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Thursday, December 2, 2010


11/30/10
ESPC #11

            I have started my documentary on my work here in San Jose Abajo. I did this so I could reach out to the world and show how the Peace Corps serves others in need. The title of my documentary is The Voice of Hope Documentary. For each entry following the documentary title there are numbers, so the second is number 2 and the third is number 3, etc… So to follow my next entry, just enter the number after the title; much easier that way. Look for us on Youtube.com.
            We after PST2 I went back to my community for a couple days because Thanksgiving was just around the corner. The couple days that I was in site, I began to research and observe the areas of my community that needed the most work, also the areas in which the community believed needed the most work as well. So, I started to work with the road that runs in between the school and the store, and the bridge that separates San Jose Abajo and San Jose Arriba. My reasoning for this is because the road in between the store and school serves around 35 to 40 families and the bridge because the only health station is in San Jose Arriba. Looking at the stats I found out that many people need the health station and several people walk the road to school. There I have it, my first few projects.
            I held a meeting with the local ADESCO, or community government, and we discussed that an engineer be brought in to give an official estimate on the road and the bridge. He has not come yet because we are super busy with the fiestas. After the 11th, we will begin talking with engineers. I would estimate that both projects with cost around $30,000 to $40,000. Don’t quote me on that, yet.
            The next day I left for Thanksgiving at the Embassy in San Salvador. We stayed with a host family that works in the Embassy. Rob and Kara are their names and they were the best family to stay with. It was my first time doing Thanksgiving this way and it was a lot of fun. We played football, swam, and played basketball at them Embassy. It was a great time. I met a lot of wonderful people and some really cool Marines. They told me I look like Corps personnel, I said I was going to join the Marine Corps but decided not to. I was hoping to play football with the Marines but they didn’t come out to play. Later that night around 5:00 pm us volunteers went to change and prepare for the dinner at another Embassy families house. It was a big celebration of at least 25 people showed up and ate a lot of food. I ate around 4 to 4.5 plates of food. Not including the pies that were there. The lady that made the pies used to be a chef for the United States President and those pies were the best pies I have ever had in my life. It was amazing.
            After the party, we went back to the host family we were assigned to and watched some good movies, enjoyed each other’s company, and relaxed with the 5 tons of food stuck in my stomach. I really enjoyed the celebration and how the Peace Corps organized it. Having a lot of people around to enjoy the holiday is what I look forward to every year. Thank you!
           

11/15/2010
ESPC #10

            It started, November 2nd, which means that it’s PST2 or Pre Service Training number 2. It’s a fancy way of saying that we are finally going to learn what we came here to do. Pre Service Training was more about health and what we have to do in our first two months in site.  I have learned quite a bit about different organizations that can help better the lives of the people around me.
            During PST2, it was pretty much a vacation with information. Most of the time we were at the training center in San Vicente learning more Spanish, learning about NGO’s, which are non governmental organizations, and hanging out with the friends we haven’t seen for two months. It was a lot of fun. Youth Development and Agriculture divided up into their groups and went on different paths. Youth Development went to several places to learn about projects to do in our sites.
            The first project we learned about was how to make homemade shampoo. We visited a volunteer at his site and learned first hand how to create shampoo with different scents and colors. The rest of the week was sitting in chairs and listening to people talk about their experience with their projects in their site. It was interesting to hear about some failures and successes because it gives one an idea on how to be successful and ways to avoid failure.
            Saturday was a break day, and my group hung out, playing cards, eating food, and chatting it up. We had to get ready for Sunday, which was another vacation in a different sense. We traveled to the capital, San Salvador, for more training. Sunday we stayed in a really nice hotel. I don’t remember the name of the place, but I do remember that it had strong Internet, hot water, and really great food. Here we learned how to give a presentation on AIDS prevention in Spanish. That was the tricky part, Spanish. There was some confusion with the roster and reservation list, for some of us volunteers had to move to another hotel. There was an engineering conference that was discussing technology and how to use it in the workforce. I also met some really nice missionaries from Oregon. They are living in the country for two years to help establish some churches in and around the capital. So, we moved to another hotel, which offered the same quality in service, called San Mateo. The only reason I remember their name is cause I have their card.
            After learning how to present the AIDS charla we all traveled to a volunteers site and presented it to about 25 kids at the local public school. For me it was very tough, I was trying to use the words that I knew in Spanish and explain what to do if you believe you might have AIDS. It was very tough: Although the entire presentation was a success.
            That night we stayed at another Hotel, which blew San Mateo out of the water. This was set inside a wooded area, log cabins, warm water, Internet, and amazing food. Not to mention the free hot chocolate they served us because it was freezing at night. In the morning they served us pancakes and I believe I ate about 6 or seven basketball size pancakes. Lovin’ it! Our last little vacation was to a beautiful waterfall site. There were several springs that flowed from the mountain and fell down the side. There were tunnels as well. One could swim from one side of the waterfall to the other. It was fun. Jesse and I climbed up the mountain to the origin of the waterfall, we were about 60 feet up the mountain. We looked at each other and said, “Well now the hard part, getting down.” We looked at at one another and laughed. We made it down in one piece.
            The rest of the few days we had left were spent in the capital, San Salvador. Most of the volunteers stayed a few extra days before we went back to our sites. It was great to see and hang with everyone for one last time until Thanksgiving. Now, I was looking forward to eating true American food. Thanksgiving here I come!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

