Friday, August 22, 2008


As a small update…

I’m visiting my parents before moving up to NJ to find work…..any ideas?

Ohh..and I’ve talked to Iris several times and we’re planning on skyping soon.


The end

Wednesday (I believe we’re talking about the 13th of August) I woke up early and headed back to my pueblo. Along the way I stopped by a bakery to pick up some items. I think I got into town around 10:15am. This was the hardest day b/c it was the last day.

I’ll explain that below is a minor resumen of what went on…it’s kinda tuff to describe the last day in a place you’ve lived two years in.

I first went and dropped all my stuff off at Iris’s place and quickly caught up with her. Then to Sonia’s. I then walked around town to say good-bye and thank my landlords. From there I headed over to Vilma’s for one final good-bye.

Now, during the Festivales Patronales, I sold many of the smaller items in my house in Iris’s store as a fundraiser for the Casa de Cultura (Culture House). So, I walked over there after a tearful goodbye with Vilma to make the donation. They were very thankful.

The rest of the morning I stayed with Iris. She made me my favorite lunch (meat filled tortillas) as we watch soap operas. She also helped me repack a bunch of my stuff. Now, I was all worried that everything was over weight. So Lito went and got a cool hanging scale to check everything. He prounounced my heaviest bag to be 30…only he didn’t realize that the scale was in kilograms….not pounds. More on that later.

In the afternoon, I headed over to the town hall to say good-bye and eat cake. It was a small but nice little event. I’m still waiting to get the photos from Heidy.

Then it was off the Sonia’s place for the rest of the day. She prepared my favorite food and we drank pina coladas. They gave me a few gifts that I’ll always keep.

That night I could hardly sleep I was soo full. I mean insanely full.

Thursday morning Iris made me pancakes. We chitchatted a little and then at 9am I hopped into the town hall pick up and was off. Neither Iris nor Sonia came…they said it would be too sad and they were right.

It was a nice drive out – calm.

Getting home was a little rough. I had to pay for overweight luggage and my carry on was a little tough to get around since it weighed 40lbs. But, I somehow managed and got home around 11pm to the open arms of my awaiting parents.

And that’s the end of Peace Corps El Salvador for me.

Bay Islands

The Vacation

So, I got to the capital a little later then I wanted to. I quickly dropped off some stuff at the hostel and then ran over to have lunch with a few friends to say good-bye. That was a little quicker then I wanted it to be.

Natalie and I then ran over to a salon to get some girl things done….I leave the details out. Then we decided to go to a different salon to get our nails done. Getting to the other salon was hell. We were in the cap during the Festivales Patronales so it was pandemonium. So, the bus we thought would cut around everything, instead took us to the center of the action. We hopped off the bus and ran to the other side of the activities to get on a quicker bus. While waiting to grab another bus, a micro bus hit me with its side view mirror between the shoulder blades. Thankfully, it was only going about5mph – but still. After that, we gave up and got in a cab.

We got in the other salon just in time. I let Nat get the first seat for a pedicure and thought I would just be waiting a few minutes. Instead they called me over to do my pedicure in another part of the salon – I figured maybe they had another area…I was wrong. I got a bucket in the middle of the salon with lukewarm water. It was great.

That night we had dinner with another friend as a goodbye dinner.

Thurday morning we were off to the Bay Islands in Honduras. It was a total of about three flights to get there. The first flight was good, the second and third were in prop planes. I’ve never really been in a prop plane like those.

Anyway, we got to the island and settled in. We also picked out our dive shop. I can’t say we did too much more then diving and watching the Olympics. Ohh..we did manage to take some walks on the beach and eat cookie dough.

Joe and I complete two dives towards our Advanced Open Water certification – peak performance buoyancy and our deep dive. The buoyancy one was extremely useful – it helped us determine how much weight we should be using and how to float ‘neutrally’ (for example, if you could stay at 15ft below the surface without much work…neither sinking or rising). We decided to do the deep dive since there was a sunk ship. We went to a depth of 105ft…it was really fun.

