David and Nancy Slinde Speaking at their "Sending Service"

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Reflections

While celebrating Christmas in West Bend this year, we can’t tell you specifically what’s happening in our former communities, but we know there are a modest number of colorful lights, artificial trees and nativity scenes that went up in early November. San Salvador - Many organizations support Christmas by two practices, one is to pay employees a 13 month pay check and the other is to provide generous vacations in December. It’s common for the family receiving a 13 month bonus to paint their house. This is a signal to the neighbors that they received a bonus - a little showy but tradition. On Christmas Eve the city comes to life with fireworks set off by residents. You can also hear the occasional sound of gun fire mixed in with the fireworks. In the morning many residents create sand paintings in the streets. We were in the van taking Pastor José home from preaching at Resurrection Church. We had numerous detours as neighborhood streets were blocked by local artists developing large scale pictures using colored sand. They were all beautiful sand paintings, but the artists on the street did not look friendly as they were shirtless, unshaven and just looked too different to approach to take pictures. Concepcion Batres - our community in the east has colored lights up in the Central Square. A few homes will have 2 foot artificial trees, many with flashing and twinkling lights – it’s quite an impression. Piedra Azul – is known as the church of the slide because it is located high on a hill and one can take a long stairway down or slide down on concrete slides. The children love it! This is a very poor community. On the 23rd, Bishop Gomez officiates at a worship service with many confirmations and baptisms followed by a great meal of chicken, rice and more. On Christmas Eve day, an all-day soccer tournament for the youth sponsored by Oikos includes eighteen local teams from the surrounding communities competing for top recognition and prizes. The members of these teams are from communities of our mission work. One day we were walking home from the market when a young man working construction on a building yelled at us - “hey you guys were at the soccer tournament.” We said yes. He said “I was a player from San Rafael Oriente and I saw you there.” We won’t be there to cheer at this year’s soccer tournament but it’s a great event and we hope to be there again in the future. It was the first time we needed to rely on acquaintances rather than friends for our safety and it worked out well. Enrique Senior and his son Enrique Junior took care of us. They are both in the Oikos program of community development and are both success stories. Enrique Senior took us home in his pickup truck. The truck had a speed limit of 25 mph giving us time to talk. We asked him what is different about Christmas for his family. He said they have the traditional Christmas chicken sandwich before going off to work in the fields. The traditional chicken sandwich is the highlight for the day. So we were blessed and protected in good hands with strangers. We were safe in one of the most violent countries in the Western Hemisphere. But now our grief is for our own county and the continued violence that takes place in public and private places. It’s unsettling that schools have become the site of violence while being the center of innocence. We all need to become involved to solve this problem. Christmas blessings – Feliz Navidad David y Nancy

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Food Security

Until we traveled to El Salvador, we had never heard the term “Food Security”. It is a common theme there. In the US, we are more familiar with the food pantry, soup kitchen, second harvest and urban agriculture/ gardening. This past spring we read an article in the Sunday paper using the term Food Security for our national problem of wide spread hunger. Earth Week recently published that due to 2012 extreme weather, the globe is at critically low reserves of grain world wide and signs are looming of a food crises for 2013. While we have structures in place to deal with the issue of food distribution to the hungry, most of the developing counties do not. And now with a looming global food crisis, we all face shortages and higher food prices. However the impact of higher food cost on the US families does not compare to impact this has on Salvadoran families. Living in El Salvador, the issue of Food Security was ever present as problems of torrential rains, erosion, flooding, earth quakes and climate change bring never ending crisis to the food supply. Our first project with Oikos Solidaridad focused on Food Security for 42 families. Each family learned the latest agricultural practices in organic fertilizer and organic pest control. The goal of the project was to provide enough to feed the family and have excess to sell in the market. Four of the beneficiaries accompanied us as we walked through dry river beds to reach a number of planted fields. We still see their faces and know they appreciated the donation from our West Bend church to make this project a reality. Last Christmas as we considered our departure from El Salvador, we realized the fight against hunger was just starting for us. We were returning to comfort, safety and healthy living conditions and leaving behind many who have no safety net. We had meetings with Oikos Solidaridad and agreed that a project in the family yard would be another beginning in food security. Our Saviors Lutheran Church West Bend once again financially supported a second Food Security project. Last week we received photos and a project report. It includes 11 women and 13 men who are heads of households; 12 own their land, the other 12 are renters. Oikos purchased fruit trees for the land owners and seeds for beans and corn for the renters and land owners. Oikos leads training in the recent advances in sustainable agricultures practices including erosion control and responses to climate change. For people who can’t read or write and are set in tradition, these sessions turn their world upside down. They are a very proud people and will tell you how hard they worked to make this project successful. Our two agriculture projects, the first one of 42 families and the second of 24 families, impacts 400 people. Families that are fed can work and children can attend school to improve their lives. We find much pleasure in walking the fields with the people who benefit from these two projects and also spending time with our sister parish where the Rotary hygiene sanitation project is saving lives. We return to El Salvador in winter 2013 to resume our walk with the Salvadoran people. Consider joining us. David y Nancy

