Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Accion de Gracias

I had one of the best Thanksgiving dinners in a long time. Ironically, it was not even in the United States. I thought that being in another country would make Thanksgiving come and go making me feel sad and homesick. Totally not the case and here is why:

El Salvador has this awesome program where volunteers get to stay the night with an American embassy family for Thanksgiving. I had the pleasure of staying 3 nights with an awesome family – downright amazing. The father of the family is a returned volunteer from Costa Rica, paul, (where he met his lovely wife Patricia) who now works for USAID. We also met their lovely daughter Rachel who is joining peace corps this summer in Africa! What a family! They were so wonderful and welcoming that I felt like I was home in an American house – complete with hot showers, delicious American food, air conditioning, and super comfy beds! It was such a nice break after training to enjoy all of this and feel rejuvenated enough to head back to our sites afterwards. Although it was also challenging because I never wanted to leave. The family was so incredible I really have to thank them again – as they even offered to let us stay whenever we need to in the capital. Great, great family. I feel so blessed to have met them this Thanksgiving.

But I have not even told you why the Thanksgiving was so good. First, it contained all the traditional American fixings meaning turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, rolls, wine, and desserts. Also, I ate turkey and bacon for the first time in so many years. WOW! Delicious. Vegetarianism? Huh? Just kidding. Sort of. The food was even better because I got to share it with my new embassy family, my two favorite other volunteers Tricia and Kara (my rocks here), and about 20 Salvadorans who were there to hear the story of Thanksgiving and celebrate with us. Thanksgiving in Spanish and it felt so good, especially when we told the history of the holiday. It is such a glorious holiday. I love it.

After dinner, we sang KAROKE! And danced the night away. Words cannot describe how cool this was, so I am going to include some pictures (mostly stolen from Kara, thanks girl<3).

My best girls and I hanging in the mall before Thanksgiving.

Food :)

Karoke - Livin' La Vida Loca

Friends<3New and Old.

post script: I also would like to report that I went in Starbucks and there was Xmas music playing. I just about died of happiness.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Training Done

My time in San Vicente is officially over. We finished our technical training last Friday with a fun game and sports day, which was designed to help us with preparing camps and organizing sports events for kids and communities. Hands down one of my favorite days because we played lots of sports – naturally. Backing up though, I have to recap at least the highlights for training part dos.

Overall, training is long, tiring, and draining both mentally and emotionally. I am sure I said this in my posts leading up to training and during pre service training, but it is true. I think this time was harder though because we had no free time whatsoever and all of the sessions (most of) were so applicable to our sites that it made it imperative to really be listening and paying attention. We had sessions on everything but some of my favorites include: making arts and crafts including piñatas, bracelets, purses, the sports, learning about getting stoves, letrines, and potable water, as well as the session on making shampoo, disinfectant, and hair gel. I also really enjoyed the lectures on teaching business courses and how to help kids here plan for the future. I hope to use these ideas in my site, especially the arts and crafts ones. But that is a lot of information to grasp and understand all in a two week period, so it really is overwhelming just thinking about how to apply these ideas in site.

But as I continue to complain about training, I also have to talk about the absolutely wonderful breaks we had. We had quite a few field trips (including a fun interactive children’s museum with bubbles!) and hotel stays not only in the capital but also in the western part of the country near Ataco. We stayed in this amazing hotel where the rooms are like log cabins in the woods and they are surrounded by beautiful flowers. The cabins have all you need including standard bathrooms, televisions, nice big beds, and a full on kitchen area. But I am not sure why you would use the kitchen area. Dios mio, the food was to die for. We had big plates of pasta, giant pancakes, warm bread with herb butter, and much more. It was like heaven on earth. I was sad that it was only one night, but luckily we have a training session there in May, so I will return soon!

Unfortunately, I had the terrible experience of coming back from this lovely paradise and seeing a dead body in the road. A man got shot in the street as we were driving in our car back to the capital. I won’t go into too many details because it was a horrible sight that I would not want any one to see. The worst part is that my boss driving the car just brushed it off like it was no big deal. It makes sense given he has grown up in a country with daily homicide rate of 16 (keep in mind Massachusetts is the same size and averages 2 a day). I feel so bad that he has grown accustomed to seeing dead bodies in the street. No one should get used to that. Ever.

I am going to end the sad part and move on to recapping the end of training. After all the field trips we just finished up in San Vicente with more lectures and then more Spanish class. Although I was incredibly tired, I was really happy to get some extra class time. I needed to work on some more advanced Spanish topics and now I realize how terribly I have been speaking. I just hope I continue to improve. I got a lot of compliments in San Vicente about my Spanish and how far I have come, so it felt really good to hear that. I just don’t want to stop improving now that I don’t have any more formal classes to go to.

Okay I need to go and write my Thanksgiving recap. Look out for that post!


post script: remember the hair cut I mentioned:

Yes, those are the giant pancakes I mentioned :)

Always when possible donate your hair to Locks of Love. You can do it all the way from El Salvador. :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Training Round 2

Remember San Vicente? Remember San Esteban Catarina? Well, I am back for training part two. I do not have much to report in the sense that it is going to interest you all. It is more interesting for me. We are learning about all the stuff we could potentially do in our sites. Yes, the really useful information we have all been dying for this entire time. Anything from how to make pinatas to how to teach English to how to work with your local community organization to make it stronger. These are wonderfully amazing sessions. The only downside to training is that it is so long and tiring. Additionally, it has already been one of the most overwhelming experiences thus far. And here's why:

You are presented with tons of really cool ideas that you would love to see in your site. It looks so great in a powerpoint presentation given by a volunteer who has been here for 1 year and is super confident and awesome. *Intimidating* Then they present just how hard it was to get done, everything that went wrong (welcome to El Salvador), and then how hard it is to get money. *Damn*

I keep reminding myself how long and hard development is and to just try and slow down my thoughts. My community still needs to get to know me and I still need to get to know them. We still need to talk more about priorities and figure out what things are sustainable out there in the boonies.

On the upside of training--it is amazing to see my friends, hang out with my old host family, and eat everything I don't have access to in the campo (rural countryside). Although, everyone here just keeps telling me how fat I have gotten since I left, which is just fantastic for the self confidence. I try to remind myself that Salvadorans love to say that you even if it is not true (although it probably is) and love the idea that you are bigger in general. But in my American I want to be skinny mind frame (yes I will admit it) it just sucks. But I am also being told that my Spanish has improved so much, which if I am fatter because I have been sitting in houses, eating pan dulce, and talking in Spanish for hours it is all good. Right...perfectly justified.. Moving on...

The other upside of training is that we do have a few field trips planned, a few hotel stays, and the end includes Thanksgiving at the Embassy!, and our Swearing in party. LOTS OF FUN! So it is all going to be worth it in the end.

Love to all<3

post script: getting my first hair cut on next Sunday....let's see how it goes...maybe ill do before and after shots :)