Now, as you may have noticed, I only said Joe and I. After our third dive, Natalie’s ear was in bad shape. As we were doing our deep dive, she went to the hospital to have it checked out. Let’s just say it’s a damn good thing she didn’t do the deep dive.

After the deep dive…which I think was on Monday….we hopped on to local transportation for a cheap tour of the island. We were gone for about 4 hours and saw some really beautiful sights. Though, I will admit that during the ride I did sneak in a 20min nap. The bus route for our driver ended on the other side of the island, but since he was headed back our way we let us stay on the bus and acted as a tour guide. It was really nice of him and we paid him almost everything we had in our pockets…which may or may not of been enough to cover the ride.

That night we treated ourselves to a good Thai restaurant and enjoyed the Olympics.

Tuesday was our flight back to El Salvador. Now, they don’t mention when you enter Honduras that you’re going to have to pay $34 to leave the country. This took us all unaware and thank God I had my debit card or I might still be in Honduras.

We got back to San Salvador about 7ish and just went to the estancia to crash. It was a nice vacation and I’m glad I did it.

The end of the festivales patronales

So where did I leave off… (if you are reading this before the one below, I think you should skip down and them come back to this point…only a suggestion).

Ahh yes, Friday night activities. For a little while Friday afternoon I chilled with Vilma where they were selling (in front of the culture house). That night was the first night of bands…I gotta say I wasn’t all that impressed. The first band’s mics were all off and they sounded terrible. The only people who were able to put on a really good show were the comedians. The fun part this year was that I could actually understand them…for the most part.

Saturday…I don’t quite remember what I did on Saturday. Chances are I was finishing up the house, hanging out with my artisans and everyone else.

Sunday was the big day. In the morning I worked my way over to one of the fields for the carrera de cintas – I was a godmother. I’m pretty sure I was the oldest godmother there – most topped out at 16. Overall it was good, but it started about 3 hours late and that field was horribly hot….there aren’t any trees there anywhere.

From there I worked my way over to the church bbq. Nina Tere invited me the day before and thus I felt obliged to go. I showed up way late (see previous paragraph for reason) and thus there wasn’t really any food…but Tere got up and made me my own plate. It was good.

I quicky ate and then headed over to the other soccer field to watch the ending of the tournament. I’m pleased to announce that my team won the tournament…I think it’s b/c I was their godmother.

After the fun of the tournament, I got to relax in the house for a bit and get ready for the dance. The dance was set up in front of my house with the speakers facing Iris’s house. So, I could get through to her house for the most part, but around 6ish they closed my only pass through. Thankfully, they did allow me to use a ladder and climb through the dj booth to get to my house.

I got ready and then stepped out my front door to watch the parade with the queens go by.

The dance was gonna be great, but then it down poured. The dance was smaller then last year, but still good. The down pour knocked out the power for a little bit, a few minutes at a time.

I left the dance around 1amish, after that hour there are more drunkards then non…so it’s when I leave.

Monday was a quite day around town.

Tuesday was the final day of the festivals patronales. Iris and I went to the other neighborhood (yes, they so do the ‘other neighborhood’ thing down here) to see the palo encebado or the greased up pole. About 10 – 15 drunkards work together (I should note that they’re not drunk yet) to climb the giant greased pole to win a huge bottle of alcohol and $150. It took them a number of tries and I’m surprised nobody broke anything.

Tuesday afternoon I moved almost everything out of the house….sad.

Wednesday was when the move was finished. I left my bags with Iris and ran into the capital to start my vacation with Joe and Natalie.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Starting to close up shop....

This past week I started to get things organized.

I went into Sonsonate with another volunteer to take pictures of the market. No, I didn’t take my beautiful digital camera there, I’m not that foolish. I had bought a disposable camera for just this reason. It felt kinda weird taking pictures like a tourist, but also kinda fun.

I spent Thursday in the capital to start the process of COSing (close of service). This entailed printing reports, interviews and overall signature hunts. I have to get about 8 – 10 signatures from various people saying I completed various things in order to leave PC. I will finish up the process on Tuesday.

