ES 2007 Journal

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Exact re-creation of my journal, a few spelling edits made, and an occasional substitution of an acronym for the actual word because my fingers get tired. But, no additions or omissions,

Monday Jul 30
Tuesday Aug 1
Wednesday Aug 2
****

Monday July 30, 2007- Departure from US; Arrival in El Salvador

Tuesday Aug 1
Wednesday Aug 2

I am sitting on an airplane, waiting. Which is a nice change from sitting in the terminal waiting, but still not really getting us anywhere. And the adventure seems to have already begun. Our original itinerary had us leaving Nashville for Atlanta, having 45 minutes to change terminals, and relaxing our way from ATL to ES. But the weather is a volatile thing. We have already had a 30 minute delay in Nashville, which is making the switch from B to T terminal seem nigh impossible in the short time. Of course it won’t be the first time (or likely last) this group has sprinted through concourses. And, should we miss the flight, we’ll catch one to Miami and fly TACA to San Salvador. The official airline of Central America. Stands for Take a Coffin Along. Yeah, that would guarantee honorary citizenship in ES. No lie, I’m kind of hoping for the great cross-country TACA adventure. But, then again, Delta gets us there sooner and we likely get our luggage.

Something is starting up in the plane. That or a plane behind us is. Guess we’ll see soon enough. I love takeoffs (especially when I know it’s the first of many steps to SS.) But there’s always that one moment of weightlessness, one instant where you fly without the plane. It reminds me of a roller coaster. (I wonder if I still have time for an amusement park before the summers over. Day-trip to KY, anyone?) But, watching the world fall away from you as the clouds rush past. Ah, yes.

Well, takeoff is finally beginning. I may nap, since I went to sleep at one and woke up at 4:15. Or read. I’ve run out of rambling comments for the moment. Hopefully these will get shorter as we start working and time becomes more precious. Otherwise, this may be my first novel.

****

Well, we made the Atlanta Delta. It was a rush, but, hey, we’re pros. Actually, as we walked towards our terminal, the attendants started shouting to know if we were the group. Apparently, they were holding the plane, but were getting ready to leave anyway. We ran onboard (and said goodbye to our luggage). Then this guy starts radioing and before we know it, they’ve found and loaded our stuff. I mean, we pack our carry-ons to survive without luggage, so that’s what we expected to do, but good ol’ Delta.

Landing in ATL was weird. Last time I was on a plane was after NY, before the lock-in. I was all nervous and jittery about the landing. And suffering from a pretty brutal crush. Well, for some strange reason, I now associate those ideas with landing. It was odd. I’m hoping that I’ll be too excited in ES to feel anything else. Landing there is fun. It’s a big field, but the scary part is the dead airplane that greets you from its random spot in said field. Not exactly comforting.

I’m glad I’m not superstitious (haha). The clock read 5:05 this morning. Which, on a digital clock, looks like SOS. Hm. Not a great omen. But it seems all good for now. Fingers crossed and lots of prayers.

Lunch service and in-flight movie (Premonition) now. Time to lay aside the pen. Maybe nap. Who am I kidding?

****

To finish off the in air section, the fight was great (albeit with the token screaming child a row behind me), the food was incredible, and the movie was pretty good. Sucky ending, but hey. Now, to the real part of the trip.

We landed (and I finally felt normal again!) and went through customs. It’s a strange place. Everything is a kind of muddied grey; it’s outdated. Old tile floors and “decorative” wood ceilings. The main sources of lights are the huge windows that cover a whole wall. It’s a really long building, so you would expect it to let in more light. But it all stays kind of gloomy and depressing. Stuffy. Militaristic. And it doesn’t help that you can see green trees, blue sky, and white puffy clouds playing on the breeze outside.

We made it through without any real problems. Then we were swarmed, our bags carried to the bus, and ourselves smothered in hugs. It is one of the most incredible feelings. My feet touch the ground and I feel at home. I know SS’s airport better than Nashville’s. That first breath of steamy air as you exit the plane and the world falls into place. I feel as if I’ve been gone for years, but at the same time, like I never left. It’s something you really can’t explain.

Back to the story. I was a little bummed Francisco didn’t meet us immediately at the airport, but I was happy to hug and greet everyone else. And he was there soon enough to complete the group. Brant, Justin, Sara, Rebekah, Raquel, Daniel, Prissy, Isaac, Francisco, and I. The rest are coming tomorrow.

So, I chat with Gregorio on the way to the hotel. We dump our stuff, argue with the staff over a rate increase, and meet back up to go and do stuff. The elder men go to buy some stuff for food bags tomorrow, while youth and women ship out to the mall.

