Friday, March 23, 2012

Day 1, feels sooo good.

Day 1 here in Nicaragua. Met up with a friends dad that retired down here and has a 5 star surf getaway (  He picked me up in Managua and we set off for the beach. What a nice surprise, unfortunately he has a couple coming in for a week so I only was able to mooch one night off of him. So worth it though. We have a private cook making salmon burgers tonight. Already surfed a couple hours before sunset. Here are a few photos of the place. Enjoy.

Nice pool, with a nicer view...
 Only about 1/4 of the property...
 The sun rises on the east coast...
 ...And sets on the best coast, WEST SIDE

Thursday, March 15, 2012

New adventure in a different country...

O how the tables have turned.
 So the security assessment has come to an end and so has my stint as a peace corps volunteer.  After living with my friend for the past month I have come to the decision to take the early Close of Service.  As well as a dozen or so other volunteers.  I can’t really say I made the decision based on one thing but rather a handful of things.  For starters, being moved from my site really made me think about having to start all over again in a new community and do everything again.  Not knowing if it would be a good site, if I would find the same friendships I did in La Reina, the same cooperation or the same sense of community. Another factor I thought about that weighed heavier on my decision is the new rules and regulations that they have implemented.  To recap:
They are moving the peace corps office and training center to different locations outside of the capital and san Vicente (no visits to Yolanda).  No bus travel will be permitted outside of local buses in your direct community and department.  All travel must be approved by you supervisor, including the dates and the destination.  No volunteer gatherings larger than 7 people.  Volunteers must abide by the peace corps provided shuttle systems to travel across the country or to a bordering department or volunteer site. Shuttles don’t run every day with limited schedule.
There are a handful of other specific rules that I failed to read in the e-mail.  But you get the idea.  Basically volunteers are confined to their site and peace corps transport. 
I don’t want to go into too much explaining for my reasons, all in all I felt like if I stayed I would be complaining the whole time about the restrictions and the decisions made without consulting the volunteers.  I joined the peace corps for the all-encompassing experience of working and living in a foreign country, traveling like the locals do and visiting the historic places within that country.
It was a very difficult decision, but in light of recent events in my old site and all the changes I felt it was the best decision.  I am currently in the peace corps office jumping through all the hoops to end my service. My last day is tomorrow and I plan on heading down to the beach, buying a surfboard and hanging out for 4 days or so then taking a bus to Nicaragua until my money runs out.
I wont be blogging as much but I will try to post some pictures and descriptions as I make my way around. Thanks everyone for your support and I hope everyone is fantastic. 

here are some last pictures from El Salvador for you to enjoy.,,

Art class in El Borbollon, San Miguel

This is Chavo, he is not as nice as he looks...

Playa Las Flores, to myself...

Driftwood chess pieces, handcarved by the flying dutchmen I met in Las Flores...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Security or Being Grounded?

long time no see. a lot of nonsense has happened since the last time we talked. The Giants won the super bowl, El Salvador beat USA in beach soccer, Whitney Houston died and Peace Corps El Salvador is caving in on itself.  There is a lot of information to cover so I will try to be clear and concise.

First: Peace Corps came out with the news that they would not be sending more volunteers to El Salvador.
Second: All Volunteers were put on a travel restriction, meaning:A.. no going to the capital, San Salvador. B.. no taking our personal health days.  C.. required to call supervisors anytime we leave our immediate community (sound like high school?)
Third: All Peace Corps Volunteers in the world were notified that they will not be allowed to travel to Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador or Honduras while they are sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Pertains mostly to Latin American Volunteers.
Fourth:  Two groups of volunteers will have their close-of-service date moved up.  One group will only be moved up 3 months while the other group is being moved up 6 months.
Fifth: Well, that pretty much sums up most of it.  We had a All Volunteer Conference where they told us there will be a security assessment for El Salvador where a Security Team from Peace Corps Washington will assess the situation and propose a transportation and volunteer grouping plan to ensure our safety and security and take away any chance to get to know the country that we are serving in.