I also spent time buying my last ‘recuerdos’ or souvenirs of El Salvador.

I can’t quite remember what I spent the rest of the week doing – I think I spent time with Vilma while making some pottery. I hope the pieces dry in time.

And then I also think I helped Heidy make tickets for the rodeo we had on Sunday.

Saturday I headed back to the market with Jessica and Mayra to do some shopping. Mayra went to buy jeans and I went to get various things. I got a ‘grisa’ (not sure of the spelling of it) for the carrera de cintas on this coming Sunday. A grisa is a specific type of rope they use for cattle and I bought it cause I’m a madrina (Godmother). I also picked up another cesta – I have quite the collection I’m brining home.

Saturday afternoon we went to the cancha (soccer field) to watch Ricardo’s team in the semi finals. They won! They ran over the allotted time, so it came down to penalty kicks. The others overshot a kick (right over the top of the goal) and our guys put one in and thus it ended. The finals are on this coming Sunday as well. If they win, I’m going to say it was because I was there madrina. (Are you sensing a trend of me and madrina-ness?)

Sunday rolled around and I aprovechared a free morning to go play on the pottery wheel. Mayra came with me to take some pics. After about an hour and a half on the wheel, I had successfully made one item…hopefully it will dry in time to be fired.

Around 11am on Sunday, I moseyed on down to the cancha for the rodeo. This is a different cancha then the one previously mentioned. I prefer the other one because this one has no trees and no natural shade. Thankfully, Mayra thought to bring an umbrella and we all huddled beneath it during the rodeo or else I would be all sorts of red at this moment in time. The rodeo was fun, if not a little hot. I got home around 5:30ish and took a nice cold shower.

Now it’s Monday morning and I’m working to get things organized. This week is when I have to start putting things up for sale, packing and overall getting ready to go…..

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pretty much done with stuff....

I (mostly) managed to stay on point!

I somehow got all the materials for the fuel efficient stove construction presentation together just in time. It was actually quite impressive how it all came together. I should explain a little more. Peace Corps asked me to hold a training for 20 volunteers on how to build two different types of fuel efficient stoves. Why me? Cause I’m the only volunteer left in the country who knows how…that why. There were only two snags -1- that there was only one saw to cut the bricks with and -2- the guy from PC brought the wrong size tambo (kinda like a thin metal pot). The pots are suppose to be about 18” between handles when measure along the side and about 12 – 14” high. Both the tambos he brought were about 2 or 3 sizes too small. But hey, we made it work.

During the training, one of my town drunkards came to hang out. This is the one who thinks he’s my boyfriend. He basically sat down and mumbled the entire time. The volunteers who came for the training found him highly entertaining…if only they knew.

The training got cut a little short ‘cause we ran out of time. Bricks take a long time to cut. I grabbed a ride with the group back to Sonsonate and then hopped a bus to the capital to grab dinner with a few friends. The snafu came when I didn’t receive the message canceling it and got stood up….kinda sucked.

The next morning I walked over to Banco Custcatlan to close my account. Why? You have to close your account before leaving PC and since the account only had a $1.15 in it I decided to close it down early in the month. Now, for the past two years I have been collecting ‘puntos de oro’ or gold points in hopes of getting myself a cool $25 Visa gift card. I walk in there to cash them out and the woman behind the desk tells me that almost 1000 have expired. What?! She then tells me that they expire after two years. I say I’ve only been in the country for two years so how could they have expired. She had no explanations and her boss was conveniently not there….so I got screwed and had to settle for a $10 gift certificate to the super market.

So, by late Saturday morning you can imagine how mad I was and to top it off I had to walk everywhere in the rain without an umbrella. Cue the violins.

I finally made it back to my site, took a hot bucket bath and a nap and felt way better.

Saturday night was the election of the Queen for our Patron Saint Festivals. Normally it is done during a dance, but we didn’t have money for that this year…so they went with a beauty pageant type set-up. I enjoyed it. You could tell it was the first year they were doing it – the girls were nervous, there weren’t enough seats and a few other mis-steps, but overall good. I got to award one of the trophies for something (probably Miss Congeniality). The only other problem was out of their control – rain.