Monday, October 8, 2012

El Salvador in West Bend Wi

Pastor Julio Chavez, our mission partner in Usulután, was in Milwaukee for 10 days, the guest of the Greater Milwaukee Synod. Julio was hosted by many old and some new friends. He had written that he wanted time to stay with us and he did for the last half of the Labor Day weekend. On Labor Day we toured West Bend and visited Casa Guadalupe, an education center which provides support services for Latinos recently arrived to our community. After lunch with friends at Jalisco’s, a Mexican restaurant in West Bend, we headed to the harbor in Port Washington to see the fishing and boating action on Lake Michigan. In the evening we cooked steaks on the grill with Wisconsin wild rice and sweet potatoes. He seemed to enjoy these new tastes. On Tuesday, we visited Ace Hardware and a Wisconsin based Fleet & Farm. Julio appreciated viewing hardware stores much different than the one in Concepcion Batres operated by his leadership team. He looked at and handled many products either thinking we could sell this or wondering what it was for. Then on to the feed mill where we explained how farmers order custom blended feed for their livestock to balance nutrient intake. In the afternoon Julio took a nap while we cooked the brats for the evening fiesta. Our church planned a pot luck fiesta to provide members an opportunity to meet Julio and to learn about the hardware store that Our Savior’s supported financially. With many pictures in Julio’s presentation, it was a powerful message of hope and sustainability for generations of young people. • With our mission of Social Justice in Community Development through business and job creation, the leadership team was encouraged to share a plan for a hardware store with us. They received our support and spent 5 months looking for an appropriate site in 3 different communities before selecting Concepcion Batres. The site is across the street from the city square in the heart of commerce where everyone passes by in their coming and going. • In developing the initial purchase order, the team determined they needed $12,000 cash for basic inventory and the purchase of a truck. Nancy and I took on the fundraising activity. • The formation of the business requiring many legal documents consumed much of the leaders’ time. They learned as they progressed and in this process were required to travel to the major cities to appear before the Federal Government for licenses and authorizations. • Alexis, Edwin and Juan Carlos define team work. They are dedicated to their church community. These three men did not take any salaries for the first 11 months, keeping profits in the business in order to continually expand the product line. They committed themselves in service to one another and to their family of faith in developing a healthy sustainable business enterprise. • The hardware store prices their products 10-20% lower to offer the working Salvadoran families the best possible price. “This strategy is our Evangelism” explained Pastor Julio. • Their future plans include opening more stores in and around Usulután. The gifts from Our Savior’s and other donors are a Living Donation, growing larger and stronger, benefiting the lives of current and future youth in the churches of El Buen Pastor in Usulután. This business venture is an excellent example of the impact of sustainable partnerships and sustainable projects. David y Nancy