My training group of 15 is now down to 10 people.  The number may drop down more after the security assessment is finished and people are forced to move sites to join the volunteer groupings.  Speaking of site change...I am currently in the middle of having my site changed.  It was a really difficult decision, but after much thought I found it to be the best option in lieu of recent incidents in my pueblo and surrounding area.  I felt like if I am going to be staying in El Salvador it would be nice to be able to walk around my hometown not being nervous.  There was always new people coming through the pueblo and although i had a tight group of friends and was well known through the pueblo I still felt singled out by people passing through.  I spent the weekend saying goodbye to the families and friends that I connected with more.  I was put on the edge of tears multiple times. In front of the high school kids, my best friend, and various families that cried when saying goodbye.  I really hope i made the right decision and I hope that I will be able to visit in the future and show them that I really did value their friendship.

For now, I will be living with my friend Tyler (another volunteer in San Miguel) for about a month and a half until the security assessment is over and I am given a new site.  I will have to put together a short term work plan with he school.  I have some art classes in mind and maybe work with a youth group and have them do some activities.  Nothing serious since I wont be there too long.

Time to enjoy my own company on Valentines day.  I hope I pay for dinner for myself.  I am kind of nervous for my date.

Peace Out Party People


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Coming down from vacation

Back in La Reina after a week vacation that took me to unknown parts of the country (without my camera, sorry)  It started out in Playa Tunco with my friend Tyler.  Tyler and I planned on a week of vacation at the beach to hang out and meet people traveling through the tourist beach of El Salvador.  Well poor Tyler got dengue the second day and got himself a one way ticket to the capital for a week, pobresito.  All my volunteer friends were leaving the beach, but left me with a backpacker from Austria who just finished a semester abroad in Nicaragua and was spending time in El Salvador.  Some volunteers talked us into going on a adventure in Tacuba, Ahuachupan.  Apparently there is a waterfall jumping tour in Parque El Imposible.  So Lisi and I jumped on the next bus out there.  Arriving at night we were excited for the next day.  Our tour group consisted of a Salvadoran and his boyfriend from Cuba who live in Canada.  Two of their Salvadoran friends. Lisi, myself and Jan the 19 year old German boy.  The tour started with a bone rattling pick-up ride into the heart of El Imposible.  We began hiking down into the valley until coming on the first waterfall, a bit small but had a really cool setting.  All in all we came across 7 waterfalls.  The last two being the biggest upwards of 40ft.  I would have liked to find something a little larger, but I still enjoyed it.  At the end we had to hike back out of the valley and take the same rattling pick-up ride back to the hostel.  The hostel is called Mom and Pop's and is run by a family.  Really delicious food and a cool little town.

Lisi and I took off the next morning to meet some of my friends back at the beach for the New Year celebration.  We added on two more backpackers to our group, Matt from England (a independent pharmacist who played pro soccer in England) and Elsa (a former physical therapist from Holland that quit to travel).  We arrived at the beach and got our room squared away and enjoyed a nice relaxing day at the beach and brought in the New Year with an international crowd.

I really enjoyed hanging out with all these people from different countries.  At one point in Mom and Pop's I was sitting in a room with 7 people from 7 different countries.  It really sparked my travel bug, making it even harder to ease myself back to the reality of my 2 year commitment.  In the end it was a great experience to hear their travel stories and open my eyes to more traveling after my Peace Corps experience.  I was really impressed with everyone's stories, but it was cool to see how impressed they were with my experience.  Everyone commented on how well you get to know a country when you live there for a long time.

For now I have my January and February filled with some activities and hope that they plan out.  More news and pictures to come.

