September 9, 2014
11:56
?
Getting into gear

I’ve been lax about posting updates recently. That’s because, following the end of the winter festival in Perquin work really started to take off for Hilary and I. Here’s a small look at some of the things we’ve been doing over the past month:     Our project b...

read more

August 12, 2014
17:46
?
The winter festival

Ever since we first moved to our community people have been telling us about the winter festival in Perquín.  It apparently started right after the war ended as a kind of liberal convention of sorts. All of the leaders of the new FMLN political party would come out along with the guerril...

read more

August 7, 2014
13:31
?
One year in El Sal: The graph

The winter festival just finished up here in Perquín. I'll have a post up about that soon. However, seeing as festivals mean that all work stops, I had some time to keep reflecting on the one year mark in our service. I was especially thinking about this graph that Peace Corps gave us when we...

read more

July 24, 2014
21:45
?
One year in country

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to greet a new group of volunteers to El Salvador. It’s only just now that I’m beginning to realize that we’re the "veterans” now. Watching the new kids come off the plane I found myself first marveling at how beautiful these people ...

read more

July 14, 2014
10:51
?
July 7, 2014
23:49
?
4th of July

There's something about living outside the US that makes people far more patriotic than they ever were in the US. Maybe it's specifically living outside the US in a developing country, where we find ourselves pining for basic guarantees that we never thought about in the US. Maybe it's working for "...

read more

June 19, 2014
18:24
?
June 12, 2014
19:57
?
An update on the terrible wait

At the time of writing my post about Lidia back in March, Lidia had not yet arrived in the US. After three weeks of travel Lidia made it into the US.   She then spent a month in Houston in the hands of some sort of social service agency that deals with child immigrants. This organization arra...

read more

June 8, 2014
12:35
?
Nicaragua - 8 days out and about.

Hilary and I just got back from our anniversary trip to Nicaragua. We took a well deserved week off from working with our community to visit the land of lakes and volcanoes.  It was a wonderful trip. I can’t say that we did a great job of seeing the “real” Nicaragua since we s...

read more

00:08
?
Kaiser: part 2

I have an update coming on the way about our trip to Nicaragua. Since we got back we've been playing with the new puppy in the new house (see my previous post.)  He's top heavy (he's got a fat head) and is still trying to figure out how to walk. He also sounds like an ewok

May 24, 2014
23:30
?
The Kaiser

Hilary and I are about to head off to Nicaragua for our second anniversary, but there's cuteness overload that's too good to wait till I get back. Can you see it in the photo below?     That's right, we have a puppy!       Well. We don't have a puppy. It's the...

read more

April 23, 2014
19:52
?
The rains

In central america there are only two seasons. Wet and dry.

 

Welcome to the wet.

April 20, 2014
11:40
?
The insect post. It had to happen someday.

Hilary and I have yet to run into a (living) scorpion as of yet. However, most of the other volunteers have been stung or battling those beasts for months now. We're just lucky I guess?

 

 

 

March 25, 2014
20:11
?
The sound of "summer"

We're here at the end of the dry season in El Salvador and, while there really are only two "official" seasons in this part of the world (dry and wet), within the seasons you can see some interesting differences.  

 

Most notably is that at the end of the dry season the cicadidae's come out. They sing night and day and when the sun sets they really scream. Here's a recording of them last night as the sun was going down. Turn the volume up all the way with a pair of headphones and you can start to imagine the noise.

March 16, 2014
10:06
?
Peace Corps Cribs - Part 2. We're in our new room!

  So this past week Hilary and I finally moved into our new room. She has a post up on her blog  with photos and some more back-story about the move. By the end of our first night here in our site we knew that the room we were placed in was wrong for us (we just didn't FIT!) but that...

read more

March 15, 2014
14:03
?
Election update:

Last week the voters in El Salvador went back to the voting booths in a run-off election between the conservative right-wing party (ARENA) and the moderate-left wing party (FMLN). In the first election there were three political parties running for the presidency and the FMLN got 49% of th...

read more

March 4, 2014
20:39
?
update

An update to the previous post: We got the call. Lidia's made it to Houston. 

March 2, 2014
17:38
?
The terrible wait

So I've been going over in my head the past couple of weeks over what I wanted my next blog post to be. I have a number partially prepared: foods of el salvador, what we've been doing as volunteers over the past month, the progress our host family has made on our room, the results of an HIV/AIDs tra...

read more

March 1, 2014
20:14
?
New comment system

 I've switched my commenting system over to disqus in order to combat spammers. Let me know if you have any problems leaving comments.

January 24, 2014
14:55
?
December 27, 2013
11:38
?
From dirt to cup: the whole process (more or less)

Hilary and I happen to live in one of the better areas for coffee production in El Salvador. Here in El Salvador people grow arabica, which is the most common variety of coffee grown around the world.  At one point in history El Salvador was producing more coffee than any other country in the w...

read more

December 22, 2013
08:15
?
December 21, 2013
12:13
?
PCupdate: Our bathroom got a door today. Hooray!
November 25, 2013
18:46
?
November 14, 2013
14:13
?
General Assembly!

