Sunday, October 17, 2010


in the United States. And therefore closing this blog out. I could continue to blog about the American things that are surprising/hard to adjust to, but then this blog would last the rest of my life.

Thanks for reading!

Paz y amor.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Left the village this morning for good. And it was a surreal experience.

First of all, since last Friday I have had 4 (4!) goodbye parties. One with the school, one with the community, one with the youth group and one with a random family who wanted to feed me pupusas. By this morning, I was all farewelled out, plus I was EXHAUSTED from barely having slept all week. My last week in site was burning hot and water became scarce all over the village, and I was so dehydrated that I found it hard to sleep. This made me actually kind of happy to leave my site for San Salvador, for a few days if not for good.

So this morning when I left some of the host family came to see me off. Even the dogs I adore came up to me and let me pet them (did they know?) Contrary to many volunteers, I left with dry eyes. I think I was too tired to comprehend what was going on.

My friend with a truck took me to San Salvador with all my suitcases, after a nice final lunch of shrimp on the beach. Now I'm in the capital enjoying air conditioning and wireless Internet. It's weird to think that I'm going home Saturday for good and not just for a two-week vacation.

So now I'm writing the list. The list that all Peace Corps volunteers write. And mine is probably the same as everybody else's. But here it is.

Things I will miss about El Salvador
  • Hammocks
  • Living my life surrounded by natural beauty
  • Living my life outside
  • Eating fruit off trees
  • Being fed and cared for by random neighbors
  • Not being glued to TV and the Internet
  • Having time to read for hours
  • Reggaeton and bachata music
  • Volunteer working hours (i.e. being able to ditch work and have fun whenever I want
  • Random people who know my name and hug me in the streets
  • Pupusas, tamales de elote, fried plantains, red beans and even tortillas
  • Working with cute children
  • Dedicating my life to helping others
Things I will not miss about El Salvador
  • Streets covered in animal poop
  • General dirtiness
  • Having to watch everything I eat and drink for contamination
  • Lack of cultural value for education
  • Lack of cultural value for hard work
  • Handout mentality
  • Scarcity of water
  • Lack of convenient transportation
  • Lack of discipline at home and in the schools that turns kids into rude little criminals
  • Cultural acceptance of bad or unjust situations (instead of the drive to change things)
In general, I think the good outweighs the bad.

Here are some pictures from my goodbye parties:

"Thank you Alia for having shared two years. Welcome Rebecca."

These kids gave me a sweet wooden pineapple with a picture of the school inside.

A band showed up at my community goodbye party and played music while everyone watched this slideshow of pictures from the past two years.

Paz y amor.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Perquín y pescado

Just got back from a few days in Perquín, which was an ill-timed trip considering how much I have to do to wrap up my service...but was actually a good idea, as I didn't want to leave El Salvador without seeing this place, famous for its natural beauty and civil war history.

Tropical Storm whatever-it's-called-this-time (we had two in one week and I've stopped tracking names, since we've had like 15 since April) prevented us from hiking much, but we visited El Mozote, a neighborhood where 1,000 people were massacred during the war, and the civil war museum in town. We did climb a small (and slippery!) hill dotted with bomb holes, and the top afforded us a pretty good view of the surrounding hills and even parts of Honduras.

I can't believe I only have two weeks left. Sometimes I'm sad about it, but usually something happens to cheer me up about leaving before I get too down. For example, this morning my host family left a basket of fish in the shower. Thanks, fam, for lessening my close-of-service regrets.

Pictures from Perquín:
The wall comemmorating the El Mozote victims
American anti-war propaganda (the US government was funding and training the Salvadoran army, which committed atrocities such as the El Mozote massacre)
From the top of Cerro Perquín
Paz y amor.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Passing the torch

My replacement volunteer arrived at my site two days ago. She is living with a family that I and the school director set her up with. Her name is Rebecca. She is a redhead so she will probably get more catcalls than me. Thank God.

Having the new volunteer in my site reminds me of when I came two years ago. The first day, she looked as overwhelmed as I felt then. And seeing the world through her eyes has made me realize how much my Spanish has improved and how much I've integrated into the community. Every time we passed someone on the street, I knew that person's name, who they were related to and some other bits of information. I remember going through the same thing two years ago, with Suzanne giving me everyone's life story, and thinking I would never learn as much about these people as she had.

Rebecca seems to love our site. As she should, because it is beautiful. Even compared to the rest of El Salvador. And her host mom is giving her fresh squeezed orange juice every day, which I don't even get.

