Saturday, November 26, 2005

thank god for the simpsons (day 1 of my site visit)

so basically, anna and i left at 6:00 in the a.m. on monday, november 21st. we both had the same route until the city of sonsonate, so we figured we’d just go together. we were both kind of nervous about the whole thing, and weren’t in the best of moods on the bus trip. anyway, we went our separate ways in sonsonate and i got on the #249 and headed for apaneca. the route was so really is the “rutas de las flores.” plus, the bus i was on had this AWESOME 70’s/early 80’s mix going on....stuff like ABBA and shit i haven’t heard since junior high from the mid 80’s. i can’t believe i heard ABBA though? during some of the disco tunes like “hot stuff” and “freak out” i was like, “um, ok....nobody on this bus gets it.” but they played that tune that goes “i come from the land down under.....can’t you hear, can’t you hear the better run, you better blah, blah, blah.....heyaaaa.” seriously, when was that tune a hit? 1983 or something???? (for the record, i didn’t know the blah, blah, blah part in 1983 or whatever year it was, and i still don’t know it.) remember, this was a MIXED CD. i will probably never get used to the variety of music played here because it is so ridiculous. that should be my peace corps project......analyzing why the hell salvadorans love things that were a fad in the states 25 years ago. don’t even get me started on their adoration of looney toons characters accompanied with religious sayings. seriously....on this one bus from san salvador to vera paz, this bus had a sticker that said “cristo vive. buscalo” (christ lives, look for him) and this saying was under a picture of tweety bird with hearts all over. ????????????? anyway.....

so i got to apaneca and had no idea where to get off the bus. i finally just guessed, and followed some people, and with some luck i found the central park – the place where i was supposed to meet my counterpart – elba. the only problem was, it was 10:30, and i wasn’t supposed to meet elba until 12:30. so that meant i was going to have to spend 2 uncomfortable hours sitting in the park (parks in el salvador are generally places where drunks and hookers hang out) waiting for elba. i tried to find a spot on the outside of the park but was in the way of some dude trying to clean the grills (from the 6 inches of oil that was probably on them) from his fried platano stand. i managed to find a spot and read my book, and at around 11:45, i heard someone say “laura” and it turned out to be elba and 3 other teachers from the school – mirna, eli and bessy. (i found out later that they are the ONLY teachers at the school.) we all introduced ourselves, which was awkward, because my spanish is only “ok,” but they kept telling me that i understood so much and how great my spanish was. i found out later that it was because the volunteer before me really didn’t ever speak spanish that great. so i was totally geeked that i had that going for me. anyway – they took me over to this hostel where the previous volunteer lived. i really don’t want to live there, because for one, it’s in apaneca – which is the pueblo......actually, it’s designated a city, but it’s not really as big as a city. i’m going to be working in san jorge, and i really want to live in that community so it’s easier for me to get stuff to the school or even during my first couple of months when the kids are on vacation and the school is locked up, i’d at least have a place there so that i could get to know the community. but the problem is, elba was telling me that there weren’t any houses in san jorge for me to rent. so i told her that was ok, i could live at the hostel until i found a house somewhere. san jorge is only about 2 km from apaneca, so it’s not even that big of a deal i guess. but for the time being, apaneca is cool. actually, i think it’s going to be my advantage, because most volunteers live with a family for a month or two before moving into houses – so i’m actually going to be better off because i’ll have some freedom.

we took the bus to san jorge because i was going to stay with a family there. we were supposed to stay with our counterparts, but my counterpart – and every other teacher except eli – lives in apaneca. and since i was supposed to be getting to know the community i am going to work in, i had to stay with a family in san jorge. so we went by the school, and eli’s house – which is also the molino (where they grind the corn to make tortillas). then elba was telling me that san jorge really wants me to work with the ADESCO and the health department as well as with the school. i know working with the ADESCO is going to be hard, because getting a bunch of salvadoran men to work with the ADESCO is difficult. but whatever. i guess i’ll have nothing to do for 2 months anyway – i might as well give it a shot. we finally arrived at this house and went inside and a girl and her grandma came into the room and all of us sat around for a minute chatting. then elba and the teachers kind of just left. i was confused because i had no idea if elba was coming back. she was like “adios!” and i said the same, but i was also thinking, “, what’s the deal?” and after she was gone, i realized i had not given her the two VERY IMPORTANT letters that i had to give her – which were the invitation from the ambassador to attend the swearing in on december 1st, and the invitation to show up at “counterpart day” on december 2nd. basically, she has to show up at counterpart day, because we new volunteers have to go back to our sites with our counterparts and all of our stuff – and the counterparts have to arrange for trucks or something because we can’t take all our stuff on the bus. but i thought maybe elba would come back on tuesday or wednesday to meet with me or i didn’t think anymore about it – mostly because i was too wrapped up in the awful day i was about to have.

