Normal is one of those words you are never really sure what it means. You know the ever popular question: what is normal? I think it is relative. Each person has their own version and it changes and shifts within time and space. For me, I think life here in El Salvador has gotten pretty normal. Hence, the lack of blogging. I think blogging is so much easier when you feel there is something new and exciting to report, something you are not quite used to and you want to reflect on it, or in other words something abnormal or different to explain to those who you think need to know back home. For awhile I maintained my blog through the crazy, abnormal security situation that left life in El Salvador constantly shifting and chaotic. That time has passed and we have moved on for the most part. There are still plenty of things to get used to, but we PCVs like to think we got flexibility down. So since the security stuff ended in March, I feel life has gotten to be pretty much normal. Normal as normal is for a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Let me describe my normal: I am going into my tenth month in country- the longest amount of time I have lived in a foreign country. But not only that, this is the first time in my living in a very rural location. So different from my old life and my old home. Yet, as the tenth month mark approaches, I finally feel like this is my life and this is where I live. I think in the beginning of service it sort of feels like a long vacation- you are constantly in that honeymoon period where things are just "so cool" or "ew gross" or "weiiiiiird," basically everything is so new and worth commenting on. Now feel like I have gotten to the point where I don't really have those strong reactions anymore (at least not everyday). It has just become the way it is. In some ways it is really comforting. As things become normal here, my life at home appears less so or just appears further away from my reality, and then in turn I miss home less. But in other ways, I really miss some of those honeymoon phase moments. I remember when I first got here and I could not believe how we rode in the back of pick up tracks standing up. I thought it was the coolest thing riding down the mountain, breeze in my hair, with an incredible view in the distance. Now, it just happens all the time. It is not the same as before. It's normal now. I seem to appreciate it less. Note to self: IT IS STILL AWESOME! (remember that)
So I guess you are wondering (at least I hope you are) what has been up since the middle of March when I posted last. The end of March and April were pretty rocky with a number of my friends leaving the country (COS option based on the security stuff), but as I said we aren't talking about that any more. Moving on...the beginning of April was marked by a week long vacation called Semana Santa. My community did not do much as Evangelicals do not really celebrate it as anything but a vacation from work and school. I spent the week doing the following: hosting my friend Liz who was on her way out of the country with COS (gosh i miss her), we went to Perquin for a visit one night, and then I spent the rest of the week hanging with my host brother and sister. It was fun to have them home, especially given the fact that my host mom spent 3 weeks during this time in the states. This was a tough time for me given how my host mom is kind of like my entire world here, but it was definitely made easier with my brother and sister home. The best part of my host mom being in the states is that she got to meet my mom and grandmother!!!! What a story right? It went so well and I am just overjoyed that they got to meet one another in a rare but splendid occasion! :)
I spent the rest of the month doing the usual hanging in the school, playing in the school, and going to community events/meetings. I was also asked to represent my group in the VAC meeting(volunteer committee) this month at this beautiful lake in the west, so I had a 2 night little vacation there with some other volunteers. Finally, I also had another WYD camp like I went to in December when I brought my scholarship girls to the a camp at the beach with the other scholars. That made the end of April really fly by with just lots of mandatory, fun, but draining events. Through this time as well I have finally started to put together some project/ideas that I am currently planning or writing grants for which include: putting together various girls sports teams (currently working on that grant), planning the second annual art day in July, helping with the next WYD camp, and starting a small business group that will learn to make and sell shampoo and other soap products. As all this stuff starts to come together, I am getting overwhelmed with my rapidly fleeing time here. Additionally, there also appears to be times when I have to be out of site/will be out site for various reasons. For example, this month we have a week long training session and another weekend one at the end of the month. I really need to make my time in site count if I am going to get some serious stuff done! (email/message me/comment if you want to help with any of the above mentioned ideas/projects--thanks!!!!!)
That bring us to May. Here it is again: rainy season. I thought I wanted it back, but now I am not so sure. Yesterday on my walk it poured forcing me to enter a random house looking like the lockness monster. I sure know how to make an impression, right? Oh well. That is one of the things that I mean when I say life has gotten pretty normal here. As in, I have just accepted the fact that here ridiculous shit is always going to happen. Expect the unexpected, right PC? The crazy, random, absolutely abnormal stuff all normal--like walking into a strangers house, sopping wet, and asking for coffee. Oh yeah, it happens, and I am cool with it.
There are some things though that are unexpected, but even if/when you expect them or know they are bound to come, you just cannot bring yourself to normalize them or let them go. This is mostly because you cannot normalize it anywhere. Things that you just don't ever want to get used to. These moments are much more poignant because they usually affect your emotions and or feelings. For example, when someone hurts your feelings in your community, it is really hard to get used to it and build yourself back up from it, because you are always the lone gringa. I know what you are thinking: hurts your feelings? Jamie are you in fifth grade? Get over it! Even in your home country where everything is familiar, you fit in, and there are a bunch of people around this normality SUCKS. It SUCKS when people hurt your feelings, make mean comments, or judge you harshly for something you have done/have not done. At home, I don't spend much time worrying about what people think of my every move. And I don't typically have to. However, a Peace Corps Volunteer's job relies on relations with a tiny, teeny community and how those people perceive you (so they tell you in training), which means that any negative comments appears to us to not only jeopardize our entire job, but also just make us feel awful, invalidated, and like we are not/will not ever be doing enough. I try to keep positive through those moments and I have been lucky that I have not encountered them often here, but when I do it is like pouring salt in a wound. My biggest fear is that I will not be a good volunteer in the eyes of the people in Upire and these comments make me feel as that fear may become reality. They make me want to curl up in a ball and watch The Big Bang Theory in bed. I have done it before and will probably do it again.
You do that for one night and wake up the next morning and remember that only you can make yourself feel better. What is your friend going to do (here from across the country)? Tell you that everything is going to be alright, you are a wonderful person and volunteer, and those people are crazy for saying something mean to you. All very nice to hear and thank you to my bffl PCVs who always do that for me. But as much as I love them and appreciate their effort, it does not change the hurt feelings, shattered confidence, and sour mood. You have to do that yourself. How are you going to move on? Do you need to confront the person? Do you need time for yourself in your bed? Do you need some comfort food?
As for me, I went outside for a walk, I sat underneath the pine trees, got caught in a rain storm, met a stranger for coffee in her house, and walked home soaking wet when one of my favorite bus drivers picked me up and took me home for free. Sweet--all back to normal ;)