The morning began at a sharp 2 am. This is when we began the trip to the airport. Thankfully we were all on time and got through customs smoothly. We had a safe and easy flight to Houston Texas where we boarded our second flight which was destined for Sans Salvador. When we got off the plane we had to go through immigration and had no troubles at all. When we walked out of the airport we were greeted with the warm welcoming of a completely unfamiliar culture. We then waited for a bus, which turned out to be a very old school bus. It then drove us 120 km to our hotel in Ahuachapan. We made one stop along the way at a gas station. This was where be bought snacks for the rest of the ride. After arrival, the group decided to explore the town a little. We walked a few blocks to the nearest supermarket. On the way, we saw many stray dogs and street vendors who sold various foods. We bought a few items at the supermarket and really enjoyed comparing the surroundings of home to our surroundings now. After our adventure we went back to the hotel where we were served a dinner consisting of rice noodles, chicken and potato soup along with homemade corn tortillas and hot dog buns. It was a delicious meal and the owner of the hotel was beyond kind. We finished off the day with a small gathering accompanied with a prayer and headed to get a good nights sleep.
This morning started with breakfast at 7am. We were served coffee, eggs, beans, rice, and plantains. We eat breakfast and dinner here at the hotel every night and the food is all handmade by the owners. After breakfast we hoped onto a van which drove us to A Taco, which is a small town not far from us with many markets. When we arrived in A Taco we were accompanied by another youth group who was finishing up their week here. We were able to go (in groups) through the different stores and purchase items. At this point we were fully submerged in El Salvadorian culture. After a few hours walking around A Taco, we were taken to Entrée Nubes. This is a beautiful coffee plantation and restaurant. We were able to go on a tour of the grounds and witness the process for roasting coffee beans. After that we were able to enjoy a meal in the restaurant. We had four options to choose from and all of them had great reviews. The venue was unbelievable and the coffee was amazing. The next thing on the agenda for today was to attend a church service at El Shaddai. It was a moving service and we all experienced it in a different way. When the service was over, we were able to congregate with the members of the church and eat cake with them. The cake was in celebration of the church being up for 12 years. The youth got to play soccer with the children in the courtyard and it was a great experience. We then had ice cream for dinner at a shop in Ahuachapan. We also walked around a block in Ahuachapan and had many interactions among the citizens. After a long day, we finally got back to the hotel and ate dinner. For dinner tonight we had rice mixture with meatballs and again, it had great reviews. Before bed we gathered again to talk about our days and finished with a prayer. It was a great day.
Our day began with the usual 7 am breakfast. This morning we indulged on refried beans, eggs, and salsa. Shortly after breakfast we packed up, said our gracias’s to Manuel and loaded into the back of a truck that would take us to the mission house. The mission house is where we will be staying for the next five days. It was our first time seeing the interior today and it is absolutely amazing. The indoor plants bring the entire place to life and to top it off there is a patio that overlooks the town along with the mountains in the near distance. Today we went to the church grounds where we put together rebar bars, cut them, made wire ties for the wall, painted the rebar with an oil based paint that prevents rusting, and used sand paper to remove rust off of a fence. It was hard work. We got our hands dirty and ruined a lot of our clothes but it was an amazing experience. We accomplished a lot today, from physical work to relationship building. Our transportation for this week is a pick up truck with little barring on the side which we ride in the back of. After a morning of building we came back to the mission house, ate lunch (chicken, vegetables, rice, and corn tortilla) and packed the food distribution bags. We created a pack line which gave us each an item to add to the bags. We made about 60 bags and tomorrow we have the opportunity of handing them out to the village. Upon finishing the bags, our group rode back to the church grounds to continue working. The females of the group stayed on the site and the males went to go pick up more rebar. When we finished up at the site, we came back to the mission house and participated in some down time to work in our devotional as well as shower. The painters of the group today are marked with the green paint (considering it will not come off of skin without oil and a lot of scrubbing). The next activity for the day was dinner. Tonight we ate meat, mashed potatoes, and what appeared to be a cucumber salad. As always, the food was wonderful. As we wrapped up dinner we decided to play Mafia before our 8:30 meeting. If I had to describe this game in one word it would be loud. Anyhow, we finished two rounds before sitting down for our meeting. Tonight I am sure will we need a lot of sleep in order to recharge for another long day tomorrow.