Happy New Year to everyone.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Eve Story Time

Hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas.  I spent mine eating chicken all day and blowing up fireworks at night. Down here Christmas Eve is a bigger deal than Christmas  (I guess they havn´t figured out the whole Santa Claus thing yet).  Anyways I started the 24th with a nice hot soup of gallina india (gallina india is supposed to me more flavorful than regular gallina because it is raised on the farm, opposed to the house).  I was lucky enough to get a piece of the gallina that had some unidentified parts.  I ate it anyways and what a surprise, it tasted like chicken.  I took off for a walk and stopped by the Portillo household for a nice chat and a lunch of chicken, rice, salad, tortillas and potatoe chips with coleslaw.  Took a siesta in the hammock and swooped by the Posada household for some fun with the kids.  We had fruitshakes and played bingo until 5pm.  I then jumped a block to the other Posada household where I thought I became as full as I could.  I ate 2 giant chicken sandwiches some strange fruit and lots of sugary goodies.  We watched the end of some boxing match and I made my way for my last stop at the Escobar household around 7pm.  I enjoyed a dinner identical to my lunch at the Portillo household.

Now, take a mental note of all the chicken I had eaten this day.  This is where the story gets goood!

So I´m powering through this dinner trying to stuff as much food in my mouth to not offend the family, when two teenagers come in to talk to the dad, Ernesto or Netio.  They inform him that their dad took a spill on his bike and they were wondering if Netio could take a look.  Apparently, Netio is some sort of pueblo certified, people trusted Orthopedist.  The man sits down, already looking like he is in a world of hurt.  They take off the blankets wrapped around him to reveal his arm in a sling (I am still eating at this point).  I take a closer look and realize his left clavical is floating about 2.5 inches higher than his right clavical.  Of course Netio already whipped out his magical creme and began to warm his hands.  I´m thinking 9-1-1, Netio is thinking deep tissue massage (I take a break from eating to observe closer).  Netio carefully removes the arm from the sling and begins the deep tissue massage.  Now this si the first time I felt like puking.  Netio begins lifting the man´s arm and performing some active release techniques I´ve only seen in the UC Davis sports physical therapy center.  This man´s face told me he was in a lot of pain, but I gotta give it to him.  He didn´t squeal once.  I told him repeatedly that he has huge juevos and that I really wanted to cry for him.  Netio continued for about 10 minutes.  Pulling, pushing, rubbing, tugging, lifting, and all out playing with this guy´s arm.  At one point Netio called me closer to show me how much he could push this mans collar bone down with it returning to its raised position. This was the second time I had ganas to puke.  I was realling hurting watching this guy cringe in his seat and felt bad that there wasn´t a real doctor within shouting distance.  Finally I asked the man if he could use anything, some water, booze, vicadin, morphine, or a pillow.  He only shook his head no and made the universal vomit sign with his hand.  I took a big step to the side and watched the show.

He broke free from Netio´s grasp and hunched over in his chair.  The first blast of vomit shot his dentures straight out onto the ground.  He continued to vomit on his dentures for a few minutes, until someone snatched them up to clean them off.  Once the man fought off vomitting and the pain, Netio told him it is best he go to the ER.  HaHaHa, I could have told him that without the marathon of pain.  Netio threw the man´s arm into the sling and sent him packing for the ER.  The man thanked us for our help and took off.

We had a great laugh once the guy was out of ear shot.  I guess someone puking out their dentures is funny no matter the language.  Merry Christmas to me.  We spent the next hour throwing fireworks in the street.

More to come after the New Year.
Peace out cub scouts.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Victory is ours!!!!! We won the JICA vs. Peace Corps soccer game.  I think I will say it was the first time in Peace Corps history.  It was an amazing day at Estadio Cuscatlan.  The stadium was packed (see picture).  We beat the Japanese volunteers 3-2.  It was quite the physical game; the Japanese volunteers were a little pushy on the field.  After the game the JICA volunteers and Peace Corps volunteers had a little get together at the Peace Corps office where we enjoyed nachos, chex mix, soda and fun name games.  I was really impressed with the JICA volunteers´ Spanish.  I think the Peace Corps volunteers have it easier because of all the cognates between English and Spanish.  The JICA volunteers have to learn a brand new alphabet and pronunciation.  It was really fun talking with them and comparing the differences between their assignments here and ours.  The JICA volunteers are assigned to a specific place or institution where the carry out their projects.  Unlike the Peace Corps volunteers that are given a community and a very broad program title.  I met a JICA that worked at the Agricultural University called ENA, another that works with the fishermen in Sonsonate to help them make more profit from their catch, and one that is a Tae Kwon Do teacher at the University.  I am thinking of getting my Japanese citizenship and becoming a JICA volunteer that coaches water polo or maybe a surf team.  Anyways, great experience and can´t wait to beat them next year.

