Ahora, mi diccionario es mi mejor amigo

First off, the food is still delicious, it still thunders, rains, and lightnings (I have yet to figure out if that is the correct use of that word) every day, and the mosquito bites are still coming.

 

Now, onto some activities. We went zip lining at the zoo on Sunday.  And by zoo I mean some sort of private collection of animals owned by the owner (that could get confusing) of TACA airlines. We paid the $30 fee for Salvadoran residents instead of the $55 foreigner fee (thanks to our student ID cards) for the EXTREME zip line course with 14 lines. We hiked to the lines, zipped, zapped, and zoomed across the jungle, past waterfalls, and next to flying eagles.  Highlight of the day? The line that was 180 meters above the jungle.

So for a quick math recap:

1m= 3.3 ft

180mx3.3 = 594ft

I have never felt more like a bird in my entire life.

 

Then came the first day of praxis.  Normally I will go with a partner but my partner had recently contracted some sort of illness so I went solo my first day.

It was quite the experience.

I rode in the van an hour outside of Cuscatlan to Tepecoyo with 2 other students going to a praxis site nearby.  The 3 of us were given a short orientation by my site leader Angelica (one of the most amazing women ever) and then we went our separate ways.

I felt anxiety immediately.

This was the first time I have been completely immersed in Spanish with no fellow English speaker around me. It was 8:45AM and I would be leaving around 3:30PM. I didn’t have too much of a problem understanding but as soon as I opened my mouth my brain managed to forget all verb tenses (and just verbs in general).  Then I figured out that we would be cooking for the first half of the day.

Yes, I thought to myself, I can do this.

And then we made soy milk from scratch.

And then I made tortillas (after 4 you could barely tell the difference between mine and Angelica’s…barely).

Cooking seemed to provide an excellent common ground for the time being. However, my very large spanish dictionary still made a lot of appearances as well as the phrase “Un momento,” followed by frantic page flipping. The young students came to the house for lunch, school only lasts half the day here and many students lack proper funds to pay for their own lunch so Angelica makes a nutritious lunch for them to keep them alert.

Then the cooking time was over and I began to get nervous about my Spanish again. But wait, what did I hear? Beauty and the Beast. Yes, the music I heard was a small girl around 6 watching Beauty and the Beast in Spanish.

Well hello there new best friend.

Bianca and I shared a love for disney and even completed a puzzle of the princesses together (after many interjections from me that pounding the incorrect pieces together does not make them correct). At this moment I could not be more thankful for my praxis site placement and I can’t wait for the weeks to come and the multitude of lessons to be learned from Angelica and the others in the community.

Scratch n’ Sniff

Find new mosquito bite.

*scratchscratchscratch*

What is that smell?

*lift arm and sniff*

Dear lord, that’s me.

Awkward.

Contrary to my normal hygienic standards I have actually begun to look forward to showers…odd I know but when the forecast includes temperatures in the high 80s, humidity percentage in the high 90s, and chance of rain around 60 percent, there’s bound to be some sweating going on.  Sweat that makes your skin a tad bit sticky at all hours of the day. Which also kind of makes your need for a shower much larger than you anticipated. The house that I’m living in consists of 7 girls and 4 guys with communal bathrooms and showers, 3 stalls of each.  Things got tricky after 7 of us played soccer for an hour and then had 20 minutes to shower and get ready for pupusa night (which happens every Thursday [heck yes]).

Classes have finally started at the UCA, I will be taking Liberation Theology, History of the Civil War, Advanced Spanish (woah there), Praxis Seminar, and Sociology of El Salvador.  The good news is that classes only meet once a week, the bad news is that they are 3 hours long, the best news is that I managed to avoid taking the classes from 7-10 am (Econ and Poli Sci aren’t really my thing).  All of the Casa students have classes together and work out a Spanish-English balance with their professors.  I must say all of the professors seem extremely overqualified, including a New York Times writer and the President of the National Bank.  Not quite sure if I would want to teach a bunch of study abroad students if I were in their position, but I think this says a lot about the mentality of the Salvadoran people.

Finally had my first experience with hand washing laundry:

Estimated washing time: 2 hours

Estimated drying time: 2 days.

So this is why they told us not to bring too many clothes…

Here’s the thing, most people will forego doing laundry until they are out of clothes, but if you do that here you are just extra-screwing yourself over because not only will you have nearly zero clothes to choose from to wear while washing your clothes, but you will also not have clean clothes for 2 days.

A couple people have learned this the hard way.

The other tricky thing about it is that whole 60% chance of rain thing everyday.  My weather forecast skills, along with my hand-washing clothes skills have significantly improved.  Not entirely what I was expecting to learn in El Salvador, but lessons that are extremely useful.

Adventure Time

I don’t entirely know if I expected to survive until today…

But here I am, sitting in the outside courtyard of Casa Romero, my house for the next 4 months uploading about 400 pictures from the last 2 days and refreshing my memory on everything.

