The End: Leaving Estancia

Published: March 2nd 2010
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Laying out Adobe bricks (mud bricks) to dry and eventually use in building a house.
So it’s been awhile since my last update...actually new years. Things have been a little hectic, and very awesome. Heres the short summary: Becky and I decided to push up our end date a few weeks so that we could spend some time traveling together in El Salvador before she went back to find work. After leaving Estancia, we traveled in El Salvador for 2 ½ weeks, and she, a few days ago, arrived in VA ready to reacclimate to US living.

Here’s the scoop from our time in Estancia post New Years. It should be heavy in pics, Enjoy.
The Goods
1. Cow Time
2. The Party
3. My Birthday
4. Other Highlights from Estancia
5. Making Ducle (Raw Cane Sugar)
6. Leaving

1. Cow time

For the end of the year party, the NGO/clinic decided to buy meat. Meat in Estancia is a rare commodity, reserved mostly for weddings, funerals, and sometimes Christmas. Beef is practically unheard of. So for the end of the year party, CDH went all out, buying beef, guaro (local moonshine), ice! (they had industrial coolers stowed away somewhere), and beer. Paradise by the solar powered lights.

While the party was
Our CooziesOur CooziesOur Coozies

His and Her's coozies
fun, the coolest part was the beef (as always). To save money they bought a cow from the local livestock market and slaughtered it themselves outside the kitchen. Never having seen anything of the sort, I tagged a long to see the entire process of where beef comes from. Here’s how it went:

1. got up early to go to the local livestock market, about 15 miles away
2. absorbed the market fiasco while Ramiro, the director, wheeled and dealed to buy a cow ($300)
3. walked the cow almost 1/3 way back to the clinic (~5 mi) until a truck came to pick us up.
a. I use ´walked´ very loosely. As we went through town (on market day), the cow was spooked, and to ease her mind, decided to buck and run non-stop while Miguel (the handy man, a few years younger than me) and I chased it. We had 1 rope (lasso’d around the horns) and a big stick. And we switched off who was chasing with the rope and chasing with the stick. Smacking her every time she tried to go down a road with people and stalls. Unfortunately no pictures as I was
The whole gangThe whole gangThe whole gang

celebrating birthdays in San Salvador
too busy chasing..
b. But, cows a) do run b) can go up and down steps c) do not like towns on market days and d) can tire the sh•t out of me
4. tied the cow to a tree outside the clinic, where it waited for 2 days
5. slaughtered the cow the morning of the party
6. watched/helped harvest the meat
7. ate delicious beef

I decided I wanted to be a part of the whole process because we eat a lot of meat. And if i'm going to eat a lot of meat, I should know where it comes from. And not wanting to read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, this was easier. I figured my only risk was never wanting to eat meat again, which is probably a more sustainable (and cheaper) way of living. Fortunately, it did nothing of the sort, and made me crave meat, much, much more.

The slaughtering process was surprisingly humane. The cow was tied up so it couldn’t move and fight. It barely flinched when the knife went in, and it died in about 90 seconds. 1 interesting side note is that everyone involved (4 guys) told me start
Getting Silly1Getting Silly1Getting Silly1

drinks are taking a tole
time was 4:30 am. So I showed up at 4:30 to a very empty and dark clinic (thus the pictures in the dark). And, finally, at 6:00, the first 1 of them showed up, and at 6:30 we started working. So, for an hour and half, I had some nice 1on1 time with La Vaca, and also a long moment of silence.

I felt like I was somewhere between an anatomy lab and a BBQ, and the mix was surprisingly present. I’ve got a fair bit of pictures, but ill put them all at the end for the vegetarians reading

2. The Party

The party was awesome! We had a gas generator, music, microphones, guaro (moonshine), and lots of people. During the day beforehand, about 1/3 of the invites helped get it ready. So about 30 people hung around the clinic cooking, cutting, grilling, drinking (beer in the afternoon, guaro was saved til later), etc. And it was a fun sight. Everyone was super excited for the
Dule: Grinder/Cane JuiceDule: Grinder/Cane JuiceDule: Grinder/Cane Juice

The grinder that makes the cane juice
party, and everyone wanted be a part of making it happen. And, there was A LOT of beef.

3. Birthday

After New Years, Becky and I returned to El Salvador on my birthday, Jan 3. The other couple got in the day before, so we went out together to our favorite restaurant in San Salvador, La Ventana. A German ale house with big wooden bars, beer on tap, funky art, and good music. And that’s where things stayed classy.

Because after we arrived, all classyness went out the window. We got a table outside, and started ordering rounds. And somewhere between finishing the meal and leaving, my memory gets hazy with a mix of shots, white Russians, and tall boy drafts. To our surprise the entire restaurant shut down while we were still on our last beer. And as we were collecting ourselves and stumbling out the door, the entire staff left in a microbus leaving us alone inside with the guard. We don’t know how it happened, we think we might have missed some social cues while sitting outside alone, but I do know that the guard was a ‘big jerk.’ He wouldn’t fill up my
Dulce: Loading the CanesDulce: Loading the CanesDulce: Loading the Canes

loading the raw sugar canes into the grinder
beer while we waited for a cab.

