Tuesday, July 27, 2010

First Day At Matias

Yesterday was the first day of the new term at Matias, and the Vida Estudiantil students had a table up, giving away candy and fliers, and getting contact information from interested new students. We brought a World Cup soccer ball and t-shirt and a designer purse from the states to be given away as raffle prizes at the first VE meeting on Thursday (at noon). We also put together 100 freshman survival kits to hand out; each contains candy, a flier, and a DVD of World Cup players giving their testimonies. It was fun and encouraging to watch the US students, who are brave but speak almost no Spanish, and the VE students, who speak Spanish but are not always brave, team up to meet and converse with the new students. There are a lot of students who want more information about English Club, Vida Estudiantil, or a relationship with God, and our hope is that when we leave in a few short weeks, the VE students will have the confidence and training to just run with the ministry.
One joy for our family has been hanging out with the wonderful Avendano family. Manuel and Ceci are on staff with Campus Crusade and have two fun boys, Geovanny (a VE student at Universitad Evangelical), and Andres, who is in the fifth grade. Jason has been able to hang out at Andres' school a couple of times and play soccer with all of the kids, and on Friday Andres hung out with us all day at our hotel (it's a cool place to hang out, because of the pool, jacuzzi, game room, and proximity to McDonalds). Manuel has been our driver, tour guide and translator, and Ceci is just basically amazing! I for one would love to host them in SLO for a change. How fun that would be!
We will be on campus the rest of this week and will round out the week by taking a group of kids from an orphanage to see 'Toy Story Three' in Spanish on Saturday morning. And we are still thinking ourselves hugely blessed to be here...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Fun Stuff

We have been working hard on campus, but since classes at Matias University begin on Monday, we have had quite a bit of time up front to do some sightseeing and exploring around this beautiful country. On Wednesday, we went to the beach (Punta Roca, for all of you surfers out there), where Jason finally found a coconut tree to mess with, and Grace found a sweet little parrot friend. The sand is black here, since it's volcanic, and on our way we drove past mango trees, starfruit trees, and a rhododendron tree at least 30 feet tall (I have a rhododendron outside of my house, off the porch. It is 3 feet tall at the most - a shrub. I will blame my soil.)
Today we went to "El Boqueron" (meaning 'wide gap') National Park to see the San Salvador volcano, pictured above. Grace said it was like driving through a post card. I felt like I was on a movie set. Someone mentioned 'Jurassic Park'. Unbelievable plants, colors, bugs, birds, and then we got to the crater and were able to hike along the rim a little and look down in (it hasn't erupted since 1917, and there was no steam coming out, or rumbling, so we felt perfectly safe). The jungle here is gorgeous. On the way back down, we stopped for yet another great meal at a coffee plantation. Jamey and I decided to go native and order some typical Salvadorean fare of pupusas, yuca (it actually is a yucca root, but looks and tastes like big thick french fries), and plantains that were filled with beans and cheese, with horchata to drink. YUM.
Tomorrow we will be attending the Union Church here (an English-speaking church, where a lot of missionary families and embassy personnel go), and then we are off and running early Monday morning. We will be on both Matias campuses handing out some freshman survival kits (consisting of a soccer dvd, a flyer about Vida Estudiantil, and candy of course), raffling off a world cup soccer ball (boys) and a designer purse (girls), and just continuing to meet and talk to students. We will be helping the student leaders at Matias (about 10 or so) with their weekly meeting, and just talking to them and encouraging them, and our US students will be running a couple of weekly English clubs. In between, we will continue to explore, and enjoy, and eat, and generally feel very blessed that we get to spend our time in this amazing place!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

