07 February 2012

Closing of Service

Hey everybody back home,
My flight is set for Friday, February 17. Just a week and a half away!
I added some photos to shutterfly, and the rest I´ll take care of when I get home. There are more on the website than on facebook. The address is
In the meantime I´m translating for an Eye Care Campaign tomorrow and Thursday and wrapping things up in my community. Then next week I have my last meetings with the bosses and turn in all my paperwork. It´s been a lot to do in a little time, but I´m nearly there.
I´m excited to see yall again!

17 January 2012


As some of you have already heard from Mom, they're sending me home a little early. El Salvador and its neighboring countries have serious problems with gangs, and there was a big security incident recently in Honduras, so it affects us too. They're likely closing PC in Honduras, and they're reorganizing PC here and in Guatemala, so they're sending my group home a month early and possibly giving the other volunteers who have more time remaining in their service the option of going to another country. They don't know yet when a new group of volunteers will come here.
What all this means is that my last day is February 16, and I will probably fly home that day or the 17th. It also means that I have a month to finish a ton of paperwork and say my goodbyes. I'm in the capital currently for the Close of Service Medical exam. It was just really sudden. I was hoping to get one last visit to San Vicente in, to meet my host sister's baby. I was also hoping to see the first mangos ripen, but it's unlikely. And last time I was at home I donated all my old winter clothes, and it will still be cold when I get off the plane. Oh well, as they're so fond of saying home, that's the way it is.
At the same time I'm excited about being at home and moving on to the next thing. I just have a lot on my plate right now. Good thing I turned in my last grad school application right before the Close of Service Conference, just in time for them to spring this news.
I look forward to seeing you all in a month!

19 November 2011

Time flies, or so they tell me

Hey blog readers,
Sorry I´ve been MIA. I went home for a little while, got stuck in my house for a week during a torrential downpour, and have since been busy. Most of my time at the internet cafe has been sucked up by grad school apps.
Classes end here on Wednesday. Finally!
My time here is coming to an end. Peace Corps has given us a window during March and April during which to leave. The elections for mayors across the country are Sunday, March 11. I´m aiming to be home before them, so we´re looking at the first week. Just a little over three months left!
Happy early Thanksgiving!

02 August 2011

big adventure

Out of the blue, the director of the NGO whose website I translated a few months ago called me up and asked if I´d translate for an event. He said it was a big deal, that the ambassador was going to be there and some people were going to sign an accord. Sure, I said, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. It was huge! They had it in this old theater in Gotera, the department capital of Morazan, where I live, and it was packed. A whole bunch of important government people showed up too.
What was the event and why did they need an interpreter? Montgomery County, Maryland (suburban DC) and my department (state) signed an agreement to be "sister cities," although neither, of course, is a city. So my community got to see me on the news. I hope it wasn´t obvious how nervous I was.
Just as exciting to me, although maybe not to everyone else here, my neighbors cat had kittens and her granddaughter named one Dulce after my puppy. AAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWW, too cute! My own Dulce is doing well. She´s as goofy as ever. She tried to bury a rawhide under me in my sleep the other night.
The first week in August means vacation here. I´m still not entirely sure why. It´s the patron saint festivities for the world´s savior, is what they say, but I don´t understand why Jesus gets saint stuff. Besides, there´s already Christmas and Easter. Whatever, it means I don´t have to go to the school this week.

19 July 2011


You´ll be happy to hear that the dengue epidemic has calmed down in my community. No, not everybody´s doing their part and keeping the house free of mosquito larva. It seems that the fumigation did kill the adult mosquitos that were carrying dengue, though, and hopefully they didn´t lay too many eggs. They did six rounds of fumigation in the whole community plus one that they call control of the focus when one more case appeared. It´s been a week now since any more fever cases have appeared, so maybe it´s over.
So now I have a breather. It´s been a fairly calm rainy season so far, but soon it will be August and hurricane season. I´ve got a decent stash of books going for when it rains for a week straight. It did rain a lot, though, during the patron saint festivities in my community, which was a bummer. Mostly they ignored it, but I was not so inclined. It´s sinking ankle deep in the mud/cow poop mixture that really gets to me.
I miss you! Come and visit any time!

