Not An Adventure

I’d like to preface this whole thing by saying that this is a preemptive strike, or rather, post. Why?

Well, because I’d like to clear the air of something that’s been nagging me for the past year. That way, when the time comes (very soon, I might add) that finds me back in the United States, I want to be able to have conversations with people without losing my marbles. I want to share what I have learned, what I have seen. I want to share the love I have felt. I don’t want to share my bad mood that you might set off just by saying the wrong thing.

So here’s the thing. People frequently, with their good intentions, continue to wish me success, happiness, and the like while I am here at NPH El Salvador. Something akin to “on this adventure of yours” is almost always tacked on to the end of the sentence. Adventure. My adventures. My year full of adventures.

In a word, gross.

That’s not what this is. My presence and geographical location for the last year has not been an adventure. It’s not an escapade, a voyage, or what have you. Try out most of adventure’s synonyms and try to claim that what I am doing is in fact of an adventurous nature, and I’ll find a way to disagree with you.

For me, the word adventure implies a passing fancy or some thrill-seeking…thing, as if I just decided to take a year off after finishing college before entering the “work world” to go backpacking or gallivanting through Europe kind of adventure. (Not that that is bad. It’s not! I’d love to travel through Europe, someday.)

My volunteer service, nay, my time in community with my crazy big Salvadoran family is not an adventure.

I was not blown here by the wind. I didn’t blindly place my finger on a spinning globe to see where I should go on a whim. I didn’t look up a list of international volunteer/service organizations and choose one at random from a search engine result page.

All I did was come back to a place that my bones knew and called as yet another home for me. (See the Home Series posts #1, 2, and 3 for a better understanding.) It wasn’t just that I returned home to this family, to this place where I felt and feel loved. I was called back. God planted a seed many years ago and has lovingly nurtured it. I’m blessed to say that it has grown into an awesome little tree. And you know what? Trees keep growing! Life keeps growing and twisting and turning!

God’s plan for my life brought me here. Now granted I could have said no and refused. I could have said, you know what? I’m going to get a paying job and stay. But when you come to know a place like this, when you come to know such beautiful people, and when God says, hey why don’t you go live there? It’s pretty easy to make that choice (and would be definitely mind-boggling if you did say no!)

I love hiking in the mountains or near the lake at home. Sometimes I just love walking along the river near my old apartment for no reason. There’s something about physical paths that I am drawn to, so it makes logical sense that my favorite metaphorical figure for my life is in fact, a path or the trail.

My life, the path that I am walking on and have been on since the day I was born, has climbed up up up in altitude. Sometimes it gradually descends, sometimes rapidly. Then it ascends again with tortoise or hare-like velocity. Sometimes it’s full of switchbacks; sometimes it’s full of big ol’ lazy curves. When I came to NPH El Salvador, I wasn’t switching paths. I was and am continuing on the one I initially set off on, 23 years ago.

So…to bring it all back. It’s not that I don’t like the word adventure and what it means. Will I go on adventures? You bet! Do I think every day holds the possibility of being an adventure? Of course! Have I been on adventures while serving and living in El Salvador? Absolutely. I’ve got a whole mental list of stories at the ready to tell you.

But please, please, please do not mistake my time and presence in El Salvador as a whole as being an adventure. To be quite frank, I hate it when people say, “oh it’s an adventure.” “How exciting is this adventure for you!” What you are doing to me and to my kids here is compartmentalizing our lives, our experiences. We are not some item to check off on a list of things to do in the world and in life.

This is not a philanthropic volun-tourist thing. I didn’t come down to a country rife with poverty and violence to do “good” and make myself feel better, like people often do these days in their quests to “find themselves.” To say to myself, “yeah I have these big grandiose ideas about how I’m gonna change the world and eliminate suffering…okay I did my thing down here and now I can move on with my life.” That’s pretty shallow. If you are going to do service, wherever in the world it might be, do it for the right reasons. Do it because you are serving your neighbor, not serving yourself.