Of course, there was griping the next day of how a dance would have been better and so and so should’ve won – but you can’t please everyone.

Sunday I headed over to the soccer team to watch Ricardo’s team pummel the competition (7 – 1). I enjoy being the Madrina (Godmother) to a winning team. Next week is the semis.

After the game, I decided to walk back home. Along the way, I managed to pick-up a bolo (drunkard). I was just walking and he came right up and started walking next to me talking about how beautiful I am and how much in love with me he is. Now, what made this different then the other times was that he continue to walk with me. I went and bought pupusas (tortillas stuffed with cheese and squash), and he just waited till I was done and then continued. He did the same thing when I bought a can of soda. So, I walked back to Iris’s house instead of mine and waited out the bolo while eating. Iris and Lito (her hubby) found this quite entertaining.

Once he was gone, I headed home to clean and wash.

And now I’m drinking tea and getting ready for bed. I’m also trying to keep the lights on for a long as possible to keep the bats from dirtying up my nice clean floor. I hate bats.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

small update

The graduation went well. I wound up handing out the diplomas – I’m pretty sure I was asked to do it ‘cause the lady from the NGO didn’t know the women’s’ names. I was happy to oblige. Afterward Chele and his mom headed out. He’ll be back in August to give another training, but after I’m gone.

Wednesday I headed back in for my final dental visit. I took advantage of my trip in to pick up some Captain Crunch waiting for me in the office, buy bubble wrap for transporting pottery and doing some research. I was pretty lucky, while waiting for the bus to start my trip to the capital, Don Justo passed by in the pick-up…turned out he was headed in the same direction. I love it when I can grab a ride somewhere….anywhere.

I can’t say too much happened during the rest of the week. The soccer tournament on Sunday was surprisingly calm…there have been rumors as to why, but I won’t go into them. Iris’s mom also came in on Sunday, so it was good to see her and catch up. I believe I’ll have to head out to her house at least once more before the end of July.

Yesterday I finished up all the catalogs for the artisans. I’m pleased with how it came out and hope my artisans like it.

I have high hopes of finishing all my work this week and then coasting the final 2 weeks. If I stay on point, it shouldn’t be a problem. Hehehe.
Ohh...and I am officially coming home on the 14th of August - I have the plane ticket.

Alright, quick little update, I know, but enough.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

lots of people seeing

On Friday (July 1st) we celebrated Sonia’s birthday. Since she obviously couldn’t be asked to cook for her own surprise party, we decided to go with Pollo Campero (kinda like KFC). It was all going well enough leading up until the actual day. I think she truly believed we weren’t doing anything for her birthday and thus proceeded to cook herself her own birthday lunch. I was invited along and it was good food. The only problem was that I had to get on a pick-up for 45min to pick up the food for the party – there is nothing worse then hopping on a pick-up on a full stomach. I managed to do it without dying. Jessica came with and we picked up the chicken and the cake.

Then Sonia decided not to go to a meeting she was originally going to go to and walked in on Iris’s cooking. So, the surprise was ruined. But the party turned out to be fun. I thought it was going to be bad since Sonia wasn’t in a good mood…but she got there and all turned out well. I think a high part was when we brought the cake out and proceeded to put 47 (+ 1 for good luck) candles on it. Nope, she didn’t get them all out on the first shot.

The following day (the 5th of July) the American Society held its annual Fourth of July party at the Sheraton Presidente. It’s always done on the weekend closest to the actual day. Unfortunately, the party was on a rainy day so not too many people came (neither volunteers nor embassy staff). It was nice for the fact that that improved our chances for the raffle. A number of volunteers won gift certificates. Another good point was that we got to talk to the Ambassador for a while and hear his view points on what the country needed (El Salvador), what his background was, and what he wanted to continue to do.