Being here hasn’t quite hit me yet.  Sure I’m roaming around the streets of El Salvador and everything is different but it still feels like a vacation, like any minute I could be hopping on a plane and heading back to SCU.  But then again it’s only been one week…

One week full of super awesomeness that is…

First, an update on blog protocol: I will be trying to write some more short pieces/vignettes that will reflect on an event I found important or particularly meaningful in y time here.  These will be labeled Vignette and be completely separate posts due to the fact that they will probably differ a lot in terms of style and content in comparison to posts such as the one you are reading now.  Feel free to read and comment, they are simply meant to offer a more comprehensive look on the people and culture of El Salvador. (Note: They may also be longer and contain more rambling/half baked thoughts).

So just about everywhere we go we are given food.  At FUNDESO, a public health clinic, I had a coffee flavored popsicle that I got to enjoy while roaming through the modestly-sized lab containing blood, urine, bacteria, and fungi samples (surprisingly, this was not hazardous at all). You know, that coffee popsicle really delicious and all, but the best snack (pretty much ever) is the combination of pan dulce and coffee.  I have yet to be able to resists this delicious combination of bitter and slightly sweet.  As soon as I see the giant container of coffee with a pink pastry box in it I lose focus for about 10 seconds because at that point I am trying to decide which pastry I will choose. So that happened a couple times yesterday…good thing there’s a group of student’s committed to do Insanity workouts in the morning.

Onto the main event!

*drumroll please*

So yesterday we went to visit the finca, or a coffee farm.  This in itself would have quite the journey.  However, the fact that 23 students rode in the back of a pick up truck going Indiana Jones style driving on a road made the trip quite memorable. You could say that we are all pretty close now. Especially since everybody sweats like crazy from the 95% humidity.

There’s really no effective way to describe how amazing the 2 hour hike that ensued was other than it felt like my vision had been put into some sort of super vivid mode where all the colors instantly turn about 20 times more colorful (trust me, it’s possible).

 

Today also marks the 1 week anniversary of being in El Salvador, couldn’t have been a better week to be quite honest. Looking forward to classes and praxis sites and getting into the rhythm of the real Salvadoran life.

Hola, me llamo Rebecca…

Soy de california…

Me gusta correr…

Ummm…

*nervous glance to nearest person who can translate for me*

 

It’s back to the basics as I sit in multiple introduction circles consisting of a mix of Spanish and English speakers. Slowly the nerves set in and my mind goes blank.  Not taking Spanish for a year and only occasionally speaking it/using only common phrases really sets you back…who woulda thunk?

Either way the Salvadorans have been extremely helpful and patient in teaching us students having more trouble (sometimes after a great deal of confused looks and nervous laughs). The Spanish may not be improving as quickly as I had hoped, but my ability to look (lots of emphasis here)  like I’m understanding has significantly improved.

As it has been said many times before when starting a new adventure…all the days are just melting together into a super-huge-awesome-candle-like-thing of wonder and excitement (too much to process, I’m all over the place, this post may or may not make sense because of all the excitement I have been going through).

SO.

For a quick recap of the past few days…here’s what I have been up to:

1. Meeting people izquierda y derecha (really utilizing my Spanish here)

2. Eating the most delicious foods such as pupusas, pan dulce, marinated chicken, and really interesting and delicious egg concoctions.

3. Believe it or not, running around the US Embassy (in a group of course)

4. Taking (a few) cold showers

5. Learning about the history of the civil war here, the Jesuit Martyrs, and the ties the UCA shares with SCU.

6. Visiting my praxis site in Tepecoyo, where I will be helping a lovely woman named Angelica prepare food, make crafts, and teach basic computer lessons to local children.

7. Visiting la mirador and watching the lightning shoot across the sky of San Salvador at night while the city lights shine below.

8. Hiking up a hill/mountain for 45 minutes to visit the home of an 18 year old boy who quit high school to help his family earn money to send his younger siblings to high school, who later was involved in a factory accident that paralyzed him from the waist down. He now works with an occupational therapist and has began painting by holding the brush in his mouth.  And let me tell you those paintings were beautiful.

9. Having dancing parties with other salvadoran students.

10. Taking LOTS of pictures.  This is where things get a tad bit awkward because I forgot to upload them before I came to the internet cafe so those won’t be up for a few more days probably.

 

More updates to come soon, time is precious when you are trying to experience the wonders of a new country and get to know 23 other students.

 

 

Oops! I did it again…

Overpacking.

Pessimist me: Dear lord what have I done.

Optimist me: I AM SO PREPARED IT’S INSANE!

I am not proud of being an overpacker. I expect jokes and such to be had about my 1 medium/largish suitcase, 1 (very full) duffel bag, 1 carry on backpack, and 1 reusable shopping bag with extra clothes (in case my luggage gets lost.