Couldn´t even hear my teammates it was so loud....

Going back in time here, two days before the JICA game I took off on foot with Javier (my counterpart and housemate), his friend from the University, and 5 bichas.  We hiked about two hours into the mountains to a cantone called Ajute (I think that’s how its spelled).  Javier has a bunch of extended family up there with a ton of land.  So we took off at 5am and started the treacherous hike up the mountains.  We arrived at Ajute about the time I would normally be rolling out of bed and were welcomed with a nice breakfast of refried beans and tortillas.  After a long nap in the hammock I was woken up by a little girl trying to swing me to the moon in my hammock.

Devil child that woke me up...

The hike on the way up...

We spent the rest of the day wrestling around and playing dominoes.  It was really fun being a child with a giant group of girls.  They made sure that I felt like one of them, which was quite easy.  They loved to do the same things I do; climb trees, play dominoes, ride horses (not anymore, more info to follow), eat pupusas, star gaze, pull hair, play tag, take pictures, touching my face, and sleeping.  I was exhausted from the early morning hike, but these girls carried me through the day.

Barefootin´ it up the tree...
 Some monkeys I found in the tree...
 Before almost dying...

So more about why I don’t like riding horses anymore.  First of all, I have never ridden a horse before this experience.  I just liked the idea of riding a horse.  The whole cowboy image, I thought it kind of fit me.  So the family had a mule, which is great for the mountains and a lot easier to get on.  I mentioned that I wanted to ride their mule so they brought it out to the field where there was some open space.  I tried to listen carefully to the kids while they sped through the instructions of how to ride.  After a trial run with the mule I thought I had the generally idea of how to steer the beast.  The kids told me to kick it with my legs and give it a nice kissing sound so I repeated instructions and was immediately reminded who is in control.  The mule took off running like a bat out of hell.  It B-lined it for the nearest barb wired fence and right when I thought I was gonna get tossed in a mound of cow shit, the mule halted and stood there like an innocent puppy.  So this is where I almost shat myself.  I casually talked to the beast and told him I wanted to turn around slowly and head back to the kids.  This is where I think things went terribly wrong, I TALKED TO HIM IN ENGLISH!  The beast got super pissed off and headed for the dirt road nearby.  He put it into overdrive and we took off in a beautiful gallop bruising my butt and inner thighs.  The beast must have misinterpreted my English for ¨Hey, why don´t we see how fast you can gallop on the way home¨ because he let it all out on the open road.  My life flashed before my eyes multiple times before we swiftly arrived back at the house.  Meanwhile, where were the kids to whisper sweet nothings into the beast´s ears to slow it down? They were too busy laughing.  I promise you this was not a laughing matter. I was screaming like a niƱa.  When we arrived at the house I decided to talk to it in Spanish and tell him I was gonna get my ass off of its back now.  It didn’t like my gringo accent either because it continued to hammer the gate to the house with its head or would not relax a second to let me down.  Finally the children came to my rescue and fork lifted me off the beast.  That was a thrilling experience and now it is clear that I don´t like riding anything that looks like a horse, only the idea of being a cowboy.  The day ended with some star gazing in the campo.  The next morning I had to make my way back down the mountain to catch a bus at 7am in order to make it to the capital.  What a trip.

Hanging out under the stars...

Things are moving rapidly here in La Reina, the navidad is right around the corner.  It is going to be a little different not having Christmas with the family, but everyone know that I am thinking of you.
Love you all,