Friday, September 7, 2012

We have previously mentioned the violence in the Salvadoran culture. We have not reported specifically about the gangs or gang culture that prevails throughout the country. This includes prison culture inside and outside the prison walls. Wherever we traveled it was important to prepare ourselves for leaving the safety of our house. We took steps to protect ourselves from petty thieves but it’s impossible to protect oneself from gang violence. The greatest amount of gang violence is directed toward each other. This year started out with 12-14 murders a day. But gang violence that takes place in the community spills out to include innocent bystanders. • In Mejicanos, where we lived, a gang attacked a public bus throwing gasoline bombs at it, setting it afire and killing innocent passengers. They were riding in a bus where the driver would not pay the extortion fee to drive through gang turf. • At the National University a young female stabbed and killed a student who was wearing a shirt she wanted. It was probably her initiation into a gang. Her environment is kill or be killed. • Pastors Julio’s church is two blocks from the Usulután Prison. (There are many prisons in country). One morning the big news in the community was all the prison guards were fired and the National Police took control of the prison. The former guards were being paid by the gangs to provide special privileges to gang leaders, allowing them to continue operating from prison • Between our home in Concepcion Batres and the church of Usulután a new hotel was being constructed. We watched it being built on a weekly basis. On a rainy Sunday night in April, just weeks before opening, what appeared to be a Police Officer demanded the site guard open the gate. Fearing the National Police he opened the gate and 20 black clothed men stormed the facility and removed all the electronic equipment from the 5 story building and disappeared into the rainy night. Recently the country noticed a significant drop in murder rates, 5-6 per day, but an uptick in those disappeared. There was speculation within the country that the gangs and the government were discussing a “peace agreement”. This speculation has been reported regularly by the press and recently the Inter Press Service News Agency has a current story that the gangs and government are looking to end two decades of spiraling criminal violence. The article can be read at: http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/08/gangs-and-government-put-their-cards-on-the-table-in-el-salvador/ The article is titled: Gangs and Government Put Their Cards on the Table in El Salvador Be prepared to be shocked. David y Nancy

Sunday, August 5, 2012

We met Beth and Maggie in 2010 when Maggie was a missionary with Volunteer Missionary Movement and Beth was applying for missionary status with VMM. Maggie works with a Salvadoran non profit serving children in a poor city section of Mejicanos. We lived in Mejicanos and were very interested in her work. The children are from homes of limited parental oversight, exposed too much violence, life on the streets and recruitment by gangs. Beth was a Fulbright Scholar who came to El Salvador to work in the rural community of La Joya Grande after this community experienced catastrophic flooding and mudslides that destroyed homes, lives, roads, livelihoods. Beth started a Salvadoran non profit working in disaster preparation and management for La Joya Grande. Beth and Maggie developed a program to bring these children and youth together to learn from one another. They called it a Children’s Summit, held in early summer in La Joya Grande. The children and youth of La Joya Grande led workshops on disasters, first aid and risk management. The Children’s Violence Prevention Committee of Mejicanos led workshops on children’s rights and the law for the international protection of children and adolescents. The themes covered are startling. While many U.S. children are enjoying summer programs in sports, dance, music, family vacations and other activities, the youth of El Salvador are dealing with daily issues related to abuse, crime, violence and the yearly disasters related to rains, flooding, mudslides and death. Because of the distance between each of our missionary assignments, we did not often socialize and therefore we don’t know the details of Beth and Maggie’s missionary “call”. But like all missionaries, they left home and traveled alone to an unknown, dangerous place in Central America. They developed relationships with others who worked with them in their struggle to improve the lives of the youth of El Salvador. In addition to meeting Beth and Maggie from VMM, we worked with college students from the University of Wisconsin- Madison for the past 8 years. Those early students are now long graduated and have started their careers. Six of the students working on our Rotary funded sanitation project in El Salvador are now living and working abroad. Their passion for service was kindled by the Rotary hygiene project where their hearts were touched by the people they met and the tremendous needs of people in developing countries. An 18 minute video of the January 2012 project and interview with some of the students is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPFaFn5ye-0 The diversity of talents and individual skills among the young missionaries and students we worked with is inspiring. They went on faith and were able to use their gifts and talents in the communities of La Joya Grande, Mejicanos and Nejapa. David y Nancy