Funny, I complain about my site a lot, but having Rebecca here makes me like it more. People who I stopped talking to very often have grown warm and interested again. I get invited to events and told to bring the new gringa.

This is my last full week in my site. I will be travelling nearly all of next week, then back and forth to San Salvador doing administrative stuff.

Sometimes I think about packing, or getting rid of my stuff, or my goodbye party...and every time, I decide to ignore these things until the last possible moment, because I just can't get my head around it.

Paz y amor.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Atrapada San Vicente, once more due to heavy rains.

"What had happened was" (PG County so soon!) I went into San Vicente to talk to the trainees about "moving in and getting around," as they swear in tomorrow and come to their sites Friday. Including my replacement, so I will have a compañera in my site for a month! Sweet.

Anyway, during our discussion it started to pour rain and the river in Guadalupe, a town my bus would pass through, rose to dangerous levels and no one could get through there. So I am stuck in a hotel in San Vicente without even a toothbrush to my name.

At least our bridge hasn't collapsed (hopefully?)

I am still shocked by news I've received that yet another one of our university scholarship girls is preggers. We as Peace Corps volunteers talk about family planning to these girls, but in one ear and out the other, I guess?

The job search continues and is making me anxious. So is the mouse in my house. I went to buy mouse poison and this is what transpired:

ME: Do you have mouse poison?
STORE MAN: Here it is (handing me a small bag).
ME: How do you use it?
MAN: It's granulated. Put it where the mouse is hiding, mix it with some food, like a banana or something.
ME: But I don't know where the mouse is right now.
MAN: Right now? The poor little mouse is sleeping, dreaming of the delicious poisoned food you are about to give him.

Not a very good poison salesman. And yes, I did feel horrible after this exchange.

Paz y amor.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What a week

Rural village life here in El Salvador is generally isolated and peaceful, but this week's national emergency changed all that.

It started early in the week, when gang members, angered by a new anti-gang law, started posting flyers all over the country threatening to burn buses if they operated Wednesday through Friday. Few Salvadorans can afford cars and most depend on an extensive bus network that goes even into very rural areas. And gang crimes here are usually perpetrated on buses.

Anyway, this caused a 72-hour shutdown of the buses, making it impossible for much of the country to get to work or other necessary destinations. Of course my town's water pump broke during this strike, and the people from the water company were too scared to come fix it. Even though they come in company vehicles, people were scared that the gang threats would extend to any large vehicle, or even the passenger-laden pickup trucks that sometimes substitute for buses. Anyway, our water was out and I couldn't leave to go buy water or shower and do laundry in the capital. Thanks gangs.

Usually gang members board buses, rob all the people and bus's fare money from that day, and then evacuate the bus and burn it. The anti-gang law was proposed after a bus was burned in July with all the people still in it and the gang members posted to shoot escapers. 17 people were killed and more were wounded. That I did not blog about because I didn't want everyone worried about me. It happened at night in one of the most dangerous parts of the country, so there's no chance I or any other Peace Corps volunteer would have been in that situation. The only reason I'm writing about it now is that it's mentioned in that BBC link. Thanks BBC.

Still. I can't believe there wasn't already a law making it a crime to be a gang member. And when I think of this week I'm kind of glad my service is almost over!

In that vein, I finally wrapped up the stove project with a clausura meeting, complete with a huge cake. Glad that's out of my hair! I couldn't take pictures, though, because I was too busy actually running the meeting. Just one more project to finish, which will happen Thursday. And the new volunteer gets here the day after that!

Paz y amor.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Deme, deme

Readers of this blog are probably sick by now of me complaining about "handout mentality" -- villagers coming up to me and demanding money and things they feel I am obligated to give them because I am from the United States.

Well, yesterday I was kind of forced to go to church, and the priest, whom I normally don't like because he's so oppressive, actually gave a sermon against that!

He said he saw people arriving at the mayor's office and demanding (not asking for) money for bus fare, etc., and it made him sick. "Let's not get used to acting that way," he said.

THANK GOD! (No pun intended.) I now like the priest again.

In other news, the comedor, like a cafeteria-style restaurant, in my town was robbed at gunpoint at about 1 p.m. last week. Luckily no one was there eating at the time, only the owners. But don't be scared for me, as now there is a permanent police presence in the town (there wasn't before.) It's sad that it took something like this for the police to do their jobs, though.

Paz y amor.