Glossary

So since I am now becoming more familiar with the vernacular terms as well as continuing to use terms that people who have not read the blog from it’s very eventful beginning (shame on you), I have decided to make a glossary, here you will find terms that I use commonly but might be unclear for some.

Becario– A Salvadoran student under a scholarship. These students live in the houses with us and also have their own house down the road.

Biscuit- The super americanized super classy internet cafe around the corner

We’re Talkin’ ‘Bout Praxis

I thought I wouldn’t have been able to sleep from excitement, coffee, the speaker we just heard in History class, but I guess there’s just something about the hour-long ride to Tepecoyo that makes me drowsy. I always manage to wake up right as we turn onto the dirt road and continue down to Angelica’s house.

Until now I had only seen Tepecoyo during the day, but at sunset it was beautiful.  It hasn’t been too cloudy or rainy here the last couple days (which you would think would be a good thing but it really means that all the rain is just going to come in one large pouring) and you could see the light reflected off the trees and creating silhouettes, it was an excellent welcoming present.

First up on the agenda was pupusa making.

Quick Pupusa 101 for those who don’t know what they’re missing out on.

A pupusa is a round disk, probably around 4 inches in diameter, made of corn or rice masa that is stuffed with a variety of things.  These things include, but are not limited to: cheese, beans, chicharron (pork), cilantro, jalapeno, lorocco (an edible flower), spinach, and I even tried a ham and pineapple one. The possibilities are pretty much endless, kinda like with pizza. So I guess it may be easier to just think of them like a perfectly circular calzone made of masa.

Sidenote: In an article I had to read for class, pupusas were described as a bacon and cheese pancake.  Umm…..what?

So, here’s how the process goes:

  1. Prep stuffing ingredients. In our case it was lorroco, cheese, and beans.  We cut the lorroco by picking 5-6 small buds, bunching them together, and then slicing them as you would a scallion. We then mixed the cut buds in with the cheese, which was kind of like pladough consistency (playdough you could eat that is).
  2. Get some bowls for the ingredients and separate them.  We had one bowl of masa, one of beans, one of the cheese/lorocco mix, one with water to put on your hands so the masa didn’t stick, and a small one with oil to rub on so the outside gets crispy when you cook it.
  3. Grab a palm’s worth of masa.  Form it into a ball.
  4. Hold that ball in your right hand and press it against the knuckles of your left hand to form a bowl in the masa.
  5. Fill bowl with beans and cheese/lorocco mix.
  6. Close dough by pressing masa together once, then turning ball of masa and pressing it one more time.
  7. Start pinching together the ball. Twist a little as if you were wrapping a small bag as a present.
  8. Tear of the little extra piece that forms at the top.
  9. Continue with ball as if you were making a tortilla.  This just involves pinching and rotating the ball to form a disk and then flattening the disk out.
  10. Rub some oil on it.
  11. Put it on flat top griddle-like thing and cook.
  12. BOOM! You have yourself the most delicious Salvadoran delicacy ever created.

 

And let me tell you, after all that hard work of making pupusas, you’ve got a pretty big appetite.  So we sat down and enjoyed our mountain of pupusas with some freshly blended salsa (Note: salsa here is more or less the same consistency as bottle hot sauce, it’s not as spicy, but the deliciousness can’t be denied).  I had also baked some oatmeal cookies complete with walnuts, dark chocolate chunks, and coconut as a thank you for my praxis family so I whipped those babies out and shared them with everyone, they were a huge hit.

We were in bed by 9:30 and woke up at 7 to a breakfast of refried beans (of amazingness), eggs, and instant coffee. I don’t know what it is about those refried beans, but I’m pretty sure they are the one thing I would want to eat for the rest of my life…I’m salivating a little now just thinking about them.

Ok. Focus. Back to the activities.

It was independence day so after breakfast we walked into town for the parade.  A lot of the schools organized marching bands with baton girls, and fancy outfits, and little children dressed up in fancy outfits, and dancing, and lots of make up, and trumpets, and just a whole lot of parade-like things.

But I’m just going to talk about the baton girls outfits for a second.

Picture this:

So there’s a 12 year old girl who gets to be a baton girl for the parade (yippee! oh boy!), and all the girls get matching outfits, they are sparkly, and pink, and glittery…

and also involve very little fabric.

Shoulders were exposed, midriffs were bared, and legs were displayed with skirts that somehow all managed to find the exact spot where your but would not be exposed. Also there were calf-high, heeled, black or white boots involved. And this outfit pretty much applied for all ages.

The skies were still clear, meaning the sun was still blazing hot so we stopped at a street vendor and got choco-watermelon.  And that was just about the most refreshing thing that I could have ever hoped for. Frozen slices of watermelon covered in chocolate and coco crispies have a beautiful relationship.

The rest of the afternoon consisted of us watching The Proposal (in Spanish with English subtitles), relaxing, coloring with some kids, relaxing, eating a little, and more relaxing.

You could say I’m pretty relaxed right now.

Sunday we had a small pancake breakfast. They cooked the pancakes on a separate griddle pan on a burner and not on the flat top they grill tortillas on, so that was confusing, mostly because the flat top is prime time for making pancakes at large pancake breakfasts. With it Angelica made a large pot of hot milk (most milk is powdered here) with some sugar in it.  It was a new thing for me to try and I liked it, I liked it a lot.

Then, to top it all off, after watching a local soccer game and eating fried yuca (really wish they sold that at soccer games in the states) Angelica made us chicken and vegetable soup.  And if I felt nostalgia a few weeks ago it was nothing like the nostalgia I felt at that point.

The soup tasted exactly like my mom’s chicken soup at home. So it was literally a taste of home that was much needed.

Overall, the weekend was as much a reminder of how much I missed home as it was a reminder of how I am supposed to be here.