The mall was kinda boring. We wandered, chatted about guitars, music, and Less Than A Decade’s upcoming show (Sept. 15 and Oct, something. I’m pumped!) Daniel plays classical guitar, and I suspect he’s incredible. He’s beautiful, talented, funny, smart, nice. Pretty much, he’s one of the most perfect examples of a guy. But I’m pretty objective in my assessment. I’m not head over heels for him like some others. Not that anyone could blame them. So, we ended up playing video games in a CD store. Language doesn’t matter when it comes to gunfights and car crashes. We exhaust that, then wander to a mall next door. Sit on the steps; Brant introduced Francisco to KWD, War of Ages, and the like. Gives a screaming lesson. Pretty fun. Isaac tries to get me to help him learn English, but I barely understand participles, so I’m lost to explain it in Spanish.

And we went for papusas. But, it’s late and everyone wants sleep, so I’ll wait for tomorrow to tell those stories. And get into the wonderful accommodations of the Holiday Inn San Salvador.

Good Night!

****
Monday Jul 30
Tuesday July 31, 2007- The Group Arrives
Wednesday Aug 2

Well, everyone arrived in one piece, but boy was there drama. But I’ll get to that after I finish about last night. Because I have some need for continuity (it’s my OCD side…)

Papusas. It was very fun. I ate three, queso y frijoles. Ambrosia. The most delicious meal of my life. But there was quite the wait before eating, which is where the fun began. We had the typical “got a boy/girlfriend?” discussion. I had fun trying to explain that I did not, in fact, have one, despite my father and brother’s claims. I still think Frank thought I was lying. Then again, I’m paranoid. Of course, this is after explaining the whole situation to Rebekah earlier. Life would be much easier if it was actually possible for guys and girls to be, gasp, just friends! But that’s a rant for another day. (My roomies are tired, so I’ll likely get cut off soon.)

We discussed college. Frank and I are both leaving our futures wide open. They can’t understand the idea of living on campus. So they originally thought I drove six hours to and back each day. Right. Well, I played Serious with Isaac (the game where you stare deep into the other’s eyes and try not to smile or laugh.) Sources say I’m miserable at it, and I surely proved that. Justin threatened to spoon Brant. (In context, he meant beat Brant with the condiment spoon, but…) We (Brant and I) died laughing. Which lead to certain people who Brant explained spooning to on the phone once. Which was kind of awkward. Then we realized Beka and Justin didn’t know what it meant. Strange conversation.

We rode back to the hotel in the back of the truck, singing all the way. I was crammed between Brant and Daniel, trying not to accidentally molest Daniel as Brant and Justin flailed about. But it was fun.

Got into the room. Took a lukewarm shower (but it was wonderful. Relaxing, clean, and not completely cold.) Fell into the bed and broke a few ribs; added a little cotton in the mix of this concrete slab (but it was a place to sleep and I had been worn out for hours.) A bit of a downgrade, but it’s still a great place to return to after a long day.

Well, I’ll cover today tomorrow. It’s getting a bit late and I know my roomies are tired (up since four, ya know?) So, Goodnight.

****
Monday Jul 30
Tuesday Aug 1
Wednesday Aug 2, 2007- First Full Day of Work; Chain Gang Returns

Another day after another good long sleep. Lots to be done, but I still have to finish yesterday. Perhaps I can even get caught up.

So, yesterday the pre-group got to sleep in a bit, have a nice and relaxing breakfast. The Salvadorans met us at the hotel and we made our way to El Centro. The food had all been delivered (tons of it, and I’m really not exaggerating). We shifted things around, got it all set up for the assembly line. Then it was off to the airport to pick everyone up and get stared. We chatted in the back of the truck about drinking, politics, and whatever else struck us. You can vote and drink at eighteen here. Which excited some in our group a little too much.

We made it to the airport and the drama began. First, we were all worried that they had missed the flight. But, after thirty minutes, the Lime Herd appeared (matching lime green shirts make it much easier to spot everyone.) But it still was taking forever, and we were beginning to get impatient. We had lots of work waiting for us to get to the church. Then the frantic beating on the windows began. See, the immigration/customs area has, as mentioned, this wall full of tinted windows. We couldn’t really see, so we were trying to scream through the glass to find out what was going on. 36 of 54 bags didn’t make it. And then there was a ton of paperwork for each missing bag. Those of us outside couldn’t get in; those inside couldn’t speak Spanish to the staff. It wasn’t good. After three or four hours, they appeared. Lunch was out since we were already so behind. We checked into the hotel, dropped out bags, and went to Central to start packing what we could of the 1500 food bags we needed. Hose was going to go and pick up Campero’s (KFC, but better) and bring it to the church.

