Saturday, June 29, 2013

Surprise, Surprise

June has been a strange month. I have probably described a lot of months like that in my Peace Corps service, but once again it is so true. I imagined June so differently. I thought it would be relaxed and I would begin the smooth glide into the final months of my time in El Salvador. I had vacation time planned, trips with Tricia and her brother and friend planned, and lots of exciting, fun things lined up. JUNE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A PARTYYYY! I was naive and so very wrong like I have been SO MANY times before believing in all of that, which I have had the pleasure of documenting on this blog for your reading pleasure. I should have known that just like the beginning and middle of my two years-- this journey (any journey) is never pure "smooth sailing." There always has to be some sort of surprise. Thus, I give you my June surprises:

The month started off okay...a few hiccups like my best friend getting sick, a training where my counterparts backed out at the last minute, and my bathroom broke (and there is still no replacement)... but then LUCK struck back and...

I had the pleasure of hosting 20k Watts! From their web site (www."20K Watts is an international nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the current and future quality of life of children, and their families, living in extreme poverty through the use of solar and wind energies. 20k Watts seeks to power community development projects that promote children's education, clean water and sanitation, health, economic development, food security, and eliminate household kerosene consumption." 

In Upire, we received 25 solar lamps for a portion of the community that does not have electricity. Here are some pictures of the distribution ceremony: 

The Youth group that works the market project on Saturdays needs funds to purchase a sound system. I am trying to help them accomplish that large goal before I leave in August. This means we are currently rushing to raise money. Of course to try and make money we had a community wide culto (basically hours of prayers, music, and testimonies to God) where yours truly not only rocked the token religious veil but also made papusas (2 monumental surprises for community members). 

Then there are moments where I am ridiculously surprised--like when your school decides to put together their own follow up Environmental Education training workshop. My school director told me it was because she wanted to make sure the teachers were using the book we gave them. Thank you Nina Mary for promoting sustainability and allowing me to essentially just show up for the event and do ABSOLUTELY nothing :) Therefore, I give you Goin' Green Part 3 pictures:

Then there are surprise parties. Happy BIRTHDAY to my host mother, best friend, and amazing counterpart Nina Mary!!! Que Dios te Bendiga! Te quiero mucho!

Then there are sad surprises. Like when your best friend gets medically evacuated from Peace Corps. I had to start my goodbyes way earlier than I expected. I was not ready or prepared to watch one of my best friends leave me behind. I know it is not goodbye but simply See You Later, but it IS still so rough More than anything (besides wanting her to get better ASAP and wishing her well back in the states), I am just sad and worried that I have to make it through my final months without her. It is going to be tough...

Then there are happy, CRAZY, weird, overwhelming surprises like when your group has their COS (close of service conference). 

The process of leaving deserves a whole other post. So I will stop there. All I will say at this moment is that I am both excited and scared for the future. But that's no surprise...

Until next time folks. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Back in December during our camp for our scholarship students I began pondering projects for my final months as a PCV. I think it must have been afterwards because only when you are done with a camp can you imagine doing another one. Camps are just draining. You have to be on your “A” game for multiple days. Of course, I decided to take the crazy up a notch and suggest a camp of all boys. Who does that? Not to stereotype but teenage boys are ridiculous. However, my rationale was that because the sad fact (sad mostly because I joined Peace Corps to find my future husband--failed) that most PCVs in El Salvador are women we often find ourselves working on projects that aim to empower more women and as a result we often ignore young men. We have done several camps focused on all girls. I thought it was time to dedicate a camp to boys. If we are concerned about gender relations and the treatment of women we have to spend some time with the boys too.

Luckily, I found two amazing PCV friends (yoooo Kara and Jess thanks for everything) who believed in the idea and together we began the long process of soliciting money, planning a camp, and getting all the details worked out. Unfortunately, because of PC’s radical changes regarding transport, movement of volunteers, grant restrictions, etc we could not do the camp we dreamed of in the western part of the country. We had to cancel that camp completely. Just about impossible to pull off. I just about gave up the hope of an all Boys Camp when my homegirl Els decided to give me the extra push of motivation I needed to attempt to put on a regional Eastern camp. Thus, the camp was reborn, but we unfortunately could not includ the western part of the country, which means dissing some incredible PCVs and communities out west (Jess and Kara especially). Despite leaving the west hanging, our eastern camp was incredible. Thanks to my fellow PCV’s who made it all run so smooth.

The camp's focus was on male leadership, gender roles, HIV prevention, and sports/athletic competitions. We had 19 boys from the eastern part of the country (all from the communities of my favorite 5 PCV friends) for an entire weekend in Alegria, Usulutan (a wonderfully beautiful cool town in the east). We also had 2 volunteer university students who came from San Miguel who helped us give lessons and provide a little more “BRO-ness”since Tricia, Elsa, and I despite how hard we try, we can’t pull off being a BRO too well. 

The highlights of the camp included hiking to the nearby crater lake, doing a relay race/obstacle course, having a soccer tournament between the communities, as well as tackling 7 lectures on HIV/AIDS, gender roles, and male leadership. We also included a fun movie night featuring The Avengers and a “BRO Night” where the male volunteers got the boys together to chat about all their doubts, questions, concerns, etc. The girls during that time prepared ice cream floats (yes, unfortunately we stayed along gender stereotypes on that one.)

It was a good way to end doing camps. Thank goodness I will never do another. 

Here are some pictures: 

If you are interested in seeing more pictures of the camp you can check out my buddy Elsa's public album: pictures

Take care everybody.