Liberar Las Tortugas

Today was the day.

The day to liberate the turtles(which is the direct translation from Spanish).

A groggy group of 50 or so of Casa students, becarios, and Casa staff rode for an hour in our buses to the beach. We got there, heard a little presentation about the status of the turtle species and their level of endangerment, and what we could do to help combat this.

The answer, of course, was to release some newly hatched baby turtles into the ocean.

But first we had to wash our hands in the ocean water really well so that we wouldn’t get any sort of foreign bacteria on the turtles, which could be harmful. Next, we were handed a very small, very adorable little baby turtle. As soon as the turtle was in my hands, it (because I don’t entirely know how to tell the gender of a turtle) started squirming and wiggling to get to the ocean. Then we got to name them.

I named mine Nike.

Just do it little baby turtle.

We all waited behind a line, as if we were getting ready for a race, and held our turtles close to the ground, and they were off! I must say, Nike had an excellent pacing strategy, and managed to avoid getting overturned by a lot of the big waves. It’s all in the name.

After all of the cheering/motivating was done we hopped back in the bus to go to a little beach house just down the road. It was very picturesque. There were hammocks and a little pool (because the tide is so strong here that people don’t normally swim a whole lot), and a ton of open space for lounging.

But back to what really matters. The beach.

The water was lukewarm, which actually still managed to be refreshing under the blazing hot sun. We swam around as much as we could without being swept away into the current. We dove into the waves Baywatch style. I made a small sand castle. And even got to go running along the beach(which was not intentionally in Baywatch style, but may have been more Baywatch than jumping into the waves).

Everybody turned a different color, for some people it was darker, for others it was slightly more reddish, and for few it was just plain red.

It was the best way I can imagine spending the day before our praxis week begins. We are all packing up and double checking that we have everything.

Tomorrow we head out to our respective sites to spend the week getting to know the families and accompany the community as best we can. This means no new posts for a while, and probably one super long post when I return, but it’ll be a good one.

Guarjilla: Fiesta de las Vacas

Before I begin I must first give a quick back story:

Last year I visited El Salvador with an Immersion Program through SCU.  During our 10-day trip we had a home stay in the small town of Guarjilla for 2 nights and 3 days.  Those days were the most powerful of the entire trip.  I met amazing people, experienced simple living, and just started seeing things differently.

Needless to say I was slightly more than excited to return with Norelby, one of the becarias living in Casa Romero for the weekend.

Groups of 3 or more people were assigned to each of the becarios for the weekend. On Friday, we split up into two large coasters(think bus, not amusement park) and headed out for our 2+ hour road trip.  After sweating, sleeping, singing, and some snacking, we arrived at our first stop, which is where two other girls(women? that just seems weird…) in the program and I headed out.

Now we get cheesy and cliche-y for a moment:

It was just like I remembered.  I don’t know why I would have ever thought it would change, but it was still comforting to know that it hadn’t. Out of all the things I remembered my favorite was definitely the fact that the cows and horses were still roaming freely around the streets. That night was even better when we walked down the street and the cows were strewn in the road, headlights on them trying to get them to move, people just standing around acting casual, and some sort of Latin Top 40 music playing in the background.

I like to call it the Fiesta de Vacas, or Cow party.

I couldn’t help but burst out laughing.

I saw almost all the women I met last year, they actually remembered me as well and exclaimed their excitement over me being back.  Every time I would see one of the women the conversation would go something like:

(hug)

I’m so happy you came back! You said you might but you actually did!

(hug)

Me: I’m so happy to be back! It’s so beautiful here how could I not?

(hug)

It’s so exciting to have you back! How long are you in Guarjilla for? When did you get here? When do you leave El Salvador? Why did you come back?

Also keep in mind that this is all in Spanish.

My head was spinning for a second with the rapid fire questions/excitement/familiarity of the situation it’s a miracle I understood them at all.

We did a lot of the same things as when I was on the immersion:

-Visit the radio station, Radio Sumpul, and learn about how they started and what not.

-Visit the Jon Cortina Museum/his house. Jon was a priest that was very involved in the development of Guarjilla and implemented the program to bring water to the town.

-Swim in the river. The gringos all wore sports attire with bathing suite under while the Salvadorans were wearing their normal street attire: jeans or shorts, a t-shirt, and in some cases plaid button up shirts.

-Eat delicious food. As if we don’t always do this.

-Take bucket showers(which are quite refreshing).

But we also did some new things:

-To elaborate on the food (as I am want to do) For breakfast, on Sunday morning, I ate pan dulce and papas fritas cooked fresh over a wood-burning fire pit (lenia is Spanish), meaning I ate cookies and french fries for breakfast.

-I watched Norelby climb a ladder up a tree to get 3 coconuts that we then proceeded to hack open, eat the meat, and drink the yummy coconut water.

-Peruse the inventory of a small snack store that Norelby’s family owns.  I had always wondered what they carried on those shelves and now I know it’s a bunch of sugar and salt.

-Discovered a cookies and cream flavored lollipop. With a brownie INSIDE. You would think that this bullet should be under the last bullet point but it was so revolutionary that it deserved it’s very own. Chocolate is a rare commodity here so that bite of brownie was pretty much magical. Yes, magical is an entirely appropriate word in this situation.

The whole trip was amazing, I just felt to welcomed and at home, and I really wished I could have stayed longer.  But the week awaited, along with praxis week coming up next week and a turtle release on Saturday.

Yes, you read that correctly.

On Saturday, I will be getting up at 6 AM to go to the beach and releasing baby turtles into the ocean.

Part of that sentence probably made you jealous, and the other part probably made you cringe a little.