And my dad gets left at the hotel. So they have to go pick him up, then get food. Needless to say, I lived off of Lifesavers and Cheez-its until eight.

But, we were only hoping to get 650 food bags packed by nine. When the food came at eight, we had 1284. Makes you proud, y’know?

Well we ate with all the workers from ES. Jana, Carrie, and I (roommates all week!) say with Daniel and Francisco, trying to tell the story of the bags. Apparently, there was a casket on board and no luggage can touch it. Lots of our bags were bumped for it. Know how hard it is to explain that in Spanish?

We had a devo with everyone and it was a great experience. Working, everyone is the same. Sweat is universal.

We sang the entire way back to the hotel (Sea of Galilee, Hole in the Ground, Johnny Rubeck, Titanic, Said I wasn’t, Get Right Church. Fun Stuff.) Once we got to the hotel, we explored. There’s an exercise room in the middle of this spooky maze-hall-thing. Good place to sneak off to. Then we sat at the bar, the youth at least, drinking the fruit tea we all love down here (or most of us do). Played cards. Bradley and I chatted a while, and then we turned in.

Goodnights are special. Once we get dropped off, everyone gets a hug before the Salvadorans go home. It’s simple, but it makes you feel more loved than ever before. Because these people are tied to you with something different. They may not be my closest friends, but they’re closer than most people I know.

And that brings me to today! Finally!

Actually, I lied. One last story. While at the bar, Mrs. Karen told us about Isaac. He was apparently in the hospital again earlier this year. See, about three years ago, he stopped working with us and coming to church. He had gotten into the gang world here and it wasn’t going to end well. It killed me, knowing how dangerous and likely fatal it would be. He got stabbed (I’m not sure if it was directly gang related, but still.) In on the right side, our on the left. He nearly died. He was in the hospital awhile and when he came out, he came back to the church. They cut off the gang tattoos (still some nasty scars) and he came back to live with Hose. Last year, he was back for the mission. It was incredible to see him again, just as kind and loving as ever. But, apparently, he had some peritonitis from the stab wound earlier this year. While there [in the hospital], he preached to his neighbor, got him going to church. And now Isaac’s in the School of Biblical Studies. I love to see him now; I hate to think of where he was. It’s like that with some of my friends. I just don’t like to think of their past, at least not at length. Not because I think any less of them. On the contrary, I have so much respect for Isaac’s ability to change his life. But knowing that there was so much risk…. It’s intriguing but upsetting. I can’t help but think that I could have never known them. And, for most of these friends, I don’t want to imagine a life without them.

And now for today.

Let’s see…. I woke up; I know that for sure at least. We had a nice breakfast as a group (Great breakfast buffet here!) We went to Central and packed the last of the food bags and then had some time to kill. See, we were going to go to the Children’s Hospital, but there’s been an outbreak of Dinge Fever and Viral Pneumonia and the kids’ immunity is very low. I was very disappointed, because it is very touching. And I’m beginning to realize that the life most (not necessarily best) lived is the one that is filled with these strong emotions. Joy, sorrow, passion, anger, and many others. It isn’t always pleasant, but it’s life. And if this summer has taught me nothing else, I have learned to accept the pain (physical and emotional) as a part of living to be embraced. It makes the positives so much better.

But back to our time to kill. We got on the bus and drove to this overlook of the city. It was breathtaking. The mountains ringing us, a distant lake, and the tiny building carpeting the valley below s. It was all green and beautiful.

Alexito danced for us while we were up there. He discoed and shook his little booty for all it was worth. We gave him some change and you’d have thought he had the greatest treasure in the world. I love that kid.

But then it was back to work. At Central, we loaded 660 food bags for Cuscatancingo onto the bus. Long, heavy, hot work. We make a long chain and pass the bags from the church to the bus. Our little chain gang. That done, we loaded up the bus to go, but the food bags took up lots of seats. So the youth group graciously offered to sit no the food bas. It’s very comfortable and we all got nice naps in.

At Cusca, we had the chain gang part two. See, people will cut in line or try to steal food, so we all hold hands and make a human barricade. The line goes between us and the bus and no one is allowed to cut through. There was a drunk guy who caused some problems, or tried to. He didn’t have a ticket to get food and likely didn’t ever know where he was, but Prissy was nervous enough about him to move me and herself away from him. Daniel took care of him though, shadowing him until we were leaving. The guy did hit Joseph in the leg, so there was some cause for worry/ But all’s well that ends well.

We had a youth night out, but I’m going to save the last of today for tomorrow. We have like, three hours on the bus. We’ll see how writing on the bus goes. I need a shower and sleep.

Buenas Noches!

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