Our last full day was jam-packed. After another great breakfast, we waited around to see if Ki-ki would join us. He’d felt sick the last day at P.A. and on the road, so we weren’t sure. He’d planned to shop early Saturday for the street meal and then go along with us for the day, but by 9 we decided he wasn’t coming and headed to the artisan’s market on our own. Topeka John has also been unwell–more so than Ki-ki–but he rode in the back of the truck with Haley and me and we had a good talk. His body might be making things difficult for him but his spirits all along have been excellent.
Dale and I could locate the market with no trouble but we weren’t up to the challenge of finding Romero’s chapel, so this group will have to visit there another time. The market held no surprises; I did a little quick shopping, then drank a Coke and looked at a left-behind El Diario de Hoy. Today’s issue was 90 pages, pro-Arena, and full of color ads.
Back at Casa Ccncordia, we spent time organizing our luggage and spreading internet-fueled horror stories about the midwest blizzard we are flying into tomorrow. There’s only so much preparation we can make, and we mostly agreed not to worry away our last few hours here on something out of our control.
Following lunch, and still not having heard from Ki-ki, we piled into the pick-up again and headed for Boqueron, the volcano that guards San Sal’s north side. What was in the past a wild and hairy trip–treacherous, barely navigable roads, challenging hiking trails–has been nicely developed into a tourist-friendly but still strenuous walk to the lip of this vast crater. It’s 1/3 of a mile deep and farther across. The park is clean and landscaped and defined by painted bamboo rails and fence. At the very top, just outside the rail (and precariously positioned on a narrow ledge) a little boy of about 9 and his family sold a tableful of souvenirs. As he waited for customers, he played around the table and on a tree that extended towards the crater. He was perfectly at ease and I was a nervous wreck.
Dale had provided both of us with a cheap local phone all week, even more necessary as he’d left the two-way radios in Kansas. The phones have often been most useless when most needed, as when we were at P.A. trying to locate Tecnosolar or Pastor Luis. Yesterday, though, I was able to leave a message for Ricardo, who’d told us by a couple of emails of his crummy week. When he first called back yesterday, I was in the bed of the pick-up in heavy Saturday traffic, including muchas diesel buses, so I have no idea what he said. Back at Casa C. after the volcano trip, we spoke again, and he said that he’d basically replaced his car engine this week and that he would join us for the street meal. He had also talked with Arthur Solano, the owner of Tecnosolar, and reported that the ten installations were continuing and would be finished next week. Later, at Casa C., Ricardo lamented that he’d not been able to join us in P.A., but car trouble trumps good intentions and he will be going out this week to inspect the work.
For this street meal, Ki-ki had told us Friday that he wanted to serve fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Plus tortillas. Or so we thought . . . once again, something might have been lost in translation. When he and his friend Veronica showed up around 4:30–she bright and smiley, he looking puny but willing–they came off the bus carrying 50 pounds of chicken and bags of carrots and potatoes. His plan was to cook all of that in a broth, make rice, and serve it with tortillas. (We buy rice, beans, and tortillas from the Casa. 200 tortillas cost $10, plus we get to help make them.). So book-ended around our last dinner here we began putting it all together. By 9:00 we were ready to go out. We were a group of 12 with three of the teens from Casa C., our crew, Nelson (who made it just in time), and a late add, Patrick, who had just come in this afternoon with a group of nursing students from Wisconsin. He leapt at the opportunity while the rest of his group passed.
Each of these street meal nights is different and the same. Tonight was different in that we went to only three spots. The first, the one downtown that is often the busiest, was busy again, and we all seemed to be working at the same leisurely pace. We went through more than half the food, visited with many of the people in line, and soaked it all in. Next stop was under the overpass, serving quite a few meals to a mix of young men and women, many sniffing intoxicants from ever-present bottles. We ended this stop with a visit to Stella, the woman on the mattress. She was again very talkative, very friendly and coherent, asking the name of the new guy (Patricio, he said) and greeting the other three by name. She asked Ki-Ki if she could have tea in a bottle–one lay in the sand nearby. He snatched it up and trotted into the street, over the median wall, and to the truck. We wished her well in her open-air room and headed off to our last stop.
By now it was after 10:00, so at the final stop we had to rouse the dozen or so folks from out of their dark corners. We plied them with extra coffee and tea and scraped out the last of the rice and stew. Patrick, Jamie, Ki-Ki and I delivered 3rd and 4th cups to all where they sat eating. Each person throughout the night also received a Werther’s candy or two, courtesy of our dear friend Dottie Pilley.