After having countless cup-runneth-over days here at NPH El Salvador, I seriously cannot imagine living out such a ludicrous notion of self-before-others. I came down not to make myself feel better or to change the world. I came down to be a part of someone’s life, to tell him and to tell her, hey you know, I love you. You’re going to be someone in this world. I believe in you.

St. Vincent Palloti says, “You must be holy in the way God asks you to be holy. God does not ask you to be a Trappist monk or a hermit. He wants you to sanctify the world and your everyday life.”

That’s pretty awesome, don’t you think? I’m doing my best to do what God asks of me, my call to holiness, as it were. So, NPH El Salvador isn’t an adventure. It’s the best way I know how to live out the call to holiness.

It’s my life.

April in Review

The month of April was, to say the least, awesome. A lot of fun and cool things happened here at NPH El Salvador, not least among them being Holy Week and Easter. Lent is my favorite liturgical season, but there’s something about Holy Week that I can’t explain. I love it! It was very neat to have experienced new traditions here with my NPH family.

Here is the month of April in photo review at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos El Salvador! I included a lot of pictures in this post (more than usual) because of how much went on and simply due to the fact that I cannot make a decision on which picture to use. I hope you don’t mind that (but really, why would you mind more pictures?)

Also, I should note that at some point after Easter, something happened with the inner workings of my camera, and now a black mark appears in the corner of every picture. Unfortunately I have not been able to figure out how to make it go away.

Enjoy!

Paz y bien.

The boys are working (mostly) on some drawings, but near the end of the afternoon they spent more time goofing off than working, ha!

The boys are working (mostly) on some drawings, but near the end of the afternoon they spent more time goofing off than working, ha!

On our way to see FAS play! (FAS is a professional soccer team!)

On our way to see FAS play! (FAS is a professional soccer team!)

Our special treat to the boys was going on the field. In this shot, the players are going back inside to change before the game. Those are my boys lining the tunnel. How cool!? The leading scorer in all of El Salvador is the guy in blue about to give out some high fives.

Our special treat to the boys was going on the field. In this shot, the players are going back inside to change before the game. Those are my boys lining the tunnel. How cool!? The leading scorer in all of El Salvador is the guy in blue about to give out some high fives.

The story of my life – an unsuccessful group picture, ha. I got a few of the boys and some of the players looking at my camera.

The story of my life – an unsuccessful group picture, ha. I got a few of the boys and some of the players looking at my camera.

It wasn’t actually raining, but she needed a picture with an umbrella. So we improvised!

It wasn’t actually raining, but she needed a picture with an umbrella. So we improvised!

With the boys and their homework assignment. Kudos go to the Tía who helped them make the very delicious pudín.

With the boys and their homework assignment. Kudos go to the Tía who helped them make the very delicious pudín.

With the girls while they prepare chilaquiles…

With the girls while they prepare chilaquiles…

The finished product, chilaquiles. I know it doesn’t look like much, but I promise you. IT IS AWESOME.

The finished product, chilaquiles. I know it doesn’t look like much, but I promise you. IT IS AWESOME.

How the frontlines look just before dinner time.

How the frontlines look just before dinner time.

Beans and cream for dinner, one of my favs.

Beans and cream for dinner, one of my favs.

The life of that beheaded piñata was short. There was still candy inside!

The life of that beheaded piñata was short. There was still candy inside!

April birthdays!

April birthdays!

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Going for a spin on the track! I gave some of the girls a ride later on because they don’t know how to ride a bike, but they still wanted to experience it.

Going for a spin on the track! I gave some of the girls a ride later on because they don’t know how to ride a bike, but they still wanted to experience it.

Palm Sunday procession!

Palm Sunday procession!

An NPH El Salvador Holy Week tradition is to go to the Lempa River. It’s a 2 hour walk from the foundation. This is a bridge you have to cross. Really. Haha. I opted to walk through the stream. On the way home, I walked across. It was mildly terrifying as you’d imagine.