ESPC #9

I have yet to experience a culture shock. I don't know why, but I do feel really comfortable in this country. I haven't been nervous, anxious, or scared thus far and I would assume that the feeling shall continue. Right now we are in our second training that lasts about two weeks. We all have learned about different NGO's
and non-profit organizations that can help us fund our projects. I will be working with Engineers Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, and The Ministry of Education, and the local mayor. I have a lot of resources the Peace Corps has provided. I feel completely prepared to begin working in my community. Most of the projects that I wish to do will take over two years, so I’m not sure if I will pass it on the next volunteer or remain in the country for an extra year. We will see how I feel.
The projects I will begin when I get back are:
1. Working with a community member who has his bachelor or science degree in computer technology, to become a tech teacher for our school. We don’t have one. I’ll be traveling to MINED a lot with him and my counterpart to talk to them about his possible future position.
2. Constructing an additional building to my school for the high school students. Right now we only have high school once a week due to a lack of space. Have to work with MINED on this as well. I’ll be going to the capital a lot.
3. Working with the English teacher to become more efficient on teaching the language. Making students speak, playing games, and listening projects are things that make English fun. I wouldn’t have learned Spanish if it was not fun for me.
4. Having a College day where all the Colleges of El Salvador come visit my school for the High School students to give them information on each individual college. They have several that offer various areas of study. This will be great to give the students an opportunity to grasp an idea of what is out there
5. From my partnerships hopefully receive grants to donate to the students for scholarships to pay for their college education for a year or more. It only costs on average $2,000 to get a degree here in El Salvador.

I am starting a documentary about my work in the Peace Corps in my site. You can find it on Youtube.com; it's called The Voice of Hope Documentary. I will be uploading my videos as often as I can to show the world that there is more out there than they realize. I'm not sure how many people are in La Paz, but in my community there is 1500 people: Over 500 students and over 300 families.

I miss American food, but I’ll get over the food issue. I do have photos to send but the problem is the signal in my site. It's rather weak, but I am trying to get approval of a grant to receive Internet for the students during computer classes. They have no idea what's out there on the Internet for them. They're excited to learn.

Right now, I enjoy killing chickens with my host brother Elias who is 23, the same age as me, and spending time with the people in my community at the store on the corner. We play cards, watch cable TV, and have a great time. I do go to the soccer field Monday - Friday to play with the youth and get to know them. They are the reason I'm here so spending time with them only makes sense.

Everything is going really well. I will keep writing, I hope you keep reading.

LOVE YOU ALL!!!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

ESPC # 8
10/27/10

Right now, not much has been going on: Mostly planning, prepping, and lots of discussion with the people of the community. So far my conversations have been discussions on the creeks that flood the road. When it rains most of the water flows over the road. No transportation is possible from town to town, making it difficult for business transactions during the rainy season. During the dry season there are no problems, but that only lasts for six months or less. I do have a list of the projects that I hope to begin during my two years here, as you know projects run a little slower than usual, being patient is a must. The projects I am going to tackle are:
- PET (this is a recycling company that cooperates with schools to bring in money when there is plastic to be recycled)
- Technology (The ministry of Education gave 20 computers to this school but no technology teacher. The computers have sat in the school for over a year, never used. I will try to work with MINED to bring in a tech teacher. Until then I will be giving technology classes to the students and teachers)
- Internet (MINED also gave all the tools needed for Internet service but supplied no Internet. I will cooperate with a telecommunications company down here to receive funds for a years worth or more of Internet for the students.
- SPORTS WEEK!!! (I thought about teaching the students here how to play different sports. One new sport everyday. Most of the students understand how to play baseball and basketball, but lack the understanding of the rules. I hope to teach them)
- Lectures for the boys on being a gentleman (I have talked with a lot of the girls at the school who are looking for a boyfriend. I asked why haven’t they found one. They said the boys are rude and only care about what they can get. It’s just a thought but maybe I’ll have a “bro camp” here. A week long camp only for men)
- Library Use (The school has a library but I see no students that actually use it for studies and research. I’ll see what I can work out with the school principal)
- Art classes (Some of the teachers asked me if I could give a few art classes for the students. I think that is a great idea)
- The School needs repainted
- The youth of the community would like to have a basketball court near the soccer field
- A farmer would like a large fence put up in front of his cornfield so the soccer ball and soccer player do not enter and ruin his crop.
The list is long and could keep going but I think that these goals are a good start for this community. We shall see what comes about in the next few months. I have my second training starting on the 2nd of November. We will learn how to coordinate plans with NGO’s, operate with the mayor of the community, how to write grants, and advertising my activities in my community. The next few months will be awesome. I will finally begin my work as well as increasing the trust of this community.
10/17/10
ESPC #7