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Early Winter

This is to clarify to our readers that we are writing from our home in West Bend, WI. Some of our readers assumed we only write from El Salvador. It’s the beginning of winter and the rainy season in El Salvador. Our friend Benjamin Alas writes to us that seed fest was held again in Concepcion Batres. Vendors, clients of Oikos, gather in the park to sell their products. It started years ago with the exchange of plant seeds and has grown to include preserved vegetables from the cooperative of Chambala, onions, eggs, live chickens and locally grown honey and coffee. Food is offered by the usual vendors that have diners in the park. They offer a different menu just to make the day special for those attending. The youth of Oikos practice their communication skills making announcements and other youth dance and/or perform skits. Also in early winter (in Central America) Monsignor Romero’s life and martyrdom are commemorated. We attended St Peters Lutheran in Sheboygan to view a recent movie titled “Monseñor: The Last Days of Oscar Romero” that is made from years of news reels. It’s a fascinating review of the country’s oppression of its people, forcing the peasants to organize to protect themselves and their families and the beginning of the civil war. Romero communicated with his people in sermon and also using the churches radio station. When Romero’s radio program was broadcast, community life came to a halt as everyone listened to every word. Romero was not a cautious priest: he wore the yoke of courage to fight for social justice. His messages became bolder and bolder as he spoke against the injustices inflicted on the people. The people cautioned Romero for his safety and they wanted to walk with him, but sensing danger he walked alone. Romero organized a human rights department of the church providing common people a place to report family members who were killed by paramilitary or death quads and also report family members who disappeared. At the time of his assination 8,000 cases were reported. We encourage you to view this documentary to better understand the culture and people of El Salvador. A preview is at http://www.americamagazine.org/content/video/video-index.cfm?series_id=1162 Memories: the avocado tree in our former yard is producing another cycle of fruit. The tree is the size of one of our oak trees and the avocados are the size of large pears. June is the month they ripen and start dropping on the old terra cotta roof. The tree has a wide canopy for dropping many avocados. I would patch the holes made by dropped avocadoes with sealing cement and a putty knife. When there were too many repairs and leaks we replaced the panel. We replaced three large sheets. Then we used the older panels for making repairs in other parts of the roof. We had about 6-10 places that dripped when it rained depending on the wind and direction of the rain. In contrast to our drips we visited communities where homes didn’t have roofs, mostly the homes of the elderly in the community of Soyapango. We gave the church funding for roofs and in turn they were able to purchase supplies for 4 families. Nancy’s health is good - she continues healing and is very active. We are a blessed people. David y Nancy

Monday, March 19, 2012

El Salvador Reflections March

Following is an interesting statement from a blogger featured on Tim’s Blog one year ago. The occasion was the recognition in 2011 of the 19th anniversary of the signing of the peace accords ending the civil war.

“Unfortunately we still do not have what we can call a stable, long-lasting peace, but there is reason to celebrate, as now we have a good opportunity to try for it.”

Victor, a psychologist and well-known young blogger, comments in his blog Alta hora de la noche that the people of El Salvador do not have a collective awareness of what peace means, as they have never experienced it. He states that the very concept of peace is stained with blood. It seems, he adds, that egotistical behaviour is the “natural state” of Salvadorans who, thanks to a social and cultural system that favours the strong and the powerful, consider the agreement to be a sign of weakness. In his opinion, building a culture of peace, especially among adults, appears to be an impossible task. But it is a task worth doing, he states, each one fighting the battle, from his own trench.”

