StoveTeam Blog

07 Feb

El Salvador Stove Trip Day 2

This is a guest blog post from Mark Knox, a businessman from Ashland, Oregon who traveled with his Salvadoran business partner Laz Ayala to El Salvador. This is an account of their trip to promote stoves in Laz's hometown (and have a little fun along the way, of course).

Day 2

Back to Sonsonate for stoves. All we could pack in was five then drove five hours south through numerous little towns, one called San Vicente which had a tall clock tower and of course a park in the center of town - a typical town pattern that of course accommodates the masses, especially pedestrians.

We arrive in San Ildefonzo around 2:30 p.m. but before we get to Laz's sisters house we go to an outlying area, roughly 1/4 mile from the center of town so Laz can show us what the conditions are. I literally could write page after page after page of how rough the situation is down here. It’s making me well up as I write this, but it’s really beyond words. It's sobering. Americans really do have everything. Nevertheless, these people love their babies just as much as I do mine.

Our first house is Jesus' house. Jesus is a lady with no last name. She sells firewood. Goes out in the fields, dries it, and then delivers it by hand - walking door to door. Brutal job, but it gets worse because there are so many others that do the same thing and she's in a small isolated village. Jesus is the first saint I met here (actually Laz is a saint too, but I didn't even know it. More to come on that subject later). She's an elderly lady that has her own plus other orphan children. She has nothing but was very much a happy person. Her floors were dirt with little and medium sized boulders - sharp jagged ones too. As we were assessing Jesus' situation she started to tell Laz in "rapid fire" Spanish how she knew Laz and his family. But, everyone’s tears started pouring out when she told Laz that she helped care for Laz's mother when she was very sick before she passed away. We would have installed the stove right then, but had to leave because of the wedding. It was with a heavy heart and really the beginning of the trip for me as I'm sure it was for everyone else.

As we were driving to our house, we had to stop at Norma's (Laz's cousin) house for lunch and dined on iguana, iguana eggs, chicken and chicken soup. Other than very small bones of the iguana, it was very good.

We then went to Laz's sister's house who now lives in Los Angeles. Laz told me earlier that if it wasn't for his sister Irma and the hell she went through he would have been killed - without a doubt (I had chills down my back and believed it 100%). Irma is a person I hope to meet one day and hear her struggles traveling from El Salvador to the States - twice! It’s a horrific, dangerous, and scary route and in Irma’s case it involves prison.

We headed to the wedding with anticipation of a big event because on the way into town we saw an entire street filled with chairs and tables. We arrived at the bride's house where a bunch of people and a Mariachi band were hanging out waiting for the bride to step out. She was in a beautiful white wedding dress surrounded by maybe 12 little girls dressed in fancy dresses. We all walked to the church, picked up towns people and dodged cars and buses all the way. I was apprehensive stepping into the church (I always am) as lots of people were staring at us like they had never seen gringos before, especially for a wedding in the middle of El Salvador off any main tourist route. The wedding was typical, but I was surprised with the mix of formality and informality with the wedding party and the audience (kids and people running around). It was beautiful regardless. 

We then proceeded with the majority of town and mariachi band a few blocks where the reception was being held (another street closure - and I thought Ashland liked to close streets!). We were all following Laz who was “kind of” part of the wedding party and of course the interpreter and tour guide. As we got to the front gate / arch I was starting to get nervous as hundreds of people were eyeballing the gringos who again went not just to the front 1/4 of the seating area, but to THE wedding table!! Holy smokes did I feel uncomfortable...but Maria Olinda, sister of the bride was adamant. We primarily watched people and soaked in the culture, but danced a little too. We walked home around 2 a.m. and crashed.