After the party and the short spurt of fireworks, some of us headed over to a local club. I’m not if you could define it as a club…it had a DJ and small dance floor, but also served food. I guess you would call it a restaurant/club. It was a fitting place to have my group’s despidida (good-bye party) since it is where we had our swearing – in party. We ended it where we started it. The party itself was great since it stayed small, there was no cover charge to get in and the music was good. Afterward, I headed back to the Sheraton Presidente – another volunteer had enough reward points on his credit card to get a free room, and thus I aprovechared and crashed there. There is nothing better then a hot shower without the free of electric shock.

Sunday came around quick enough and it was time to head back to my site with Natalie. We (Joe, Natalie and I), of course, hit up breakfast at Shaw’s for some Belgium waffles and the breakfast buffet. Afterward, Natalie and I went shopping and then back to my site. Joe had some training with PC and since Nat can’t be alone in her site she came home with me. The trip would’ve been nice, but the artisans from Guatajiagua sent clay to my artisans via volunteers. I was hauling around at least 30 pounds of clay. It was insane.

We got back to my site with just enough time for a short nap and snack. Then it was time for my second and last class on the pottery wheel. Thankfully, when we arrived, Silvia was there. I needed an artisan to give me some clay – I don’t have it lying around my house. Natalie and I then spent the next 2.5 hours playing around on the pottery wheel. It was also fun to tease Chele and Hugo (Chele was the 18 year old giving the classes and Hugo is his best friend here). At the end we paid them well and thanked them both. I tend to get spoiled since I just show up and play with the clay and other tend to clean up for me afterward.

That night I crashed after a simple dinner – lugging that clay around all day was really tiring.

Monday we didn’t do too much. Natalie spent a good part of her day working on some papers to get into graduate school. I spent a good part of the day cleaning. I hadn’t had a chance in a while to clean up and there was just bat shit and dirt. That and I needed to wash some clothing. During the rainy season you kinda gotta wash clothes right after they get dirty cause it can take a while to get them to dry.

We also went through some of my stuff and I gave her a bunch of stuff – like spices I won’t be using, DVDs and things like that. She helped me sort through my clothing…I get emotionally attached to my clothing, so I needed an outside opinion.

Time went pretty quick with her here. But she left this morning and this afternoon I have my artisans graduation from their pottery class.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

two weeks in one

Sonia’s b-day was actually on Sunday, but since she was spending the day selling food at the soccer tournament we thought it best to wait till Monday. We didn’t tell her this, of course, so she thought we had forgotten all about her b-day. Monday afternoon we made out way up there and surprised her with sandwiches, soda and cake! It was a nice way to spend the afternoon.

That was pretty much the high point of the week.

Otherwise, I worked on books for a little while and on a catalog for my artisans. Next week I hope to finish both the books and the catalog. *It is now the following week…yes, I know I should’ve published. The books are mostly done. I can say I’m in agreement with their filing method with entails ordering books in alphabetical order by title (not author) and then just numbering them 1 through whatever. This after we went to a training entailing how to organize a library. But, there is nothing I can do about it now so I’ll just have to let it go. The catalog is moving right along. Though, each artisan wants their own private catalog – I said that I would only to a communal one, but I would give them a disc each with the information if they wanted their sons to change it for them. All were content.

This Monday (we’re talking about the 30th now) I made my way over to the dentist to get some cavities filled. I though there was only one, but apparently there were two – quite deep ones. The dentist overall was great – he had a cool camera so you could see pictures of what was going on in your mouth and was very friendly. My only tiff is that it felt like he waited to strike pain before giving me Novocain to fill the cavities. Not cool. Afterwards I headed over to the PC office to pick up some paperwork and then on home.

On my way to the bus stop I had a scary guy moment. He (a guy in military boots, shorts, no shirt and funky hair) was walking towards me and I decided to give him some room. Just as we were about to pass each other, he steps into my path, grabs me by the shoulder and starts screaming. I pushed him off and kept walking…thankfully he decided not to follow but did continue to scream. I hopped the next available bus and got home.

Iris made me a cup of tea…she’s so good.

