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.

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December in Review

While I shared a lot of pictures in my Christmas-related post, I just couldn’t leave these gems behind! Oh and there are some events/activities pictured here that I didn’t mention in the previous post.

So here is a glimpse of my time at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos El Salvador in the month of December, in photo review…

Coloring some neat Christmas drawings with the girls one afternoon

Coloring some neat Christmas drawings with the girls one afternoon

With 2 of my dear friends from the office at the employee Christmas party

With 2 of my dear friends from the office at the employee Christmas party

Almost all of the employees (caregivers, office staff, clinic staff, cafeteria staff, teachers, psychologists, and directors – we’re missing some of the maintenance and farm employees as well as a few nurses) …I think we’re around 100 people or so.

Almost all of the employees (caregivers, office staff, clinic staff, cafeteria staff, teachers, psychologists, and directors – we’re missing some of the maintenance and farm employees as well as a few nurses) …I think we’re around 100 people or so.

Blah! Love it.

Blah! Love it.

This picture makes me smile. Every month our national director hands out candy to the kids who are celebrating birthdays. He was teasing these boys and said they shouldn’t get any since we lost the international fútbol tournament the month before, haha!

This picture makes me smile. Every month our national director hands out candy to the kids who are celebrating birthdays. He was teasing these boys and said they shouldn’t get any since we lost the international fútbol tournament the month before, haha!

We didn’t plan to dress alike (even our hair was done the same!), but what we enjoyed more than that was discovering that we have the same tan lines on our feet…haha.

We didn’t plan to dress alike (even our hair was done the same!), but what we enjoyed more than that was discovering that we have the same tan lines on our feet…haha.

The 3 amigas!

The 3 amigas!

Tío/Tía Christmas party, complete with embarrassing games! We refer to all the caregivers as Tío or Tía.

Tío/Tía Christmas party, complete with embarrassing games! We refer to all the caregivers as Tío or Tía.

All of us minus the one taking the picture!

All of us minus the one taking the picture!

They're so much fun. The 2 on the left are former pequeñas who are now employees. The one on the right is a university student who also works at our home. They’re all so wonderful!

They’re so much fun. The 2 on the left are former pequeñas who are now employees. The one on the right is a university student who also works at our home. They’re all so wonderful!

Me with all of the tías of Casa Santa María

Me with all of the tías of Casa Santa María

I made this one day while I sharpened a humongous box of colored pencils. I learned the coloring trick after watching the kids decorate so many letters. It’s quite nifty and cool!

I made this one day while I sharpened a humongous box of colored pencils. I learned the coloring trick after watching the kids decorate so many letters. It’s quite nifty and cool!

Goofing around in the cafeteria while doing letters…

Goofing around in the cafeteria while doing letters…

Waiting around for an activity to begin

Waiting around for an activity to begin

We went to the river a lot in December. This is the first time I went with all of the kids (that other time was at a different location farther upstream with just the youth group), so it was a lot more fun because all of the girls who couldn’t swim well or who just wanted me to cart them around kept me occupied the entire time. In this photo, there are 3 girls attached to me.

We went to the river a lot in December. This is the first time I went with all of the kids (that other time was at a different location farther upstream with just the youth group), so it was a lot more fun because all of the girls who couldn’t swim well or who just wanted me to cart them around kept me occupied the entire time. In this photo, there are 3 girls attached to me.

This picture is misleading, as there is a 5th girl attached, you just can’t see her! But oh how much fun I had. I was really sore for the next few days though, haha.

This picture is misleading, as there is a 5th girl attached, you just can’t see her! But oh how much fun I had. I was really sore for the next few days though, haha.

The older girls wanted me to jump off the bank with them, but first I had to climb up…with their help and way too much laughter.

The older girls wanted me to jump off the bank with them, but first I had to climb up…with their help and way too much laughter.

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Our choir went to a local hospital to sing at Mass and then go caroling in different locations within the hospital.

Our choir went to a local hospital to sing at Mass and then go caroling in different locations within the hospital.

They were so good and everyone was rather impressed!

They were so good and everyone was rather impressed!

At the end of every set, they sang “Feliz Navidad and Prospero Año” and threw their Santa hats in the air.

At the end of every set, they sang “Feliz Navidad and Prospero Año” and threw their Santa hats in the air.

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Love it.

Love it.

Every year on Fr. Wasson’s birthday, we have Mass and then remember him in a special and fun way by eating his favorite treat afterward…donuts!

Every year on Fr. Wasson’s birthday, we have Mass and then remember him in a special and fun way by eating his favorite treat afterward…donuts!

The girls being silly (and strong)

The girls being silly (and strong)

With my most favorite little one! I love her smile.

With my most favorite little one! I love her smile.

Christmas decorations at work!

Christmas decorations at work!

Last day of work before Christmas! We even matched (not on purpose – that’s how cool we are)

Last day of work before Christmas! We even matched (not on purpose – that’s how cool we are)

The next few photos are from dinner on Christmas Eve. Almost all the younger girls wore pink, fuchsia, or purple!

The next few photos are from dinner on Christmas Eve. Almost all the younger girls wore pink, fuchsia, or purple!

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Second trip to the river. This time the boys came.

Second trip to the river. This time the boys came.

My brother and me. He said, “hey Ashley climb up the bank and jump with me! Right now!!!” Of course, he had to help me climb up the bank haha. The picture isn’t very good, but it’s still a nice reminder of the fun we all had that afternoon.

My brother and me. He said, “hey Ashley climb up the bank and jump with me! Right now!!!” Of course, he had to help me climb up the bank haha. The picture isn’t very good, but it’s still a nice reminder of the fun we all had that afternoon.

With my friend and favorite tía!

With my friend and favorite tía!

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.