Monday, April 24, 2017

Plastic Bottle Art: Part 2

Baby Pastor.  This is the name lovingly bestowed on a painted 2-liter soda bottle.

Why, you ask, would I paint a 2-liter soda bottle to look like my pastor?  To raise money, of course!

Here is the back story.  About 13 years ago, Bishop Medardo G√≥mez of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church had an idea to establish a fund that could produce a basic income for the ordained pastors of the church.  As a church committed to walking with those who struggle with injustice, oppression, poverty, violence, the Salvadoran Lutheran Church is rich in faith, rich in hope and poor in financial resources.  It's not easy to grow an endowment fund when current needs are so great, but this is exactly what the Salvadoran Lutheran Church committed to do, with the help and structure of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).

The Salvadoran Lutheran Church Endowment Fund for Pastor Salary Support (yup, the legal name is a mouthful) is set up so that the principal will exist in perpetuity and the interest can be distributed quarterly to support pastor salaries.  The fund is managed within the ELCA Foundation and interest is released upon request of the Salvadoran Lutheran Bishop.

In the early years, the Salvadoran Lutheran Church chose to reinvest the interest, in order to grow the principal.  When the situation became dire for Salvadoran pastors several years ago, Bishop Medardo began requesting the interest annually at the end of the year.  This way, the interest stays in the account as long as possible.  The interest is used each December to pay any back pay owed to pastors and to cover all of the salaries for the last month or two of the year.

Over the years, churches in the US and Europe have done some pretty fantastic fund-raisers in order to grow the principal of this account.  In El Salvador too, congregations have done their part in supporting the fund.  One time a church bought a calf and raised it and then auctioned off the grown cow.  They raised about $100 for the fund!  The fund currently has a balance of about $700,000.

One consistent idea that the Bishop has supported is the "Dollar per Lutheran Campaign."  The idea is for each Lutheran in El Salvador to give $1 to the fund during the year.  This is a challenge for many who can only afford to give 5 or 10 cents at a time.  This is also a challenge because many of the church members (and truthfully the pastors too) have not well understood the concept nor the function of the Endowment Fund.

About a month ago, a friend and I did a workshop with the Salvadoran Lutheran Church pastors.  We talked a lot about money - not an easy topic, but one that is important to discuss openly and honestly.  We and the pastors had a lot of fun acting out different conversations and scenarios, and we dug right into the Endowment Fund with power point slides that helped explain it.  We held up the Bishop's idea for the $1 per Lutheran campaign, and that was when we introduced the recycled-bottle-pastor-piggy-bank.  The pastors loved this little guy (which could also be a girl) and named it "Baby Pastor." (If you look carefully at the photo, you can see a slit in the back so that dollar coins or bills can be dropped in.)

Congregations do want to support their pastors.  They do want to give their coins and dollars (if they can) so that their pastors can support their own families.  This little baby pastor represents the love that the people have for their pastor, and each coin they give is a gift of love.  When the little baby pastor is full or half-full, the offering will be given to the Salvadoran Lutheran Church administration Endowment Fund account. The goal of the administration has been to send a check to the ELCA Foundation once or twice per year.

At the end of the workshop, I gave the baby pastor to his real-life  look-a-like, who will use it during offering time to gather coins for the Endowment Fund.  (He really liked the curly hair!)

Later, one of the woman pastors quietly came up to me and said, "I have an idea."  She was pretty excited.  Her idea is to have each family make a little pastor bank out of a used water bottle.  Then, on a special Sunday, everyone will bring their little pastors and put them together to make their offering together.  We agreed this was a fantastic idea!

The $1 per Lutheran Campaign is one which those of us in the US or anywhere outside of El Salvador could use to raise money for the Endowment Fund.  If you have an interest in staying in touch with the campaign you can follow the Salvadoran Lutheran Church Endowment Fund Facebook page.

And that is the story of the Recycled Plastic Baby Pastor.

Curious about another plastic bottle project?  Check out Plastic Bottle Art Part 1.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Plastic Bottle Art: Part 1

Yes, "Part 1."  There is just so much to share about plastic bottle art.  Do you doubt me?  Read on...

The plastic bottle art described in this piece, now known as "Part 1" was created in the hope of solving a small problem.

Each morning at our home in El Salvador, we are awakened by an alarm provided by Mother Nature and a large flock of small parrots.  The birds spend the night roosting on one side of the valley, and shortly after sunrise, every single day, they relocate to the other side of the valley with great speed and an enthusiastic cacophony of squeaks and squawks.  The parrots navigate their morning migration in 4 or 5 groups, sometimes flying so close to our open window that we can hear the whirr of their wings.  As they swoop into the light, their feathers shine brightly green, and within a minute they all settle themselves into the shadows of fruit trees, gardens and forest.  They spend their days hiding and eating, and then just before sunset, the great daily migration happens in reverse.

Our windows face slightly to the west.  In the late afternoon, they reflect the image of the sky.  One day, as we sat with friends enjoying the late afternoon sun, our relaxation was interrupted by a great SMACK against the window.  Feathers and bird poop inside and out.  Not a pretty sight.  On another occasion we returned from time away to discover the remnants of a parrot on the porch with evidence of its demise by a brutal encounter with the window.

Something had to be done, not only for the preservation of the parrots but also because the trauma-induced poop-splosion while highly informational with respect to the determining the diet of said parrots, is disgusting.

The parrot deterrent needed to be created from products at hand, as well as rain-proof, wind-proof and not too ugly.  I decided to make a hanging art piece from a plastic bottle.  I liked it, so I added another.  It seems that thus far, the Plastic Bottle Parrot Deterrent is doing its job.

This could actually be a fun project for a group of children or youth who are learning about recyclables or how to make art from everyday things.

