Last week was awesome. It was completely different from the week before, unlike two weeks ago last week was busy and great. Last Monday during our English conversation with Galina one of the nurses who works in the hospital talked about health care in El Salvador. She said that everything here is free, that if a person goes to the hospital that all the services are free including medicine. Even the surgeries are free and that doctors here do not earn as much money but still they have to go to school and spend a lot of money and time to become a doctor but since the government is who pays them then they receive a small payment compare to what doctors earn in the States. I was really amazed just to think about that because here the government does not even help students financially to go to school and they have to work to get the money to pay for it, and after they graduate only few students get a job doing what they studied for and others just waste their time and end up working in the fields. Another thing that is going on here is that teachers are not getting pay, for the past three months they have not get their salaries and that is why classes are being cancelled at least once a week every single week. When we went to Los Almendros and we were waiting for the bus, I noticed that moms go pick up their kids in their bicycles. Since some students live a few kilometers away then is easier for them to go in a bike than to walk. It is amazing to see how students here fight to get an education while people who have the opportunity to go to school and have a decent education do not take advantage of that. In the United States students get transportation provided and everything and still they do not appreciate it. I know a few people who preferred to work and not study, while here they have more obstacles to go to school but students do their best to overcome them. Being here made me realized that I care about people (and animals) more than I imagined. I always said that I dislikes animals and thought that I was selfish in a way, but I found out that is not true. Talking to Sister Peggy she made it clear that I do care about others because just by being here I am giving out myself to help others. Also, this week when I was helping Nicholas with the museum, a little boy fall and started to cry. I went and help him and he came back a few minutes later with a candy and told me “Gracias por ayudarme, eres muy generosa” which means thank for helping me, you are so generous. Those words melt my heart, I almost cried because just hearing a seven years old using that vocabulary to describe me was amazing. Another great that happen was with one of my English class, Keith who is another volunteer and he is an ESL teacher came to sit in my class; the next day Sister Peggy told me that he said I was born to be a teacher. It was a great compliment, but it confuses me because I have been closed-minded about being a teacher, always thinking is not a good thing for me and I am too bad for that; but Keith said that I was passionate, enthusiastic, and motivated which are good skills for a teacher. I know I do not need to have my life figured out yet, but I want to know what I will be doing in the future. I just hope everything I am doing right now helps me to find out what I am truly passionate it about.
This week was boring. I had nothing much going on because it was Father’s day and classes got cancel on Tuesday, and since the other volunteers arrived then Sara took my place in Ana Dolores, and classes at El Sitio got cancel as well. The weather is hot! The only interesting thing of this week was hearing Sister Peggy’s story, I had the opportunity to sit with one of the delegations. Listening to the way she talked was really impressive; she express herself with so much enthusiasm and passion, that I wish I could do that in the future when I am talking about my life and what I do in an everyday basis. During this time I have been thinking a lot about vocation, and sometimes is frustrating because I do not know what mine is; I guess is fine and that I do not have to have everything figure out, that sometime I will know my vocation. Listening to the speech I realized that I might have more than one vocation and there is nothing wrong with that, as long as I am happy and doing something for others. Sister Peggy also said that we cannot help everyone in the world, but what we could do is find a group that we want to work with and dedicate our time and energy to it; to not be afraid to ask others for help or advices. She said that all the wonderful work she is doing right now could not be possible if it was not for the organization she works for and the people that have supported her this past years. I am really happy to be here, I am so thankful to have the opportunity to work with so inspirational people like Sister Peggy, she is truly making a change here in Suchitoto. I admire her, she is a strong woman and I am proud to be working with her. If I ever have the chance to come back here I will be so happy to do it.
This week Galina and I went to Ana Dolores Arias, an all girl’s school on Monday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, Natalia Laura and I went to Los Almendros. There is a big difference between the two school, on one hand the student body in Ana Dolores was excited about us going to give the English classes, but in Los Almendros only some students were happy and actually willing to collaborate with us. It’s interesting to see this because even though the girls in Ana Dolores have more opportunities than the students in Los Almendros, they are more thankful and more willing to take advantage of this opportunity. First, I thought that the students in Los Almendros were going to be happier to take English classes than the girls in Ana Dolores because in Los Almendros they have not have any volunteers while in Ana Dolores a few volunteers taught English before. Since I am going to a school every day and it is too much work for me from now on I am only going to two schools instead of three. I decided to keep going to Los Almendros and not go to Ana Dolores; I know it would have been easier for me to teach in Ana Dolores because the girls are more interested, but I decided to go for the challenge. Today was my last day in Ana Dolores and I went with Kate who is the other volunteer who will take my position in the school. Changing the subject, this week I had all the fruit I wanted and that makes me really happy. I had nances, mamones, paternas, coco, lichas, and marañones japoneses. Also, this weekend we went to the beach and to the San Salvador volcano. It was fun and interesting. On our way to the beach Medardo was telling us that the government here gives preferences to the wealthy families. He gave us an example of a golf course that uses ten times more water than what a family would use in one day; he said that some communities in the country do not have access to clean water and the government does not do anything about it, they prefer to provide the water for a course that only few families have access to. Another thing about this week is that my classes keep getting harder because they are getting bigger and bigger; and with the new students I have to start from the beginning and that takes almost the whole hour and for those students that already learned the basic is more like a waste of time to be hearing the same thing over and over. It is more difficult for me to make a lesson plan right now because I do not how to meet everyone’s needs. I do try my best to do review, but at the same time teach something new so the class does not get boring. At least for my computer classes is not that difficult because everyone has a computer and they do the work individually. I know it will get better though.