An NPH El Salvador Holy Week tradition is to go to the Lempa River. It’s a 2 hour walk from the foundation. This is a bridge you have to cross. Really. Haha. I opted to walk through the stream. On the way home, I walked across. It was mildly terrifying as you’d imagine.

She needed to borrow my shoes, but I wouldn’t let her until I took a picture documenting the stark difference between our feet, ha.

She needed to borrow my shoes, but I wouldn’t let her until I took a picture documenting the stark difference between our feet, ha.

All 3 of the gallinas at the river.  Gallina means hen in Spanish. Our nickname for each other happened because of a misunderstanding between the word for flip flop and the word for hen. The silliness will never go away, and the nickname stuck.

All 3 of the gallinas at the river. Gallina means hen in Spanish. Our nickname for each other happened because of a misunderstanding between the word for flip flop and the word for hen. The silliness will never go away, and the nickname stuck.

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In order to cross the strong current to get to the other side, you had to use the rope that the year of service boys somehow managed to string across. They’re awesome.

In order to cross the strong current to get to the other side, you had to use the rope that the year of service boys somehow managed to string across. They’re awesome.

I kept walking around making kissy faces with my algae mustache. The girls hated it, I loved it.

I kept walking around making kissy faces with my algae mustache. The girls hated it, I loved it.

The boy in the middle had just basically fallen off his seat, which happens to be a water jug that caved in on itself. Haha.

The boy in the middle had just basically fallen off his seat, which happens to be a water jug that caved in on itself. Haha.

Walking home

Walking home

Enjoying a lovely sunset. I walked home with 3 girls in less than 2 hours! We were very proud of ourselves.

Enjoying a lovely sunset. I walked home with 3 girls in less than 2 hours! We were very proud of ourselves.

Holy Thursday is my favorite! Washing of the feet.

Holy Thursday is my favorite! Washing of the feet.

On Good Friday, the year of service youth put on their production of the Stations of the Cross. We all lined the field to watch.

On Good Friday, the year of service youth put on their production of the Stations of the Cross. We all lined the field to watch.

I love Pilate’s outfit. It makes me giggle, especially since this guy is always so serious!

I love Pilate’s outfit. It makes me giggle, especially since this guy is always so serious!

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It was awesome watching the guys put the crosses up, so very smooth and skilled.

It was awesome watching the guys put the crosses up, so very smooth and skilled.

This is the thief who defended Jesus and asked Jesus to remember him when he arrived in the Kingdom…well that guy happens to be my little brother, E, who said those words. Although Holy Thursday is my favorite of the Triduum, Good Friday ALWAYS gets me and makes me cry. I lost it, internally, when E said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” This time it wasn’t just words I heard from a lector. It was my brother, hanging from a cross, who said them.

This is the thief who defended Jesus and asked Jesus to remember him when he arrived in the Kingdom…well that guy happens to be my little brother, E, who said those words. Although Holy Thursday is my favorite of the Triduum, Good Friday ALWAYS gets me and makes me cry. I lost it, internally, when E said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” This time it wasn’t just words I heard from a lector. It was my brother, hanging from a cross, who said them.

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Good Friday was…good...to say the least.

Good Friday was…good…to say the least.

Veneration of the Cross

Veneration of the Cross

All of the year of service youth and Padre Ron being silly!

All of the year of service youth and Padre Ron being silly!

Blessing of the fire on Easter Vigil

Blessing of the fire on Easter Vigil

I could make an album just from pictures from that night, titled “Boys who squint because of the flash.”

I could make an album just from pictures from that night, titled “Boys who squint because of the flash.”

Easter morning’s only light at 4:30am was a path lined with these votive candles in sand.

Easter morning’s only light at 4:30am was a path lined with these votive candles in sand.