Dear friends and family,

             I have been in my community for one month now and I feel that I have grown quit attached to the people here. I believe they have grown attached to me as well. Much has happened since my last entry, but I am trying my best to make writing a habit. 
             El Salvador has many wonderful areas to visit. I cannot wait to visit most of them in my two years here. There is a memorial a few states over in Morazan. El Mesote is the city in Moraz├ín where several thousand people were massacred during the civil war here. I would like to visit the memorial grounds to grasp a stronger identity of their history here. Much history lives in this country.
              On Tuesday, the 5th of October, I was playing in the soccer field with the kids and by accident the ball hit me straight in the face. It hit me so hard I needed to go to the eye doctor because I could not see for a few hours. Everything is okay now, I can see and the doctor gave me some inflammation medicine. Most of the community thought that I was going to have to go back to the States for surgery and most of the people were mad at the little boy. I told the community not to be upset with him because it was only an accident. Everything is fine now.
             Last Saturday my community and I held a fund-raiser to raise money for the fiestas in December. During the first week of December there are several parties and dances and celebrations to attend. My community is known for bringing in a pop star to sing. This is what the money goes towards. I watched a video of the past fiestas and it looks like a lot of fun. Hundreds of people come in to dance, eat, and talk with friends and family. Many of the families that live in the United States come back for the fiestas. I excited because this will be my first experience with a large community during a fiesta.
          Two weeks ago our female dog gave birth to six puppies. It has been a long road raising them on my own. The mother passed away because she ate something that did not agree with her. Only one has survived and he’s a strong little pup. I call him Zeus. All the others, I believe, passed away because they were sad their mother died. I think they gave up trying to live without her.
          I really enjoy it here and I cannot wait to begin large projects with this community. They are a very strong and united community. When someone has an idea, they listen and apply it to the neighborhood. I have learned a lot of Spanish. I feel that my Spanish has not increased that much, but most of the people I talk to say I speak really well. We will find out when I receive my second speaking test from the Peace Corps Spanish teachers.
Love you all and I can’t wait to talk to you all more about what I am doing down here. It’s a blast. I will soon post pictures on facebook as well.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

9/25/10
ESPC #6

Location: Canton – San Jose Abajo
                 Municipo – Santiago Nonualco
                 Departamento – La Paz
                 Paiz – El Salvador

            My first day here was last Friday, September 17, 2010. My host mother’s name is Isabel Palacios. She lives with her son, my brother, Elias Palacios. He is twenty-three years old. My mother is very kind taking care of my every need. Elias is really cool. I think it took a little time to gain his trust be we hit it off pretty quickly. Him and I have become very good friends. He lost his father seven years ago due to natural causes. I cannot tell if it affects the family or not. Salvadorans are difficult to read at times. I would assume it had a huge impact on his life just like when I lost Mikie my best friend.
            My “guides” or who are going to be my counterparts are really cool too. I work with the school principal and the ADESCO President. Don Socimo is the Principal and Don Carlos is the President. I also have another guide Temo. He is my mom’s brother. He is really kind as well. He understands that I do not understand a lot of Spanish but he likes to speak to me so I can adapt quickly. I am going to help him learn how to read and write. He quit school at the age of six to help his family work on the farm and earn money for food. He is about 31 or 32. I never asked him his age. Elias and I spend some days passing time in the store on the corner of the street. We play cards, talk, and watch movies most of the time. Also, there is a house of women next door to me that make Pan Dulce or sugar bread all day. I pop my head over the fence everyday and they give me a few slices for free. I never really expected the kindness from these people that I have been receiving.
            I have gone to several soccer games here, in fact that is how I am learning most of my Spanish. I hang out with the guys, do what they do, and try to have a decent conversation with them considering my level of Spanish. The cool thing is they understand that I cannot speak much so they work with easy words and sentences that I can understand. I have learned how to kill, pluck, and cook chickens to sell in the market place. I have also cut wood by hand which gave me several blisters on my hand, but that is only because my hands are not used to the type of work here. Today, 25th of September, we went to a road and along side of this road is a lot of vegetation that needed to be cut. In the states we would use a weed eater and a lawn mower but here they use machetes and scythes and other very sharp utensils. Everything here is done by hand and I love it. It’s a great workout. There we many be hives and several anthills that I ran into. I got bit by ants and stung by bees. I’m okay though. You don’t know there is a hive or a hill until you run into it and it’s to late.
            I’m having a great time here. The food is very different but my stomach will adjust. I always feel full that’s only because they bathe everything in oil to cook it: The fish, the chicken, the vegetables, everything. I think I will have to give a few lessons on how we cook food in the States. It’s a little healthier. Until next time.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

