It appears that at this point I am halfway done with this program. Well I guess more than halfway now that I have procrastinated updating this blog post. Most people probably assumed I had forgot, but never fear, procrastination hasn’t got the best of me (this time).
I can hardly believe it. And everything just keeps speeding up from here.
Even though this is the first year they have done it, praxis week is basically the most important aspect of the program because it allows students to be fully immersed and able to accompany a Salvadoran family they have been spending time with for around 2 months. Before this year, students would spend a week in the Campo, which is the more rural part of El Salvador. This was a good experience, but also difficult because students had to build new relationships with their host families while knowing they are going to leave after a week with a small chance of ever seeing them again. In order to avoid this, the Directors of the Casa program decided to give us the opportunity to further build our relationships with our Praxis families. Some of the families live in the Campo, or more rural areas in general so it turned out similar to having a campo week after all.
So here it goes, one week of immersion in my Praxis site.
First off, my Spanish has improved quite a bit from being fully immersed for a week. I gave myself a couple pats on the back for that.
I’m going to try to rapid fire through most of the events and then things may get a little serious for a second so be aware that this post won’t be all sunshine and rainbows (mostly because it rained all week so there wasn’t any sunshine to begin with. So first off we had to drop off 2 other students at their site up the hill/mountain. Considering we were carrying small mattresses and 2 gallons of water we opted to go in the pick up. But then that meant that we were all in the back of a pick up with the mattresses, water, bags, and food for their site. After dropping them off we just went back to the house and got started with the week.
So the house that I stay at is actually on a larger area that has 5 more small houses inside of it. By house I mean one room with a couple beds, possibly an area for a TV, and and even smaller possibility that there is an area for a refrigerator. All of the inhabitants are somehow related to one another and they all share the large kitchen/comedor area for cooking.
Note/reminder: The comedor is a lunch program for kids in El Salvador run by my praxis site coordinator. She opened it to provide a free lunch to the kids who cannot afford food, some aren’t even able to eat breakfast before school, which affects their attention and ultimately their education.
During the week I learned how to cook plenty of delicious meals and I learned a lot more about what kind of cooking methods they use, why the tastes are different, what produce is available in what seasons, and more stuff along those lines. Angelica (my praxis coordinator) really knows how to cook, and the 24 kids she serves now are getting a way better free lunch than I’ve ever seen in the US. We made rice with vegetables, eggs with vegetables, a different sort of egg and vegetable dish that involves beating the egg whites first, then putting the yolks back in, then frying the vegetables covered in this mixture, then simmering in some tasty sauce made of only onions, tomatoes, and green peppers.
Yeah, we did a lot of cooking. And just eating in general. It’s something I love about my praxis site.
I also learned how to make arroz y leche (basically rice pudding), tried some tripe soup (I approved), drank plenty of warm sugar leche (My own name for it. It’s a popular breakfast drink where you make powdered milk with warm water and then add sugar, trust me it’s a lot better than it sounds), and also cafe con leche (same deal as the sugar leche but also add in a spoonful of instant coffee).
Onto the shower situation.
So there’s no running water in Tepecoyo. Meaning they take showers using rain water collected in large plastic barrels and use a guacal (still unsure about the spelling, but it’s basically a bucket) to pour the water over themselves. But there was also a problem with the small outhouse/shower room because the rain ruined the roof panel. To get to the point, we got to take our showers outside in front of the pila (large sink used for everything) in a sports bra and shorts. And to the next point, we built a lot of confianza with each other. It was wonderful. Mostly because guacal showers are amazing, I don’t know why, but the whole just-pour-on-the-cold-water strategy is wonderful, even when it’s 6 in the morning and the water has been sitting out all night and so cold that steam actually comes off your body when you pour it on yourself.
Thursday we spent with William, one of our night guards for our houses in Antiguo. he lives in Tepecoyo in a house that resembles both an eco-hotel and a curio shop. he has a balcony that overlooks the mountains of Tepecoyo as well as an impressive garden containing fruit, vegetables, and chiles. We went on a “walk” (that was really a 2ish hour hike) to Rio Shutia, which is about 1km (or around 3/4 of a mile) down a very steep hill into a valley, through the river a few times, we drank some fresh mountain water from a little spigot and then hiked back up through some corn fields to a rock that looked very similar to pride rock from The Lion King. Naturally I sang “Circle of Life” for a little bit to set the mood. And when we returned we had a wonderful feast of chicken, vegetables, rice, tortillas, and chiles waiting for us.
Over the week I really felt like I was becoming more and more apart of the family than during Monday/Wednesday praxis visits. We all went to bed around 9PM, woke up around 6ish, hung out together, watched the rain together (there’s really not much else you can do when it rains because the roofs are made of tin which means that when it’s pouring you can’t hear much over the pounding of rain drops on tin), cooked meals, watched movies. It made me homesick to have family back in my life, other than my Casa family of course. But having Angelica take care of us, tell us to put our jackets on when it was raining so we wouldn’t get sick, make us breakfast in the morning, she even put another blanket on my praxis partner one night because she could tell she was feeling cold. And on the last night I felt like a big sister for the first time in my life of being the baby in my family when we were watching Bambi (in Spanish) and Brian (7) and Brianna (4) both crawled onto my little mattress on the floor and just cuddled up against me as they mimicked the movie, made commentary, and laughed along.
But the best things about this family are the hugs. When we were leaving and giving our goodbye hugs the women held on for that extra second, reluctant to let go. It reminded me of the hugs I get from my mom before I go back to school, or the hugs I give when I know I might not see someone again. I was reluctant to let go of these hugs as well, because I felt so loved and cared for in these moments that it made me not want to leave this place but at the same time it made me long for home.