Post by Ryan Durigan

This morning, that lovely alarm clock chirp sounded even more annoying than usual—if that’s possible. 6:15 and it was time to get up. With the long drive to Usulután ahead of us, we headed over to breakfast at 6:45, promptly seeing an unfamiliar van sitting in front of our house. Only then did it dawn on us that we wouldn’t be travelling in El Toro today, the first time in 8 days. Due to the length of the trip (somewhere between an hour and a half and 4 hours, depending on who we asked), Mike convinced us to travel in a closed car with tinted windows for safety, as gringos are easy crime targets.  Guillermo, the new driver, only added to the unfamiliarity by being there 45 minutes early.

As it turned out, it took about 2 hours to get from SJV to el Carmen, including a quick stop in San Salvador to pick up Kenia, the Cristosal representative who would be showing us around the community. She and Ariel Spanished on about important things while the rest of us sat in the back spotting cows, awarding a point to whomever saw it first. The game came to an end as we pulled up to the El Carmen community center. The community members of El Carmen made a great first impression—as we walked down a Porvenir-like path, following Kenia, we saw at least 15 people mixing concrete and working together to repair their road, without the leadership of an outside organization. We quickly learned that this community was quite a bit better-off than El Porvenir, featuring electricity in all the houses and, on top of that, a water distribution system from an enormous tank.

After checking out the giant spring box and the ram pump that fed the water distribution system, we headed uphill to take a closer look at the tank. Unfortunately, we had forgotten a cinta, but Grace wasn’t fazed. To estimate the tank diameter, she simply climbed a 12-foot built-in ladder and walked across the roof—10 paces long. In total, we estimated that the tank held about 150 cubic meters.  Grace, still on top of the tank, opened some hatches and decided that the tank was about two thirds full. We took a few water samples and headed back to our van. Back in the van, we discussed the feasibility of taking on this project. We’ll have to discuss it with the whole group before we make any decisions.

Good news! Ariel received a phone call from the ferretería in La Puerta, and the snap links were in! We stopped by to pick them up on the way back. Once there, Grace also nudged Ariel to inquire about a sheath for her newly acquired (albeit quite dull) machete—but ferreterías don’t sell them, so the search continues. Finally, we made it back to SJV a tad before 3pm (or two, I really don’t know because my phone is still in Eastern time and I forget whether I took that into account or not). The girls decided to be girly for a while (yup, even Grace) and went over to the hair salon. Like 4 hours later, after Bob and I had finished doing everything we could think of except starving, they finally showed up, Ariel and Grace with new fancy haircuts, and all with painted nails. (Well, actually Grace drew the line here, and didn’t get hers painted.) They told us that they had met Rubén’s wife, whose sister happens to be the hairdresser. Apparently, for two haircuts and three manicures, the total came out to $13—not bad.

Somewhere in those 4 hours, there was a knock on the door. I, expecting only the girls, inquired, “who’s there?” When I heard “I’m looking for Ariela”, I quickly opened the door to Ana’s familiar voice. After discussing Ariel’s whereabouts, I told Ana we’d be over for dinner and said goodbye. Only after shutting the door did I realize that the whole conversation had transpired in English. Now of course, this isn’t weird for me—except that I didn’t know Ana spoke English.

Turns out she teaches English lessons….

Ariel, craving pupusas, finally came through on her pupusa debt to Grace. On the way to dinner, we grabbed a few at the pupusería next door and brought them to Mike’s. We ate quickly as it was almost time for the Patriots game, for which Steve had bought wings and such. After they finished eating, the girls snuck away, blaming it on water samples or something so they could go watch a romcom. Bob, Mike, Seth, Kathy, Steve and I stayed to watch the game on the projector Steve brought to donate to a local school later this week.

We got the snap links, checked out the new community, and watched the Patriots win—I’d say this was a successful day.