Monday, March 22, 2010

My site!

So my official home for the next two years is in El Angel, San Antonio, Pajonal, Santa Ana. Google it and Google earth it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

This is the life!

So time for a blog. This blogging thing is a lot harder said than done. You have to sit down and reflect over thoughts and events. But here it goes. A lot has happened in the last couple of weeks. Us trainees had a “free day” last weekend so we decided to make the best out of it and go to the beach! When I say “free day” I meant it is like the one day in our training schedule where we don’t have an activity/Spanish class/charla (its like an interactive lecture/discussion)/technical session/etc. Essentially, our schedule is just overwhelming and it was really nice to be able to take a “mini” vacation. Being that El Salvador is a TINY country, we got to the beach in an hour. We got up early Saturday to make the most of our day, thus the drinking started early  Let me remind during training alcohol has been outlawed due to past trainees abusing alcohol. Someone always ruins it for the rest of us! Anyways, the beach was awesome. The coast of El Salvador has black sand, presumably from the Volcanoes and the ocean is a deep blue monster, literally. The waves were crazy, good for surfers, not so much us who wanted just to enjoy the waves. Also our beach was covered in rocks so our feet got a beating. Other than that, it was awesome. When night fell, the beach turned into a crazy party with drummers, fire dancers, and lots of dancing! The next day I spent some much needed time in a hammock overlooking the ocean. I can’t complain!

Training is going by fast! We are swearing in like two weeks, and which point I will be an official Peace Corps volunteer in El Salvador. So where am I going? Good question. Like most of the application process, and getting to this point, the Peace Corps likes to leave you in suspense. I have received clues about my future home for the next two years, but no word as of yet. This Thursday, March 18th we are getting our site placements, and that day could not come soon enough! I say this because I have seen several volunteer sites now and have my current host family’s situation to consider, but with the location, several factors and amenities vary. What do I mean by this? Glad you asked. For example will my site have running water? Or will I have to trek down to a river, only to haul it back a couple of times? Will I have electricity? Or will the solared powered items I brought really be of great use? Will I be close to other volunteers? Or will I be far away? Will I be close to a bus stop? Or will I have to hike to get there? Will I live up in the mountains or by the beach? Will it be dusty and hot or just hot? Will I have cell phone service or will I have to travel or climb up a tree to receive your phone call? The LIST goes on. A lot of things to be thinking about for somewhere I will live the next two years of my life. Last year I was trying to decide what to do for work and this year I am just trying to have running water! But I am finally starting to get accustomed to life here, and I don’t think I would trade this for a life in the states right now. Here every day is different and sometimes don’t know where it will lead me, can’t say that about life in Dallas. Don’t quote me on that just yet! It’s still early!

So ladies, I have something to say about Latino men, or maybe its just the Salvadoran men. The Machismo is outta control. Seriously. Men here think they are god’s gift to women, and they don’t waste any time time telling you that. You walk down the street and it’s “e baby, how you doin” (by the way, the only English they know), or kissing and or hissing sounds, mamasita, etc….some get more vulgar. And I really don’t mind them, because I get to walk Noaway. What I do mind is the machismo in the culture. Cook my food, clean my clothes, lay on your back so I can impregnate you till there’s nothing left, and you get the idea. Women look and are VERY tired here. They definitely get the short end of the stick. And if this is the case, there is no way I am ever dating one of them! They have another thing coming if they think I am going to cook, let alone wash their clothes! I don’t even like washing my own clothes! And who knows, maybe my soul mate is a Salvadoran, but at this point, it’s very unlikely.

Tomorrow I am going to build houses in a town that was affected by the mudslides last November. So that should be interesting. I just won’t let know I have no idea what I am doing!

Monday, March 1, 2010

49th Anniversary of Peace Corps

I discovered this on of my friend's blogs, so I thought I would share it with you all.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 1, 2010

Since 1961, the men and women of the Peace Corps have carried forward our finest traditions of service and embodied the United States’ commitment to forging partnerships and solving problems around the world. Today more than 7,600 Peace Corps volunteers from all fifty states serve in 76 countries, putting their skills and efforts to work on behalf of others. They follow in the footsteps of generations of dedicated volunteers whose hard work has changed lives, created new opportunities, and deepened understanding between cultures. Their example has inspired millions of other Americans to serve their communities through organizations here at home such as Americorps and Teach for America. And for many, the Peace Corps has been the start of a life-long commitment to service and engagement with the world. The State Department and USAID are filled with returned Peace Corps volunteers who draw on their experiences to serve our country and help build a more peaceful and prosperous world.

On this anniversary, we honor the nearly 200,000 Americans who have answered the challenge first laid down by John F. Kennedy a half-century ago and volunteered in the Peace Corps. Let us recommit ourselves to the vision they championed, the example they set and the work they began.

