Friday, April 24, 2009

One Month Down

So much has been going on! Engineers Without Borders were here the 13th through the 19th. Some of them crashed at the house down the street from me where they all ate their meals and the rest stayed at my house…it was definitely crowded! We were working in a community called Las Pilitas. It’s a poor neighborhood situated in a ravine where dirty drainage water runs right through it and they have to walk up steep slippery ricks to get to the rest of the town. The PCV here applied to EWB for a project to build a street or walkway to safely connect them to the rest of the town. This stage of the project involved them taking a lot of survey data, training the community to use the tools properly to break up the rocks in the ravine, and prioritizing clean up campaigns. That week was really my fist week on the job, and it was a huge test of my Spanish skills! The other PCV and I basically had to coordinate everything the Engineers need to do and translate or everything (which is why I now know how to say drill, shovel, rebar, fencing, and a variety of other construction materials in Spanish). My counterpart and I also gave a charla (workshop/training/class) on proper trash disposal and the environment to the community and helped form a clean up committee in the community. Hopefully well help them get a water committee organized as well, as we hope to solicit for some public water taps in the community as well. On Saturday we all went to a nearby beach and spend the day relaxing in hammocks and on Sunday we visited the Izalco Volcano and Lake Coatepeque.- absolutely gorgeous!

This week the other PCV and I have had a ton of meetings and activities. The other day I taught a class on leadership at the school (in Spanish of course!) and yesterday I had and interview and helped with an English class on the youth run radio station that the other PCV helped start. We also met with the cleaning committee in Las Pilitas and set up house visits in the community above them to talk about trash management (i.e., asking them not to throw their trash in the streets and into their community!)

In more wildlife news, I finally saw a scorpion! One of the engineers was washing his pants in my pila (stone sink thing) and found a scorpion and two babies in his pants….

I’m really homesick now that the engineers have gone. I was doing good until they all came and stayed at my place, I got used to having a bunch of people around, and then they left to go back to the States and I kept thinking about how it would be if I was going back for a visit too…I wont be able to leave or have visitors until late June or July, so I’m looking forward to the second training session in June where I’ll get to see my training group again. Hopefully this will cheer me up!

Meeting with Las Pilitas community

Cleanin Up and Breakin Rocks

Engineers Without Borders - Central Ohio Professionals Chapter

Broadcasting in the Radio

Furry Chicken :)

Izalco Volcano

Lake Coatepeque

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I've been in my site for a week now and so far so good! There is another Volunteer here from Peace Corps who is leaving in July or August. The first day she took me around and introduced me to the community - everyone was so nice and welcoming (got lots of free food and lots of "Welcome to our town, come to me if you ever need anything"). The Volunteer has been on vacation in Nicaragua this week, and her host family has been great - letting me hang out in their house all day, eat meals with them, taking me to Semana Santa processions and activities. I have a house down the street from her host family. Its small but perfect! I have four rooms, tiled floors, and a big shower! Well, everything is perfect except for the walls, which are all painted a bright lime green and have mix-matched wallpaper borders...but everything else is amazing!
Semana Santa (Holy Week) was this week a lot of my town is Catholic, so there have been special Masses and processions all week. Last night the town painted "alfombras" in the street of saints, bible scenes, etc... before the big procession of the night.
This week Engineers without Borders is coming to my town to bust up some boulders in the river, so hopefully I'll be working with the Volunteer here to help out.
In wildlife news, I killed a ton of big ass ants that had a colony or something in my windowsill, saw a tarantula and a snake (which was later stoned to death by the townsfolk) down by the river, and have seen a few cockroaches climbing out of crevasses in my house. Have yet to see a scorpion climbing down my wall to launch itself at my face while sleep, and have bought a gigantic can of anti scorpion/ant/cockroach to prevent this from ever happening in the future.

Semana Santa Procession in my town

View from the hilltop - on a less cloudy day you can see the ocean!

Swearing In!


Friday, April 3, 2009

It's Official

I am now no longer a Trainee – I am officially a Volunteer! We had a beautiful Swearing In ceremony at the American Embassy in the capitol yesterday, followed by dinner and a party hosted by other Volunteers. Everyone departed for their sites this morning – lots of tears and goodbyes! I’m excited to get to my site even thought I’ve been placed far away from everyone else in my Training class. I’m replacing a Volunteer so we’ll have an overlap of a few months before I’m alone in my site.

Yesterday morning before orientation we had Counterpart Day – every Volunteer has an assigned counterpart in their community (for Munis it’s usually the mayor) and they all came to the capitol for an orientation. Unfortunately, my counterpart couldn’t come, and it was really depressing being one of the only ones at the orientation without my counterpart!

The elections on March 15 went really well - no incidents that were cause for alarm. The country elected the president from a different party from the one that has been in power for 20 years, so there was a lot of excitement. Last Friday night I watched the town kill, bleed out, skin, and dismember two young oxen. That was definitely a first (and hopefully a last!!).

Another first – I climbed the San Vicente Volcano last Sunday! It was by far physically the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I found a guide from my training community who was willing to take us (about 8 Trainees) and we started out at 6:45 and got back at 3:30 – straight hiking with short infrequent breaks and about 30 minutes for lunch at the top. my feet were covered in blisters and I could hardly walk afterwards, but at least the view was pretty!

30 mins in

At the top!

My training community <3