My last post covered the magnificent Thanksgiving I had in the embassy house in the capital following a three week English intensive training session filled with my fellow gringos, hotel stays, new travel experiences, and much more access to lots of things! Imagine going from that back to campo life. One tough transition. I am not going to lie about this at all. I sat on my 8 hour bus ride back home to Upire thinking about how much it sucked to be returning. I did not want to leave the luxuriousness of the past three weeks. Luckily, my fellow NLU - er(northern La Union) Anna was with me ensuring me that life would go on. Thanks, as always, Anna! It only took me getting off the bus and seeing my community, my best friend here, and hugging my host dad and mom that I am reminded why I love where I live. I know it sounds cheesy and cliche and you are probably thinking that I am just saying this to make my blog sound happy and nice, but this is true: A wise friend once told me, "You don't realize how much a place is like home until you return to it." And it is so true. I love my community, my family, and how I came home to a plate of big tortillas, cheese, and avocado!
Since the great return I have spent a considerable amount of time getting to know everyone again. I know I was only gone for three weeks but I was still relatively new in the community so I really need to get back out there again and make my presence known. I started by visiting my favorite houses, attending all the meetings possible, and just being out and about more often. I am going to continue focusing on this for a long time and try not to worry about starting projects. I truly believe the best ideas and most sustainable ones are going to come after I finish learning everything I can and the people trust me enough to come to me with their own thoughts. Ideas are more sustainable when the people are involved in the beginning process of thought production.
Contrary to popular thought, I have been extremely busy in all of this since returning. I feel as though I have had little down time. It is mostly because I have been attending events left and right and I am going to do my best to capture them all here:
Ferias: My pal Jesse who lives about an 1.5 hour walk from me invited me to visit his community and attend his ferias (which is like a corny fair in the states). We got to see a little girl pageant show with them dancing and prancing around in beautiful dresses, which was so adorable until they made me decide the winner. Haha, nothing like putting all the pressure on the neighboring pcv. But it was all in good fun and they provided me with some other women to help me make the tough decision. After that Jesse and I just walked around, ate some carnival food, played some games, and rode the creepiest ferris wheel known to man. I saw scenes from final destination flashing before my eyes. I still hate him for making me ride. Strike that. No one can hate Jesse, but still it scared the living daylights out of me. He made up for it too by serving me a delicious peanut butter sandwich for dinner, so I guess I forgive him. :)
WYD Camp: Wyd is a program here in El Salvador that offers scholarships to both boy and girls to go to high school or college. I am attaching the web site link in the hopes that you will take a look. http://sites.google.com/site/becasforstudents/ If you are interested in sponsoring a student (or schools looking to fundraise??) or helping with the program in anyway, please contact me. Anyways that is enough of me asking for your money...haha. So, the volunteer before me, the awesome Brian, found two girls in Upire who deserved to go to high school but lacked the funds necessary. Just for a frame of reference: there is no high school in my site so kids either have to travel over an hour each way or find someone to live with an hour and a half or more away. This does not include the money for the uniform, materials, and other expenses involved. Thus, these scholarships give kids an opportunity to go when otherwise their families would just say "no," especially with kids who could otherwise be helping in the house or out in the fields working all day. I have two girls, Gladis and Idalia, who are in high school now with a scholarship and absolutely wonderful. This year I was in charge of renewing this application for each of them to remain a student by earning their scholarship another year (very difficult for me given I had to write recommendations etc in Spanish, but thank you Brian for all your help as I would have failed miserably without you) as well as bringing them to this year's WYD camp. This year's camp was in Suchitoto (a popular tourist destination here in the country) and included art and cultural events for all of the scholars as well two nice evenings in a hotel and great food!
Every event like this has positive and negative aspects and in the spirit of being completely honest I am going to recount both what I loved and what I loved a little bit less.
Loved: This camp was a wonderful opportunity for me to get to know my scholars better and really bond with them. I learned so much more about them, their families, their lives, their studies, as well as more about my community as well. It was also amazing to see them enjoy a wonderful event such as this: an event away from their hometown with other students where they get to experience art and culture and a special part of their country with other youth. On a personal level, I loved Suchitoto, spending time with my fellow volunteers, and getting a little "vacation" while working to get to travel and see a new part of the country. I also really loved the history of the war that we learned as well as the beautiful boat ride around the lake.
What I loved a little bit less: I want to put it out there that some of the things I am going to complain about are terrible but I have to be honest. First, this trip cost me a lot of money (relative to a peace corps budget). (This is the part I feel most bad about. I really hate that I am going to complain about spending a huge chunk of my own money to bring two girls who would otherwise never see Suchitoto to this camp. This makes me feel so guilty that I am so bothered by using my money for them. Here I am in Youth Development but I am complaining about having to bring these girls to camp? ) Here is the best way I can rationalize it: I get $300 a month and I legitimately spent over $70 on this three day trip, which includes paying for myself and two girls to get to and from Suchitoto, paying for their lunches on two days, and for my staying in the hotel. That is a big chunk this month. Now a good volunteer would have gathered funds to do this, but with my time in San Vicente and no knowledge of the camp far enough ahead of time it really was not possible. I just try and remember how you cannot put a price tag on bonding experiences and that is what's important. I also have a nice safety net of funds from my moving in allowance, so I am good.
The other things I am going to complain about really are my own fault particularly the management of youth. I had a few challenges with one of the girls (not my two girls) at the camp and it just made me realize that I need to be a little more strict at times. I will definitely have to work on that while I am here. Not so good at being strict and forceful with kids, but we will see how it goes.
Okay this post is getting ridiculously long and I still need to recap my two other events including my first bridal shower and civil wedding experiences. But I will save those for later.
Hope all is well with everyone out there. It's birthday and xmas month. YAY DECEMBER! LOVE IT! <3