Thursday, November 22, 2012

The new, old Gringo

November has been a special month. Not only was Barack Obama reelected at the beginning of the month (which I luckily got to watch with other Americans and got to toast to when they called OHIO!!! J), but I also got to re-welcome a new friend to El Salvador. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Brian:

A little introduction…Brian is the volunteer that was in Upire before me (if you are a loyal fan of this blog, you may remember his name from earlier posts). He returned at the beginning of this month to visit El Salvador and Upire as well as be around for the 9th grade graduation (which is a big deal here—especially for him to see these kids whom he taught math to during his service).

I’ll admit I spent the greater half of October stressing about his impending arrival worrying about what it would be like to share Upire (and my host family) for almost a month. Most of us self-conscious volunteers who follow another struggle a little bit with the constant reminders of the that one preceded them. People always say “Brian did this…Brian did that…Why don’t you do this?…Why don’t you do that?” It can be draining, annoying, and even rude at times. COME ON…I am here now! Why must I always be compared to the perfect volunteer that came before me? It only makes me feel inadequate and second best, especially on days when I feel I have accomplished absolutely nothing. Salt in a wound. But I digress…

Surprisingly, sharing Upire with Brian has not been at all like I had imagined. To his credit, he is humble, generous, and an absolutely wonderful supporter of others (even his previously unknown successor). He has spent his time here these past three weeks building me up, complimenting my work, and making me realize that Upire is mine (and his). I have come to realize that this is not a competition (like I had made it out to be in my head). Brian and I are partners, teammates, and friends both dedicated to seeing Upire flourish. We tell everyone that we are “hermanos en paz” or brothers in peace looking to do all we can to lend a helping hand to the community we both have grown to love so much. So once again, Upire more than anything has given me another brother and a best friend for life.

So what have Brian and I been up to this month? Well, I (somewhat ashamedly) put Brian to work right away helping with a variety of activities in the school. The first one: TYE DYE!!!! As a graduation gift to my ninth graders this year I decided I would treat them to a tye dye workshop giving them an opportunity to paint their own shirt and have it as a memory forever. The kids loved painting but more so loved the unveiling of their shirts when we finished and washed them the next day. My favorite part of the whole activity though is now seeing the 30 or so kids running around rural El Salvador with tye dye on! That is what I call bringing US culture to El Salvador and accomplishing Peace Corps goal number 3. Mission accomplished.

Brian and I also decided to do a globo workshop (his specialty not mine). Globos are basically hot air balloons out of tissue paper and a candle underneath that can fly on a basically windless day. They are part of the Salvadoran culture that was lost during the war, so it has become a tradition of Peace Corps (the more crafty, smart volunteers aka Brian) to teach kids about it, so they can remember the history, the process, and build them on their own and hopefully pass it on to future generations. We decided to teach the eight graders so that they could launch them after the ninth grade graduation as well as teach the eighth graders next year, so that it would be a little more sustainable. Unfortunately we did not get a chance to launch the globos yet due to an obscene amount of wind, but I am hoping right before Brian leaves next Monday we can launch them.

Finally, I also forced Brian to put on the volunteer suit again and accompany Tricia and I on a camp that we planned for both of our schools. This is getting a whole other post, so be on the look out for an epic story. ;)

Needless to say, November has been busy, unique, and special. I am so grateful to have met Brian and shared this month and its variety of activities with him. It has been a fun month of my service. He always says since he arrived a few weeks, “I am so happy you don’t suck.” Right back at you Brian. Otherwise, this past month would have been rough. Instead, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

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