Padre and the guys before Mass started

Padre and the guys before Mass started

Happy Easter! The sun has risen, Christ has risen! Alleluia.

Happy Easter! The sun has risen, Christ has risen! Alleluia.

With my friend! He studies on the other side of the country, so we rarely see him.

With my friend! He studies on the other side of the country, so we rarely see him.

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Hahaha. This is a beautiful and silly picture.

Hahaha. This is a beautiful and silly picture.

The week’s other Peter Parker.

The week’s other Peter Parker.

“This is my beloved family, with whom I am well pleased.”

“This is my beloved family, with whom I am well pleased.”

One of the tías and her girls

One of the tías and her girls

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Easter Sunday activities…I promise, she clears it and makes a big ol’ splash.

Easter Sunday activities…I promise, she clears it and makes a big ol’ splash.

This kid is awesome. He asked to see the picture, and when he saw it he yelled, “WOW I LOOK SOOOOO COOL!”

This kid is awesome. He asked to see the picture, and when he saw it he yelled, “WOW I LOOK SOOOOO COOL!”

Even the year of service girls got in on the fun.

Even the year of service girls got in on the fun.

I love the smiles.

I love the smiles.

I spent part of my Easter afternoon in the clinic because of a gnarly blister I got on our hike to the river.

I spent part of my Easter afternoon in the clinic because of a gnarly blister I got on our hike to the river.

More homework time in the kitchen, this time it was sopes! Delicious.

More homework time in the kitchen, this time it was sopes! Delicious.

This year of service guy, who is not assigned to work in the kitchen, randomly stopped by and started helping the tía prepare beans without being asked. I love it! Yet another reason why my kids are way cool.

This year of service guy, who is not assigned to work in the kitchen, randomly stopped by and started helping the tía prepare beans without being asked. I love it! Yet another reason why my kids are way cool.

“Haciendo la paja” is what the boys told me (doing the lie, literally). The boys didn’t actually make the tortillas, the girls helped them ha. So I took a picture of them pretending to work.

“Haciendo la paja” is what the boys told me (doing the lie, literally). The boys didn’t actually make the tortillas, the girls helped them ha. So I took a picture of them pretending to work.

Their final product was chilaquilas (though the name is only one letter different from what the girls made – see the earlier picture – it is in fact much different but still just as delicious!).

Their final product was chilaquilas (though the name is only one letter different from what the girls made – see the earlier picture – it is in fact much different but still just as delicious!).

My best friend Katie Ann came to visit me for a little over a week. She’s so cool!

My best friend Katie Ann came to visit me for a little over a week. She’s so cool!

She made friends in the clinic too, haha.

She made friends in the clinic too, haha.

Photographic evidence that I do in fact wash my clothes by hand…

Photographic evidence that I do in fact wash my clothes by hand…

…and then almost cry because the sun is shining in my eyes when I hang them up to dry. Ha.

…and then almost cry because the sun is shining in my eyes when I hang them up to dry. Ha.

Friends making friendship bracelets

Friends making friendship bracelets

After a few days at NPH, Katie Ann and I went to the beach!!! This is looking at the tide pool area at high tide!

After a few days at NPH, Katie Ann and I went to the beach!!! This is looking at the tide pool area at high tide!

First time for me swimming in an ocean, ever. First time for Katie Ann seeing the Pacific Ocean (I’ve seen it before but had only gotten my feet wet.)

First time for me swimming in an ocean, ever. First time for Katie Ann seeing the Pacific Ocean (I’ve seen it before but had only gotten my feet wet.)

Low tide! Such awesome views.

Low tide! Such awesome views.

The tide pool when you can actually swim in it.

The tide pool when you can actually swim in it.

Let’s just say, I was nerding out after witnessing the tides come and go and what is left behind.

Let’s just say, I was nerding out after witnessing the tides come and go and what is left behind.

Lens kept fogging up, which annoyed me, but I did get some cool pictures.

