Since December Peace Corps El Salvador has been waiting. Waiting on answers from Washington, D.C. about the fate of PC here. I don't think until coming here and experiencing this dreadful waiting period for myself that I realized just how devastating closing a Peace Corps country would be for the people of that nation as well as for us volunteers. Think about the Salvadoran staff who have great jobs with PC that they absolutely love. We have program managers, training staff, teachers, medical staff, secretaries, guards for our buildings, etc. On top of that we contract with medical/dental facilities, psychologists (by the way she is making bank right now), taxi services, hotels, and other businesses, people, etc. That doesn't even begin to mention the number of people volunteers on the ground affect daily. I am not saying that we are Gods and we are changing the world, but there are volunteers that have incredible projects that touch thousands of people. But more important sometimes than the "work" we do: we live with families, we have friends, and we live in small communities where most people know us. Relationships have impact. Big impact. People rarely remember what you do, but they always remember who you are and what you mean to them. I can only imagine how devastating is to have to tell them you are being forced to leave when you really do not want to go. And luckily I won't have to....
The results from the assessment are in from Washington (see my previous posts on security if you do not know what I am talking about) and the northern part of the country is safe meaning I can stay in my site! That is really the best news one can get (when you like your site). I am thrilled that I get to stay here, continue living with my host family, and working in Upire. Gracias a Dios. :)
But there are some changes with PC El Sal and here they are:
1. We can no longer take public transportation from one department to another. We must use private transportation or use a Peace Corps shuttle.
2. San Sal still off limits.
3. San Sal office will be relocated (no idea when or where)
4. San Vicente training office will be closed (we probably won't get no trainees for awhile, hence no need for the training center).
5. Indefinite no travel to Guatemala or Honduras.
I think that is pretty much the gist of it. When I look at it like and when I first heard the results, it felt very anti climatic. It was almost as if we had been holding our breath for 3 months expecting a big blow, expecting to go home, and expecting to have to end our service early. It felt really like a terrible waste of 3 months. When you are holding your breath and expecting to leave, you really do lose a lot of your motivation and ganas. I think every volunteer suffered from this. But now that I have the results I just keep thinking: why did I have to go through all of that? All that worrying for nothing really. But I guess I should just be glad I was pleasantly surprised rather than correct about my assumptions that we were going home. I guess it is just hard to turn yourself around when you are thinking you are going home. And when others are going home too...
That is what makes this hard. It is the rapidly diminishing number of volunteers in country that makes me nervous. I can deal with the new rules and regulations. They really do not bother me. The transportation system sucks right now (it does not work well for me because of the distance my site is from civilization) but I know I can adapt to that and at least it will be free transport. I can deal with San Sal being off limits- it is annoying at times, but I don't really need to be there (especially after Sansalvadornucleosis). It is only nice to get in there to buy some items and get out. I am upset about Honduras and Guatemala being closed but I am hoping they will open up for us eventually. If not, I will just have to wait until I COS from PC to go there, which is doable. The major challenge with all of this saying goodbye to my PC family.
Although I know it would have happened eventually, this is not the way I wanted it to happen. It is also true that people early terminate or leave PC early all the time, but this is different. We are in a matter of months going from over a hundred volunteers to about 20 or less. My training class was already small when we got here (15). We are less than 10 now and more people are considering leaving because of these changes. *Note: We are still allowed to take early Close of Service with all benefits until April 13th.* My group honestly has felt like a family and with every member that decides to leave, it breaks my heart more and more. Selfishly I want everyone to stay. I want to finish together. I feel like I need my friends to do this. But I know I have to let them go and do what they feel is right for them. But that does not change how hard this is mentally and emotionally for those of us left. It stinks sometimes to be left behind watching your friends all go home. It is not that we get together all the time or would get together all the time, but it is just knowing people are here with you. Knowing you can call them and talk about that random time you killed a scorpion crawling up your leg or that random time you went to the bathroom in the street (yes, guilty of both). Peace Corps Volunteers have a special bond and I am going to miss having that here with more people. I am going to miss the fun activities with large groups of volunteers, working together on projects, and just having a large network of friends and colleagues. And that goes for all the volunteers leaving (not just my group), especially those in the area closest to me.
Luckily, I know that with those that leave we will still have a bond for life. We will always have these memories and experiences that bring us together. They are still my Peace Corps Family. They are incredible people and I will always treasure our time here together. I hate to see them go, but I know each and every one of them is going to find their own happiness and success somewhere else and that is what matters most. I just want to see them happy rather than suffering here.
Although I have to say goodbye to many, I am also reminded that some of us are staying. I am so blessed because these people are also downright amazing and with them I know I am not alone. We can absolutely do this together. We might be small, but we are mighty. I feel so lucky to know them and I cannot wait to see what happens in the next 1.5 years. I can't wait to see what we do. It will be hard again I am sure. But it will be awesome too! The adventure awaits... And I can't wait to ring the bell at the end meaning we finished the two full years!
*I just have to add here that this post has come out a little more positive than I sometimes feel. There are some days where I feel that this security problem is not over yet and our country hangs by a small thread of being shut down. The closing of the office in San Sal is a big blow to the staff and I am not sure what would happen if many of them had to quit because of travel concerns. I am not sure what is going to happen if more and more volunteers leave. There are still some uncertainties. There are still plenty of questions. We still have a long way to go until the dust settles (people have until April to leave with the COS status, then we wait until new offices are built, etc). I am not sure the dust will settle in my time here and that frustrates me. Why did they send my group here to be put through such an administrative shift? Why do I have to deal with all of this on top of everything else a PCV deals with? But I can't ask questions like that any more. Every service is different and all volunteers have rough times (some really rough times). I am here and despite all of this crap and PC changes, I still want to stay. Although they are letting us leave with all benefits and I could escape this turbulent PC time, I still want to stay. El Salvador must be a pretty special place. Or maybe it is just Upire friggin rocks...:)