Today is the first day in a new community!
Everyone woke up at 5:30ish to leave for San Jose de Mula, a rural community on the east side of the country. The drive was supposedly 8 hours, so we pushed for time. We left at around 6 am boarding a white deuce and half a truck.
On the way to San Jose, we made a few stops for gas and a stop for lunch. Every gas station had a store just like your regular gas station. The only differences were that a security guard stood by a door and everything was in Spanish. One of the stores we stopped at looked just like Wawa (for those from the East Coast). After making a couple gas stops, we made one for lunch.
We ate at a gas station surrounded by fried chicken and fast food restaurants. Conveniently, a chef from AMOS already prepared food: Salad, rice and beans, and chicken. So we grabbed a plate, utensils, and dug in. Flies were everywhere, so we had to swat and eat almost simultaneously. It was also blazing hot probably in the 90s. After lunch, we continued our then 7-hour journey to San Jose.
As one could imagine, a 7-hour ride is really long, yet we made the best of it. We sang some songs from the 90s and 00s to break the ice and viewed the scenery. The views were quite amazing: Passing by we could see grassy mountains, hills, and acres of farmland. We also rode through concrete, cobblestone, and dirt roads sometimes with cattle crossing and road construction. With all these road conditions and scenery, it’s clear we were heading to a rural area!
At around 4, we arrived at the SJM clinic. As we were backing into a parking space next to the clinic, we were greeted instantly by an ecstatic crowd of children, adults, and a mariachi band. We all entered the porch of the clinic for a welcome service. A religious leader of the community greeted us, prayed, and read scripture. He told us that it was an answer to their prayers to see such people eager to help this community, one that is impoverished.
After the service, a mariachi band came in to play some songs. We listened as they were singing and playing ranchera music with their guitars and sombreros. At some point, one of the singers came out dancing and invited others to join him. Everyone seemed reluctant at first, then people from our group gradually accompanied him on the floor. Everyone else cheered and clapped to this upbeat music. It was more-so hopping than dancing, but it was fun nonetheless.
After such a wonderful welcoming, we chose a place to unpack our things. There was a choice between staying in the clinic, a home, or school. While the school was closest to the clinic, the homes were located further away. The men, unfortunately, were housed farthest away while the women stayed at the clinic, school, and a house nearby.
I and a colleague got a room in the clinic. The walls and floors were cemented and there laid a poster about daily community activities. Unpacking things was a challenge because the rooms had no light and space was tight. But we made it work. First, we set up cots, wires, and paperclips. Next, we hung our mosquito nets on the wire and made sure the nets covered the bottom of the cot. Last, we tied up a flashlight to the rope. This whole ordeal took us maybe a good hour most.
After unpacking, we went to the patio to eat dinner. The kitchen was right next to our rooms. Inside, there was a firewood stove, water filter, and a space to clean dishes. Soon, everyone in our group near and far gathered at a table on the patio for dinner. Two chefs cooked some rice and beans with fruit juice. I enjoyed every bit of it. After dinner, we prepped for tomorrow. At this point, I am very excited because we will venture out and visit homes!
San Jose is a rural community located well high and deep in the mountains. The climate is still as humid as on lower altitudes (90 degrees I would estimate). The roads are muddy in some areas and horse remains one of the means of transportation.