So last week Hilary and I finally wound up the project we were working on from a day to day basis in La Tejera - our community census project. We visited each house in the community (a little over 100) introducing ourselves and collecting data about the houses.  From this data we put together a...

read more

November 5, 2013
22:18
?
New Roommates

When the seasons change here in the little thumb instead of waiting for the leaves to change colors, you wait until thousands of guerrilla ants sweep through your house, killing every mouse, insect, and stray thing that gets in their way.  We came home today to our own personal Planet Earth episode, sweeping through our house. 

 

Luckily these guys cleared out and moved on about 10 minutes after I took the video. We were afraid that they'd spend the night.

November 4, 2013
15:15
?
A late spoooky el salvador style update for haloween

Taken from Linda's El Salvador Blog, head over to read the other spooky myths she mentions in her post:   "What about the Siguanaba?" I ask.   No one in the circle has seen the Siguanaba. Some have heard her cry out by the little dirty rivers in the woods. Her voice is beautiful s...

read more

October 29, 2013
16:15
?
feliz cumpleaƱos

So it's October, which means birthdays for Hil and I.       Our host sister here at the house loves arts and crafts so she had Hil making me a paper mâché piggy bank and me putting together a bouquet of paper flowers. In addition, Hil earned herself a bottle of hibi...

read more

October 16, 2013
16:14
?
Time out for some El Salvador history

Hil and I are settling into our new site in the Northern part of Morazan, El Salvador and running a community-wide census so that we can get to know the community better.  We are staying in the part of the country that was the center of the opposition to the national government during El Salvad...

read more

October 2, 2013
02:08
?
Re-blogging something old

I posted this on Facebook a while back, but I was thinking back to it tonight because it felt rather appropriate. Courtesy of Mario, one of the other volunteers in our group.

September 23, 2013
08:50
?
Training Training Training Training Training

    As we swing in to our last week of training I just want to take a step back from a talking about day to day projects and give an overview of the Peace Corps training model here in El Salvador.  I was thinking about this the other day as I was talking to a friend of mine who is...

read more

September 7, 2013
12:16
?
Immersion days and Field Based Training

As part of PC training trainees  end up spend up spending one full week living with other current volunteers and seeing what it's like to be a PC volunteer on a day-to-day basis.  Here in El Salvador these seven days are split into two different sessions with two different volunteers. We spend a weekend (3 days) with one volunteer ("immersion days") and then we spend four days during the work week with another volunteer ("Field-based training").  The training staff here in El Salvador decided to split up Hil and I for both sessions, so between the two of us we ended up experiencing four different volunteer sites.

 

During the first out (immersion days) I went to visit a youth development volunteer named Cesar along with another trainee named Frank.  Frank has a great post breaking down those three days over on his blog. We stayed in a small community (or caserio) named Buenas Aires. It used to be called Big Lizard but the residents resented the name and changed it.  Frank, Cesar, and I managed catch a lucky pickup ride to the top of the mountain where Buenas Aires is:

 

 

 

Although Cesar is a Youth Development volunteer there have been Community Economic Development volunteers in his site in the past. A lot of the projects that those COED volunteers had developed were still running and it was a joy to see those projects. We talked to a lady who ran an gourmet bread business, which was developed by a COED volunteer. We also heard about a weekly trash pickup service that a previous volunteer had arranged from the neighboring city and I saw lots of eco-stoves in people's houses:

 

 

These stoves use less wood than conventional fires and they vent the smoke away from people's faces when they cook. Cesar's host family said they didn't like how the stove required a specific size of wood to cook with and she used both the eco-stove and a traditional fire. Our host family also had one, but it went unused during our stay since they had a gas stoves to cook with.

 

All in al though, the weekend with Cesar was really exciting and it got me excited to be a COED volunteer at my own site.

 

Cesar also showed us the life of a youth development volunteer. He is a really great teacher and an even better social worker (which is his educational background.) We helped him teach a couple english courses, a class on self-esteem, watched him play in the school band, and played a pick-up game of basketball with a men's team that he had organized. It was a pleasure watching him work with his community and he has a talent for getting people energized and involved that I found myself continuously envying.

 

 

It wasn't all work in Buenas Aires though. I also got to experience the tranquilo aspect of a volunteer's life:

 

 

 

Following up from immersion days we had a few days of downtime (see my previous post) and then went off to field based training.  This time I was placed with a volunteer named Greg who lives in the most rural site out of all of the volunteers currently serving in El Salvador. To get to Greg's site our PC bus dropped our group off on the side of the highway, where Greg was waiting to guide us up to his site.  From there we hiked up, up, up:

 

 

 

To El Piño. El Piño is a tiny caserio consisting of about 30 farming families. There's a small school there (serving students up to 6th grade) with a view that looks like this:

 

 

 and a church. Greg is currently working to get a basketball court built for the school, is facilitating an eco-brick project , and is working with the municipal government on a project to control erosion around the school yard and to upgrade the school's kitchen. All-in-all, he's a busy guy right now.