so after they left, i sat around not really talking to anyone in the family because nobody was talking to me. the grandma kind of talked to me, but the daughter – madelyn – really said nothing. and there was some other woman there that said absolutely nothing to me – she just kept walking through the main room with pots and pans, or laundry or whatever. then the grandma gave me lunch, a huge bowl of vegetable soup chock full of pipian (this vegetable i really don’t like at all). i ate it though, i don’t even know how...... finally, i used the excuse of the long trip to say that i wanted to lay down for a hour or so. so i did, and slept for two hours. when i woke up, there was some other kid there, who looked like he was 13 or so, watching cartoons. he didn’t say a word to me. i finally had about a two sentence conversation with madelyn and found out she was 15 and liked telenovelas. then the grandma told me she was leaving until 7:00 p.m. the next day. i was like “noooooo!” because she was the only one who had actually talked to me at all. it was soooo awkward. so basically i just sat and watched these stupid cartoons for what seemed like forever. then, this dude and these 3 girls (1 older, 2 younger) came over. they said “hola” to me. i wish i could say they said more during their 2 ½ hour stay at the house, but that wasn’t the case. it started getting dark outside (and really cold) and we all sat in the main room, in the dark, watching this awful, awful comedy sketch show. it was absolutely horrible. it had the look of that british show “are you being served,” except for instead of being funny like “are you being served” is, it was STUPID. and everyone else i was watching it with was laughing like it was the funniest thing they had EVER seen in their lives. i’m not kidding. i was forcing myself to laugh, and i don’t even know why. it’s not like anybody was talking to me anyways. the whole time i thought i was going to start bawling because all i could think about was the fact that i wished i was back in molineros with my family there. watching “mesa para tres” (this telenovela that mama rosa got me hooked on) and drinking cafe con leche and eating pan dulce. instead i was sitting in this garage-like freezing house watching this insanely stupid comedy show and feeling like a complete outsider.

finally, after an excruciating hour of that show, it ended. and to my surprise, on came “the simpsons.” i was so friggin’ happy because it was something familiar that i could grasp onto and take comfort in, even if it was only for a half hour. and it was FUNNY. the simpsons is funny....not that dumb-ass show we were watching before. my luck didn’t last though, because when that ended, the woman who didn’t speak to me, brought out cafe for everyone. let me tell you a little story about the cafe here in el salvador. some of the best coffee in the world comes from this country. IN THE WORLD. just to give you an idea, apparently starbuck’s has this premium line and there are only 3 coffees on the list and a salvadoran coffee is one of them. the problem is – most of the salvadoran population doesn’t get to drink it. they pick it and sell the beans to starbuck’s, or whoever. so most of the population here drinks – get ready for this – INSTANT coffee. can you even believe that??? so this woman brings us out these steaming cups of instant coffee, with no leche....nada. i am used to the crappy instant coffee that my mom in molineros dresses up with sugar and milk, making it at least taste like some kind of donut shop version of a mocha. even anna and megan agree that my mom makes the best cafe of all our moms. so the cafe i was given that night only added to my depression of wanting to be back in molineros. to tell you the truth though, it was warm. and because it sounded (and felt) like a cold, fall night back in ohio, i was just glad to have a warm cup of anything in my hands.

after the not-so-tasty cafe, we had a really uncomfortable dinner, where i had to sit at this tiny table with the dude who had come over earlier. he strained his neck to turn around and talk to everyone else so as not to talk to me. i couldn’t believe what an awful night it had been. finally, the dude and the three girls left. oh, i forgot, they didn’t just say “hola” to me, they also said “adios.” silly me. then madelyn started watching “walker, texas ranger,” and i couldn’t take it anymore. i told them i was going to bed – it was 8:00 salvadoran bedtime. i read my book for a little bit, then everyone left the house. yep, they turned off the television, brushed their teeth, and left the house. apparently (i found this out the next day), all the other bedrooms are in the back of the house, which isn’t actually attached to the main house. i still don’t know whose room i was sleeping in. the wind was blowing really hard, and it rattled the tin roof and it was just generally creepy. but i really didn’t care because i was in my sleeping bag and i was not watching that dumb show and i was not drinking instant coffee and i wasn’t cold.

the house where i stayed.....yeah, that´s the t.v. we watched all those programs on.....

the street in front of my family´s house in san jorge

the school i´ll be working in (it´s not a good picture, i know, but i had to take it through the fence...i´ll have more later when i can actually go down by the buildings)