Saturday, October 29, 2011

General Assembly

Oh, the General Assembly or Assemblea General - the pinnacle of a volunteer's first six weeks in site. It is a required meeting for every volunteer to officially present themselves to the entire community, explain peace Corps (my letter p is broken on my computer, sorry), explain Youth and Family Wellbeing (my program), the results of our community diagnostic and what we plan to do in the community in the future. It is also one of the official staff visits where one of your program managers comes to watch and help the meeting as well by answering additional questions. Also in attendance were my lovely neighbors (other volunteers) - Anna, Jesse, and Drew. Although, I will admit they actually made me the most nervous. I don't know why but I feel the most nervous talking Spanish in front of other volunteers because they are so good at it and well I am just...

*But I have to add here that my neighbors (while making me nervous) at the same time also made me feel so much better- giving me high encouragement beforehand and praise afterwards- so I am eternally grateful that I live next to some awesome volunteers.*

I spent the entire morning leading up to the meeting pacing around the school and practicing my presentation. (Insert a lot of sweating and bright red cheeks). Nonetheless, we began around 9:45. It was supposed to start at 9:30, but I told all the Salvadorans 9 because, well, time here is just a little bit different. I would post what I said but it is in Spanish and I don't really feel like translating it all into English at this moment. So, here is a rough outline of my agenda and a short explanation of what I did:

Welcome/Introductions- I introduced myself, my community guides, Hector (boss - man), and the other volunteers, and thanked everyone for coming.

An exercise- AHHAHA please do not judge me but I did a breathing / stress relieving exercise. Here is my rationale-- here during my health survey I realized that people here really suffer from headaches and stress related health problems. Unfortunately to handle this, they constantly pop pills or sit outside closed clinics waiting for a doctor who will never show up. So, I did a breathing exercise to teach them, but also to help me calm down before my presentation--two birds with one stone. Score! I think it went over well. haha

About Me-self explanatory

What is peace Corps? What is Youth and Family Wellbeing? -google it
Community Diagnostic- I explained that I went around to houses collecting data, asked people around the community, and simple observed as well.

Results- Biggest community needs in general: permanent doctor/nurse/working clinic, all the kids in school, activities for the kids after school (they are always super bored), help the kids plan for the future, help with English teaching in the school, and help with facilitating community organizations to benefit the youth.

Ideas/Your Ideas- basically my ideas of health programs, youth programs after school in areas of their own interest, and my cooperation with the existing community organizations and forming new ones as needed.

Questions and Answers- Hector explaining more about my role and answering questions

Of course after this I served rice with milk and cookies because you always have to have something for people to eat.

I feel very happy about the way it turned out. The meetings in the morning are usually really tough because people are busy preparing for the day and working, so I was really satisfied with my turn out. Heck, I was just happy people came and listened. They also seemed to really love the photos of me and my discussion of my life back home in the states. So, I am feeling good about it.

After my meeting, I went to another new volunteer's meeting - Drew- who lives about 45 minutes away. His was awesome! He had a full house. I was really impressed with his turn out. I am also jealous because he was able to schedule his meeting at the same time as a uniform distribution. I really wish I could have done that too. But Drew would have had tons of people regardless, since he is just a rock star worker.

Following the meeting, Anna spent two nights here and then I went back with her to her site on Thursday and stayed until Friday. It was a great visit in general with her, especially because I just had a week of stress leading up to my meeting. So I was so happy to go to her house, have a girls night, eat peanut butter, and do our nails (and other things like that). I did also do some work in that I saw her teach English and dance classes all day in the school, which really helped me visualize myself teaching.

Now I am about to go to the graveyard with my host family to clean some tombs. Here November 1 and 2 are the Dias de Los Muertos where you put tons of flowers on the graves of those who have passed away. Therefore, we are in preparation mode. Following this I am going to visit one of my favorite houses and work on the scholarship application for high school with two of the girls in town.

I have a week left in site before I go to San Vicente for the second part of training. I cannot believe that I am heading back already. I am excited to see my host family there, my fellow trainees, spend some time in an urban area with more access to everything, and also finish with my final part of training. But at the same time I am really sad to be leaving my community and my family here. I feel like I am in Upire mode out here in rural El Salvador and I don't really want to lose that mentality. I am also really going to miss my family and kids in the school out here. But I shall return ready and able to finally work! So that is the most exciting part! :)

Time to clean some tombs. My love to all...

Friday, October 21, 2011


I wish I could end my lack of blogging streak with a more creative title, post, or even something more interesting to talk about, but unfortunately I cannot. I know I have not blogged in a long time which would typically indicate that I would have something awesome to report. However, the amount of rain has clouded my ability to remember anything else but the never ending freezing cold rain. I will stop the complaining now because this rain that I am referring to has been devastating - leaving thousands people hungry, homeless, and without all of their belongings (including the loss of their crops). So, I will take this time now to be grateful that I live high up here in the mountains in El Salvador and we have escaped this storm relatively unscathed. We are just suffering from icy cold temperatures, a lack of dry clothing, wet/muddy streets, a lack of ability to leave or do anything, cabin fever, and some electricity loss.

Did I mention the cabin fever? Yes, because I think as an American (or just my type A personality) with my constant need to be doing something, the cabin fever has been the worst. We literally have not left our house in about a week. I have done nothing but watch television, read, eat, and sleep. Classes have been canceled all week. And no one really has done much of anything.

At first I thought this was all a little bit of an exaggeration. Canceling classes all week for some rain? But then the reality of the rain and just how debilitating it is here has finally sunk in. I think in my American mind frame there is nothing wrong with a little bit of rain - and even with a lot of rain - generally a lot of business still goes on. But here the situation is very very different. Literally everything shuts down. But I think I can see why: it is not just a little bit of rain like we normally think of it. This is all day all night down pouring. Then on top of that there are no paved roads in my site which means endless mud, landslides, and the inability to go anywhere (of course, kids can't walk to school, buses can't get here, etc). I also have to point out here that none of us had any clothes for the longest time. Now I know this also seems a bit of an odd reason to not do anything, but seriously when you have no clean, dry clothes, can you actually go anywhere? Not really. So, I am actually beginning to understand the seriousness of "a little bit of rain" and just how big of an impact the weather can truly have.

*Here I have to add how point out how amazing it is in the United States the capacity we have to deal with natural disasters (usually) in a really effective way that does not completely shut down the entire country. I also have to mention my love for our paved roads too!*

Because of these things, I think in the United States the weather is sort of an afterthought at times. Yeah, we check it out to see how to dress sometimes, but is it really that big of a deal? We can so easily change our indoor environment to make us more comfortable (a/c, heat, etc). Here the houses are open and the water will get everywhere. Even more importantly when the weather hurts the food supply of a few farmers in the area, everyone suffers. It is truly devastating and I am finally beginning to understand the reason why Salvadorans will talk to you about the weather all day, everyday, multiple times a day! It is truly something to talk about.

Fortunately, I think we have reached the end of the storm. Gracias a Dios!

Yes, this Atheist just thanked God. That is a whole different post, but I have to add here that when you live as I do in an Evangelical community and there is something like this occurring in the country, you have no choice but to pray. And pray we do. However, I actually do not mind the praying. I actually find it to be a very peaceful event. I like when people come together to talk about how much they appreciate one another. I think we can all do more of that even if we are not religious.

I hope everyone is warm and dry in the states. I promise to actually update on my life soon with more to talk about than the rain!