Lens kept fogging up, which annoyed me, but I did get some cool pictures.

Ah, if only that pesky black spot weren’t there.

Ah, if only that pesky black spot weren’t there.

March in Review

Well hey there! I’m not so late this time in posting these. March was a very full and fun month, with a bit of adventure in and around the property along with some normalcy. Haha, the kind of normalcy that comes with living with 300+ kids/teenagers/young adults…

Good life is oh so good.

So, here is the month of March at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos El Salvador in photo review.

We’ve got a lot of land. I’m not sure how much in terms of acreage, but suffice to say that we’ve got enough room for the houses, clinic, school, and soccer field in addition to crop fields. We also happen to have an estimated 100 year old hacienda! How cool is that?

We’ve got a lot of land. I’m not sure how much in terms of acreage, but suffice to say that we’ve got enough room for the houses, clinic, school, and soccer field in addition to crop fields. We also happen to have an estimated 100 year old hacienda! How cool is that?

This was my second time at the hacienda. We had some visitors come through who wanted photos, so I volunteered to take them one Sunday morning. It was a tough job, let me tell you (that’s full of sarcasm by the way…it was awesome roaming around!)

This was my second time at the hacienda. We had some visitors come through who wanted photos, so I volunteered to take them one Sunday morning. It was a tough job, let me tell you (that’s full of sarcasm by the way…it was awesome roaming around!)

You can see the boys’ home and some of the workshops in the background. There’s an old corn field that separates the hacienda from the fenced off part of our property.

You can see the boys’ home and some of the workshops in the background. There’s an old corn field that separates the hacienda from the fenced off part of our property.

This is the second house inside the hacienda.

This is the second house inside the hacienda.

Old kitchen

Old kitchen

The entrance! The hand-painted orange words say, “Entrance prohibited.” The hacienda has some old, dilapidated structures on it, but there are also a few buildings that were constructed within the last decade or so.

The entrance! The hand-painted orange words say, “Entrance prohibited.” The hacienda has some old, dilapidated structures on it, but there are also a few buildings that were constructed within the last decade or so.

All the girls went out to the base of the “hill-mountain” for an afternoon of little games and snacks.

All the girls went out to the base of the “hill-mountain” for an afternoon of little games and snacks.

I chose not to participate in the “run up the hill to find a hidden flag” game. Haha.

I chose not to participate in the “run up the hill to find a hidden flag” game. Haha.

Love them!

Love them!

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“Let’s take a picture with the ‘desert of El Salvador’ in the background.” Haha. It’s not a desert climate, but when you’re in the dry season it kinda feels that way. At the time of this picture, it hadn’t rained in 5 months.

“Let’s take a picture with the ‘desert of El Salvador’ in the background.” Haha. It’s not a desert climate, but when you’re in the dry season it kinda feels that way. At the time of this picture, it hadn’t rained in 5 months.

“Who likes rabbits?” Almost everyone does, it seems.

“Who likes rabbits?” Almost everyone does, it seems.

Just being cool in the office…we wore essentially the same outfit one day. That happens a lot, and we never plan it!

Just being cool in the office…we wore essentially the same outfit one day. That happens a lot, and we never plan it!

Our friends from FAS (the professional, division one soccer team) came again for practice and a little something extra. They threw a little party for our youngest kids! This guy is the main goalie, and the whole city loves him!

Our friends from FAS (the professional, division one soccer team) came again for practice and a little something extra. They threw a little party for our youngest kids! This guy is the main goalie, and the whole city loves him!

I promise they all had fun, even though it doesn’t seem like it here…haha.

I promise they all had fun, even though it doesn’t seem like it here…haha.

Blah! This is adorable.

Blah! This is adorable.

Thanking the team for their visit and support of the NPH family. They are an awesome group of guys.

Thanking the team for their visit and support of the NPH family. They are an awesome group of guys.

With our national director, Tío Olegario. He’s wonderful!

