chapel that honored the Jesuits, the women, and Monsignor Romero who were all murdered. We also got to see the pictures that were taken of all the Jesuits and the two women when they were found. The Jesuits had been dragged out of their rooms and out into the garden area where they were brutally murdered. The pictures were very graphic and horrific. I wouldn’t have believed the extent of the gruesomeness unless I had seen it myself.

Learning about the history of El Salvador has been very interesting and eye opening. The people of El Salvador adore, remember, and love Monsignor Romero. He stood for the justice of the people of El Salvador and stood up for them when they were being repressed. He was killed for this reason. More than 30 years later he is stilled remember and spoken about often.  The war affected the country and it is still striving to recover. It changed so many lives. I’m just happy that I am able to help these amazing people even the tiny amount that I am.

After getting a few souvenirs from the school we headed back to the house. I took a quick shower before dinner which made me feel significantly better. For dinner we had Sister Gloria’s Italian pasta recipe. Even though it wasn’t El Salvadorian food it was delicious! There was also garlic bread that was devoured. After dinner and a nap, a band called Sierra Madre came to perform for us. There were 5 guys that played various instruments like the drums, guitar, the accordion, bass, and wooden flute like instruments. They also sang and involved us as much as possible. I tremendously enjoyed listening, singing along, and dancing with them. They did an activity with us where we passed a ball around while they played music and when they finished whoever had the ball had to come to the front. They would answer or ask two questions in Spanish and the band member would try to respond in English. I thought that was a great way to bond and try to get to know each other and learn.   As a band they were also very big on honoring and remembering Romero. It was a great finale to this fantastic week! I even bought one of their CD’s and can’t wait to listen to it when I get home.

Overall this week has been an amazing experience. I came to experience a new culture and to serve others but I came away with so much more.  I have personal relationships with so many people from El Salvador that I will cherish forever. I’ve learned that it is the relationships that are most important. El Salvador is no longer just a country to me, it has names and faces and a great experience behind it. It also made me appreciate what I have but also made me realize what I don’t need, and understand that materials are less important in life than friendship and love.

Not only did I make new El Salvadorian friends but I feel like I really bonded with the AFLV group members. Even though we have only been here for a week I feel like we have all become very good friends. Tomorrow everyone (except me, I leave on Sunday) will be leaving. I am sad to see us all part but am so glad I was able to have this experience and meet all these remarkable people.

Sonja Jones (aka Chica Henaldo) is a sophomore at Colorado School of Mines in Mechanical Engineering, and is a member of Sigma Kappa.

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