Our frequent trips to El Salvador exposed us to many stories of atrocities that the authorities committed on the powerless. Simple rural people were gunned down for sport, city protesters gunned down for gathering or an entire village of 30,000 indigenous gunned down to steal their lands. It sounds so far away until you try to put it in perspective and compare the subhuman treatment of our government on the American Indian. The stealing of lands, starvation, massacres of villagers are the same stories but in a different place, time and politics, but the same injustice.

The scars on the hearts of the Salvadorans and others of Central American from the former atrocities are only 20 to 30 years old. 80,000 people died or disappeared. Mothers now nearing the end of their lives still wait for their sons to return. Old women wait for their young husbands to come home. Those seeking closure have the names of their loved ones included on the monument to the Dead and Disappeared in San Salvador.

Our area of Usulután and San Miguel were sites of military conflict with arms smuggled into the country by the rebels (FMLN) from boats anchored along the coast. Our driver Alex pointed out the different places his family lived to avoid his being abducted by the military; when he was 12 he was sent to the US (another complex story). His family’s last home on the way to Puerto Parada became a bivouac area for the military. That’s all Alex would share and few others would share with us their personal stories of pain and hurt. Therefore the issue of peace, internal peace, is very complex and necessary in order to have peaceful citizens.

After the Peace Accords were signed, the conflict continued on a more intellectual level. Now 20 years later, former freedom fighters and foreign financed NGO’s continue to strive for justice. But the need of the individual Salvadoran is to find peace. If Victor is right, only outside forces can help them break loose from their cultural heritage of seeing peace as weakness and to embrace peace for their inner souls, for their families and for a stronger peaceful community and country.

David y Nancy

Monday, February 6, 2012


It’s the first weekend in February. We are writing from our kitchen table, drinking coffee, reading the paper and watching the birds at the feeders. This is the place where it started in March 2007 after we returned from 30 days in El Salvador. We were experiencing stress over our previous trip when I heard Gods voice. Move there – He said.

Early in our marriage we applied for mission work and were told we had no experience and had nothing to offer. Upon retirement, we applied for mission and were told we were too old and had nothing to offer. So when God said “move there”, it was a step out in faith.
Many doors needed to be opened for this to happen. And they amazingly did.

Last weekend we started giving away all our household items. The appliances and bedroom furniture left on Sunday. Juan Carlos (newly married) got all the dishes, pans and kitchen supplies. The store got printer, tools, fans, water oasis. Our neighbor, Gabriel, got the rest.

Gabriel drove us to San Salvador taking us out to eat in La Libertad at a sea side restaurant. He and his wife and three daughters are moving to LA in March. Gabriel will drive truck for his brother and they will live with his mother until they get settled.

Gabriel and his family are starting a new life and we are home, closing a 4 year chapter of our lives in El Salvador which also includes the 2 years of preparation. There has been joy and heartbreak - just like life anywhere. The experience in another culture, living a life style of 80 years in the past had been an eye opener. We have learned much about culture and how much change we have seen in our 66 years of life.

Two wonderful missionaries who receive these journals write to us relating their experiences to ours. They miss the mission field and comment if they were younger they would be in mission. We could not do another 2 years away from home in a harsh environment. We will not miss the living conditions, constant dirt, humidity, insects that make living unpleasant.

We will miss the relationships with the young men of the store having morning coffee and conversation with us, their using our computer and internet, the joy of our neighbor, and the people of Oikos. We will miss visits to the rural communities viewing past and future projects and looking for the face of God among the young and old.

What’s next for us?

More short-term visits, more community development and education projects, more research and fact-finding, more grant writing, more partnerships to be nurtured, more reflections and journals, . . . . The passion for this ministry does not end once the contract does.

We remain open to God’s voice and plan for us.

David y Nancy

Friday, January 27, 2012

Schools & Mayor

Santa Maria- Our church partner St. Matthews in Wauwatosa, WI has spent 4 years in dialogue with the Mayor’s staff of Santa Maria to assist them in connecting a newly built bridge with a ramp to the road. The bridge ends about 18 feet higher than the road. EWB- UW Madison has a preliminary plan, cost estimates and St Matthews has the funding potential for this project. A legal impasse is blocking any progress towards construction.

