Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Work and Play

Peace Corps has its moments. Those moments when you reflect and think "Damn, I am so lucky to be a Peace Corps Volunteer in El Salvador." You want to see one of them?

Me on top of the Santa Ana Volcano. Note: Biddy is for my Mom (inside joke).
That is what I call crossing stuff of your bucket list. Thank you Peace Corps! As volunteers we are allowed 3 nights out of site per month as "personal nights." This month a group of my friends and I went to hike the Santa Ana volcano and then spend the other two nights in a beautiful lake in the western part of the country. Not a bad life - the life of a Peace Corps volunteer.

The rest of May sped by rapidly and I already find myself wondering where it went. I think May went so quickly because it was absolutely packed with "work" and "play."  Right after playing at the lake, we went straight to our In Service Training, which focused on certain projects we could work on in site, collaborating with other volunteers, and picking up new ideas. It was not only helpful, but it was also really fun. We stayed at a beautiful hotel at the beach giving my fellow volunteers and I a chance to hang out as well as learn from one another.

I returned home from IST and found myself getting busy with work in site! FINALLY. I spent the following week teaching in the school (English/USA culture haha), helping prepare for Mother's Day (which is a HUGE deal here), starting the process of forming a volunteer based youth group in the school, and giving my first training session on "Making Shampoo from Aloe Leaves." 

Shampoo made with Aloe Vera courtesy of my volunteer group :)

Mother's Day Performance Kindergarten--so cute!

 Following that I had another 3 day training with two counterparts from my community entitled, "How to Work with a PCV." I brought two wonderful, female community leaders who are also youth, which made the trip so much more enjoyable. We had a blast hanging out in the NICE hotel room, eating delicious food (that they often never get to have), and working together during the training sessions. Although the training was super draining at times (constantly having to be "on" in front of your own and everyone's counterparts, it was so valuable. It helped me really connect more with one of my counterparts and I think we are now are really good terms to start working together more often. The best part of the training is that is sparked wonderful and feasible project ideas for the future of my service here. The final day of the training we had to present one of our ideas to the entire group. We presented our idea "Mercado Upire," which is essentially our idea to begin a day of commerce in our community where people can sell their products basically like a farmers market. Each person will pay to participate in the market and that money will go to future development projects. I have a meeting with the ADESCO (community development org) tomorrow to see if we can get the ball rolling on this project. All of my fellow PCVs loved the idea and we actually one the prize at the end of all the presentations for having the "best" project. I cannot say ours was truly the best as all of my fellow volunteers had amazing presentations and ideas. I think it is just because we gave out chocolate during ours--gave us that edge!

After that tough but rewarding training, I got some more "play" time. I went to Morazan (next department over) to hang out with the volunteers in that department for their monthly meeting. I decided to go because I would have had to stay in Santa Rosa anyway because of the shuttle system, so I figured it would be much better to hang with other volunteers in the lovely Perquin. We had a good time hanging there and the next day we went to regional leader Brady's site to hike to a waterfall. It was stunning and a great way to relax before heading back to site. Yes, during our "play" time here in El Sal we get to hang out in waterfalls. ;)

As usual I always head back to site with a pit in my stomach kind of like I am leaving the real world behind to head back to rural, simple life. It takes a few days to adjust. You lose the freedom, the ability to be yourself, have access to little luxuries (mostly food), and the loss of a hot shower. But after a few days, I realize why I am here in Upire. There is time for play. And time for work.

Work: The real meat of this post was supposed to be dedicated to the fact that I have not mentioned much of the "projects" I have/will be doing here. I think that is mostly because up until now, "work" has been limited. That is typical for Peace Corps volunteers in the first year. We see "work" as hanging out at other people's houses, eating their food, and having a good conversation. Then people call us from home asking us : what are you working on? We all I can eat a lot of cheese and beans. I've got that done. And people back home don't get it. Productivity is everything in the states. But here... in the Peace Corps development world real work comes slow. But as I am wrapping up May and heading into June, the real work has started to come and fast! So what is on the horizon:

1. Upire and I just won funds to revitalize the sports program here in Upire. We are getting some money to buy softball, soccer, and basketball equipment. I am so excited to start this project. We are going to begin with practices, then move to finding some other teams in the area to play, and see if we can schedule some tournaments. The final part of the project includes money to complete a great hike up a volcano! I am hoping the kids will want to do it. Hopefully by the end of all the sports practices, they will be totally ready to climb their first volcano.

Girls Softball!

2. I already mentioned "Mercado Upire," which more than anything just requires a lot of organization of the community. Hopefully, the first step will begin tomorrow when we meet with the ADESCO.
3. I have 2nd annual art day tentatively planned for the middle of July. The volunteer before me had one and my school director asked for another one. So we are going to have a bunch of volunteers come to my site and teach a bunch of arts and crafts to the students of my school! Should be a real fun event! Plus it is during the week of the anniversary of my group's one year in country--there will be cake. ;)
4. Last but not least I am in the middle of working on another grant with my community to paint the light posts of my community with some youth volunteers. The light posts currently are covered in right wing propaganda, so we are looking to get that off of there and have some of our talented youth paint them with beautiful designs and colors!

Shoot. Now I feel super narcissistic...sorry. I don't mean it that way. I can take no credit for any of this really. All of these ideas stem from the community. I am just lucky enough to get to blog about it. But trust me...I am not that awesome. My community just rocks ;) So who is coming to visit....?

Oh and we got potable water in case you were wondering. However, basically no one is going to keep it in their house because it is too expensive (about $8 a month). So we have it, but I am not sure how many people are going to drink it. Ugh. Really disappointing. I guess it is a good lesson to learn early that projects never go quite right. Good to know with that dramatic list above of cockiness above.
I think that is all for now. I have a bunch of things coming up in the next couple of weeks that I am really looking forward to: I am heading to meet up with Tricia and her Dad who is coming from the states, I have a WYD scholarship committee meeting in San Vicente, and we have a conference in Perquin at the end of the month. It makes me much time out of site (all for legit/good reasons). But I need and want my time to work too!....the clock is ticking. And I got STUFF to do....;)