Friday, January 13, 2012

Safety and Security Part 2

El Salvador and all of its volunteers and staff members continue to be under an enormous amount of stress, confusion, and wonder regarding the status of our beloved country. There have been a few developments since my first post entitled "Safety and Security" and I am going to do my best to outline them here so that everyone back home can understand what is really going on here.

After a few meetings in the beginning of this month with Peace Corps Washington, staff members here, and volunteers a rather large email went out to all the volunteers from our country director. And here is our current situation:

New Rules/Plans:
1. Travel restriction: we have to get approval from our program manager to go anywhere out of our community. This includes going to our pueblo (closest town) just to buy groceries, print documents, etc.
2. We can no longer go to San Salvador unless for official business or medical reasons.
3. We have a mandatory All Volunteer Safety and Security conference at the end of this month to discuss future options.
4. Everyone in the country has been offered Interrupted Service. This means you can end your service at any time you want and it does not count as "early termination." We are still waiting until the conference to find out the details of this process and what it would mean in terms of going to another country, volunteer benefits, etc.

Clearly these are some big updates. I am not really bothered by any of the travel changes though. I don't particularly like the capital and I do not really care about talking with my boss when I need to leave. I do not leave often enough for it to be a nuisance. I also like the idea of having the conference this month. There are still so many questions regarding the future of Peace Corps El Salvador and a conference is the perfect way to address that with every volunteer in person. Plus I would not mind seeing all my friends!

The only part of this so far that has me worried/anxious/wondering is the Interrupted Service idea. What happens if a lot of people start taking it? What if my closest friends leave? What will volunteer life be like with so few volunteers? Do they actually want us just to take it and leave so there are fewer volunteers to worry about? Would I be safer/happier/better off somewhere else? Doesn't a whole new country sound fun and different? It could be a whole new adventure! But what about my community? Can I really leave them? And what happens if I move countries and hate it? What if I have to start all over and wait in the placement process for months, get a new country, go through training again, etc? Is that worth it? But what if El Salvador just ends up closing in a few months? Then will I regret not switching?

AHHHHH! My brain hurts. This is where I am at. Confused. Super confused. And drained from thinking about it too much. There is just so much to weigh. All of us volunteers have this wonderful phone plan that keeps us connected but it also keeps us talking about this. In some ways I love it that I have people to process with, but it other ways it just keeps my mind going about what other people are thinking, doing, etc. I just need to let it go until the conference when we get more details. At least Peace Corps really is doing its job and teaching me patience.

All of this having been said, morale here is pretty low at times. People taking the I.S. option, talking more about it, talking about the country closing, etc. During the day though I try not to think about it. It is almost as if I put this stuff in the English section of my life and when I am out in my site speaking Spanish I just ignore it as something that I am internally dealing with or dealing with in English with volunteers and staff members. Because I cannot really talk about it with Salvadorans. They are used to the dangerous country they live. That is the way it is. So, I just walk around in site like nothing is going on, while working on everything I can, with no thought of leaving earlier than in 1.5 years. And that is the way it should be. We will be here for our full 2 years. End of story......right......primero a dios (as my host mother would say)....

*In the midst of this chaos I would like to take this opportunity to be grateful for the fact that I have so many options. While it may be bothersome at times, I am lucky to have my freedom and choice in this matter. As my boss Claudia pointed out, Salvadorans don't have the luxury of walking away from the violence and their rough life here. Just kind of makes me feel guilty at the very thought of walking away...but also incredibly appreciative of the support we have back home and of Peace Corps staff here in country who are looking out for us. We have a great safety and security net to fall back on (no pun intended).

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mashi,

    I am currently writing a magazine article about the on-the-ground experiences of PCVs in Central America, especially the countries with high security risks. I was wandering if I could ask you or some of your volunteer colleagues a few questions about your experiences in El Salvador. Please would you get in touch if you could find the time, my personal email address is

    Many thanks for your time.