To say that our team was exhausted by the late afternoon is a bit of an understatement. The college sleep schedule doesn’t particularly go hand in hand with 2:30 a.m. wake-ups and 5:45 a.m. flights. All-nighters the week before Spring Break however, are common occurrences. So whether it be pure adrenaline or mental toughness, we made it with all of our equipment to the airport in good time.

We’ve traveled with a good bit of equipment this year. A Hach Portable Incubator, 2100P Turbidimeter, Phosphate, and Nitrate Test kits were among some of the supplies. We’ve brought these down with the intention of testing the water quality at various locations in the community of El Porvenir. It’s one of the main prerogatives of the trip along with gauging the communities interest in POUs and monitoring our past implementations. So it was very important that the equipment made it from Boston to San Salvador. We’re only here for 6 days so United losing our luggage would have been detrimental to the trip. In addition, we haven’t always had great success with checked bags. We made the decision in the airport to risk bringing the turbidimeter, phosphate, and nitrate test kits through security. Each of these kits contains samples of liquids, albeit less than three ounces in size. Nonetheless, it would have been a hassle to explain the purpose of these samples, that they weren’t hazardous but critically important to the service work that we plan on doing. Clearly, I was pretty anxious walking through security with a bag of chemicals. But by some godforsaken miracle, not a single member of our travel team was pulled aside and asked questions. Surprise #1.

The total travel time ended up being about 10 hours. Sleeping on planes isn’t quite deep sleep, but we took what we could get. Mike Jenkins, of Epilogos Charities, met us at the airport and we crammed into his comfy SUV. We then had the wonderful privilege to be taken for lunch at a beautiful restaurant in La Libertad that overlooks the beach. Mike is very concerned with our health, but was confident that the seafood here was fresh. It may have been our only opportunity for fresh seafood for the trip and it was well worth it. Surprise #2.

Later in the afternoon, Mike drove us through some back roads to San Jose Villanueva (our place of lodging), where we stopped by to visit another volunteer group working on building a home for a family in need. It was very inspiring to see a family so pleased with the volunteers and so thankful for the opportunity they had been granted. Our travel team would love to see the same faces on the members of El Porvenir after a successful project implementation! Surprise #3

Further down the road we had the incredible opportunity to pass the oldest women in El Salvador. According to Mike, at 112 she still carries 3 logs of firewood a day. When asked how she was doing, she replied “Well, my knees are bothering me a bit”, after standing from sitting with her knees bent. Quite an incredible human being to say the least. Surprise #4

After arriving home and taking a two hour power nap, the team had dinner cooked by the wonderful house cook Ana. Tortillas, rice, and chicken were on the menu tonight. This weekend is the festival of Saint Joseph (the patron saint of San Jose Villanueva), so we went to watch a concert (the 5th place winner of Mexican Idol sang) and some loud fireworks. We had a soul-searching meeting exploring goals and strategies for this trip, and headed off to well-needed sleep.  Hasta Mañana!