And in the morning, very sick, with some serious hangovers, we made the 6 hour journey back to our hut in the sun on public buses. It was terrible, but well worth it and a great birthday in El Salvador.

4. Other Highlights From Estancia

- Spent a lot of time swimming in the river
- Becky and I brought back coozies for the heat. Coozies are even better in El Salvador than they are in the US.
- Saw Brady and Bledsoe in town (not together)
- Climbed some vines
- We went out one last night for pupusas and beer (something we hadn’t done prior), with some of our closest friends from the clinic/NGO.
- And then we left

5. Making Dulce, (Raw Cane Sugar)

Damn this is long and I forgot to talk about dulce. So I gotta make it quick. In the last 2 days before we left, they began the molina. An age old process of making dulce (raw, unprocessed sugar) from the raw canes (without electricity). I’ve got some great pics, and the process is a bit confusing. But it’s
Dulce: Tasting the HoneyDulce: Tasting the HoneyDulce: Tasting the Honey

Dipping our Canes into the honey for a taste of the sugar
very, very tasty! And we were forced to taste the sugar in every step of the process.

So here goes. First there are 2 bulls walking in circles driving a machine that crushes the canes. 1 man is inside responsible for placing canes into the grinder while ducking to avoid the giant drunks connected to the bulls. From there comes the cane juice, which is really a juice that you can drink. That than gets put in a huge caldron over a huge fire to boil off some of the water. The purpose of the fire and boiling is to turn the cane juice into a honey. Literally the texture of honey but with the taste of raw sugar. There are 2 steps to the boiling and when it’s boiled to a certain point in one, it moves to another, more pure, cauldron. And during this, the kids gather around to dip chewed cane into the sides of the boiling sugar to eat. From there the concotion gets moved to a 3rd cauldron where it cools a fair bit, before being poured into molds. The molds are cylinder shaped and carved into a ginormous log, which holds about 30-40
Dulce: The MoldDulce: The MoldDulce: The Mold

The Log Mold with tons of Dulce brick molds. The semi-cooled honey is poured in the molds, and after 30 min, comes out as a brick.
molds. Each mold is a little wider than a coke can, and about half the length. They then let it cool for ~30 min, flip it over, and wrap them in Corn Husks to sell in town. In the end, the Dulce (pure cane sugar) is like a brick, made up of 2 halves, that is wrapped in corn husks. It can last up to a year (I brought some home for new years), is like a brick, and to use is chopped with a machete. A regular ol knife won’t do. And it’s delicious.

The entire process was fascinating to watch, and we were told it’s one of the few remaining places where they do it all by hand, without electricity or machines. (Since traveling, Becky and I have learned that we were living in one of the few areasof the country where villages still didn’t have electricity. The entire town is extremely proud of the ‘molida’ and when its in season, everyone comes to buy the honey, the dulce, and taste the tasty parts. It goes for about 3 weeks in February, and during that time they make enough raw dulce to last almost the entire year.
Pupusa's and BeerPupusa's and BeerPupusa's and Beer

Last night out with pupusa's and beer

We were really fortunate to see it, because our first opportunity was on the day we left. So we got up early, checked it out for a few hours, ate as much sugar as we could possibly stuff down our throats. And then went back to our house to pack and leave at 10 am.

6. Leaving

Leaving was sad, but it felt like the right time. We had done what we set out to do. I wouldn’t say that I saved lives or helped them nearly as much as they helped me to open my eyes and learn more about life. But I think that’s the point. Many volunteers have come before us, and many will come after us, all doing the same thing. And to think that i’m something special and different in that long series of help, is a bit immature. But I know I did help in many different, little ways and that they enjoyed having us. As much for relationships and friendships as for the work we did. I learned a ton, and I will look back on ‘my time in the woods,’ without electricity or water, as a wonderful one. And
Leaving EstanciaLeaving EstanciaLeaving Estancia

packed bags, waiting for a bus.
since the relationships we formed were strong, one day, when I speak better Spanish and know more medicine, id love to go back.

Thank you Estancia!

Additional photos below
Photos: 39, Displayed: 29


In The WoodsIn The Woods
In The Woods

visiting the clinic cook at her house
In The WoodsIn The Woods
In The Woods

while visiting the cook we found a vine, and climbed it.
Unloading woodUnloading wood
Unloading wood

unloading the new year's wood pile
Unloading WoodUnloading Wood
Unloading Wood

unloading the new year's wood pile
Visiting JaimeVisiting Jaime
Visiting Jaime

our patient with CP who were worked with on physical rehab and some extra school help.
Visiting AvrahamVisiting Avraham
Visiting Avraham

Giving Avraham the coozie we brought back for Christmas
Drew Bledsoe in EstanciaDrew Bledsoe in Estancia
Drew Bledsoe in Estancia

found him relaxing by the river one day
Brady in EstanciaBrady in Estancia
Brady in Estancia

I think he followed Bledsoe, but we found him on the side of the road one day

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