Monday, April 15, 2013

Goin' Green

A few months ago I attended an Environmental Education Workshop in Perquin with the director of my school and one of our science teachers. It focused on using a book put together by Peace Corps volunteers that includes many interactive ways to teach students about taking care of the environment. I used this book a lot last year when I was teaching the younger kids about the environment (the project that ended with the trip to the children’s museum and zoo in San Salvador). I consider this book an incredible resource for teachers in El Salvador because the lessons are easy, cheap (little to no materials), and fun. Most importantly, it covers a topic that is often neglected here--the environment. The problem with my project last year was that I did most of the teaching, which does not make for a sustainable foundation for giving environmental education here in Upire.

So when I heard about this workshop I signed my two teachers up immediately. During the four day event they were able to see us volunteers facilitate various lessons in the book, participate in hands on activities and small field trips, and prepare and present their very own class. It was a very practical and helpful workshop giving my teachers the confidence to actually teach the classes on their own in our school.

My director left the workshop enthusiastic and motivated to not only reproduce all of the lessons with all of the students in Upire, but also share this information with our entire district (a group of 4 schools in our area). Thus, the idea to replicate the workshop for our district was born. We pretty much mimicked the one that Peace Corps held in Perquin only a smaller version lasting only one day.

In the morning my teachers and I presented 3 different lessons from the book. I opened the workshop with a brief presentation of the status of the environment in El Salvador. Then my director followed with a lesson on Erosion and how important it is to take care of our trees.

I then presented on trash management and a project that some Peace Corps volunteers are doing using trash and bottles to build classrooms. In order to build the classrooms my fellow PCVs need 13,000 plastic bottles FILLED with trash, so we decided to help them out by making bottle-filling part of the day.

 Following the contest to fill as many bottles as possible, Nina Tonita presented her lesson on ecosystems and how everything living thing is connected in a "web of life."

Following that lesson we had a small break and lunch. The afternoon was reserved for the teachers to prepare and present their very own lesson from the book. I am happy to report that all the teachers were enthusiastic and did a wonderful job presenting their lessons despite only having an hour to practice.

I think the shortened workshop was a great success. The teachers seemed very interested and motivated the entire time and in the end ready to take what they learned to put in practice in their own schools. Luckily, I was able to get 4 books donated by Peace Corps so that each school could take one with them and hopefully use them in the future with their students.

Also for me this was a great way to come back from vacation. I had not a minute to think about being home sick for the states as I was stressing about putting on a good event for these teachers. POST VACAY blues averted. Thank goodness.

Until next time...take care of yourselves, each other, and the environment :)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Home is whenever I am with you

Amongst the craziness that was the month of March I neglected to mention here that I’d be traveling home at the end of the month. To be honest I think it is because (luckily) I did not have much time to think about my impending vacation. So, before I knew it I was heading to the capital to catch my flight home for 8 days. It could not have come at a more perfect time. I was exhausted from my March madness and it was also Semana Santa (holiday), which means no school, endless boredom, and a lot of food I dislike (weird fish concoctions). Plus, it had been 15 months since I had been home to the first GREAT state of Delaware. Needless to say I was pumped. Mostly to see and visit with my family and friends, relax comfortably, and eat everything I love.

Vacation was wonderful. I saw many members of my family, hung out with my mom (which included filming random videos in grocery stores—haha boy I missed her craziness!), saw my best friend Julia, and ate every hour. It was a fulfilling vacation in more ways than one.

Here are a few of my favorite things (I am sure this list is similar to other times I have gone back to the states, so sorry to be repetitive) :
  1. Going out places with friends and family (FRIENDS AND FAM IN GEN)
  2. Greek yogurt, almond milk, FRO YO (always), and roasted vegetables
  3. Keurig Coffee Machines
  4. Driving
  5. Feeling Comfortable, Clean, and Free
  6. Access to Internet
  7. Hot Showers
  8. Grocery Stores
  9. Coffee Dates
  10. Choices

Having said all of that (I could go on and on about the awesomeness that is America) I also have to admit that the adjustment to life in the states this trip was significantly harder than during my other visits.  I believe one reason is because I have so little time left and I know the “big readjustment” is just a short 5 months away. 

Another reason could be that the last time I went to the states I had Tricia (another volunteer, best friend) with me. Therefore, I always had her around to help me with different readjustment issues. When no one else understood something we were describing or we felt left out of a conversation or felt a little weird being back we had each other there for support. But this time I was alone in the grand ol’ USA without another Peace Corps person with me for the first time in 15 months. It took this trip for me to realize just how long 15 months is and what an impact that truly makes on you and your life. Mostly, it made the USA feel very lonely in four big ways

  1. Okay, so I don’t want to be that person ragging on technology since I myself have a bunch of my own gadgets that I like to play with, but I just wish people would PUT THEIR PHONES DOWN. I love the iphone as much as anyone, but seriously when you are around other people try to focus on them not whatever it is that is so pressing on your phone. 
  2. I think as a result of problem number 1 comes problem number 2. People just seemed cold, unwilling to chat, and very unfriendly. They are glued to their phones and barely (if at all) utter common courtesies while coming in contact with other people. Maybe this East Coast gal has learned a little bit of small town charm from El Salvador because I now find this almost unbearable. It made me miss Upire a lot. People there know me, always greet me, and I everyday feel the warmth and care of my neighbors.
  3. On top of all that, I just felt very lost in many conversations that I actually did get to have (unless I was explaining my life, which I think makes everyone else feel lost). I am so very disconnected from a lot of current events, themes, trends, and unfortunately from the details of the lives of my family and friends that it makes conversing in depth and relating to one another almost impossible.
  4. Finally, I think my biggest issue was that Delaware does not really FEEL like home anymore. My place is no longer there. My life is no longer there. Of course, it is where my mom and family live and it is where I grew up so it will probably always feel like returning home in some way but I don’t really live there. I don’t have a house or even a room, my stuff is in boxes, my job is elsewhere, and my friends have scattered across the globe. I guess to be truthful Delaware really is not my home anymore. It is not where I currently feel most connected. And that is a hard pill to swallow. Because I know in 5 months or so, El Salvador will no longer be my home either. 

I admit these challenges with the hopes that I won’t offend my lovely family and my incredible friends. I hope they understand these challenges rather than feel hurt that I felt this way. This is a strange and temporary time of my life. I'll come back and after a short period in the states I am sure it will seem like I never left as most of these challenges begin to fade away. I’ll have an iphone. I’ll know the latest news and trends. I’ll stop talking about El Salvador as much. I will hopefully find my place and community there.

 However, I do hope that despite going home and “readjusting” that I never forget what I have learned here. It is our connections to others and our relationships that make life splendid.  It is our community. It is feeling connected to those around us. The things you share in person face to face...rather than on Facebook. That makes a home.