Keeping in mind this is for 4 months abroad…I’m pretty darn proud of myself.

*pats self on back*

However, I’m still 100% sure that I have to much stuff and here’s how I know:

The kid in me is all over the place all the time.  The mom in me has decided to try and be prepared for whatever the kid in me wants. This results in overcompensation and, you got it, overpacking.

 

(Note: For visual reference, I imagine each all-caps word to flash across the screen comic-book style and then cutting to a quick zoom shot of the object)

You’re hungry? BOOM! I have snacks.

Paper cut? KABLAM! I have bandaids and Neosporin (the cool spray one to be more exact).

Feeling sick? ZOWIE! I have emergen-c ready to go.

Too many mosquitoes? POW! Bug spray with 100% deet yo. This stuff is serious.

 

Being an overpacker is actually quite calming and has helped me feel less stressed about leaving. Otherwise I have been a whirling dervish of emotions and questions.  I wonder what things will be like this time around, and how much stuff I packed that I actually won’t need or use, I wonder about the people I will meet, the stories I will hear, the food I will eat, if I’ll be able to work out, who I’ll be living with, what classes will be like, how everything state-side is going to be when I return, what am I missing out on, what am I not missing out on, and the list goes on and on.

Needless to say the nights have been filled with plenty of wandering thoughts and slightly less sleep than I had hoped.

Officially 9.5 hours away from leaving for the airport.

Let the journey begin, I welcome it with open arms, an open heart, and an open stomach.

T-Minus 48 Hours

First things first.

I would like to say hello/hiya/g’day to each and every one of you readers! And since I know there are a great deal of other blogs and such to be read, I realize there might actually only be one reader (and in that case….HI MOM). Nevertheless a written record of my studies abroad was a must-do for me and after procrastinating like the good ol’ college student I am, here it is.

I am a Senior at Santa Clara University, Class of 2013 (SO FRESH SO CLEAN) majoring in Anthropology with a double minor in English and Communications (believe me when I say I would major in everything if I could) and I will be spending the upcoming Fall 2012 quarter abroad, although in El Salvador they are on the semester system so it’s technically a semester.  I will be going with the Casa de la Solidaridad program that is affiliated with SCU

I know I tend to ramble/go on unrelated tangents. So please bear with me, with any luck I will come to a valid point (eventually). I know that the longer a post is the less interest readers will exhibit and so I’m going to try to keep everything at a “reasonable length” (although multiple professors have taught me that the definition of that phrase is highly arbitrary). I don’t imagine I will posting all too often as we don’t have 24/7 access to the internet, I don’t even know if I’ll post more than a handful of times, but I started a blog and therefore I can cross it off my to-do list and feel accomplished.

A lot of people have been asking about what I’m going to be doing in El Salvador, or why I chose this particular program and, to be quite honest, I’ve had a hard time explaining it/I still have not entirely grasped what I will be doing myself.

But here’s the gist of it:

1. My Grandfather was born and raised in El Salvador.  When I was younger I didn’t understand what this meant other that the fact that it also made me part Mayan (yes, the apocalypse ones) and I never really grew curious about it until after he passed away. Because of this, I figured the best way for me to learn about his life was to go there myself.

2.  I went on the immersion trip to El Salvador last year, and I can honestly say it changed my life.  To all SCU students: I highly recommend you doing one before graduation.  The Salvadoran people demonstrate and incredible amount of strength and generosity that was inspiring to me and ultimately drew me back when the time came for study abroad applications.

3. As a part of the Casa program, 26 other students and I will be taking classes at the UCA and participating in a praxis site twice a week from 7:30-5.  These sites focus on community involvement and personal growth as well as an opportunity for me to gather information for my senior Anthropology thesis in which I will be focusing on childhood nutrition in marginalized areas.

4.  Quite appropriately number 4 on the list are the 4 pillars of the Casa program: accompaniment, academics, community, and spirituality. These are pretty straight forward.

5. I want to become fluent in Spanish.  No better way I can think of than to travel to a spanish-speaking country and live there for 4 months.

6. Simple living.  This means, among other things, limited internet access, no hot water, and separate trash bins for toilet paper because the pipes can;t handle it.

That being said, the title of this blog, “Keep it Simple” is meant to reflect both the simple living that I will be partaking in as well as the simple posts I will be writing (although this one is already yikes 700 words…woops).  Although I can imagine the early posts will be very long considering I will be so excited to be there and there will be so many people to meet, and things to do, and eat, and see, and eat (I’m only a little excited about the food). Note: pictures will also be included on the blog.

I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m completely prepared, and I’m devastatingly unprepared…who know what the next 48 hours will bring, but they are sure to end with me being in El Salvador’s paradise (probably in a hammock).

-Rebecca M