Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sensuntepeque - Land of 400 Mountains

Here I am with some of the kids in a small village outside the mountain town of Sensuntepeque, El Salvador. Sensuntepeque in the Mayan language means land of 400 mountains. Thank God I didnt have to ride my bike here. 400 mountains sounds like one exhausting day. The countryside, as you might guess is beautiful but dry. When the teacher told the kids that the family was from France they all let out a big ¨WOW¨, they were so excited to have visitors to their small village which seemed so far away.

The kids at first were super shy but after a few minutes and some free candy they came right around. I tried to talk to them but my Spanish was WAY DIFFERENT than what they are used to. So instead we played a bit of soccer and just hung out.

The day before my visit to this small community I met with Raul Pineda at the Plan main office in San Salvador, El Salvador. We talked briefly about some of the projects that they were working on and I had a chance to meet with the Plan staff in the main office. The next day we were going with a French-El Salvadorian family who sponsor a child in this small town in the north of El Salvador. The family from France were going to spend one of their vacation days to visit the child that they sponsor through Plan. The father of the family was born in El Salvador and moved to Paris some years ago to pusue his passion of music. For him it was a way to give back to his home country and for his wife and 3 daughters to keep El Salvador in their lives. It was a great opportunity for me to be with them as they visited the village.

Here is a picture of the El Salvadorian family, The French family, the Plan staff and you can see me in the back.

The family in this small village were more than welcolming. They had ballons set up for the kids and a giant meal with chicken and a local soup. The families exchanged gifts and stories. There home was on top of one of these mountains in this dry area. From the school, where the kids go, to the house it was about a 30 minute hike over rivers, rocks and through yards of other people living in the village.

Here is a picture of Raul and the mother of the family. She told us that during the horrible war in El Salvador her husband was killed and she was left raising the children. The brother of her husband also had children and was left alone after the war. They decided to move in together to be able to support the 4 children. I didn´t know much at all about the war in El Salvador from 88-90 until I visited the country itself. It left many people dead and many people living in poverty. Today people try to get bye by sticking together.

Visiting the family, seeing their home and sharing stories was truly a humbling experience. These people literally have nothing. 6 people live in a room that was no bigger than my living room in San Francisco. probably something like 20x20. The parents slept in hammocks and the kids slept on old ratty mattresses atop wood plank beds. They have only a few change of cloths and they depend on the farmers and the criops that they grow for food. Life seems so fragile up here but still there spirit was amazing. They were so welcolming and served us up a huge meal. They still told stories and jokes and their mood was upbeat and happy. The kids were shy but they loved the fact that total strangers came from so far away to visit them.

This guy is cool! He was the nicest man. When we arrived to his house he made sure to give everyone the biggest bear hug. He is obviously an older guy but man he had a strong hug. Im not really accostomed to getting a hug from a guy I never met before but he was sure not going to make sure everyone didnt feel welcomlmed.
I took this picture on ur 30 minute walk up to the families house. This is in one of there neighbors houses. Its a stove they use for cooking...outside!

I could tell Raul truly loves his job. Here he is talking to some of the girls at the school in the community.
Here the teacher is passing out some candy that the French family brought for the kids. Im not really used to 35 kids all jacked up on a sugar rush. About 10 minutes after this shot these kids were running circles around me on the soccer field. Those guys were seriously good!
I took this shot when we first got to the school. This cute kid is checking out all the strangers as we came up the giant hill.

A farmer bringing in some seeds to his house.

A typical house in the community.

A view of the mountains from the walk up.

Crossing a creek as we got up to the village.

After the ride in the truck it was another hour and a half walk up another dirt road to get to the village. The French family is in front of me. I dont think the French teenagers were used to this at all. Much different than Paris, huh? They were hiking in sandals as well and not prepared for the dry and hot weather.
Heres a shot from the front of the Plan truck. We had to take this seriously rugged dirt road for about 30 minutes. We were seriously in a remote part of El Salvador.

The Plan Program Office about a 2 hour drive from San Salvador and another hour from the village that we were visiting.


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