We offered to help St Matthews while living in El Salvador. Mayors are hard to approach, thus we asked Gabriel, who is a friend of the Mayor to set up a meeting for us. After a day at the beach Gabriel unexpectedly said “let’s find the Mayor of Santa Maria so you can have your meeting”. We drove to a soccer field, finding the Mayor’s brother who took us to his brother at a campaign rally where Mayor Nicolas was the featured speaker. We waited an hour before he was available to us.

Nicolas invited us to meet in his office Monday at 10 to become familiar with the issues. At the meeting he asked us a number of questions, testing us. We moved to the main topic, the legal issue. The government is preventing any work on this project as the funding has been embezzled by previous mayor or his staff after being voted out of office. There are 31 cases of embezzlement in the department of Usulután, this is the only one having construction started. The others are referred to ghost projects. After many rejected requests written by Nicolas to secure permission of the Federal Office of Fiscal Responsibility, he asked us if we would appear before the court and tell our story. We say yes, but we are leaving Usulután in 5 days, thus this must happen quickly. He will call us.

Canton Guadalupe - We are working with 3 schools in the area of Chirilagua. The school of Guadalupe has 3 classrooms that were built by the Virginia Committee of the USA. The principal was the project manager and before the buildings were completed he retired and embezzled the remaining funds. The community is left with 3 unusable classrooms that need concrete floors, electricity, lighting, fans, desks, paint and white boards - that’s a lot of money. The current principal said she would be the project manager if we decide to fund the needed repairs - we smiled and said no.

On the other side:

La Cribe - The school buildings are rather new and the best maintained we have seen. They were built by the European Union in 2005. The community would like a $12,000 building for its Kindergarten program which is currently held in a storage shed. 15 children attend this class. School for the K grade is often cancelled in the winter (rain/wind) as the storage shed is made of metal and wire. They presented us with a quotation from the hardware store of the materials needed to build this classroom. They don’t want cash; they need materials for the parents to construct the building.

Alambre - We returned to Alambre School unannounced to see the computers, computer desks and student desks, almost $3,000 of equipment. The teachers were delighted we stopped in and called for a student assembly to again publicly thank us for this partnership. We are grateful for their friendship and told them we will return again.

In the past 30 months we have met many wonderful Salvadorans. They have joined us in our volunteer work. They offer us transportation, technical support, translation and wisdom. They enjoy the opportunity to help their fellow Salvadorans as they lack an institution to volunteer in structured environment.

They don’t consider the money as a gift as they provide the muscle, making the project a partnership, but they do see our frequent visits to the community as a gift of our time; they respond in grateful appreciation of our commitment to them. Our past, present and future time together in the dust and in the rain seems to be excellent bonding materials for cementing relationships.

David y Nancy

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Shopping & Wedding

We called our Salvadoran neighbor Gabriel on Tuesday to confirm pick-up at the airport on Thursday. At the airport, we were greeted by Dmitri. Dmitri works for Gabriel and was our driver, but left El Salvador while we were on medical leave. Dmitri married an Italian woman and moved to Italy. After 3 months in Italy, they returned to Batres. She works for an NGO and speaks little Spanish, he speaks very little Italian.

From the airport Gabriel and Dmitri drove us to the computer store to purchase 3 more computers to complete the project at Alambre public school. This business is the base for the Rotary Computer Project. Dmitri was surprised at the low cost of a computer and is now saving to purchase one for himself.

When we arrived at our house, we had a wonderful surprise. Gabriel’s family had cleaned our home the day before we arrived. We were able to spend the night, saving the expenses of hotel and eating out. What a relief!

Friday morning we had two sets of visitors. We accompanied Principal Walter to Usulután to order the remaining student desks and computer desks. After Walter brought us home from Usulután, we enjoyed coffee and bakery around our table. This has been the focal point of developing projects and relationships for the past 23 months; it’s fitting we should be closing with hospitality. The computers and computer desks were stacked in our home for Walter to pick up on Sunday on his way to Alambre. He is spending more time in Usulután since his mother suffered a stroke. On Sunday morning he told us she is improving.

