Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One month already!

Well, it's been over a month since I last wrote, and we are in our sixth week of training now! We are finding out our permanent site assignments on Thursday of next week and the 16th is our Swearing-In Ceremony!

I guess I'll start back from the beginning since I haven't written much on here. There are 30 of us trainees in this cycle. Everyone is from all over the States, with half of the people in the Sustainable Agriculture/Environmental Education programs and the other half is in Youth Development. We are all living in small pueblos and cantones (smaller than a pueblo) in the surrounding San Vicente area. Every Tuesday we travel into town to have sessions and classes at the training center. The rest of the week is spent in our communities, having Spanish classes, spending time with our host families and doing community contact activities. Some of these have been: meeting the director of the school, meeting the mayor, and visiting a nearby canton to learn about their ADESCO (the lowest structure of government- basically a liaison between the mayor's office and the people of the rural areas).

The four of us in our canton actually had to switch communities last week. Before we were living in a bigger pueblo, but I am definitely enjoying the rural canton life much more. The weather here is a lot cooler. There is less noise from people and cars. Although, there is no shortage of animal noise here. At my house there are three German shepherds that are the most gentle creatures I've ever seen.But for some inexplicable reason, when the sun goes down, they have no qualms against barking at all hours of the night. Also, roosters and chickens abound and have similar disregard for human sleep needs. My walk to the latrine includes walking by no less that 2 cows. There is also a duck whose ducklings hatched the day before we got here. I'm terrified that I'm going to step on one of them because they are so small and always just waddling around everywhere.

Probably the only downside to being in a canton is the more limited opportunities in using public transportation. To get to our canton, we have to wait for a bus that only passes by once every hour. Otherwise, we have to pay to take a taxi (which I've managed to avoid thus far). The routes and times of buses are not written down anywhere. You just have to ask others to find out how to get around. It's intimidating at first, but gets easy very quickly. When we lived in the pueblo, we rode the "pickups," which are just what they sound like - pickups with bars welded around the back and a tarp stretched over the top. You stand in the bed of the truck, find a sturdy place to grab and hang on for the ride! Sometimes they get very crowded, but they are such a nice alternative to the slow, stuffy buses. Although, one thing the buses have going for them is the music - invariably bachata, merengue or cumbia.

Lots of people get on the buses to sell things. Lots of things. All kinds of things. I think I need to start a list of all the stuff I see people selling. But the funniest part is not what they are selling. Instead, it is the way that they present it. they usually get up to the front of the bus and give some kind of a little speech that goes something like this:

"Good afternoon distinguished passengers of this bus. I beg your pardon for the noise I'm about to make, but I would like to take the opportunity to show you this incredible offer here today. I present to you this wallet / bag of caramels / bunch of pencils / English phrase book / herbal ointment remedy for some ailment I couldn't understand."

He then goes on the explain why you just can't resist this offer and what the item normally sells for in stores. Here's the other funny part: everything I've seen being sold on the buses always costs $1 (be it the wallet, caramels, pencils, phrase book or the herbal remedy). They then proceed to walk down the aisle of the bus stopping at each seat to dangle the must-have-item in front of each and every passenger. I have to give these guys credit. They are usually really good salesmen, even if they are selling pencils, caramels, etc. They could give that Oxi-Clean guy a run for his money. I also just like the fact that they make such an effort to incorporate a few words of courtesy, even if they are noisily interrupting your relaxing bus ride.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Welcome to El Salvador!!!

After several months of applications, essays, interviews, doctors appointments, phone calls, emails and much, much waiting... I am finally in El Salvador!

We arrived this morning around 6am after spending one day in LA for orientations. We are now in a town called San Vicente, which is about an hour east of the capital, San Salvador. We are staying at a local hotel located just a few blocks from the Peace Corps training center. Everybody here is really looking forward to Friday, because that is when we will be moving in with our host families for the remainder of training.

El Salvador is just like I remember it: beautiful and filled with some of the warmest people you will ever meet. We are in the rainy season right now, so it is fairly muggy, which I can already tell is going to be a bit of an adjustment for me. But it definitely provides for some spectacular greenery that covers the mountainous regions of the country. I haven't taken any pictures yet, but when I do I'll try to post some on here.

I have yet to see a single mosquito today, but we've all already started our weekly doses of anti-malaria medication and been given the ubiquitous mosquito nets for when we arrive at our host families' homes.

There are still lots of unknowns that will only be answered with time. A lot of things depend on where our host family for training lives and which site we eventually get assigned to for the 2 years of service. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in a comment; I'll do my best to answer them! Hope everyone is having a great week!