Wednesday, February 23, 2011

El Salvador - Part 2

Majestic trees up on the hill in coffee country near Apaneca
So after a wonderful afternoon meal at El Jardin de Celeste, we drove to Apaneca to go ziplining. This is something I've wanted to do for a long time, and I was all psyched to go. But I chickened out at the last minute, worried that I might do something to exacerbate the problems I've been having with my hand and wrist. (Go ahead, call me a wimp if you must.) Instead, I joined the two others who opted out, and we stood at a point overlooking the town and watched our peers zip down the mountain.

The place overlooking Apaneca where we watched the zipliners.
The zipliners started out on a short "training course" to learn how to steer and brake. In all, they came down about a dozen lines, flying over the canopy of the rain forest. One person in particular had a really great time, as evidenced by the joyous cacaphony displayed in this short video (you may have to watch it several times. You may choke from laughter. I'm just sorry it's such a short video, but it's all my little camera could pick up.)

video

It's kind of funny that everyone else was silent while they ziplined, but not this noisy person. Yes, someone obviously had a very, very good time. :-)

After returning to Apaneca, we climbed back onboard the bus and went to the colorful town of ConcepciĆ³n de Ataco (Ataco, for short -- see the very last photo in this entry, below). This was our opportunity to shop. S bought a beautiful shirt and scarf, and I bought several scarves and a table runner.

Some of the beautiful textiles for sale in Ataco.
The "tourist" part of our trip continued on Sunday, when we drove from Santa Ana to Lago de Coatepeque, a beautiful volcanic crater lake. After another wonderful meal at a restaurant on a pier (you could see the clear water of the lake through the cracks in the flooring), we went on a very relaxing boat ride. The weather was perfect that day . . . but now that I think about it, the weather was pretty much perfect (if a little warm) most days we were in El Salvador.

Preparing for the boat ride on Lago de Coatepeque

There were many beautiful homes on the lake, such as this one:

One of the many lovely lakeside homes.
I mean, really, what's not to like?
Lago de Coatepeque from the mountain road. Breathtaking!
After we got back to the hotel from our lake adventure, we had our official orientation. It was nice that we had a couple of days to see part of the country and get to know each other as a team. By the time we arrived to the work site on Monday morning, we were ready to work.

Our days started early. Breakfast was at 6:30, after which we'd all meet on the hotel roof at 7:10 for our daily meeting. The vans picked us up at 7:30 for the 30 minute trip to the work site. Most days we worked until 16:00 or so.

Beautiful mural on the side of the building in Ataco where we shopped.

We worked in a town called Candelaria de la Frontera, which is along the Pan-American Highway close to the border with Guatemala. There were two houses, one at the front of the property and one in the back, that were being built for two sisters. Their mother was the landowner, and she as with us during the days while her daughters worked their jobs. By the way, part of the deal with getting a Habitat house is that the homeowner or someone in their family has to provide some sweat equity. Also, Habitat houses aren't free. The homeowners buy the houses and they have to qualify by having a certain monthly income in order to make payments. What makes it viable is that the price of the house is lower because of the cost of materials is lower, and because so much of the labor is from volunteers. (I'm just adding this here because until I started volunteering, I really wasn't sure what the deal was.)

OK, that said, I'm going to end this entry now and focus the next one on the actual construction process  . . .