Sunday, October 28, 2007

Una Gota de Agua

I've got week two under my belt already. I sound like a broken record, but time is really flying. It seems like I was just in Costa Rica!

Overall, I have to say that it has been a pretty smooth transition. So smooth in fact, that it seems a little strange, but I am trying not to question a good thing. I'm sure I've mentioned that I am staying with a co-worker and her family. Actually, it is her in-laws that we live with, so we have Erin and her husband, his parents and his grandfather. The husband and parents are in an Andean band (lots of pan flutes) and spend most of the day rehearsing while we are at work. The grandfather is a miserable, crotchety little old man whose wife fled him and went into hiding in Guatamala. He doesn't really speak to anyone except for his grandson. He spends most of his time sitting under a tree across the street, unless it is raining, and then he stands in the carport with a little radio cursing the rain and mumbling about wishing his ex-wife were dead. I kinda feel bad for him, and then I think, "Well, Kharma's a bitch." Anyway, in the two weeks I've been living here, we have worked up exchanging a "buenos dias" (initiated by me) and then he ignores me the same as he does everyone else for the rest of the day.

I guess the really big news this week is that I have found a coffee shop I could die in. So, needless to say, it has become the focus point of my housing search. Which is going very slowly so far. Partly because I don't know the names of the colonias (Salvadoran word for barrio) so that slows things down. Also because it seems that everything so far is either tiny or huge. Tiny I don't mind so much, but another problem is that even here in the capital there is only running water in the mornings. The current administration in El Salvador seems to concern itself primarily with finding new and inventive ways of funneling funds directly to the aristocracy and barely bother to feign concern for citizens in general or the overwhelming masses of the poor in particular. The current strategy seems to be to grossly mismanage water safety and distribution to justify privatization. Water privatization in the third world means that prices will skyrocket and people will simply not be able to afford water. Have you ever stopped to think about how often you use water? To drink? To clean? To cook? To flush? There are an amazing amount of health issues that center around access to clean water.

Anyway, back to me. As I was saying, one challenge I have in finding a place to live is that I would really like to find a place that has a cistern, which means that I would get to have water all day long instead of just in the mornings. Otherwise, I have to find a place that has extra space to store a big barrel, which is in itself would be livable, but so far the places I have seen, simply don't allow for the space. Well, truthfully, I am willing to pay more have water at my whim and I am not yet desperate to find a place; two things that put me in the top 5% of the world's population.

oh... and yesterday I bought a thermos. :)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tattoos and Tacos

I have officially been here a week and have also gotten in my first week of work. (Technically the first full week of real work in ... oh... over two years.) The job is good. I am still learning the ropes and figuring out what I am doing, and what I will be doing. As well as have already been given two pretty big projects to work on. The first being a youth delegation consisting of 100 kids/young people. AHHHHHHHhhhhhh! No.. it's fine. It'll work out. The second one being getting a Theology Consortium off the ground. I am pretty excited about this project, there is a lot of potential there and I see it being "my baby" for the next two years.

I am also getting used to being back in the non-profit or in this case NGO world. Meaning that today my computer crashed on my about 6 times and I could cure kimchi in the time it takes for it to up or download anything. But I figure I will wait for Week 2 before I start complaining about being the low man on the totem pole. The office is next door to a tattoo parlor, which offers tattoos (obvio) as well as musical accompaniment and a contact high. Today however, they took a back-seat to the mexican restaurant across the street that was offering a Friday special. Not a bad deal, except that their primary advertising medium was blaring cumbia music and placing a guy in a Whinny the Pooh suit on the sidewalk to wave people in. The music was so loud that we had to shout over it in our office.

