A Salvadoran Valentine´s Day: Celebrating a Weekend of Friendship

While most of the world celebrates Valentine's Day on February 14, many in El Salvador celebrate the date as El Dia de la Amistad, or "the Day of Friendship." Indeed, at Nuestro Ahora, we enjoyed this past weekend, February 14 and 15, celebrating the friendship that brings our scholarship students and staff together. We began Valentine's Day with a serious house cleaning on Saturday morning, before enjoying a trip to the International School of San Salvador for an afternoon of fun and recreation, playing basketball on the school courts and swimming in the pool. A special thanks to Mr. Chester Stemp, director of the International School, for extending us a gracious invitation to use the school's facilities. After an afternoon of swimming and hoops, we stopped by La Dispensa grocery store to give the students a chance to practice using the bank kiosks to make electronic transfers and payments as part of Nuestro Ahora's "Program for Better Living" which equips the scholarship students with the technological, economic, and practical skills they'll need to thrive in today's society.

After banking, we hopped back on the bus to return to the scholarship house where the students, accompanied by local committee members, Odilia, Georgina, and Vickie, celebrated Valentine's with pupusas. After dinner, we had a fierce game of "Spoons," watched an old movie, and exchanged small gifts as part of "amigas secrets" or "secret friends". . .sort of like playing "secret Santa." It was a fun evening, a pleasant break after a hard first few weeks of study.

On Sunday, we enjoyed a North American breakfast of French Toast before heading out on a very long hike through Santa Tecla's Ecological "Espino Park." None of the articles about the park that we read in local newspapers mentioned the 2.5km walk from the main entrance to the actual park, but the students nonetheless rose to the challenge. . .a nearly 4 hour round trip hike through the forests. The view at the top was well worthwhile. . .an incredible vista of the entire city of San Salvador.

Trying to Figure Out Who's Who in Amigas Secretas :D

A Semi-Vicious, Semi-Friendly Game of "Spoons". . .well, "forks" actually

The Never-Ending 2.5km Park Entrance Trail (that No One Told Us About)

Local Committee Members, Georgina and Vickie, Enjoying the Swings After Finally Arriving at the Espino Ecogological Park

Testing Out the Suspension Bridge

Celsa and Vickie. . .Crossing Over

Mirian Leads the Group On Up. . .

The Really Cool Solar Panel Project Promoting Sustainable Energy. . . the Entire Park is Devoted to Protecting Salvador's Natural Resources

Awesome "Volcano Holes". . .You Can't See the Steam in the Picture Here, but these "Volcano Holes" actually emit the wicked hot gases trapped inside San Salvador's Volcano. . .which last erupted in the early 1900's. . .You can put your hand right over the hole and feel the steam. . . pretty neat!

Magda and Maricela enjoy a well-deserved view of all San Salvador after the gruelling hike

We Made It! (from left to right) Vickie, Maricela, Magda, Georgina, Mirian, Wendy, and Celsa with San Salvador in the distance

Maricela, Celsa, and Mirian Hanging Out at the Top, Preparing for the Hike Back Down. . .