After we said good bye to Walter and his accompanara, Alexis and Edwin stopped in to deliver an invitation to attend the wedding of Juan Carlos and Ana on Saturday at the home of Ana’s grandmother in San Rafael Oriente.

On Saturday morning we shopped in the city for a wedding gift, finding a West Bend coffee maker at the major appliance store, Casa Chamba Flores. In the afternoon Alexis and Edwin picked us up. We traveled familiar roads, but then took a new one to grandmother’s home. Grandmother’s yard was brightly decorated with awnings, flowered arches and decorated tables, another stark contrast against the brown landscape as we are now in the dry season. We sat at a table near the road and noted the cars and trucks that arrived by the dust clouds that drifted around us.

The mayor of San Rafael Oriente and his assistant performed the wedding. The ceremony took place at a large table with the engaged couple, the mayor and his assistant and the two witnesses. There were long speeches on family and community. At last the mayor asked Ana if she wanted Juan Carlos as her spouse. He asked Juan Carlos the same --- both said an emphatic yes. The Mayor announced them married followed by much applause.

Ana’s family came forward to greet the married couple, bringing their gifts. Friends and family of Juan Carlos waited for him and Ana to greet them at their tables, then offering congratulations and the presentation of gifts. Children followed the couple, receiving the gifts and taking them to the gift table.

The abrupt change from 30 degrees to 90 was exhausting and with travel and the busy schedule, we took Sunday off to continue unpacking, do more cleaning and to develop our three week agenda.

David y Nancy

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pearl of the Orient

We are looking for a local Rotary Club partner to support a Rotary Agriculture project with Oikos Solidaridad in the volcanic range of the Oriente. A local Rotary Club is necessary as the host club in assisting in securing funding from Rotary International Foundation, managing the finances of the project, providing Rotary International with all the transparency needed to ensure the money is well spent.

In October we contacted two Rotary Clubs in the City of San Miguel. One invited us to join them in their monthly November social held at one of the Rotarians homes. We attended and learned much about their current projects and also about the City of San Miguel.

The City of San Miguel is known through out the country as the “Pearl of the Orient”, El Salvador’s third most important city. It’s the hottest place in the country and is located east of the active volcano Chaparrastique, also known as 1403-10 on the volcanic map.

It’s an hour drive from Batres to San Miguel. We pass fields where cane is being cut by hand. Empty old school buses used to transport the campesinos line the roadway. The field workers are hunched over lifting, baling, sorting and piling stalks of cane and cane waste into the appropriate piles. The piles seem insignificant until you notice a man standing next to one and he looks like a miniature figure from a diorama.

35 minutes out of Batres and our micro bus turns north heading to San Miguel. We pass by two major industries. One is a dairy processing facility and another is the sugar cane refinery. Large trucks are lined up to unload their freshly cut cane. They come to this facility from all over the 3 state area. They are a nuisance on the highway with their double trailers, making the passing of these road hogs a breath-taker.

These two processing facilities as well as many others not visible from the highway, a mall and the National University and 4 College/Technical Institutions provide the area with many employment opportunities. We asked local Rotarians if there is a middle class and they confirmed there is a large middle class in San Miguel.

The city of San Miguel also boasts of being “the carnival city”. In November and December, the environment is similar to Rio de Janeiro. Our faces reflect our internal reaction. Yes the locals confirm full and partial nudity is a part of the carnivals entertainment venue.

Now it’s January 2012. The carnival is now closed, school resumes in 1 week and we return to join the Engineers without Borders to finish the last phase of the 7 year Rotary black water project in La Granja. Then we return 100 miles to the east (our home community) to resume working with the 3 public schools high in the mountains of Alambre and to develop a future agriculture project with Oikos and our new friends in San Miguel.

David y Nancy