UBC REC Storms El Salvador (Days 9-12)

Days 9-12 from Lindsay Maloney, our second-in-command on the trip!
DAY 9 – Build Day
Our 2nd week on the site started with a nice full day of building.  The masons and workers came in on Saturday for a half day and it was wonderful to see the progress.  It is amazing to me how quickly the house is coming together.  The language barrier is challenging for the masons at times, but with a little humour and patience, we are all getting along great.  The masons and workers are starting to open up and get more comfortable around us, which makes the experience all the better.  Today was more of chizpa, mezcla, sanding of the walls with other rocks and escavation of the land around the house so that we can start thinking about lying in the sidewalk.  The scaffolding as we get higher in the build process is a little sketchy, but we are embracing it with excitement!  The scaffolding goes to 2 layers and we put it on top of other bricks to make it standing on somewhat more level ground.  There are also some plywood 4×4 pieces going between the scaffolding to create a longer plank for us all to stand on to extend the scaffolding.  It would never pass building codes in Canada, but here the masons and workers hop on and off of it without a care in the world!
DAY 10 – half-day build and visiting a disabled school!
This morning we woke up and went to visit a school for disabled children.  It is in great condition and probably the best condition we have seen thus far.  The headmaster was not there, and had not told the assistant headmaster that we were coming, so it was a big surprise to her, but a surprise that she seemed to be genuinely appreciative for.  The love and welcoming nature of the people here is truly inspiring.  We had a tour of the school and saw a few of the classrooms – the first was for children with a communication disability or behavioral disability.  There was a really cute boy that was playing hide and seek with us behind a bookcase as his instructor was speaking to us.  So cute!  The 2nd class we visited was for students who were deaf.  They were older children and seemed very interested in us as people.  Joei got asked multiple times if he was Chinese…as the kids commented from the shape of his eyes.  We had some fun with that as Joei and Lexon wrote some characters on the whiteboard of how to say ´´hello and how are you´´.  These kids were probably the most fun to be around and to communicate with.  They were very animated and the instructor, at times, had difficulty keeping up with everything they wanted to say to us.  There were some very dominant personalities in the class, especially one boy sitting in the back of the class who seemed to embody the typical jock.  It was clear that he was a popular kid in the class, friendly, outgoing and good at sports – as confirmed by his talk about his athletic achievements and his comments that he would beat us in soccer when we played him.  There was another boy that stood out as an opposing personality as the ´nice guy´ in the class.  He sat in the front row, and was very quiet and considerate in his interactions with us.  There were 2 girls in the back corner of the class that seemed more reserved, but definitely, in Josie´s words…showed a lot of sass when they signed and were able to hold their ground when the boys gave them a hard time.  It is neat to see how personality traits are universal in people despite communication barriers and geographical location.  One thing that stood out to me was a question from one of the kids about our attire and how some of our group was dressed.  They asked if the girls got embarressed by wearing shorter shorts and tank tops in a culture where that is not the norm.  It definitely made me think about how we are perceived and how important it is to recognize and respect a country´s culture when you go to visit and spend time with the people.  The kids challenged us to a soccer game, which was very fun.  Everyone has fun, got a little sweaty and were able to experience a little more interaction with the kids.  At the end of the visit, we donated $420 to the school to help kids who could not afford the transportation costs to get to school every day.  It was a very rewarding day and experience.  After we left, we went back to the build site for lunch and an afternoon of building.  This afternoon was great for me because I got ´trapped´in one of the rooms (from the scaffolding) and helped by passing things back and forth through the window and working in that room.  It also meant that I was trapped in the room with one of the helpers, Walter, who spoke very little English, but was eager to learn about us.  I got to use my Spanish, and that really helped me develop a little more confidence.  We chatted on and off for about an hour, and got to know him a little more despite the language barrier.  It was encouraging how quickly the language comes back, especially with understanding, when you are fully immersed in it.
DAY 11 – build and visit to a soccer school
This morning was a morning of hard work at the work site before we went off to visit a soccer school.  It was sad leaving the work site because we really want to get to the point that we can put the roof on, but it is exciting to be able to interact more with the local community.  Unfortunately, today 3 of our team had to stay at the hotel this morning due to sickness – head colds.  Hopefully they will be feeling better and will get a quick recovery and others won’t get sick.
The soccer school appeared to be similar to sports schools in North America in the sense that there were coaches and parents supporting.  However, different that in North America, it relies mostly on parental support for financial motivation.  There is support from the local government, but the motivation for the building of the school came from parents.  The kids here go to public school all around the department then come together for the common love of soccer.  There used to be 9 girls in the soccer school, but today we only saw one on the field.  Unfortunately the participation of girls in the soccer school has drastically declined recently.  There were many kids that did not have cleats to wear, so it was exciting to see the look on the kids faces when we brought out our cleats and soccer ball donations.  I just there was more that we could do.  We got to play a soccer game with the kids.  They were great!  It was nice to see all the smiles, laughter and cheer the kids (and parents in the stands) got from the love of the game of soccer.
DAY 12: Work Day
There was a full day of work today that was awesome because during the day we ran out of work to do!  While we all wanted to do more, not having much work for all of us to do means that we are getting close to the end of the build.  We sanded all the walls and started to ‘whitewash’ paint the walls.  We did more pounding of the cement inside the rooms to prep the floor for cement lying and tile laying.  We made sure that all the blocks were put together so that the foundation could be make for the roofing.  It is sad that the trip is coming to an end.  It has been a fantastic journey.
Tonight we went out to a local restaurant after dinner to have some fun with the locals in karaoke!  It was a lot of fun!  We got up as groups to sing and the locals got a huge kick out of it!  It was nice to leave the hotel and see a little bit of the local night-life.

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