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EL SALVADOR DIALOGUE ARCHIVE

EL Salvador 6 B

Thu, 24 Jan 2008

Greetings again from San Salvador- The predicted high for today was +36C....I know....life isn't fair. I haven't been having too many problems with it. Maybe it's a `dry heat┤.

Corrections and updates from yesterday: The little rebuilt community we visited was named └rcoiris....which means rainbow (after Rainbow of Hope for Children). And... the event that caused all the destruction that rendered them homeless, was the 2001 earthquake (not hurricane as mentioned). Apparently there were so many aftershocks and tremors....some of them major, that somewhere evacuated to other countries because they were literally going crazy living under those circumstances. Here and there you can see pieces of land that have just dropped. It's hard to imagine living under those circumstances.

Today, we left early for the Santa Adelaida Coffee Coop. Early morning of course is the best time to go anywhere here in the heat. There is construction right beside where we are staying and they are hammering and banging as late as 10pm and as early as 4 or 5 am....to avoid the heat I suspect.

We travelled down the same road as yesterday on the same volcanic ridges with the same amazing vistas. Unbelievable! Volcanoes rose in the misty distance like specters....As I said yesterday, this particular road is on the top of a mountainous ridge and there is a steep drop on either side that is certainly hundreds of feet ...maybe even a thousand. I took better note of the city of San Salvador itself as we left if because I realized that I didn't really know how to describe it. I guess it's maybe because I find it fairly non descript. It is mainly a lot of heavy, loud, traffic (often belching exhaust fumes) and cinderblock type buildings ...again non descript....typical central American. This of course with some American fast food restaurants, churches, with mid and high end malls and housing thrown in. These are usually places of contrast...the rich, the poor, the haves and the have nots. It is all hilly terrain, so roads are never straight. As far as I can tell, there are many more have nots than haves.

We arrived at the coffee coop and again found a welcoming party. They always make a very nice `program┤of things to show you. This was a coop formed during agrarian reform in 1980. Up until that time, El Salvador was owned by 14 families....sounds a bit like Brazil doesn't it!. Many of these coops were set up at that time but only 35% survived because of coffee prices, debt to pay off, etc. etc. so unfortunately things slowly but surely started to move back into private hands. This coop supports 500 families (amazing when you think about the private alternative)...housing and schooling are provided, jobs are secure, there are pensions (albeit $35 per month) and profits are divided. The biggest problem is that the families tend to be large (up to 10 kids) and there are only 600 hectares of land in coffee production. They are looking to diversify to secure the future for their expanding population. The two types of coffee produced are organic and rainforest. They get good prices for these types of coffee and yes...`fair trade` coffee does make a difference to the price they get. So we walked through the plantation (which is on the mountainous hillsides ) wondering how on earth they get up and down those very steep hills carrying bags of picked beans!.....and of course admiring the beautiful views at every turn. It was sunny and warm and peaceful and the tropical vegetation and volcanic mountains in the distance made for a glorious view. The plantation guide cut us each a walking stick with his machete so we would be more secure on the rather steep roads.

We had a look through the plant that processes the beans, saw the various grades and types of beans drying in the sun and the warehouses full of coffee beans ready to ship out. The harvest here is Nov and Dec so it is pretty much over for this year. The rest of the year is spent tending trees, fertilizing etc. We were then fed another banquet of rice , beans, roast chicken, salad, tortillas, and assorted other things, were each given a Ziploc bag of ground coffee and sent on our way.

Next stop....the indigo women's project....in the little settlement of Canton Los Ranchos. Indigo dying (that beautiful blue color) was a traditional way of dying cloth from a natural plant that is now being revived. It is a project supported by CIS and given the women of the community an income in the off season of coffee picking. The home that we went to had been destroyed in the 2001 earthquake. It was a very humble clay brick dwelling with chickens all over the yard as well as kids, dogs, and a cow. The grandma was apparently the only one supporting the lot !....right down to the grandkids. At home we would say....we can't afford to have any more kids. Here, they have kids to try to secure a future!....at least I think that's why they do it. There seems to be absolutely no goal to accumulate wealth and general stuff like we do. Their goal is to get through the day. I wish I could show every whiney kid the way that these kids (and women....and people in general) are expected to work in the country for the family to survive. You see them on the roads everywhere walking great distances to school, picking coffee on the plantations, carrying huge loads of wood, water, maize to grind, huge bags of coffee beans (often an their heads!)...and for great distances. Many seem no more than 7 or 8 years old. I have yet to see even a toy in any of those places

Back at the indigo project..... the women had it set up so that we could each try a small piece of indigo cloth dying. It was quite fun....much like tie dying with lots of interesting results. So we were again on our was ...unfortunately hitting rush hour traffic back into town.

Tomorrow we are again off early for apparently our most challenging day! (maybe they don't know what good shape I'm in !!) It's a school project a 45 minute walk up a mountain......So we'll see....

So, that's all the excitement for the day.....

Stay warm....we are!

V & C