I have actually been pretty busy this week. Besides putting in a staggering 40 hours of work, I have also had a pretty active social life which is a big change from my Peace Corps life. I don't think I have stayed in one night this week. Carlos and Gloria have been keeping a close eye on me and are spoiling me to death making sure that I don't want for anything. I met up with other friends, Alejandro and Marielos, last night who have also sworn to be at my beck and call while I am here in El Salvador. All in all things are going pretty well. I am looking forward to having some free time in the daylight hours to wonder around the neighborhood and see what there is to see. I really like the neighborhood I am in now. It is safe (relatively for El Salvador) and close to lots of services, including (are you ready?) coffee shops, bars and even a vegetarian restaurant! I am hoping to stay in the general area when I find my own place.

Anyhoo, I am hoping to stay in tonight for a change, and also because I have to work early tomorrow. But if the call comes in... someone will have to answer it. :)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Anti-Terrorism Law in El Salvador

Here is an interesting story that NPR did about El Salvador and their Anti-Terrorism law that was modeled after the U.S. law. It also gives a good description of what the political climate is here. Click on the entry title or cut and paste the following into your browser....


Warm nuts and la Sele

I am officially in El Salvador! I have actually been here three full days already but this is my first crack at the internet. Not to be the last though because I am actually blogging from my new, although transitionary, home. Anyway, to say the least, this next adventure in Central America is going to have much, much more internet access. Yahoo!

Anyway, I arrived in El Salvador Thursday evening. I have to say that as much as I have enjoyed the regal quality of King Quality bus service, flying first class in an hour beats 20 hours and three sweaty borders any day. Two highlights of the flight were that they served warm nuts and that I traveled with La Sele, the Costa Rican national soccer team. I, of course, did not recognize any of them, but thankfully they were all wearing t-shirts with the Sele logo on them so I didn't have to work too hard to figure out what all the fuss was about. Carlos and Gloria picked me up at the airport, we stopped for supplies and made pupusas at Carlos' house. They are quite yummy.

Friday, we chilled through the morning and then hooked up with the Mission staff (Four Peace Corps volunteers that are returning to the U.S. via bus). We took them to the sights, which includes the tomb of Monseñor Romero, and the museum at the UCA (Jesuit University where in 1989, 7 Jesuit priests, their cook and her daughter were massacred by government forces) Rob said it was definitely more of a downer than Chucky Cheese. We then found a restaurant in town where Rob and Billy would be able to quench their baseball addiction. It was kind of touch and go there for a bit, but we finally found some place. We then drank a lot, A LOT of beers and then went to another bar to drink a few more. I was accused of keeping the Mission staff up past their bedtime. Anyhoo... Saturday was "el día del goma" for Kelley and was spent moving very slowly. The Mission took off Sunday morning and I re-located from El Espino to San Salvador.

While I look for a permanent place to live, I am staying with Erin, a Share co-worker and her husband, and her husband's extended family. The husband and in-laws are all in a band so the house promises to be lively. Also, they have two dogs, a cat, and multiple fish so it is much like living with Dara. I am working on getting a cell phone, which is cake for everyone in the country except for me, it seems, the lines were down today so I will try again tomorrow. It should happen soon though. Things here are much cheaper than they were in Costa Rica so that is nice. For example, I payed nearly $90 to get my cell phone service in Costa Rica, here it is going to cost me about $18. Yea!

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I'm blogging at the airport. I feel so bourgeios. :) I've said my final goodbyes. The best I can anyway. I realized sitting here that I am in the quintessential transition phase. My American passport reports my Canadian birth; my residency card is Costa Rican and expired 11 days ago and I'm on my way to my new home in El Salvador. But right now I'm at the airport. I am sitting in front of the duty free shop where they are offering whiskey samplers. I keep going into the bathroom, changing shirts and coming back for more. :) Just kidding.

Brandon stayed with me Sunday night. We decided that I have the restaurant preferences of a mid-afternoon gay man. Maybe that's what's kept me single all this time. :) I hung out with Irene and Inti on Monday night. We had meatless sushi. It was pretty good. I wish I had taken advantage of hanging out more with Irene while I was here. Where does the time go? Tuesday Zoey came to town and we ate real sushi. Even better! Wednesday I COS'd and went out with Travis and Laura to Feliz, Feliz for tico chino food. Today Scott got his goodbye's and I am off.
The next time I write, I'll be in El Salvador!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It's official....