The majority of the alarms went off at 6:30 today. We gathered for our 7am breakfast and had eggs, cantaloupe, cereal, and sausage. It was a quick turn around from breakfast to loading up into the truck. Instead of all of us going to the worksite, four members of the group were scheduled to distribute food to a very poor neighborhood. This neighborhood surrounds one of the Methodist churches in the area. Pastor Gloria was our guide through the area as we passed out the bags we had put together the day before. This allowed us to create relationships with the community. They welcomed us into their homes and most offered us a chair. In their culture, offering us a chair was symbolic of welcoming us. We were able to provide food, conversation, and prayers to people in need today. A group of four went to deliver food in the morning and another group of four went in the afternoon. The remaining members of our group continued working on the walls for the school. Today we tied rebar together, created the ties, painted the fence for the church, and also painted the rebar. Midday we had lunch which was a corn tortilla, broccoli, green beens, rice, and meatballs. It was very good. When we finished our work day we came back to the mission house to rest, shower and eat dinner. Our day leaves us disgusting, covered in dirt and sweat, so when we get back to the mission house a shower is the first thing. Dinner tonight was a learning experience. Juan and the amazing woman cooking for us this week taught us how to make our own pupusas. We had the option of smashed beans, ham, pork, plantains with bacon, pepperoni, or cheese. These were the ingredients to put into our own pupusas. The dinner was great and everyone had a fun time learning and making them. Our night concludes with a group meeting and of course a came of body body. It was a great day that left us with stories we will be telling for a lifetime.
Today was the mission groups day of fun. We ate a breakfast that consisted of french toast, eggs, sausage, and watermelon. That was the start of our long day. Soon after breakfast we piled onto a school bus and headed towards the Santa Anna volcano. Today we hiked a total of 7 miles up and down an active volcano. It was a strenuous hike, rocky and uphill, but as we peered down into the volcano and actually saw the green sulfur covering the lava, we knew it was worth it. We also saw beautiful views of the countryside, neighboring volcanos, and the the Coatepeque Lake. At the bottom of the volcano we were able to recharge with snacks and drinks but we were soon on our way. Thomas and Juan surprised the group with a tour of Coatepeque Lake and some time on a black sand beach. We were able to take boats out on the water and the view was impeccable. The water was a clear blue and surrounding the lake were mountains covered in greenery. Here we also stopped at a restaurant to grab a bite to eat and enjoy the view. After a little bit of rain we realized how late it was getting and hopped onto the bus for an hour and a half drive to the mission house. Upon arrival of the mission house we were served dinner which was a carrot cucumber salad, ribs, and french fries. Luckily we had our devotional meeting earlier today so after dinner we were able to shower and go to bed. Tomorrow we attend the worksite and continue food distribution. We’re going to be sore from the hike but we are all excited to get back to work.
Today began like every other day this week. Breakfast at 7am was omelets, plantains, beans, peaches and cereal. This meal got us through a morning of food distribution and working on the site. We all came together for lunch at 12:30 and ate beef, beans, rice, and salsa. After lunch a group of the women went to the school to promote feminine hygiene to the school girls. The rest of the group split into two to continue food distribution and building. Today we worked extra hard and we were more tired than usual considering the hike from yesterday. Today we distributed 20 bags of food to families in need, painted and built another rebar wall for the upcoming school, and got to sit down to talk with Juan about the importance of our work. He was very informative about the issues we struggle to see in America. We gained an entire new perspective on the issues in El Salvador. We learned the importance of the schools for children who are prone to being involved in gangs and the value of a safe new school. Juan told a compelling story as he was one of the kids that needed support years ago. He explained how impactful it was to be apart of something good and how he chose the right path in life. Another moving day is now behind us and we will start out tomorrow the same as today. Tomorrow is our last full day here, leaving us with a bittersweet feeling. Tomorrow is also Sara’s 16th birthday!!!
Today was our last day in El Salvador. We awoke between 6-7 am to get ready for breakfast. This morning we had cantaloupe, cereal, pancakes, and bacon. A group of four went with our translator Stevens and pastor Gloria to make more food deliveries. The remaining group continued working on the site, painting rebar. In the afternoon we ate lunch and then switched groups for the worksite and food distribution. Today was Sara’s birthday so we had birthday cake with our lunch. We spent a few more hours working and then came together to visit the site where the high school we’re building will go. After a quick photoshoot we came back to the mission house to clean up. By the end of our workday, the majority of us were covered in paint so a shower was mandatory. Brian and Thomas pulled a few strings and made it possible for us to have Pizza Hut for dinner in celebration of Sara’s 16th birthday. The pizza dinner was topped off with the staff singing what we think was Happy Birthday. We ended the night with our devotion and sharing our highlights of the week. Many of the highlights were the relationships that we have built this week. We were also grateful for the time and effort put into organizing this trip. From our safety to our meals to our transportation we were taken care of and it did not go unnoticed. We had great laughs on this trip, great heartbreaks, great moments, and overall a great time. Tomorrow we will leave the mission house at 7:15am to start our long trek home. Thank you for all of the prayers from our church family and the opportunity we have been given to become immersed into the Salvadorian culture.