Home Again

Well, we made it! Twenty-two left, and twenty-two returned. Our flight into Toronto landed earlier than scheduled, customs was a breeze, we didn’t lose any bags, and everyone had a ride home from Toronto in cold, but clear weather. I’d call that a success.

Just a reminder to everyone that we’ll be gathering at Trinity United in Kitchener at 5 PM on Sunday (March 24) for a hangout/debrief/dinner/photo-exchange. I don’t have details for how long we’ll be there, but Sarah will be sending out an email in the next few days with more details.

– Gord

Arrival in Dallas

We’re halfway home! Our flight this morning was delayed by about an hour and a half, due to a missing passenger, then a mechanical problem (something with the windscreen apparently), then because these had taken so long, we needed to refuel! But, eventually, the crew got us off the ground and all the way to Dallas. Fortunately our fears around a delay in customs due to the budget sequestration were completely unfounded and we were through both customs and security screening in under thirty minutes from the time we got off the flight.
Now we’re all killing the six hour layover in Terminal D before we catch our final flight home at 7:50 – for those who don’t remember, the flight is American Airlines 420 and the scheduled arrival is 11:45 in Toronto.
See you all soon!
– Gord

Day 10 – Metallo

Hello everyone! So today was great. We woke up this morning all excited, because today was beach day. After a short (ish) bus tried we arrived at the beach. The weather was awesome, if a little sunny. The waves at the beach were huge, some of the biggest I’ve seen. After doing all our stuff off, everyone immediately jumped into the water. the water was nice and warm, but there was a strong undertow so we had to stay close to shore. After playing in the waves for a while, we had lunch. After lunch, some people went to the waves again, some played in the pool, and some played on the beach. Unfortunately, pretty much everyone got sunburned 🙁 some worse then others though. After returning from the beach, we all had supper and then said or goodbyes to the ESNA staff and cooks. After that, we got invited to a party across the road and so almost everyone went to go get their dance on! The DJ was one of the drummers from the other night so he recognised us and gave us a shout out, then played a few north american dance songs while we showed the Salvadorians how it’s done! Then there was mostly typical Spanish dance music, which was just as much fun! The party went on until late in the night. Can’t wait top sew everyone at home tomorrow! Bye for now though.

– John Goff

On Our Way Home

Just a quick note for parents: the drive from Sonsonate to the airport was quiet and uneventful (most everyone slept on the bus). We’re all waiting at the gate and should be boarding in the next half hour or so. I’ll try to update from Dallas if WiFi permits!

Day 9 – Sonsonate / The Ides of March

Today was the fifteenth of March. A beautiful day in El Salvador…..nice….warm…..sunny….and the fact that its my birthday is quite a big factor to the way I’m feeling. Today started off by staying up almost all night on a sugar high. At exactly 12:00 my beautiful friends sang me happy birthday and I felt like the most important girl in the world. After getting back to my room and passing out from exhaustion, we woke back up at 7:50 and ate breakfast. At breakfast I was sung to again by the TCOW group, accompanied by ukulele, and right after, left to go to work! After we finished working away, we started playing Frisbee with the politur (tourist police) and the children. After a bittersweet goodbye we went to eat lunch. Next, I missed out on a walk around Caluco to take Krystal Wagner to the hospital. We thought she had broken, or at least fractured her big toe but instead the doctors believe its just REALLY inflamed. Later we met up with the rest of the group and then we shopped! Lastly, we were invited to Conny Rodriguez’s house to eat dinner and PARTY! After eating our dinner, Lu walks up to me casually with a giant cake with the numbers 1 and 6 as candles. After I blew out the candles , we partied it up like there’s no tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!! We had a live band and everything! I can honestly say, I will remember this birthday for the rest of my life. Thank you El Salvador and God bless everyone.
– Carolina

Day 7 – Sonsonate

We left San Salvador this morning for Sonsonate and drove all morning. In the afternoon we went to Caluco to the youth Center and we played a soccer game with some of the local youth. It was great fun. Had some injuries (scuffs and bruises) playing soccer on there covered concrete soccer field but everyone is okay now. We also visited the cooking school in caluco and got a tour of the hostel gated community as well. Then we came back to hostel and went for a swim in the pool and had church chicken fights in the pool. This trip continues to be great fun and I am looking forward to the last couple of days.

Day 8 – Sonsonate/Caluco

I was so glad to be able to participate with the group once again after being sick for a couple days! I was full of energy this morning, which was definitely needed for our trip to the daycare centre. After a dusty ride to the daycare along a very rocky road we arrived at the church that they are using as a place to look after all the children. The children were adorable! I’ve never seen such beautiful smiles and as we entered the main building they greeted us with such cheery faces. They sang for us and hugged us with so much love. I found it surprising and comforting about how easy it was to communicate with them despite the language barrier. I discovered that even here in El Salvador the children are exactly the same as in Canada so interactions with them felt so natural. We coloured with them and played other games. Another cool experience I’ve had in El Salvador is drinking soda. Here they pour soda into bags and you drink it with a straw from the bag because they make more money from buying the soda in bulk and then distributing it into bags. In the afternoon we went to the school that ESNA has helped to expand. We got straight to work and I helped paint the top half of one of the classrooms. It was tiring, and the paint fumes were a little strong, however the end product was so worth the work! The other half of the group was hard at work shovelling gravel which was a very intense job seeing as that day happened to be extremely windy which blew the dust up everywhere. The remainder of the afternoon was spent playing with the children and taking lots of photos with them! The kids loved taking photos with our cameras and I know many of the pictures on mine were snapped by some of the kids. The rest of the night was spent back at the Hotel Agape with the group and a bunch of us hung out at the park in the hotel property! The other amazing experience of the day was having a cool refreshing shower. All of us had dust everywhere; in our hair, in the creases of our skin, just everywhere!!! Its been an amazing experience for me with both the people of El Salvador and the people on the TCOW trip. I’ve enjoyed every moment, except I guess the two days I was sick, but even that was an experience in itself! I’m excited to live to the fullest the last two days here!

