David and Nancy Slinde Speaking at their "Sending Service"

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Public Schools

This is our 100th journal, being written after our recent trip. During our past 12 months at home, we had given many presentations and done fundraising for our 2013 school projects in El Salvador. We also had sent many emails to arrange meetings and visits to continue with existing projects and initiating new ones. Our first week beginning March 3 in Usulután was heavily booked. On Monday, nine hours after arriving in El Salvador we got up early for our first meeting held in the office of Oikos Solidaridad. Those attending included Alex and Guillermo of Oikos, Juan Carlos and Alexis from the hardware store, and the principal and the directiva of the public school in Canton Guadalupe. With a prior quote for the cost of cement floors for the school, we had transferred funds to the hardware store’s bank account to demonstrate our commitment to this project and to enable them to order materials. The two key issues of discussion were transportation and securing the material on site. The movement of material requires four trips up the side of the mountain which is only a rough steep narrow road. Alexis and Juan Carlos asked for a separate meeting with us on Tuesday to resolve transportation issues. The Mayor of Chirilagua pledged his support for the project and would provide a secure area for the materials. The prior quote emailed to us also included materials for the installation of electricity but it seemed in excess. The mayor’s office would also provide a technician to give a more accurate quote. With these issues resolved or in process, we moved on to the principal’s request for student desks. We told the principal and directiva we had come with funds for the purchase of student desks. The desks she wanted, separate desks and chairs, cost $75 a unit while a traditional unit of joined desk top and chair cost $42. She asked our advice and we said you have a $1,000 to spend; you are free to choose any style. She chose the traditional desk in order to purchase more and we personally added to the total so she could buy 25 larger desks. They would be delivered the following week for the class of upper level students who don’t fit into the smaller desks. On Tuesday we had plans for breakfast with Principal Walter of Alambre Public School to implement the purchase of three windows for the computer room to protect the equipment. When he didn’t come by 1 pm, we called the hardware store to meet about the concerns with transportation of the materials. Our meeting concluded with our agreement to double the quote for transportation. They had not visited the site prior to the first quote and after a visit realized the increased cost of multiple shipments. We heard from Principal Walter and made plans to meet Wednesday morning. Walter was not prepared to move forward with the window project as his priorities changed in the past 14 months from windows to lamina for leaking roofs. We moved the meeting to the hardware store to include Alexis and Juan Carlos who are becoming our associates in mission to these communities. We asked for their help to work with Walter to prepare quotes for lamina and windows, starting with a visit to the school for measurements and costs. When Alexis and Juan Carlos were told the school was at a higher elevation than Canton Guadalupe we thought we had lost them but they willingly agreed to make it happen. During this visit, we were also able to assemble a team regarding the construction of a classroom in La Cribe. We will be emailing information to develop construction drawings and a bill of material. In 3 days we accomplished a lot. Tomorrow, Thursday, we meet our church delegation at the airport in San Salvador to begin our 4 day sister parish visit at Fe y Esperanza. David y Nancy

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A long days journey

We left Mitchell Field in the dark. As day break approached, the clouds in the east were pink and black. After two minutes in flight it was day break. Another 2 minutes the sun was seconds from the horizon. As the sun entered our view it was as if we could see molten lava flowing from the sun with our bare eye. The horizon was ablaze with red, gold and pink in brilliant tones. Another 3 seconds the sun was fully and magnificently revealed. Within another minute it was its usual yellow self. We landed in Atlanta on time and hurried to the next gate. We were there with time to spare and as boarding time was nearing we got a 30 minute delay. That passed and we boarded. After 2 hours into a 3 hour flight our pilot announced we had turned back to Atlanta and would be arriving a 3:30. The area surrounding the San Salvador airport was engulfed in fire. It’s the harvest of the sugar cane which is preceded by burning the fields. Cane is grown between the airport and the ocean. With 45 mile an hour winds blowing, this weekend the fire did not stop at the end of the fields but continued to burn everything in its path towards the airport. The airport closed to provide total support to protect the service buildings essential for servicing the airport. It was also unsafe for take-off or landing with heavy ash and poor visibility. We sat in Atlanta for another three hours. Delta provided regular updates and finally we reboarded to resume the journey. It was night and a very long flight. Nearing San Salvador we could see fires in the distance. As we landed the fires were at the edge of the runway, flames flaring 100s of feet into the air. We weren’t advised in advance and many in the plane were alarmed by the scene. The fire continued more than half the distance of our taxi followed by the darkened earth and smoldering embers from the area of the service building. It was now 11:00. Our driver waited 10 hours for us to arrive. We called him twice from Atlanta with updates and we were glad to be greeted by a friendly welcoming face. The temperature was 79. It felt really good. The highway to Usulután was empty. At night only a couple of sugar cane trucks and dogs sat on the highway. We made it to Usulután in record time. Everything in the city was closed and dark including our hotel. We pulled up to gate; a guard appeared and by the grace of God he opened it for us. He took us into the lobby, gave us a room key and said “check in tomorrow morning”. We needed to get up early for our first meeting with the principal and directors of the school of Canton Guadalupe. We had done much planning, budgeting and preparing for this important conversation to begin an important improvement project. We were eager to see how it would unfold. David y Nancy