9/8/10
ESPC #5

Seven weeks into the country and we are experiencing some cultural uprising. We received the notice last night to remain in our communities and to not travel outside of our community borders. The next few days the country is in an uprising because several of the bus drivers are being targeted and assassinated by gang members, specifically, by the gang MS-13 or Mara Salvatrucha. Look them up on the Internet there is some very interesting facts about how the largest gang in the world began. They are as powerful as the mafia, as large as Genghis Khan, considering the population density in this country, and as rich as an actor or famous all-star in athletics. They are the Mara’s. They are feared by all and known by all.
Traveling in this country can become a hassle, for it is the only disorganized part of this country, but might I add the wealthiest area of economics in this country. Apparently there is a new law in this country that states anyone who looks like, acts like, and even talks as if they are apart of a gang can be arrested and taken to prison. The Mara’s are very aware of this new law and are not taking kindly to it. In rebellion the Mara’s, being very powerful, had a priest state the threat of the gang if this law were to be passed. The violence would start with the bus drivers and transportation of this country. In retaliation and fear of their lives the bus drivers went on strike, meaning not on person can move around this country unless it by walking. MS-13 is very upset that the bus drivers have done this and they have begun to terrorize people from department to department “state to state”. Focusing mainly in the large cities and capitals of each department.
The military are everywhere. The government has allowed one military man on each bus, in each intersection, near each bus and truck stop, and near the churches and schools. There is nowhere in El Salvador that you cannot go without seeing a military figure as of today.
Traveling for the next few days will be strictly by the Peace Corps Motorcade. They come to each community and pick us up to take us to the training facility in San Vicente. San Vicente seemed to be a very peaceful community but apparently there have been some uprising in that smaller city as well. Hopefully most of the tension will calm down soon because we are having our swearing in ceremony next week on the 16th and traveling to our host communities next Friday the 17th. All of us Peace Corps volunteers have been trained in the area of “common sense” in this country and understand what it takes to survive and how to survive in tense situations. How to travel, what to wear, how to act, and where to go are all areas that we have been taught. We also have what we call an Emergency Action Plan or EAP for hostile uprisings, natural disasters, and any other act deemed dangerous. We understand the guidebook instructions and we follow to the “T” when times are un-safe. There is no need to worry because the Peace Corps has trained us and we feel very safe because of the training. I will be writing again very soon.

Straight from the US Embassy:

Salvadoran Bus Drivers Remain Fearful Despite Extra Security
SAN SALVADOR –
Much of El Salvador remained without bus service for a second day Wednesday amid threats of violence from gangs, even though the government deployed more police and soldiers to bolster security.

Hundreds of commuters rode private and military trucks mobilized to transport people in and around San Salvador, while media outlets reported that only around 15 bus routes were operating normally.

The vast majority of bus owners began keeping their vehicles off the road Tuesday in the face of anonymous telephone calls and leaflets warning transit companies and shopkeepers to shut down.

The threats were assumed to come from gangs, which regularly target bus companies and small businesses for extortion.

Late Tuesday, the two largest gangs, Mara Salvatrucha and Mara 18, issued an unprecedented joint statement demanding that President Mauricio Funes veto a congressional bill making mere membership in a gang a criminal offense punishable by 10 years in prison.

Salvadoran officials flatly rejected the call by MS and M-18 for talks and announced steps to protect the buses.

“The government is doing its part in the sense of the security apparatus, including to provide escorts for the units. However, there are some owners who have decided not to take them (the buses) out,” the minister of justice and public safety, Manuel Melgar, told Channel 33 television.

“The appeal I would like to make is that they take out their units, that there is security on the street and that this will benefit the Salvadoran people,” he said.

“When they dare to act, they are arrested,” Melgar said of the gang members threatening the bus companies.

Some 2,000 additional soldiers have been assigned to public safety tasks, according to Defense Minister David Munguia Payes, and national police commander Carlos Ascencio said roughly 5,000 cops are patrolling the streets and protecting public transportation.

Ascencio told Channel 33 police arrested five suspects in the burning of a minibus in the western town of Chalchuapa and two others in connection with torching a motorcycle taxi.

Officers also detained two people for a grenade attack on a highway checkpoint, he said.

The police district commander in downtown San Salvador, Gersan Perez, said the situation in his jurisdiction was calm, though Efe saw few buses running and a number of shops shuttered. EFE