With our national director, Tío Olegario. He’s wonderful!

On the morning of the high school graduation, with all the girls and the girls’ house sub-director. They are all so beautiful! Some of them are graduates while the others are escorts/sponsors. One cool tradition I like here in El Salvador is that at graduations, there is always someone who accompanies you. In a way , it is acknowledging that throughout not only your education but your life’s journey, there are people who help you along the way. So each graduate chooses an “acompañante” or escort for the big day.

On the morning of the high school graduation, with all the girls and the girls’ house sub-director. They are all so beautiful! Some of them are graduates while the others are escorts/sponsors. One cool tradition I like here in El Salvador is that at graduations, there is always someone who accompanies you. In a way , it is acknowledging that throughout not only your education but your life’s journey, there are people who help you along the way. So each graduate chooses an “acompañante” or escort for the big day.

And now for the boys, the boys’ house director, and some of their acompañantes. Such a handsome and sharp-looking group!

And now for the boys, the boys’ house director, and some of their acompañantes. Such a handsome and sharp-looking group!

With my brother on his big day!

With my brother on his big day!

I was asked to go buy one of the boys, my friend R. Here we are in the procession (another tradition) going to the church for Mass. In total, from the school to the church and then back again, we walked about 8 blocks!

I was asked to go buy one of the boys, my friend R. Here we are in the procession (another tradition) going to the church for Mass. In total, from the school to the church and then back again, we walked about 8 blocks!

Leaving the church. The sun was in my eyes, and I can’t take a picture, as usual. This is also one of the few pictures when R is smiling. He’s not much of a smiler in pictures, and I had to ruin the only one where he’s really smiling! Of course.

Leaving the church. The sun was in my eyes, and I can’t take a picture, as usual. This is also one of the few pictures when R is smiling. He’s not much of a smiler in pictures, and I had to ruin the only one where he’s really smiling! Of course.

:)

🙂

With 4 of the graduates who have been with NPH since kindergarten, along with two of the teachers who have been with us from the beginning. So cool!

With 4 of the graduates who have been with NPH since kindergarten, along with two of the teachers who have been with us from the beginning. So cool!

Siblings joined us all at the special luncheon!

Siblings joined us all at the special luncheon!

Such a beautiful family.

Such a beautiful family.

Haha. The March birthday celebration was full of laughter.

Haha. The March birthday celebration was full of laughter.

And accidentally beheading and dismembering piñatas…

And accidentally beheading and dismembering piñatas…

This boy took the arms and legs of the poor piñata, put them on, and walked around like this for a little while. Haha.

This boy took the arms and legs of the poor piñata, put them on, and walked around like this for a little while. Haha.

Birthday girls!

Birthday girls!

The 3 of us tried to take a picture, but it didn’t really work. This is my favorite one out of all the failed attempts haha.

The 3 of us tried to take a picture, but it didn’t really work. This is my favorite one out of all the failed attempts haha.

The boy in green (my “brother”) is teaching the other 3 to be altar servers! Brings back many a memory for me. I altar served for years and then became the coordinator for the ministry at my parish for a few years during college.

The boy in green (my “brother”) is teaching the other 3 to be altar servers! Brings back many a memory for me. I altar served for years and then became the coordinator for the ministry at my parish for a few years during college.

A nice Sunday morning with one of my good pals.

A nice Sunday morning with one of my good pals.

Caught the boys monkeying around on the playground…get it?

Caught the boys monkeying around on the playground…get it?

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With some of the girls from “chicas” before the big game!

With some of the girls from “chicas” before the big game!

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It’s so hard to take group pictures, apparently. As the next few pictures will show…here is the chicas team with Tía Silvia (so the youngest girls from my house. They’re also my hogar.)

It’s so hard to take group pictures, apparently. As the next few pictures will show…here is the chicas team with Tía Silvia (so the youngest girls from my house. They’re also my hogar.)