07 June 2011

long explanation

In order to better explain what´s going on in my site, I´m going to back up and give an overview of the water collection system. It´s something that you get so used to around here that you forget how odd it would seem if you had never lived in a place where you couldn´t open your faucet any time of the day, any day of the week and expect water to fall.
Outside of the capital, it is rare that people have access to water all of the time. A lot of people in the rural areas still have to leave their home to wash in the river and collect drinking water. In fact, my community only installed a water project within the last few years. The source will dry up, though, if everybody´s allowed to have water all day, so water is released at a certain time of the day. It comes for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the time of year, with more coming now because it´s rainy season. You collect the water in bottles to drink and cook, and the rest falls in whatever receptacle you have (i.e. barrels or pilas, which are like big cement blocks) for washing. This of course solves the problem of not having water available all day, but creates other problems. The big one? Mosquitos. Mosquitos lay their eggs in still water. Plus it´s raining now, so all that inorganic trash is also collecting water.
Until recently, the Ministry of Health bought a type of powdered pesticide that they gave to the health promotors to distribute so that people could put it in their barrels or pila to kill the mosquito larvae, but this year they decided it was up to every family to maintain their pila/barrel clean. It sucks, but at the same time, the pesticide wasn´t 100% effective, and it only kills the larvae, so any more developed mosquitos require fumigation. So what are your options? You can keep fish in there, which eat the larvae. You can keep your water covered when you´re not using it. You can also scrub your receptacle every week with bleach.
So do people do that? Honestly, not many. A lot of them just complain that the ministry isn´t buying the pesticide powder anymore. Where does that leave us in my community? Four confirmed cases of dengue and at least seven more suspected, and all this in a community that hasn´t seen a case in three years.
What´s dengue? It´s a virus spread by a certain type of mosquito (not the same that carries malaria). It´s characterized by fever, headache, joint pain, and rash. There are two main types, classic and hemorrhagic, both of which include four strains, so in theory, if you were really unlucky, you could get dengue a total of eight times in your life. There is no vaccine, only prevention. For the past week, my health promotor and professionals from the public health clinic in my municipality have been working in my community to contain the outbreak. They´ve fumigated every house twice and will do a third round on Thursday to kill the rest of the adult mosquitos. They´ve checked every barrel and pila in San Juan, draining those with adolescent mosquitos and emphasizing the need to maintain your pila clean. They´ve interviewed everybody who´s had a fever in the last two weeks and taken blood samples from those who possibly have dengue. It´s been hectic!
All that being said, don´t worry about me. I´ve actually never felt better.
I´ll sign off now. If you made it this far, you´re probably tired of reading!

21 May 2011

moving along

Hey everybody, I hope life is treating you well in the states!
I´m doing pretty well. The recyclying project is painfully slow. Old habits die hard, right? At the very least I get to recycle, which makes me happy.
The big news is the success of my exercise class. "WHAT?!" you say. First I picked up jump rope last summer as a way to exercise on my own, in my house, without stares and catcalling. Then when I was at home I found these yoga/pilates/kickboxing/aerobics videos in the $1 section at Target, so I brought a few back. For a while the women in my community have been asking me how I shed some weight because obesity, and diet related diseases, are a huge problem here, particularly among the women. So I´ve been tossing around the idea for a while of giving classes, but I wasn´t sure how it would go over. I called a meeting of all the women, and they were so tickled! I have a small turn out, but a few regulars who really like it. So now I have exercise buddies, and I enjoy this project so much more than working in the school.
Ugh, the school. The principal´s such a creep, and the teachers are almost entirely unmotivated. The students and I get a long, but I work mostly with middle school aged students, so they like me individually, but they never want to participate in a group class. On top of universal pre-teen issues, they are SO incredibly shy. They sit in class copying from the board, never being asked to participate, and they literally freak out when I ask them to speak. That school is such a mess on every level. It´s heart-breaking.
What else? I participate in this theater/skit group when I get the chance. It´s a group of volunteers who travel and perform, and the kids love it because it´s goofy and it means a group of weird white people invade their community briefly. It´s also something they would never do themselves because they´re way too shy, so I think they appreciate that we have no shame.
Lastly, we celebrated Mother´s Day this month, which is a huge deal here. I´ll try to put some photos up soon.
Love y'all!

11 April 2011

one year in...

