Update from El Imposible
This is a picture of all the recently sworn-in Peace Corps Volunteers and the training staff at the Embassy in San Salvador.
Swearing-in was short and sweet, but very nice. There was a party after the ceremony that was planned by a bunch of current volunteers, and I won a free roundtrip Delta ticket to the U.S!! Some volunteers had a raffle to benefit scholarships in
I’ve been at my site now for 12 days, but it seems like a lot longer. Sometimes it seems like time goes by at a snail’s pace. Things are going well. I’m renting two rooms in a house that is located in the pueblo about a block from the park entrance. I have my own separate entrance, and nobody else lives in the rest of the house, so it is kind of like my own little apartment. I really wanted to live with a family in the park, but there was just nowhere for me to live. The families that live in the park are extremely poor, and their “houses” are maxed out. It feels good to finally have a space of my own, but it definitely gets very lonely at times….something I have to get used to. Fortunately a bunch of kids live next to me so I spend a lot of time in the evenings playing cards with them and chatting. Since I’m not living with a family, I eat my lunch and dinner with the head park guard’s family at the entrance to the park. I pay them weekly for my meals, and at least it gets me interacting with people.
These are a few of my neighbors hanging-out outside of my door.
I have 2 counterparts here….one is the head of El Imposible, and the other one is a community member. My counterpart who lives in the park has been great, and she is really on top of things. She has taken me around to just about every home in the park to meet the families and get familiar with things. She has repeatedly told me that she wants to make sure I feel comfortable here, and that I feel like a part of everyone’s family. I feel most comfortable with her than with anyone else, and I definitely feel lucky to have been set-up with such a great counterpart. She also happens to be VERY Catholic, and invites me to church and other prayer meetings. I’m not really interested in going, but I’ve gone a few times just to show interest in what is going on in the community. My community is primarily Evangelical and Catholic, and I don’t want people to get the impression that I am all about Catholicism. I want to be able to work with community members regardless of their religious background, so I think it is important for me to not really share any of my religious beliefs. On that note, my counterpart took me to a Posada the other night. Since XMAS is right around the corner, a large group of people get together every night until the 24th and they carry religious statues down the middle of the road while singing. The group eventually ends up at someone’s house, at which point everyone enters the house and prays the rosary. It was all very interesting, but I felt especially awkward when they gave me the seat next to the statues and then handed me the rosary beads to start the praying. I may have gone to CCD growing up and to a Catholic college, but I have no idea how to say the rosary even in English, let alone Spanish. So, I just said “no entiendo,” or I don’t know, to get myself off the hook.
The great thing about living next to a National Park is that I have been doing a lot of hiking. The Park is divided up into 4 sectors, and I’ve gone hiking several times with park guards in our sector, which is San Francisco Menendez, in order to familiarize myself with the area. I’ve hiked to a waterfall, the oldest tree in the park (500 yrs), an archeological site, the highest point in the area (about 2000 meters), and to the sight of an old coffee finca which is now used as a park guard station. It feels great to finally be getting some exercise because I felt incredibly lazy during training.
These are a couple of pictures I took while hiking in the park recently.
It seems like practically everyone I meet wants to learn English, so I think having informal English classes may be one of the first things I start to do here. I may be able to speak English, but I have no idea as to how I should go about teaching it. If anyone has any experience or some good suggestions, feel free to let me know. I have also been asked to help create an Ecology Club at one of the schools nearby, and to also give charlas (talks) on the environment and the park. I’m also going to be working with the community within the park to maintain their composteras (compost piles). Solid waste is definitely an issue within the park, so SalvaNatura gave a training to the community members on the importance and benefits of composting back in August. Many people have their composteras built, but aren’t really doing anything with them. So, that is apparently where I come in. I’m not entirely sure what I will be doing, but I will most likely be working with each of the families and will help monitor the progress. I also met the guy who is going to be the beekeeper once the project gets up and running. He is really cool and enthusiastic, and he has a couple of horses. He told me that he’ll take me horseback riding in the park one of these days. Speaking of horses, a lot of people have them here, and I frequently see them hanging-out outside the little tiendas (stores) in the pueblo, and I’m awoken almost every morning to the sound of horses galloping down the street.
That’s it for about now. I may be able to start posting more frequently now because the mayor’s office in my pueblo has wireless internet…I just need to figure out what is wrong with the wireless card in my computer. I find it very interesting that there is wireless internet when just 15 minutes up the road people are living without electricity or running water. I was also surprised yesterday when I walked by a rather dilapidated looking house with dirt floors and saw a bunch of people inside watching tv on a big television set. Oh yeah, and my neighbor has a Direct TV satellite dish on her roof. I’m not sure really what I should think about all that, but it s quite interesting to say the least.
Hope you are all doing well and are enjoying the holiday season. Take care and keep in touch!!