Our day began with tostada francesa, French toast, along with a thin slice of ham, watermelon, papaya, and orange juice. And coffee, of course. We only arrived Friday, and yet it feels like we’ve been here longer than that.
Now that we have had a couple of days to settle in, see a bit of the country, and meet some people in the diocese, it is time to get to work.
When we arrive at Iglesia San José de la Montaña, Padre Marcos leads us in a devotion from a small booklet, with his daughter Abigail translating again. It was the story of a woman who, when she started making bread herself, seeing how the yeast works through the dough and how the dough transforms into bread, started to understand more what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the bread of life.” Padre Marcos invited anyone to look at the booklet to share the devotion any day this week, encouraged us to rest anytime in the sanctuary, take time to talk to anyone with Abigail’s help translating, and to feel at home as we are all the family of God. He introduced us to the women who would be cooking for us, three people helping from a government program called Vida Mejor, “Better Life,” and the man in charge of the construction project. After a closing prayer we got started.
Some people helped clear rubble and debris from where the expanded floor would go. Some demolished the old stove. Some started framing the new fence and roof. Some began to build the two new ecological stoves. Our team helped where and when we could, carrying things, holding things, wielding sledgehammer or pick axe, washing windows, reading to and playing with the kids, or getting out of the way.
I asked the cooks if they would like some help in the kitchen, and they let me attempt to make flour tortillas, slapping the dough between my hands. My tortillas were oblong, too thin in the middle, and prone to folding up on the way from one hand to the other, but María S., director of the tortillería, fixed them for me. Luz showed me how to form the tortillas on a circle of plastic on a cutting board instead, and that was much easier. These tortillas became baleadas for the workers’ breakfasts.
Later I helped with the corn tortillas for lunch, shaping the masa, a corn dough, into small balls that María flattened between plastic in a metal press. For a while I sat watching, chatting with Maricela about the lives of pastors’ and teachers’ wives. Among other things, I learned that until recently she and Padre Marcos worked with an AIDS program through the Episcopal church. They administer HIV tests and provide psychological support to those who test positive.
Those working outside saw the neighborhood children walking home from school in their uniforms, white polo shirts and navy pants or pleated skirts for the morning school, gray pants and skirts in the afternoon. None of the students looked older than eight or nine; it is expensive to go to school. They also saw the neighborhood trash pickup. Everyone piles their trash at the corner by the church. Three men load all the bags on the truck, and then unload bag by bag at the dump.
There were a lot of people and not much space, so folks took time to talk with one another here and there. Some of us chatted with Abigail.
Abigail is eighteen and has graduated from a bilingual school. She is registered to start college in Tegucigalpa, where she plans to study medicine. When she was a little girl, her aunt gave her a toy doctor kit that she loved to play with, and she has wanted to be a doctor ever since. She would like to be a pediatrician, possibly specializing in neonatology, or maybe she will be a neurosurgeon. If she becomes a pediatrician, she would love to start a hospital to serve poor children. She’s also interested in serving with Doctors Without Borders. AND she learned how to knit today (some of the other kids gave it a try, too), and has a guitar and wants to learn to play. I asked her to bring it tomorrow…
When she was in tenth grade, Abigail had an opportunity to spend fifteen days in the U.S., living with a host family in D.C., attending St. Andrews Episcopal School in Maryland, and visiting museums and other places. She was born in Paraiso, lived a few years in Puerto Cortés where her brother Keller was born, then the family moved here to San Pedro. Twelve-year-old Keller is interested in architecture and maybe engineering. Kenan is the family’s little dog.