Clarification Regarding Police and Travelers´ Sickness

Apparently there has been some interest in the mentions of our interactions with police in El Salvador and the recent bout of illness that a number us have “enjoyed.”

First, the police. El Salvador’s government offers a free service where special “Tourism Police” or as their truck says “PoliTur” are provided to accompany groups traveling about the country to give some added peace-of-mind during their time here. Our group has had two such officers with us (Guillermo and Ernesto) since we arrived at Perquin who have been very friendly and have even shared their vehicle when we needed a smoother ride for a participant who was ill. The officers are assigned to escort our group specifically, so they won’t be called away elsewhere.
With regards to the illness that seems to have gone through the group, the majority of us were hit with travelers’ diarrhea and some with nausea on the way to Perquin which was exacerbated by a long winding drive on some very rough roads. ESNA was gracious enough to tweak our schedule over the following days to allow a greater amount of rest and our menus, while still authentic, have been a bit gentler on our stomachs.
On the drive from Perquin to San Salvador yesterday (Tuesday), and San Salvador to Sonsonate today (Wednesday), everyone was in much better spirits and we didn´t have any incidents of nausea at all – so yes, everyone´s pretty much back to normal. Lu, our resident nurse has been keeping close tabs on the few whose symptoms lasted more than a day, and all the leaders are keeping everyone well hydrated with the filtered water that we always have available through ESNA.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop us a line at info@waterlootcow.ca and we´ll get back to you ASAP.

Day 6 – Wednesday!!

We are all sick. Well, most of us are. em(Note: We’re mostly all better – just a bit of travellers’ stomach combined with motion sickness -Gord)/em Hopefully if anyone has gotten it, they are already on the decline because it is not fun to be sick. At all. We ate breakfast at 8am and it was scrambled eggs and beans. Anyone feeling up to it hopped onto the bus and the travel-police truck (I assume someone has already mentioned them), and travelled to the school that our hotel manager started. The kids had prepared songs to sing to us, and they were so cute! The kindergarten girls were my favourite. They were absolutely adorable all dressed in their little uniforms! After they were done singing, we went and visited each classroom. They were learning about things from the senses to plants to water to natural medicines. The grade eight class was in the process of teaching the community about the importance of recycling. They were very inspiring.
After our visit with them, we went to El Mozote to learn and visit the massacre site. We saw some devastating sights that we probably will never forget for the rest of our lives. One of the most memorable moments for me was the children’s memorial. There were so many names, and all of them were under the age of eighteen. The youngest was just two days old. Lunch was steak and rice and it was delicious. Next we drove four and a half hours including a pit stop to return back to home base, the hostel in San Salvador. It felt like coming home. Dinner was at the mall in the food court. Walking past shops that I would consider expensive even in Canada forced us to think about how our home stay families could live in the same country. It was all in all a heart wrenching, but thought provoking day!

– Jenna

Perquin: Waterfall, Museum

Today we decided it would be a little more of a relaxing day since part of our group was suffering from illness and had to stay in bed. We woke at 8 15 since we had such a long bus ride the night before. At 9 00 we ate pancakes and talked about the plans for the day. After eating we walked to the town square then up to the guerilla war museum. Our guide an ex guerilla  combatant was pleased to show us the weapons, photos, guns and propaganda posters. He told a story about a radio station vinceremos ,which aired the truth about the atrocities being committed by the national army, the target of a national army commander Monterosa who hated it made it his life long goal to capture it. The guerillas called it operation Troy comparing it to the trojan horse. What they did was attract the national army by firing on them then when they were close they fled leaving behind a fake transmitter , which was actually a bomb in disguise. When the commander found it he thought he had found the transmitter for radio Vincermos and ordered it be taken aboard his helicopter. He called a meeting with all the high ranking generals ecstatic that he had found the rebels radio station transmitter. Right after the meeting the commander was up in his helicopter when suddenly the rebels detonated it killing the commander and humiliating the national army. That is just one of the many amazing stories he had to share. Next we walked down the hill to where they had set up artifacts such as weapons mortars, radios and trenches to show us what it would have been like. After we walked across some wood and stick bridges they had set up. After lunch we took a drive across the border to Honduras to go to a waterfall and swim. The water was amazing and quite refreshing after all the hot days here in El Salvador. There was only one bad part when Christian lost his only pair of glasses under the waterfall. We all looked but sadly they could not be found now he wears Desmond’s prescription sunglasses.
After supper we watched a movie about Rufina Maya the lone surviver of the El Mozote massacre the movie was very informative and I looking forward to seeing the site tomorrow.