Monday, October 11, 2010

Real life in El Salvador

It has been a while since I have written a blog, and with good reason. For some reason, I only like to write blogs if they are uplifting, amusing, etc, and I have had a really tough time focusing on such moods. So, I’ve decided to blog anyway, to update everyone on my life. For better or worse…

1) The weather has changed. After the entire country was inundated by the heavy TS Matthew rains, a wonderfully refreshing October wind blew the dreary grey away and brought with it very chilly nights. They say that the rain will return exactly on October 15, and quite honestly, instead of dreading the next storm, I am impressed that they have the ability to correctly predict the next rain with such accuracy from such a distance (they began the predictions on the 5th or so). Maybe they know something that we don’t?

2) I have been chosen as the next editor of the Rural Health and Sanitation section of our monthly publication, El Camino. I am a biologist, a jazz guitarist, a philosopher (sometimes), not an editor, but somewhere in my submission and application for the spot, they found a sliver of hope, a bit of creativity, perhaps just an enjoyable story. I am very excited to edit and format the section. I thoroughly enjoy writing and seeing a finished project, so maybe this will bring some worthy accomplishments my way.

3) We celebrated Independence Day on the 15th of September. I’ll just put a picture so you can see how they celebrated. The entire celebratioDSCN1135n was put on by the students at the local school.

4) We’re going to build a Casa de Salud in my community. After a long process of communal meetings, grant proposals, and back-and-forth emails, we have found an organization willing to fund a Casa de Salud. Essentially, it houses the office and supplies of the local health promoter. His job, in turn, is to use his knowledge, supplies, and Casa de Salud to improve (or maintain, depending on the situation) the health of the community through workshops, campaigns, house visits, etc. The Vibrant Village Foundation will provide the funding, and a local mason and I will construct the thing. I am thrilled! We will probably begin in January when I return from the states. I will obviously post pictures of its progress.

5) On a more serious note, and with regard to what has been brewing within me for weeks, I think I’d like to focus this post on the men of this country. I have had plenty of interactions with them, yet positive interactions are few and far between. There seems to be a string that connects many men here, and unfortunately, it is the heavy and uncontrollable consumption of alcohol. It is an incredibly destructive force that causes everything from broken bones to destroyed families, corrupted youth, and death. I have personally witnessed baseball bat fights on the streets, pistol fights on the soccer field, abandoned wild children, and thirteen year olds drinking/smoking along with their 35 year old peer. I have the temptation to conclude that these men are the root of all problems in this country, but I will stop short of such an assumption (they’re never fully true). Watching this just makes me feel hopeless, lost, and, quite honestly, deflated. Not only do they destroy plenty of things around them, they make me feel unwelcome in El Salvador.

Because of recent interactions I have had with a few of these men, I have forced conversations with friends in my community about the word Gringo only to realize that it’s not the word itself that I am trying to attack or undermine, rather the malevolent attitude with which some men approach me. After having fully explained the meaning and significance of the word (and having put it in context with Guanaco, a derogatory name for Salvadorans), my friends often say that there is little more I can do than adapt to the cultural use of the word.

I suppose the silver lining of these interactions, if there is one to be found, would be my newly found love for the innocence that the school children carry. It is an innocence that is quickly lost in the Salvadoran culture, but it is refreshing nonetheless. Even my worst days of teaching, in which absolutely no one pays attention, are better than some of my best experiences with the older men in the community, be it on the soccer field, in the town square, etc.

Also, I have been lucky enough to find a wonderfully nice friend by the name of Bartelvi. He’s a 21 year old with a tremendous story. He tried crossing illegally into the US when he was 18, only to be caught by a border guard. The guard threatened his life (‘either turn around or I’ll shoot you; no one will know you’re dead in this desert’) and took everything he had, so Bartelvi was trapped for two years in a small, northern Mexican town without a penny to his name or contact with his family. He literally disappeared for two years. Needless to say, he has a slightly different perspective than the normal 21 year old I meet down here.

I’m going to abruptly end here… Sorry. Just lost the steam needed to write in more detail about the above topics. I’ll write another soon, even if I can’t muster a blog about rainbows and butterflies. Take care!

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