I was lying in bed last night and came to the conclusion that I would rather have rats then bats for the following reason: rats don’t shit all over my house and leave bits of food. I think the rats help keep bats away since they run on the beams that the bats like to hang off of. So, if you’re ever given the choice – take rats over bats.

And that’s all for now.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Last Saturday was my first shot on the pottery wheel. We were suppose to meet at 8:30am, but he was nice enough to call me at 5:40am to change the time to 1pm. So, we met at 1pm and started the fun. I learned the basics of raising and lowering the clay in a column form. I then moved on and made one ugly plate. I seem to have a problem keeping the pieces base connected to the rest – so I’m often left with a ring shaped thing. Overall it was fun, the only thing was that it left me with a blister on my foot – the wheel was foot powered.

Sunday marked the beginning of the soccer tournament. I was the godmother for Ricardo’s team. This basically entails me gifting them a soccer ball and taking a pic. Unfortuantly, their game started later then it should have and I couldn’t stay for the full thing, though I heard they won.

Why couldn’t I stay? Monday was when I started my COS (close of service) medical. It’s kinda a full check-up Peace Corps does before you leave. Your last chance to bring up concerns and have things checked out. It was starting early on Monday, so I went into the capitol late Sunday so as to not have to be unfriendly at 5am in the morning.

I am pleased to announce I have only one cavity…I’ll go get that filled next week.

But that’s not what took up the most time, but took up the most time is a bump on the bottom of my right foot. Now, I’ve had it for over a year, but I decided that this was last call so I should mention it. First, the nurse checked it out, said she didn’t know what it was and made an appointment for the dermatologist for the following day. I went to him, he poked at it (and yes, it is a sensitive little thing) and declared that he had no idea what it was. So, he sent me to get a sonogram of it. I went into the sonogram office and they checked it out. I think the assistant was a little confused as to where it was a first cause she said I had to take off my pants – I declined and just rolled them up. Then the person who works the machine came in and did her magic. It turns out it’s a bump within a bump – they could tell me nothing more. From there, I was referred to a podiatrist (bones and muscle guy). He was really sorry that he could tell me nothing but to refer me back to the dermatologist. No, I didn’t go back to the dermatologist – my file has been sent to Washington and maybe they can figure it out. I’ll keep you updated.

My only complaints with COS medical deal with transport. You have to see a lot of doctors and none are near to the others. So, you wind up walking…a lot and using overly expensive buses (the fee went up to $.35 for a few days before the government stepped in to subsidize). The hotel the PC uses is nice, but is in the middle of nowhere – not close to food so you wind up ordering in and that’s even more expensive.

I was finally able to leave Friday. First, went to centro (giant market in center of San Salvador) to do some cesta (nice plastic bag – see jenny’s) shopping. That place is huge! It’s also a little scary, so I got in and out quick. After a quick lunch with another volunteer, I was on the bus back to my pueblito. It felt soo good to sleep in my own bed and watch my soap operas (not all volunteers like soap operas so I don’t always get a chance to watch them when I’m away from my pueblito).

Unfortunately, while I was a way a number of bats decided to call my place home. So, I spent a while Saturday cleaning up bat shit and the little pieces of fruit they leave behind. That night, I kept the lights on for as long as I could with the hope of scaring them away. Usually, if I can catch them one with the lights they leave me alone for a while. If they don’t, I’ll throw some fresh garlic up on the top of the walls… I hear it discourages them from coming in.

Sunday was the soccer tournament. My team won its second game in a row! It was a fun hanging out at the field, but it was brutally hot as well. I hid under some shade for most of the time. Usually such heat means rains on its way, and it didn’t fail this time. I was relaxin at my house around 7:30pm when I felt the breeze pick up. I then lit some candles ‘cause I knew the power wasn’t going to survive the night…and it didn’t. It cut out about 3 minutes after I had finished my routine of brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed. I have such good timing.

Now it’s Monday the 23rd and I’m in the town hall. I have a birthday celebration this afternoon to attend and from there more books. I’ll let you know how it goes.