Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Biendvenidos a El Salvador

What a week this has been!  Everything is good, but I have to say I have run the gamet of emotions -- sad to be leaving my new friends in Mexico, excited and worried about El Salvador -- then arriving in El Salvador and starting "work" -- which have both been great and overwhelming all at the same time.  The bottom line is I am good.  My accommodations are clean and bug free.  I have been well fed and the people are very, very nice.  However, everything is very, very different.  I do think that the baby analogy is a good one, that you think you know what is coming, but one day the baby is born and your life changes in ways you couldn't begin to understand.  That is kind of what this week has been like for me.  But let me start at the beginning.  

I had a really nice last week at CETLALIC, my language school.  I continued to have private classes, but there were a total of 4 students, so I had some people to hang out with on breaks.  Also one of the new students spoke almost no Spanish, so I helped him a little bit with understanding Cuernavaca and the general process of things.  It was so nice to feel helpful!  On Friday, they had a little going away party for me and they gave me a diploma.  It is really cute!  

Saying goodbye to my host family was hard.  They have been so good to me and I think I "clicked" with them.  I made a prayer shawl for Angeles my host mother as a thank you present for all of the time and care she gave me during my five weeks with them.  Mary, my minister joined (via SKYPE) with  Agustina a teacher at my school and I for a very brief, international bilingual prayer shawl blessing ceremony.  It was really cool!  With the help of one of my maestras, I wrote a thank you note to Angeles to express my thanks for all of the kindness and care she showed me over the past 5 weeks.   I also received some very special gifts.   Veronica (Angeles and Fernando's daughter) made me a special kind of salsa that I fell in love with in Mexico, to take with me to El Salvador.  Angeles gave me a little coin purse that was made by the inmates at the Penal.  Finally, Bryan (the 18 year old grandson who lived at the house) gave me a "nino de Shrek" (baby Shrek). Bryan is a very nice guy, but reserved and quiet. Angeles explained how pleasantly shocked she was that Bryan wanted to get me a present.  I only had a Canadian pencil for him because I didn't expect that we would exchanging gifts!   Before I was picked up and taken to the airport, I went for a short walk to the store with Obed, a very wise and mature 8 year old.  He just looked at me and said, quiere respirar el calle -  I turned and looked at him and he said in perfect English, you want to breathe in the street for one last time!  I swear this kid has the soul of an 80 year old! 

The directors of my language school and their 10 year old son drove me to the airport in Mexico City.  They very kindly came in to the airport and made sure that I was in the right line and knew where to go before they took off.  I really appreciated the extra care as the whole airport in Spanish experience felt a bit confusing.  All was fine! Then it was off to El Salvador.

Jenny, my host for the next year and a half, and Daisy and Lionel met me at the airport.  It was almost a two hour drive to Jenny's house in a suburb of San Salvador.  Along the way we stopped for pupusas--the national food of El Salvador.  Everyone was between 35-40 and I have to admit it was lovely to be around people my age for a while.  I will stay with Jenny and her 21 year son Jonathon at their house in San Salvador on weekends.  The house is very nice and luxurious compared to the casa in Mexico.  There is even a washing machine!  The three bedroom townhouse is small, very modern, but in many ways still very, very modest.   It actually reminds of a small subsidized housing townhouse.  It is in a gated community and so is quite safe.   There are some real safety issues in San Salvador.  I know only a bit about this and will probably blog more about this later.  Jenny speaks some English so we make a sort of Spanglish in order to communicate.   

During the week, I'll share a house with Jenny, Alex and Soto -- Alex and Soto are men.  The house is in Guacotecti, a very small village about a 15 minute walk from the office.  My room here is much larger than in San Salvador and has more furnishings.  My room has the first three pronged outlets I have seen in either El Salvador or Mexico.  However, it other ways it is very different from home.  I'm going to keep you in suspense because I can't quickly describe the ways in which it is different.  You really to see pictures and I'm not organized to that this week, so soon you will hear more about the house in Guancotecti.  However, I do really need to say that Jenny, Alex and Soto have all be awesome and welcoming.  There are a number of people who work at ADES and spend the week near the office and then commute home on the weekends.  It seems to be a way of life.  Of course because everyone has family elsewhere they try to live cheaply during the week, so that they can bring more money home to their families.  Soto gets the groceries every Monday.  I will need to contribute $5-8 dollars weekly for my meals here.  Breakfast and dinner at this house have been quite similar, scrambled eggs with vegetables, beans, tortillas and cheese.  Jenny, Alex and Soto have each a made meal.  I don't feel quite up for that yet, but I have mastered dish washing here...which is quite different than at home!

Work...well after two days I can say that I know that ADES does a lot of really great stuff, but I am still quite vague on a lot of it!  I am assigned to the "Area de Organizacion" which works with groups of women and groups of youth doing different things.  The fact that my Spanish is very basic has bothered me a lot this week, but not anyone much here.  They are all very kind are very pleased that I am going to be with them for a year+.  They keep telling me that my Spanish will come.  Many people have kindly told me that Heather (the last person from the United Church to be assigned to ADES) spoke little Spanish when she came and she made a very significant contribution to the agency later in her placement.  Her legacy is thought of very highly here.  I hope that eventually I will be able to be useful!

In the "it's a small world category" there is an older man in the office next to my team.  He lived on Regina Street in Waterloo for a number of years before he and his wife split and he returned to El Salvador!  Also, btw, Justin Beber is huge here and the fact that I lived about 30 minutes from his city makes me almost famous here!  

One of the expressions that they use here a lot is "poco a poco"  -- little by little.  I think that is good advice!  Today I knew more than I knew yesterday.  For example, I'm not just sure how the agency supply of toilet paper works.  There was toilet paper in the washroom on Monday and by the end of the day it was all used.  It seems that all of my team mates have a "stash" in their desk.  I know now where my team supply is located!
Basically I just sit in places and people come and get me and tell me it is time to go somewhere.  Yesterday, I thought I was going for lunch, (there is a woman who sells lunches for a very modest price at our office).   I didn't find her, but instead got told I was going with one of my teammates to a meeting in the community and so off I went.  We did stop for lunch along the way.  Coming back my colleague did not want to come back to ADES because she lives really near to where we were.  However, getting back meant two buses and no one was sure that I would handle the transfer correctly.  So the next thing I know a pick up truck pulled up in front of the building where we were and I was to get in.  I don't know who Jose is or why he came to collect me, but he delivered me safe and sound.  He seems to be a friend of ADES as people said, how did you get back and I said Jose, and they all said, oh Jose like they know him!  Apparently Jose has both a pick-up truck and a motorcycle so I am very grateful that he came in the truck!

There is so much more to tell, but I have time.  I hope the snow is melting and thanks everyone for your support.

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