Tuesday, May 21, 2013

And last year I thought I was the worst blogger ever...

...but here I am, almost a YEAR to the day from my last post here! Ugh. My last post, our hike at Chocorua last year, was literally the last hike we went on last year. Life and other crap got in the way - we did some canoeing and went camping with my sister-in-law and her family, but otherwise no more hiking :( this is due in part to the fact that I was nervous about driving my old car up to the Whites -but we did get a new car in November so driving this year will hopefully not be an issue. Anyhoo, this year we are hoping to get up to the mountains at least several times. I haven't knocked a 4000-footer off my list in a couple of years!

For now, I will leave you with a trip I took in February to El Salvador to work with a rural health organization. This isn't so much about hiking, although there was at least one hike involved, but El Salvador is a beautiful, amazing country full of wonderful people and sights. The landscape is just gorgeous. ASAPROSAR (Salvadoran Association for Rural Health) is an organization several members of my church have been involved with for years, and they run yearly "learn and serve" volunteer trips. My mother has been several times and this year I got to go for the first time. ASAPROSAR works with the poor in El Salvador to improve their lives by providing medical care, running programs for poor children in urban settings, empowering youth and women, helping the extremely poor in rural settings with access to clean water and more. I visited several children's programs, a rural village/environmental program, a microcredit loan program for women to start small businesses, a youth project and more. The youth at one site we visited are working to build a tourist stop/overlook at the beautiful Lago De Coatepeque, and we also visited a coffee co-op at the lake. The lake is a volcanic caldera, and some of us took the almost hour-long hike down from the top where the co-op is to the lake for lunch, and it was super hot but beautiful. The lake is almost entirely privately owned, if you can believe that, so there is almost no public access. Here are a few pictures from the lake.

Next few photos are of the countryside we were in at the environmental program and village we visited in a really rural area in the mountains. Many of the people who live in these areas don't have any kind of sanitary sewage disposal and cook inside their homes without venting; both situations can obviously cause serious health issues, and among other things, ASAPROSAR helps them obtain water filters and build sanitary latrines.

We also took a short loop hike (I forgot about this one!) through the protected area of forest at La Magdalena, this same rural area we were in. There's a self-guided loop through the forest with 7 or 8 stops where there are educational signs about the forest ecosystem. At some points in the forest, it almost seemed as though I could be back home up in the Whites!

At the end of the trip, we also visited a Mayan ruins site, which was awesome. There are several throughout El Salvador (and tons more over the rest of Central America) and in addition to the ruins, there were some great views from the top of the hill we climbed up.

I will say, probably the best part of this trip was spending time with the kids. They are so grateful and sweet and happy that people want to spend time with them, despite the abject poverty they're growing up in. I didn't think I'd be as touched by the kids as I was. We went to several of the children's programs (called the Barefoot Angels), did a craft project with them and brought a special snack. The snacks the kids get at Barefoot Angels is the only meal many of them get in a day, and one of the teenagers who was with us commented on some of the kids wrapping their pastries in napkins. I pointed out they were probably saving it for later or to share with someone else since there was probably no food at home. Really heartbreaking. Besides the children at the Barefoot Angels programs (which are in the cities), we spent some time with kids up in La Magdalena, the rural area we visited. The kids there are lucky if they have a pair of shoes to wear to attend school and are also probably lucky if they get one meal a day. (first picture is Barefoot Angels, second is in La Magdalena)

It was an amazing trip and I would love to go again sometime. El Salvador is a beautiful country still trying to heal from the terrible civil war it went through in the 80s-90s, and although it has a long way to go, there have been visible improvements even between 1999, the first time my mother went, and now. The people are warm, friendly and welcoming and happy to know that people care about them and their country.

And meanwhile, back in Massachusetts..

:O it was very nice to escape the snow for a week! This pic is actually from Nemo, which was a week before my trip, but we were delayed out of Boston because there was another storm the day we left - we ended up getting stuck in Houston for a night, boooo.

So that's my recent big trip! Nothing coming up except for camping in August in NH, which will be great (and which will hopefully include some hiking!). I'm going to be trying to schedule time for hiking soon, even if I have to go by myself if no one else can make it. I hope everyone's hiking seasons are starting out well and I hope to be around a lot more this summer/fall than I was last year!

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