Monday, April 24, 2006

Sol y Arena

I made it home again safe and sound. I kind of hit the ground running, figuratively and somewhat literally as well. I can't believe I've been back a week already. I have been working on my community analysis and it is taking over my life. Lots has happened this week. Sadly, last Thursday I went to Constance's site to help her pack to send her back to New Orleans. I am really bummed, I will miss her a lot. She has been quite the trooper but the forces of the universe have made it quite clear that she is not suppose to be here and it is time for her to go home. I wish her lots of luck and am certain she will find her place.

On Saturday, I ran the Sol y Arena. It was incredible... grueling. It is a 10K run on the beach. I ran from the Hospital in El Roble to the tourist street in Puntarenas. They have to do it at low tide so this year it was at 3p. It is was incredibly hot and humid but I was able to run the whole thing. My time was about 1 hour 9 min. It is the longest and furthest I have ever run. I was beyond exhausted when I finally got to the end and was nearly in tears when I found out that they didn't have water... just sport drinks. I should have known better and should have prepared better, but my support staff was on a plane to New Orleans. Anyway, I survived!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

From Nicaragua

Wow... my week in El Sal went by really fast. I am now in Palacaguina, Nicaragua visiting another Peace Corps Volunteer. I have only been in town a few hours so there is not too much to report. I came here via the King Quality bus, which is basically a koosh greyhound. It is air conditioned to below freezing and serve meals. I actually went to El Sal on the Tica Bus which is the other koosh line, but they were sold out of tickets. Fortunately, I was able to get this ticket to Nicaragua, unfortunately, there are no seats available to go back to Costa Rica so I will be piecing together over-crowded, un-air conditioned, chicken buses back to Puntarenas. It should be an adventure...

On Wednesday we met up with (another) Carlos in Santa Ana and then met Cecilia a little further North in Anacahuia. I met Carlos and Cecilia in Costa Rica on the Cocotales tour. It was really neat to see them again. Cecelia said that Carlos had told her I was coming but that she didn't believe it. She kept grabbing my arm as if to feel that I was really there. We hiked to Lago Azul. It is a lake that formed in the crater of an extinct volcano. We picniced and played soccer. It was an incredibly beautiful experience and utterly exhausting.

We went to the Playa del Sol on Thursday and went to a concert. It was a lot of fun, we all crashed at Carlos' friends house and slept on hammocks in the front yard. El Salvador is very interesting in that their civil war ended only 15 years ago and since then there has been an incredible boom in franchise stores and restaurants. It is kind of a surreal experience to be here among McDonalds, Texaco stations, Office Depot, and even PriceSmart (basically Sam's Club). Everything is very familiar, yet foreign at the same time. There are very, very few Salvadoran companies meaning that most capital and wealth leaves the country or concentrates itself among the elite. The American Influence here is striking, the main government party (ARENA) is heavily, heavily, (have I emphasized "heavily" yet?)influenced by the American Government. Add to that the fact that reparations from the U.S. account for more than 15% (2004 statistic)of the countries GNP. Everyone I met had at least 2 siblings living in the U.S. It was interesting to be here while the protests for immigration rights were occuring in the states. There is a much, much bigger picture out there.

I got some incredible pictures of some of the Semana Santa activities in El Espino. I will upload pictures as soon as I am able. I wasn't able to get pictures of the procession cuz I left my camera in the house, but take my word for it, it was pretty cool. I will try to do better next year.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Greetings from El Salvador

I made it to El Sal about midnight Friday night. I caught the bus just outside of Puntarenas at about 4:30 am. We made good time and were only about 3 hours behind schedule. Most of the delays came trying to cross the borders, there are three between here and Costa Rica. I was able to sit by the window for a small part of the journey and it is striking how different Costa Rica is from the rest of Central America, even through a bus window. The poverty is much more apparent and is not hidden from tourists the way it is in Costa Rica.

El Espino, the town I am staying in, is still struggling with many social problems all of which stem from or in the least are amplified by the extreme poverty that is El Salvador. My friend Carlos is deeply dedicated to improving conditions here and spends 90 percent of his time working in, about and for the community. He is very passionate about his work and is motivated by a dep love for his country and his community. It is very inspiring to be around him. He is also a lot of fun and "ornery as all get out."

El Espino, as well as all of El Salvador, is currently suffering from a massive gang problem. It is complicated by a lot of factors including the palpable absence of working age adults/parents, the deportation of gang members from the states, massive unemployment, lack of social services and, again, poverty. The poeple here live with violence and the threat of violence every minute of every day. Salvadorans have become quite accustomed to having guards with rifles patrolling everywhere; restaurants, parking lots, etc. I still have the privilege of noticing. In the three days I have been here, I have attended the viewing of a young girl that died from a bacterial infection, played soccer with kids in the "park" (the space between the highway and the pillars of the overpass), and greeted the local gang kids. I'm back to bucket baths and outhouses. (Carlos' family is actually one of the fortunate families that has access to potable water for a few hours every other day.) To tell the truth, my vacation from Peace Corps feels morelike "Peace Corps" than my Peace Corps experience. Not that there aren't problems in Costa Rica... there most certainly are, but I find myself wondering if I couldn't be more useful here. I believe everything happens for a reason, and that I am where I am suppose to be, but I can't help but think that El Sal may be in my future...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Settling in...

My Casita

This is the back yard which conveniently holds my bathroom sink

The living room, including fridge and one chair

I am sleeping on the floor and having surprisingly few problems with it

My roommate :)

Well... things have been moving right along here. I have been adopted by two different families which is actually quite nice. One is in Puntarenas and have a kiosk where they sell souvenirs to tourists. They are extremely generous to me even though I have much more than they do. I am teaching their oldest son English. They are lots of fun... the younger ones call me "tia" (aunt) and cry when I leave. The other family is in San Jose. The mom is a retired Sociology professor and the dad teaches Anthropology/History. They are a tremendous help in my technical and social issues vocabulary. They are also incredibly generous in allowing me floor space when I need a place to crash in San Jose. I feel so loved.

I am frantically trying to get ready to go to El Salvador AND gather information for the community analysis that I have to write. My priorities are obviously in that order as I have had months to get info for the analysis and am waiting til I have just three weeks before it is due and am spending one of those weeks on vacation. I am justifying it with the thoght that I will be practicing my Spanish the entire time I am gone so it can almost, technically be considered "working on it."