The chicos (the oldest boys from the babies’ house) with their year of service caregiver and my friend/tía/nurse Luz de María.

The chicos (the oldest boys from the babies’ house) with their year of service caregiver and my friend/tía/nurse Luz de María.

With my girls, hahaha. The front row is the best.

With my girls, hahaha. The front row is the best.

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I took a small turn at being the boys’ team goalie. Didn’t do so bad actually. Fortunately for the boys they’re good defensive players so the ball didn’t really come near me save for one unlucky shot!

I took a small turn at being the boys’ team goalie. Didn’t do so bad actually. Fortunately for the boys they’re good defensive players so the ball didn’t really come near me save for one unlucky shot!

After the game, the toddlers hit the field.

After the game, the toddlers hit the field.

Over the Hill-Mountain and Through the River

My official title here at NPH is just Volunteer, but sometimes I feel like the resident photographer. This “job” is actually quite fun for me as it has allowed me to do really cool things with the kids, because documenting daily life here is in a roundabout way in my job description!

And so, as things go, I went on an adventure last weekend. I’ll admit that initially I wasn’t too excited about going because I had a lot of other work to do, but I acquiesced to the invitation.

And I’m so glad that I did.

Our college students, along with some young adults from a local parish, lead a youth group for our kids. On Saturday they planned a hike to a nearby (and I mean, nearby) mountain. I’ve always wanted to go hike Cerro but have never had the chance.

In order to get to the nonexistent trail (the kids just know how to get there – it’s awesome), we had to walk about 10 minutes along the road, then cut through some fields on another dirt road. So before you even hike, you do a bit of walking.DSC_4485I’ve done my fair share of hiking on a variety of trails/mountains. However, I’ve never hiked anything this steep. Going to the top of Cerro is so sheer! I couldn’t believe it. My dogs were aching by the time we got to the top, and I’m also at the tail-end of a gnarly cold. However, instead of moaning in misery like I could have, I could only smile because this is what greeted us:

DSC_4492The buildings and most of the fields that you can see are of NPH. How cool is that? Also, the view in and of itself is breathtaking.

The buildings and most of the fields that you can see are of NPH. How cool is that? Also, the view in and of itself is breathtaking.

The plan was to hike down the other side to the river (which runs through part of our property!) The going down part was infinitely trickier than scaling the mountain, especially when we encountered some bees. I think someone stirred up the nest, because they were swarming and everyone started running. Imagine…running down the side of mountain that isn’t meant to be run on. Haha. It was mildly terrifying – do I get away from the bees as quickly as possible and risk rolling all the way down to the bottom? I made it mostly unscathed, only one bee got me.

DSC_4510We got to the river and took off our shoes to go walking to some undetermined point. Normally I love going barefoot. I prefer it actually, in most circumstances. However, after walking 15 minutes on slippery river rocks, I wished I had worn my Tevas (or at least kept my sneakers on, but who wants to walk around in wet socks?). Now not only were my legs on fire, but my feet felt like…well, like I had walked on rocks. Big rocks. Little rocks. Slippery rocks. Dry rocks. Hot sand. Mud. You name it, it was there.

We finally arrived to what I would like to call the Sweet Spot. I was having a blast before ever getting to the river, but once we got to the swimming hole, it was like someone opened up a can of fun-sauce. Almost everyone hopped in and had an awesome time.

DSC_4531 DSC_4553 DSC_4627It was a most excellent adventure, and I didn’t have to go very far. Normally back home, if I want to hike in the Smokies, I have to drive at least 45 minutes to an hour just to get to the park. Within the park it can take even longer depending on which trail I want to hike.

I don’t have that problem now, not here at NPH El Salvador. We’ve got a mountain that’s 10 minutes away by foot and a river on our property. It seems like there are one million ways to get to both places, and I only saw two of those “trails.” That’s pretty darn cool.

DSC_4630I’m also the proud recipient of a well-earned pair of jellylegs.