On Friday, I went to El Sitio Cenicero with Celeste. We left at 6:20 am because we had to go with the teachers since we had to take a car and a boat to get to the school. In the school there was only three teachers, and the principal was one of the teachers. Each teacher had to teach three different grades and they all were in the same classroom. For example, one teacher taught first, second, and third grade in the same classroom; I think is really hard for a teacher to teach the same material to students of different ages because they all have different needs depending on their grade. Another interesting thing that I noticed in El Sitio was that the mothers of the students go to the school and make food for all the students. I talked to the mother who had to make the food on Friday to see how they organize who goes when; she told me that they have a committee that decides who goes each week; two mothers go in the morning and afternoon every day and they have a different menu for each day. Also, the number of students in each class was small especially in the afternoon — for three grades there are only about seventeen students, but because of the absences there were only like eleven students. Other than teach classes, Celeste and I also made pupusas. It was my first time making pupusas and it was really fun because I do not like to cook but helping the mothers to cook it was not bad. Yesterday, we also went to Los Tercios, which are waterfalls here in Suchitoto. The guy who went with us, told us a little of the history of the waterfalls. He told us that there are few stories that say that in the past the indigenous people had firewood and one of their God turned it into rocks as a punishment. Also, he explained that the name Los Tercios is because here in El Salvador when people make a bundle of firewood they call it “un tercio de leña” and because of the shape of the waterfalls, there are “tercios de leña”. Finally, I learned that Suchitoto means place of birds and flowers in Náhuat.
These first two weeks have been intense. Since we arrived to the country we have not stay in one place, we moved three times in two weeks and that is a little bit stressful, but thankfully now we moved to the house where we will stay for the next six weeks. Being able to clean my room and the bathroom makes me feel like is my own house. So far, I am enjoying being here, the people are really nice and friendly. Another thing that I like here is the food, even though for now we have only be eating out, the food to me s more like a home cooked meal. The food reminds me of the meals my mom cooks when I go visit her. When it comes to the weather, I do not like it because is too hot. I do not like to sweat, so I shower two or three times a day, but now I’m getting used to it. Our first weekend we went to El Lago Suchitlán with one of the delegations and we stopped in the Guazapa mountains to hear the testimonies of Mercedes and Rogelio, two survivors of the Copapayo Massacre on November 4 and 5, 1983. My first week of classes was easy because it was mostly to get to know the students and what they know and will like to know in the class. No planning was necessary, but for this coming week I need to have a plan for each of my classes. At the beginning I thought that the same plan was going to use the same plan for all of my classes, but after meeting the students I found out that I need to make some changes for each class in order to meet everyone’s needs. For example, one of my computer classes has three teachers who have never taken computer classes and others who have a little bit of knowledge of how to use the computer. For my future classes, I am aware for the teachers I have to focus more in teaching them the basic, but also the skills that they would use on their jobs. I like all of my classes. Now, I’m doing yoga, I never thought I was going to do it but I want to try new things here. On Saturday, we went to El Necio, a bar near downtown (la plaza). This bar has a really interesting history — it was created during the civil war and now once a month they have a concert here local artists have the opportunity to read their poems or expose any of their art. The music played there talks about the history and all the people who suffered and died during the war. Also, the decoration of the place consists of pictures of idols, poems, and flags that tourists have donated. Natalya and I went back to the bar to learn more and they told us that right now the bar just started a new project where they use the bar’s profit to help students financially. They give a few college students a grant to finish their educate. On Sunday, we went to La casa del Escultor — a really nice restaurant. The cook is Argentinian and his wife is from Mexico. The restaurant was expensive, well at least for the people here in El Salvador. I feel like I am so cheap now, when we go to the nice restaurants and a meal costs five dollars I think is too expensive, when in the States a meal ranges from eight dollars and up; but here we can get lunch and a drink for three dollars. I’m scared that once I go back to Minnesota I will not want to eat because is too expensive. Overall, everything is going well.