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 3:08p.m.

With the stroke of a pen, I am no longer a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Que Disilusion

CAFTA passed.

I will never doubt again. From now on it is pure, unadulterated cynicism.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Adios Puerto

Friday morning I said goodbye to my neighbors and walked out of my site to the bus stop for the last time. It's been a bittersweet process.... on Wednesday my viejitas held a despidida after dance class. They are very sweet, there were tears, me towering among wrinkled huggers, tugging lightly at my clothes, not so patiently waiting their turn to tell me to "go with God" and to never forget them.... Jamas.

Marina, the director of Share-El Salvador is in Costa Rica right now for the Referendum election (more on this in a minute). She was able to come to Puntarenas for the day to meet and visit with me. We had a very pleasant day. I was able to introduce her to some of the families that I have lived and worked and shared with over the last two years. I think (I hope anyway) that I was able to put her mind to rest that I was worth the pressure I threw at them to hire me. It was really good too, to talk to her, it actually made the goodbyes a little, not easier, but maybe put them in perspective. I am going to something really exciting. I am confident that in two years, I will have made friends and found cariño and fulfilment.

Friday, I spent the night in San Ramon with the Barrantes clan. They are, of course, intensely involved in the referendum process. Putting aside for a moment, my cynical nature, I have to say that my hopes are rising that the "No" camp may actually pull it off this weekend. For those very few of you that know that the TLC (or CAFTA), is not a done deal, that Costa Rica still has not signed-on, may also know that today, Sunday, Ticos will head to the polls to vote "Yes" that they will sign the TLC or "No" they will pass. It is a really big deal. The world is watching. One, because Costa Rica is the only country that has put the option to a vote, to ask the citizens what they want. You know... democracy. As opposed to other countries, El Salvador for instance, that signed the accord in the middle of the night in a classic clandestine process. On Thursday, the national paper reported a poll putting No at 55% and Yes at 43%. I am generally one to put my money on the minority with the fiscal resources, but events in the past few days have got my hopes up. While the Yes camp, plays flashy adds and elegant banners, the No's have been busy utilizing manpower, there have been parades and caravans of cars driving around the city honking horns and waving banners, there are hundreds of volunteers canvassing public areas and talking to people. Anyway, it is an exciting time to be in Costa Rica.

I'm in San Jose now. I have some things to close up in the office. Paperwork to get done. I hung out with Scottie, Max and Mateo. We reflected on the in's and out's of living in a foreign land as we watched college football on 8 different screens in a casino full of gringos. They're good guys, they're amazing volunteers, they're about as real as it gets.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Packing up and Moving on

I am slowly but surely getting things packed up and me ready to move on. It is amazing how much stuff you accumulate in two years and how little of it fits into two suitcases. Anyway, I am getting there. My neighbors are very excited for winning the "Rifa de Kelley," as are a couple of volunteers. Marianne got the bed and the stove today, tomorrow Max gets the fridge. Sarah gets a whole pile of stuff for work and/or whatever she chooses to do with it. Necio left with Marianne. He bolted the minute they got to her house. Not too surprising considering that the last (and only time) he rode in a car he came back without his testicles. I'm sure he'll find his way back around dinner time.

Wednesday my Little Old Ladies are throwing me a Goodbye/Dance party. I am pretty excited. It is crazy to think that soon I won't be seeing all of this anymore. There is a lot I am going to miss. I guess that's all part of it though.

Tico 13 said their final goodbyes this weekend. They are really an amazing group of people. We had a cafecito with the office and then began going our different ways. It is kind of a surreal thing. This goodbye isn't really unlike the ones we always say after a get-together, except that somewhere in the backs of our minds is this nagging thought that "next time" isn't as sure as it was before. As exotic as this life was in the beginning, now it's hard to imagine past it. I think that even with those of us who have "plans" we all leave feeling just a little lost and disoriented.