1 used and washed large plastic bottle with cap (2 liter soda bottle works well, but a milk jug or juice container would also work)
1 smaller used and washed plastic bottle with cap (water bottle works well)
Acrylic paints
Strong ribbon or cord
Scissors or knife

1.  Cut the bottom(s) off of the bottle(s), just above the curvy base - if there is a line there, follow it

2.  Paint any design inside the bottles -- remember it is in reverse; let the paint dry

3.  Cut a length of cord long enough for the small bottle to be suspended from about 2 inches below the neck of the large bottle.

4.  Tie an overhand knot, connecting the ends of the cord so it forms a loop.

5.  Place the knotted end inside the neck of the bottle and screw the cap on so that it holds the cord in place and leaves a long loop of cord above the cap.

6.  Cut a cord and repeat procedure for the big bottle.  Before tying the knot, pass the cord through the loop above the small bottle.  Knot the cord and attach it to the large bottle with the cap.

7.  Final assembly is a little tricky.  If the bottles hang a little crooked, don't worry about it.  The wind will be moving them around anyway.  Be sure to screw the caps on tight, and add a little glue if you need to.  (I did not use glue.)

Enjoy your plastic bottle art!  And, yes, stay tuned for Part 2.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Just Click! And Keep Your Phone in Your Lap

Last month, I realized it has been a while since I posted an odd collection of photos taken out the car window.  As I browsed through my photos, I realized that during the past few months I have taken fewer pictures while driving around El Salvador.  Well, I would hate to think that I am becoming less observant or less curious about the I started keeping my phone in my lap and snapping a few more pics.  I always miss more odd sights than I capture, but I managed to record a few images for this edition of Just Click!

Several months after the fact, Black November signs still adorned the sides of this
roundabout.  Black November is a copycat English phrase based on the US idea of "Black Friday"
but since Salvadorans do not celebrate Thanksgiving, there is no such thing as
Black Friday. Black November is a meaningless advertising gimmick.

Sugar cane in a midland plain
Random clown and his kid.  Even clown dads are creepy.
Guys riding dangerously.

Guy riding dangerously.
Load of recycled stuff riding dangerously.
Coconuts for sale along the highway.  Everywhere.  All year round.  
Off of a dirt road in a very rural area, this family raises a few animals.  Notice
the yellow pig shelter.  If you remember the old pay phones that used to take prepaid
phone cards back in the '90's - then you remember those old yellow phone booths.
Yup, apparently they make great pig shelters.  Salvadorans are experts at recycling things.
An old car, billboards and ironing boards for sale along the road.  Just a
normal day at this roundabout.
If you have been to El Salvador, I guarantee you have at least one picture
of cows in the road, and not just because you are a city person.
Different intersections in San Salvador feature different items for sale.
This corner has been the "jammies" corner for as long as I can remember.
Spiderman.  Batman.  In the past, Superman.  I have never seen anyone make a
purchase, yet I have seen plenty of kids wearing Spidey PJ's.
It's just not every day you see Salvadoran flags on motorcycles.
A really beautiful clear day - El Sombrero Azul

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Paints from Paper - Tremendous

One day, a little boy accompanied his mother to a meeting.  She gathered with friends to learn about a new sewing project.  He accompanied because he was too young to stay home alone.  The meeting took place in the Casa de Mujeres (Women's House - like a community center for women in the region) outside of a small town.  Inside and out, the walls of the house were painted in beautiful shades of purple.

The little boy felt comfortable in the house.  While the women studied the patterns and the sample Days for Girls washable feminine hygiene kits, the little boy ate his breakfast and did homework in a small notebook.  He was in second grade.

The women were focused on their project.  The little boy was bored.  He started to create his own fun.  He grabbed a few colorful streamers off of the wall - remnants from the Day of the Woman celebration a few days earlier.  The streamers became flying dragons with long flowing tails and mouths breathing fire.  "Stop running around," someone said.  The mother agreed that was enough.

The little boy borrowed a ruler and measured the streamers.  After a while he disappeared.  He was busy for a long time.

"Want to see what I made?" he asked. He unwrapped a small white towel (which formerly held his breakfast) to reveal four, small, clear, knotted bags.   "Which one would you like?  This one looks like jocote," he said, pointing to the light colored one.  "This one looks like black raspberry and this one has the tint of wine.  I will charge $1 for the wine because it is the darkest, and also for the berry.  Fiifty cents for the lighter ones."

The little boy pretended to market his products.  "Bags of tinta (ink or paint), one dollar," he sang out.  "Do you think I could trick my friends?" he asked.  "This one looks like jello and I could say it is.  Then my friend would taste it and say 'yuck!' That might not be too funny."

"This boy is tremendous," one lady remarked.  She smiled.  She meant "bothersome" or maybe "too energetic."  True, he did yank down a few streamers.

"Yes, his creativity is tremendous," the visitor suggested.  It seemed quite incredible to the visitor that this little boy knew how to make water color paint from crepe paper streamers.  The boy was busy writing.

"In case you want to know how to make paints from paper, I wrote the process down for you," the little boy told the visitor.  He presented the visitor with instructions, clearly written in pencil on a white napkin:  Indications for paper in water.  Pass 1 meter in clean water and leave it in the water and after, move it [around] until you get the color [you want] and measure it into clear bags.  With the instructions, the boy included a meter of red and a meter of blue.

"You can use one color alone or mix them together," he said.  "That's how you get the wine color."

By the end of the morning, the women had learned how to sew the pieces of the Days for Girls kits, and were making plans for future sewing days.  The little boy changed his shirt and was ready for school.  Four small bags of paint were safely wrapped in a small white towel and tucked into the bottom of his backpack.  A white napkin and a few streamers were tucked into the visitor's purse.