That´s right, everyday I have less time here. One year in, one year older (24).
I thought I would address a question Mom posed in her last letter. "Is it hard to get people to recycle here?"
YES. Change is always hard, isn´t it, and habit is always easy. In my experience, Salvadorans are very good at reusing. They´ll take things that I would consider useless and find a use for them. However, once something is considered trash, it´s often just tossed. The thing is, it´s too expensive to get trash pick up in the rural areas, so options are limited. Additionally, there´s the cultural element, which is that they often don´t even see the trash, whereas I see a beautiful country covered with garbage. It´s so sad to see people throw trash out the bus window, but it´s even sadder to see it in the community. It´s as though once they drop that piece of garbage at the soccer field, it´s not there. They really don´t notice it or think it´s gross. So yes, this recycling project is going to be difficult, but there is a family in my community that has realized the economic potential of recycling, and I´m working with them to get the project going in the school. Plus I promised to take the kids who bring the most recyclable stuff on a field trip. Slowly but surely people are starting to change their habits. I hope the kids bring a lot, especially plastics. The thing is, with no garbage collection, when you tell people not to just toss the stuff in the river, their option becomes burning, which is one thing when we talk about paper, but horrible (and smelly) when it´s plastic.
In other news, I passed my mid service med exams with flying colors, and I´m going back to the capital this week for some relaxation in the air conditioning and a late birthday celebration. Then it´s Holy Week, when nobody does anything but rest, go to church, and eat.

24 March 2011

Time´s flying!

In February I celebrated a year in country. Now, this Sunday marks one year ago that I got to site! Some days seem longer than others, but then I look up and so much time has gone by, and lately I´ve been really busy.
A couple weeks ago I went back to San Vicente because my older host sister got married. I put a bunch of photos on facebook, so check them out! It was my first wedding here and a lot of fun. I was thinking, though, that I´ve never been to a Catholic wedding in the states. I wonder what the similarities are. I know the Catholic Church here, and in Latin America in general, is pretty different in some aspects from the church in the states.
Earlier this week I went to my nearest neighboring volunteer´s site to help him put on a skit. It´s this PC El Salvador theater project called ¨Gringuisimo.¨ He posted a clip of the video on youtube, and there´s a link on facebook. It´s in Spanish, though.
Then this weekend I´m taking my English teacher to a workshop on teaching methodology that the PC TEFL guy is hosting in Perquin, this town north of me (almost to Honduras) that is famous for being a center of activity during the war. The hotel where we´re staying also happens to be where I watched Obama get elected in 2008!
Speaking of which, he came to ES this week! No, I didn´t get invited to meet him. If only.
Finally, next week is my mid-service medical exam. Not so fun, but a few friends are doing it with me. I´m going to call it my birthday celebration because I won´t have a chance to do anything on my actual 24th.
I almost forgot projects. The recycling project is finally moving along. The Life Planning/Sex ed project with the older students is going so-so. English too. The website translation is still incomplete, and in fact they´ve added to the site even since I started. It´s huge! The NGO has also offered me more work since then, and I´m debating accepting the offer. It certainly was not what I wanted when I joined PC; I wanted to live, work, and learn in a community. With my community being the way it is, though, it´s nice that I´ve been offered projects outside, and it feels good to know they think highly of me and the work I´ve done for them so far. Not that my community doesn´t appreciate me. They love me, and I love them! Community integration has never been my issue here. It´s the work/projects. It´s hard to explain.
Thanks to everyone at home for the care packages! Getting mail is the best!

18 February 2011

I got busy all of a sudden!

Wow, classes started, and then out of nowhere I started getting invited to stuff out of site every week, so I´ve been crazy busy! I´m doing a Life Planning course this year with the older students (7-9 grade, the third cycle as they call it). I´m also giving English courses, and I´m feeling pretty good about them at this point. Besides, they´re so appreciated in my community. I think most people in San Juan wouldn´t care if the only thing I did for two years was teach English in the school. I´m also working on getting a recycling project going to clean up the community and make a little money for the school, but it´s hit a few hiccups. It´ll work out, but it (like everything else around here) is taking longer than I thought.
An NGO (non-governmental organization, basically what we think of as a non-profit) asked me to translate their website into English, and that´s going to be a huge project. Here´s a link. I´m not sure if you´ll be able to follow the link to the English version when they start posting the translations, but we´ll see. Eventually they´d like to get status in the US so they can receive tax-deductible donations from you all to help fund school infraestructure projects and scholarships in the department (state) of Morazan!
On February 3, we (my training class) celebrated a year in country! We rented a beach house for two nights, then went to the capital to watch the Super Bowl. Then last week I visited a friend for her fiestas patronales, which is when a community celebrates their patron saint. And today I´m returning from visiting another friend and helping her with her Environment Day, kicking off her recycling project. Busy busy!
As always, I hope yall are well. It should be warming up soon, but if it´s not soon enough, come visit! Highs are in the 90s, and it´s only going to get hotter until the rain comes in May!