 

While we were visiting Greg we practiced making house visits (which we will be doing for real during our first two months in service), met with the local ADESCO (which is a local volunteer government that most towns have in El Salvador), taught a session about erosion at the school, and helped Greg out on his projects at the school. We played a game of softball on the town's soccer field, which is literally on top of a mountain with a 360 degree vista:

 

 

 

 

We also had a day where we went out with the kids to create a chalk mural in preparation for Independence Day, which is coming up on the 15th:

 

 

 

 

It's clear that Greg really loves his community and that his comunity members feel the same way about him. He's lucky to have such a supportive site and extra lucky to have one located in such a stunningly beautiful part of the country.

 

 

 

Oh yeah. While I was at Greg's site I also got to eat an armadillo. That was a thing that happened.

That's all from me, but Anne has a great set of additional photos from field based training over on her blog

 

and

Rachel has a real blog post over on her blog, with detailed breakdowns of what we did over field-based training. Head on over, because I think they actually monitor their statistics.

September 2, 2013
16:46
?
FREE WEEKEND

Hil and I just got back from "free weekend," which means we were allowed to do whatever we wanted and travel "freely" for a couple of days.  Our training group decided to go all in on a beautiful house for two nights/three days in San Diego, El Salvador.     I was rather impresse...

read more

August 25, 2013
15:34
?
X-ing

Our Peace Corps group just returned from field-based training, where trainees are split apart and placed with an active volunteer for three days to see their lives and sites. I have a series of posts on the way but until then here's a collection of animal crossing road signs that I snapped pictures ...

read more

August 8, 2013
17:27
?
La Lluvia Viene

Here in the little thumb it's currently the rainy season.  This means that more or less every night we get a tropical rain. Tropical rains are a little terrifying because they roll in really fast and dump a ton of water in a very short period of time.   It usually rolls in after 4:00, but to be honest "usually" isn't a word with a lot of meaning here. It's a pleasant white noise sound that drowns out the roosters and dogs and cars and everything else when you're inside and dry.  Outside, however, is a different story...

 

FOR INSTANCE.  A couple of nights ago Hil and I were attending a birthday party up in Siete de Marzo (yes, the town's name is literally "March, 7th." I don't know why but it's common to have names like that here.) and we overstayed a little because..well..

 

That happened.  Anyhow, mid-dance we heard a clap of thunder and everyone ran for it trying to get home (which was foolish in hindsight.)  Hil and I got about 3 minutes down the road with some of the other volunteers when the sky just opened up, flooding the roads with water ripping it all around in the wind. I had an umbrella and she had a rain jacket, which meant that when we arrived home everything above my beard was "dryish." I also had one spot on the bottom of my backpack that wasn't waterproof and the wind drove the water up and took my Kindle away from me. =(

August 4, 2013
12:55
?
Early mornings here in Nuevo Cuscatlan

Hilary and I have been here in Nuevo Cuscatlan for a week now. We will be stationed here with a host family for 10 weeks while we go through the Peace Corps training program, which is rather comprehensive and has a little bit of everything.

 

Monday, Wednesday, Friday we have spanish courses and Tuesday Thursday we talk about...well...everything. From the history of El Salvador to how to diagnose dengue, to the PC's approach to development.

 

There's also a component of the training where volunteers start up a small project in our host community. We have to interview local leaders and convince them to let us facilitate a small project for a few weeks...which is a little worrying to me since the way I will be conveying this sentiment to the mayor here will be something along to lines of "me help you? Small project. What you need?! no money!"

 

Anyhow. In addition to training Hil and I are getting accustomed to the "tranquilo" way of life here in Nuevo Cuscatlan. Which includes rude mornings - cold bucket showers and being woken up early everyday by some new absurd mixture of noises.  The audio above is what Sunday sounds like EARLY in the morning in Neuvo. The evangelical churches like to blare their sermons across town - aaand directly into our window. The roosters also like to get in on those sermons - who, by the way, do not scream only at dawn. Roosters scream whenever they damn want to.

July 22, 2013
22:02
?
Chicago O'Hare

Spotted today as Hil and I traveled to DC to "stage" with the 13 other volunteers we'll be entering with. 

July 18, 2013
14:49
?
Important information for friends and family

Hil and I are in the middle of packing and re-packing and un-packing and under-packing and over-packing and packing packing packing. However, in the midst of all of this we've managed to set up these very lovely blogs to keep anyone who's interested updated (sidenote: the word "blog" has the sa...

read more