Yesterday was a day on the road. We headed over to Miramar to visit with some ladies that are part of the Micro Credit program, and one young woman who is getting an education with support from Just Hope.
A big group of women, young and old, greeted our van as we arrived. They welcomed all of us with hugs and kisses, and we followed them into the home of Fatima, who was the host of day. There, Marta, Ramona, Consuela and others began showing us what they will be cooking for us for our lunch. Rice, chicken, beef, vegetables were on the menu. Some of our group stayed inside to help cook the rice in a large cast iron pot over an open fire. It was fascinating how deftly Marta managed the fire under the pot. Imagine cooking on your gas range…when the flame is too high, you turn the knob to reduce the flame. When too low, you turn the knob to increase the flame. Here, when the rice was boiling hard, Marta reached over to the thin wood logs that were burning under the pot and pulled one or two of them away from the pot. The rice reduced to a simmer. When she wanted the rice to boil again, she moved more wood back under the pot. Same results…different tools between our two cultures.
Meanwhile, the other part of our group instructed some of the other women about how to make brownies. They mixed and stirred and tasted the batter. That brought smiles all around…chocolate makes people smile no matter where they are from! We hit a snag with the plan because the brownies needed to be baked in an oven, and they didn’t have an oven! After much troubleshooting between the women, they walked over to a neighbor who had a portable oven – sort of like a large toaster oven – and brought it back so we could use it. It worked like a charm!
Still others from the group were assigned to prepare pineapples, cutting the skin off of the fruit with large knives; others were assigned to peel plaintains, make them into flat patties and fry them.
Lastly, we explained to the women how to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They made lots of sandwiches-plenty for all. I took a small “peanut butter to go” tub of peanut butter over to some small children who were watching all the activity. I invited them to take a finger full of PB and taste it. They timidly stuck their fingers in the tasted. Their eyes lit up and I asked if they liked it. They nodded, and I told them to have more. This time, they DUG their fingers in for big globs of the treat!
After all was finished cooking, the banquet was spread onto a small table and we enjoyed the fruits of our labor. The women and children liked the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – there were none left!
We visited with the women, asking questions about their lives, and they asked questions about ours. During this time, I was seated next to a boy about 10 years old. I noticed that he was sneaking peeks at the camera in my lap. I decided to give him a chance to take a picture. I showed him how to look through the viewfinder and push the shutter button. And WOW…did that make his day!! He kept the camera and giggled with delight with each photo he took. And he took a LOT! He probably took 100 pictures in the next half hour…and some of them turned out pretty well! The rest of the day, he followed me around, asking me if he could take “uno mas” – one more picture. Who knows, maybe he will end up being a photographer someday!
Besides the story of the success of these women, the wonderful food, and the friendships that we developed, the story that was most meaningful to me was the story of how they overcame extreme conditions to survive over the past 22 years. In 1992, the volcano Cerra Negro erupted and wiped out one hundred homes, leaving all of those people homeless. The government stepped in and relocated each of the families whose homes were destroyed. They gave land and building supplies to each family so they could rebuild. However, the land that they were given was literally wasteland. As barren as a desert. No trees. No water. Just black volcanic soil. The government did eventually dig one community well for all 100 families.
Over the next 22 years, these families built their homes, planted trees and crops. Thankfully, the volcanic soil was fertile. They have struggled through droughts, losing animals and plants; and started over each time. Take a look at the photos that I will post. Note how much foliage there is, providing shade and fruit. It is an oasis compared to what they faced upon their arrival so long ago.
Strong. Determined. Resilient. Faithful. These are the only words that can describe these amazing people. They are truly an inspiration for overcoming adversity in life.