StoveTeam Blog

10 Feb

El Salvador Stove Trip Day 5

This is a guest blog post from Mark Knox, who recently traveled to El Salvador with his Salvadoran business partner Laz Ayala to promote Ecocina stoves in Laz's hometown.

Day 5

I awoke with the sniffles.... We all straggled over to Elena's house where we waited for the soldiers to eat their breakfast (still with guns and scowls). As we were waiting there was a guy on a horse going down the street and texting. It was funny, but it happened too quickly to get a photo. We then ate and left to make the morning deliveries. We concentrated on the family and gave them the remaining deluxe units because their venting needs were greater. By this time we had arranged for some of the cousins to pickup necessary materials, the mason to build the table, and the husbands to vent the roof; we really just delivered the stoves and Laz explained their operation and purpose.

In the afternoon we delivered to the outlying areas. The first was an area called "The Colony" which was a poor neighborhood, but based on what I've witnessed, poor is relative. Laz explained this area used to be

all hut structures, but now had some fixed houses lining the streets (note: in every case all of the fixed houses were designed similarly with a concrete wall directly on the street's frontage--it's very rare to see a patio or setback of any kind). The living room was behind the wall and always had one or two hammocks. The bedroom was typically off to the side. This front half of the house generally measured 25' x 50'. The back half was typically a lean-to housing the kitchen area. All of the kitchens had concrete water basins where they dipped water from and open firewood stoves, which then wafted smoke throughout the entire house. The rear yard usually had chickens and other animals including deer, cows, ducks, turtles, and fish. Also, every house, including the huts, had one or two small green parrots in a little cage.

Our first family in The Colony was a little old lady with two cute young girls probably 6 and 7. They were wearing tiaras and had matching white shirts. Fred fell in love and observed how their clothes were so clean. There may have been a mom or dad, but they were not home. The house was on the other side of a drainage swale that was then dry, but gets dangerously quick-moving in the rainy season. On the other side was a 25' deep well and then house approximately 50' above. The first thing we noticed was the home was leaning badly and the old lady told Laz she thought it would fall soon. I could tell this weighed on everyone's minds as we left watching the two little girls playing within the home's fall zone.

We dropped Fred back at the house because his ankles were swelling. They didn't look good and he needed to rest. We were all pushing the maximum. We stopped by Norma's and of course were fed, including Miguel. This time we had  breaded fish soup which was good but too hot (temperature) for me. I was just afraid I would have another heat-stroke episode.... 

The next location was an area out by a recently built lake which was probably 3+ miles from the town and rough walking conditions. The driving conditions were brutal too, but the guys (and gal) we picked up along the way probably enjoyed it! Guillermo came with us for directions, but I think he was also interested in what we were doing. Along the way Laz told me of a critical moment in his life where he, his cousin and Tia were almost murdered. It's Laz's story and personal so I feel uncomfortable writing about it but the visual images in my head are now etched in. Imagine a military death squad, three huts together and 15 people being murdered. And, a lady and two little boys running for their lives, luckily escaping because the Tia recognized the eyes of one of the masked soldiers and agreed the three were not part of the family that was about to be murdered out of revenge. 

The rest of the night was giving out the last three stoves, the last one to Miguel. That was it, 55 stoves. Lots of fun, work, sadness and a frank realization that I need to wake-up.