10 new things we are learning about el salvador

1. When an elevator says "holds 10", it means 10. Try to put in, say, 13 students, 1 intern, 1 mom and 1 daughter, for example, and you will get stuck!
2. When a minivan (called a "micro" here) says it's a 10-passenger van, now that is just a suggestion. You can stuff up to 14 or so people in one of these.
3. To young Salvadorean girls, Jason Pappas in a baseball hat and sunglasses bears a striking resemblance to teen pop sensation Justin Bieber (see picture above). This could possibly be the highlight of his trip.
4. Barbecued rabbit might just be better than barbecued beef at some food festivals.
5. It is possible to find bread, juice, and peanut butter without 'ickies' (i.e. chemicals) in El Salvador, much to the delight of Grace Pappas.
6. When you run on a treadmill and impress yourself with the distance, it is good to remember that it may just be because the treadmill is calibrated in kilometers, not miles.
7. The jungle in El Salvador is amazing and beautiful (see picture above), even when wet from an afternoon thundershower.
8. Coke zero is everywhere.
9. Washing machines are not (we are spoiled).
10. The people of El Salvador are some of the most friendly, patient, and helpful people on the entire planet.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Buenos Dias de El Salvador

Hello from El Salvador! We arrived at 7:30 yesterday morning, checked into our hotel, and enjoyed our first day in the city of San Salvador, capped off with a traditional dinner of pupusas. If you aren't familiar with them, imagine a very thick corn tortilla with something in the middle, like melted cheese, beans, pork, or squash (my favorite....perhaps a new use for all of those extra zucchinis?) Today we had our students learning about the culture, as taught by Manuel, Ceci, Janet, and Selegna, the San Salvador staff team, along with Brandon, a Cal Poly alum and current stinter here. We walked to the closest Pizza Hut for dinner tonight and ran back in a downpour - evenings here remind me of the monsoon season in Arizona, when there is a quick, crazy thunderstorm about every night. Jason, Grace and Jamey headed up to the 11th-floor game room, gym and jacuzzi (I think Jason is boxing some of the boys on the Wii) while I am sitting in the lobby, writing, 'facebooking', checking email, and watching the Padres take the lead over the Diamondbacks in the fourth inning thanks to my very generous husband and MLB.com. Tomorrow being Saturday, we will be touring the countryside, going to one of the smaller villages that has a wonderful food market and arts and crafts fair every weekend. I will have my camera in hand! The above photo is one that we took at lunch today on the balcony of Shaw's restaurant (and purveyor of delicious-looking chocolate creations). Sunday we will go to church with Manuel, Ceci and family, and then we will begin going to campus on Monday. Every one of us (22 total) is doing quite well so far. Our beds are comfy, the food is wonderful and plentiful, and the people are super friendly and helpful. I will do my best to keep everyone posted on our progress and adventures over the next three weeks....hasta luego for now! Y muy buenos noches...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

And We're Off!

Most of you know that because of our work with Campus Crusade, we do quite a bit of traveling during the summer. This year is no different - we are heading to El Salvador tomorrow (after a brief stopover in Orange County). Jason, Grace and I will be gone for three weeks, and Jamey and the students (16 of them) will be there for 6 weeks. We will be helping to run the campus ministry at Matias University in San Salvador, with some relief work and some sightseeing thrown in as well. It is both exciting and hard for our kids to leave home in the summers; fortunately this year's trip is after Hume Lake and the end of baseball season, but before cheer camp and the start of soccer season. And although I love to travel, it is always a huge stress to find a housesitter to care for 1 aging dog, 2 fighting cats, 6 hens, multiple fruit trees, a garden, and an old house (where anything could break at almost any moment). This year my parents are greatly blessing us by staying at our house while we're gone. I am praying that their time will be relaxing and uneventful, except for my dad catching 'the big one' - a halibut, we're hoping. And if he can bag a few rodents with the bb gun, well, that would great, too.
If you think of us, or of Cal Poly, or of El Salvador, please say a quick prayer for our health, our safety, and our project in general. Thank you! It is my intention to update the blog a couple of times (the up-side of needing to stay in a safe place is that it is a nice hotel with internet), maybe with a photo or two if I can handle the technology, so I will try to keep you all posted. Here's to another adventure for the Pappas family! Hasta luego.....