Immersion Weekend

This past weekend, all of us trainees went to go visit volunteers around the country to see what life is like for a volunteer in their respective sites. This was the first experience here in which we traveled by ourselves. Yikes! And we went in ALL directions to get to our destinations. It wasn't as bad as I thought it could be. Some people traveled as much as eight hours to meet up with their volunteers for the weekend. No way, right?! El Salvador is such a tiny country! Yes, it is a tiny country, the size of Massachusetts actually, but not all the roads are in great condition and a lot have to go through the mountains which takes a lot more time than needed. Also there are not highways that connect all the departments together, so just because it might be a short distance kilometer/mile wise, its not necessarily relative to how much time it actually takes to get to places here in El Salvador. Fortunately for me, I only had a four hour bus ride, only having to change buses once, when I passed through the capital. Some people had to take up to seven buses! What a hassle!

I went to go visit a volunteer that has been here a year up in northern El Salvador. I went up to the northern department of Chalatenango to a pueblo called La Palma. Departments are like states (there are 14) and pueblos are like towns. There are few big cities, mainly the capital San Salvador. Then outside pueblos, there are cantons, which are like suburbs and then within those cantons, there are casarios, which are like neighborhoods within those suburbs. So it goes pueblo --> canton--> casario. My volunteer, Heather lived in a casario not too far outside La Palma, but far enough she has to take a bus to get in and out of town. She is also binded by the time the bus takes its last route to her casario, so she can get back home. So she could be in the pueblo as late as 4:30 pm and still get back home. Sigh. People go to bed early here. As rural health volunteers, Peace Corps places us in "rural" areas, hence the name. Casarios are typically the more rural areas to live, because they lack civilization and a majority of them lack basic public services (ie running water, electricity, cell phone service etc). Here in El Salvador, we call it "el campo", the countryside. The department of Chalatenango is essentially covered in Mountainous landscape, which was so beautiful. I wouldn't mind be placed there, as living in the mountains with beautiful views could suit me very well. Not to mention the weather! Let me just say how awesome it was to be in El Salvador and for the first time not sweat my ass off all day! Where Heather lived, the weather was super fresco (cool) and had such a nice breeze, mostly because we were at a higher altitude. It was very nice and relaxing. I even needed to use a jacket to keep warm! The reason I even mention the weather is because were I am currently living for training is located in a valley in central El Salvador and it's super HOT here and super humid. It gets to be in the 90s every day but where I spend the weekend, it only got up to 75!

The first night I was there, I spent the night with a family in her casario (about 100 houses to give you a better feel of the area) that she recommended I stay with for my campo experience. Their house was very RURAL! Ten people to a two room house, one of which had two queen size beds for all of them! I slept on a bed put in the front room, pretty sure I took someone's sleeping spot. It was totally Gringo TV. After seeing how much they could make me eat, literally, they all stared at me and waited for me to talk. So that was interesting and a lot of the time awkward. Welcome to the Peace Corps, and to remember this is what I signed up for! I am sure with time and integration in my future site, there will be less awkward moments and more meaningful moments.

Because they are such a big and poor family, all of them work out in the fields with their parents. They are just finishing up coffee season, and what that involves is going out and picking the coffee and filling up barrels. Let me remind you that most people do not own their own land, so it's like a co-op for parts of the land and they pay to have a part. So everyone works the fields. That is their life. After coffee season is over, it will be cane sugar season, and they will work those fields. A big problem I came across while visiting with this family is that the coffee they are able to sell has to go through so many middle men that by the end, they don't profit as much as they should. They get $1 dollar for every barrel. And all of the time, they are hiking up and down these mountains, usually wearing sandals of some sort, carrying these barrels full of coffee beans. And these people are some hardworking individuals. They go to bed at eight, only to rise at four. They work seven days a week. I don't know if I could do it! But then again, if this is the only life I knew, maybe it would be satisfying.

The next day I went with Heather and she introduced her community to me. Everyone was super nice and everyone wanted to feed me! She says the trick to gaining "confianza" in your community (meaning trust so they will want to work with you) is to say hi and to everyone and accept all food that is presented to you! Good thing she lives in the mountains and she is always hiking! While I was also there, she did a charla at her school about a stove project she is working on. These stoves produce little smoke by their construction and use little wood. These stoves are so great and they will help with all the respiratory conditions people get for standing over the fire, cooking. They only cost 30 dollars and already are gaining popularity. Overall, I got a really good feel for the daily life of a volunteer. Things move very slowly and it takes a lot of time to get anything done! Which is ok because I have two years! Overall really good immersion weekend. I feel less anxious that I did before, and now I just need to cross my fingers to get a good site! I need to prioritize amenities and lack there of. I think having running water is going to be the most important thing to acquire. Because if you do not have running water, you have to go and haul water back to your site. And the trek could be killer, like it is for some volunteers. Yup definitely think having water is better than having electricity, if it comes down to that.

Alright, well hope everyone is doing well and you all are enjoying the blog.

Paz y amor