These are Mary Alice’s thoughts from our trip:
It’s been a couple months since our visit to El Salvador and looking back, it seems so surreal that we walked, talked, ate, slept, and lived for the entirety of 5 weeks in three isolated, impoverished communities of Morazan. We ate tortillas and beans at every meal, bathed with buckets and washed clothes with brushes every afternoon, watched the sky pour down rain on an already extremely muddy landscape every evening, and slept in hammocks every night hoping to God that the fleas would not be biting especially hard. In the moment, it wasn’t necessarily an extraordinary nor a glamorous abroad experience. It was just a different lifestyle and one that all of us were completely capable to handle. It was a lifestyle where the day actually begins and ends with the sun. It was a lifestyle where one could produce almost as much as one consumed. A lifestyle that could push a person to both the brink of exhaustion and relaxation. It made one question their choices and actions back home, the significance of possessions, a home, a family, a community, the passing of time, and the true meaning of silence. It was a lifestyle that we are all grateful to have experienced and now, hopefully, have learned a little bit more about ourselves and what we want from the time we have left in our lives.
Being as it may, we especially hope that we positively impacted the communities where we worked this summer as much as they impacted us. By the end of the trip, it was obvious that “la gente” were excited about the gardens and their potential yields at the end of the summer. The gardens were doing well and although some plants were attacked by insects, no one seemed discouraged or even reluctant to plant again and hope for better results the next time around. The majority of the beds had plants growing, already with trellises poking up in between to accommodate their rapid growth. A variety of different veggie seedlings were growing in the “semilleros”, or seed beds, that would later be transplanted in the plant beds, maximizing the amount of space used and plant diversity in the gardens.
By now, the communities should be enjoying the influx of fresh, organic green beans, radishes, onions, cilantro, squash, melons, and cucumbers from their gardens. Instead of eating plain beans and tortillas everyday, “la gente” can infuse their diets with new tastes and nutrients for a more varied and healthy lifestyle. Hopefully, other community members unaffiliated with the gardens have noticed the garden’s benefits and are considering joining the initiative next season. We also hope that those working in the gardens are considering building their own private gardens on their land with the knowledge and skills they learned this season in the community gardens. With this extra production space, they can continue to eat vegetables often and even sell the additional produce for extra income. More importantly though, we hope the communities feel a sense of pride and brotherhood in combining their resources, time, and efforts to create something productive and beneficial in their lives that will help them address some of the issues linked to poverty that they face daily. It was an honor to be part of such an initiative and we are more than ever inspired by their enthusiasm and dedication to the gardens and their overall commitment to benefiting their communities as a whole.