 

And if you made it through all that describing and retelling of my weekend then I say kudos to you. I wish there was a way I could give you a pupusa.  If you didn’t make it through then you’re probably not reading this now so I can say bad things about you…just kidding.

Note: New Page!

I have added a new page on the header titled “Glossary” to make a common page for words that I use a lot in posts.  Just in case you have forgotten or weren’t paying attention, refer to this page when there is a word you don’t know.  And if it’s not on the page then please leave me a comment or email me at rmurillo@scu.edu so I can add it! Chances are there are a lot of other people that don’t know what the heck that words means either.

Rebecca Murillo is now in a relationship with El Salvador.

So last weekend was our first free weekend since being here.  With so much time you think we would want to go out and see the sights or go to the beach or something mildly exciting.

So what did we end up doing?

Sleep (kind of).

And eat (obviously).

It was the first time I’ve gotten to sleep in until….wait for it….8:30 in who knows how long. It was quite the luxury.  It’s also possible I would have slept longer if we didn’t live adjacent to an auto shop.  The sound of sheet metal being cut isn’t an Alarm tone for a good reason.

I caught up on laundry which turned into a 2-hour arm workout since half my clothes smelled of must from being rained on the last tim I did laundry. The rest of the weekend was more or less a blur of walking around the streets and adding more reference points to our mental navigation system.  Apparently just because streets have names doesn’t mean they are used or even known, most of our directions start with

“So it’s on the way to the UCA…”

Or,

“It’s right by Biscuit (the swanky internet cafe around the corner)…”

We ended up drinking juice blends, aka smoothies minus the dairy products, eating ice cream, and most importantly going to one of the few mexican restaurants in the area.  Andale is known for having large burritos, which we were all extremely excited for since we hadn’t had any sort of mexican food for over 3 weeks.

No chips and salsa, no tacos, nada, nunca, cero.

Good thing the al pastor Andale burrito gets served on a cookie sheet and is approximately 1.5 feet long.

This is my kind of mexican restaurant.

But the weekend went by faster than expected, with less homework being done and more food in my stomach.

Monday, we were back at our praxis sites, and I finally got to walk to Zone 3 of Tepecoyo.  I was told that the higher the number of the zone, the higher the level of poverty is, the rougher the quality of life is, and to be much more careful when we visit.

But honestly, it’s beautiful there.

The streets were much cleaner and flatter.  Instead of being constructed of rocks and littered with wrappers and bags from snacks sold in small stores/rooms of peoples houses the roads were just compact dirt.  They were a bit slippery form the rain, and every time I looked up at the multitudes of trees I ended up slipping just a little bit, never falling though.  We visited the house of a boy named Sergio who has infantile paralysis.  Sergio is 12 years old but had the mental age of a 2-3 year old.  All 3 of his sisters have dropped out of school to help around the house since their mother died a few years ago and their father now works in the fields all day to help pay for their food.  It was difficult to see Sergio, and it was even more difficult to start up a conversation with his sisters.  What do you say to a family who has given everything up to keep Sergio healthy?  I don’t even know how I would approach the situation with an English speaking family. I left feeling guilty, already thinking of questions for next time.

The rest of the week went by in what felt like a second.  Praxis, class homework, running, laundry, praxis, choir praxis for our Mass with the becarios, class, soccer, more laundry, Mass with the becarios, and next on the agenda is praxis weekend.

Around 4PM today we will head out to our praxis sites until Sunday afternoon and I’m actually really excited, I’ll be making pupusas, playing soccer, learning a heck of a lot of Spanish, and most importantly celebrating independence day tomorrow!

 

I’ll certainly have updates and plenty more pictures coming up after the weekend.  Note: tomorrow also marks my one month anniversary in El Salvador, so I guess you could say things are getting pretty serious.

I Love Nostalgia

The power went out a couple nights ago (although it has already happened a handful of times) for a couple minutes. I was right in the middle of  doing homeowrok and thinking about whether it was very bad timing or very good timing. I still haven’t really decided.

We grabbed our flashlights (correction: everybody else grabbed their flashlight and head lamps because I happened to forget mine) and set up our reading on the kitchen table, candles and everything.  The power returned and I walked over to one of the other houses with a friend for a short study break.  When I returned I saw that the candles were still being used as the primary source of light around those doing homework at the kitchen table.

I don’t know why, but for some reason doing homework by candlelight was actually very appealing.  It was simple and not as distracting and it made me nostalgic even though I have never had to do homework by candlelight before.  Odd feeling that nostalgia is.

We have been busy once again. I barely even realized that it has been over a week since I last posted, que triste! There has been a serious lack of reading material out there because of this. Because of this delay, some things will have to appear in list form…Here we go!

  1. The amount of sugar and butter I have consumed is insane.  Mostly in the form of pan dulce. But also in the form of the delicious soy milk we continue to make at my Praxis site and then add a hefty amount of sugar to.
  2. Telling poop stories. Shit happens in El Salvador. It’s casual.
  3. Visiting some Mayan Ruins, although here they are more politely referred to as Sanctuaries (which always reminds me of Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Disney movie). It was really great to see how archaeological sites are preserved here as well as imagine what life in the little city would have been like.  I must say that the location was in the middle of a suburb-like area and a little out of place, but I guess people don’t stop building houses nearby just because there’s a large Mayan Sanctuary across the street.
  4. Visiting Lago de Coatepeque and jumping off a tall dock into the water with the becarios (the Salvadoran students that stay in our houses with us and take classes at the University).  It was so scenic and wonderful and a great way to relax after cramming what seems like 2 months of activities into a couple weeks. There was a large area of grass that we played soccer on and did headstands (something I have found myself doing a lot more frequently) and enjoyed the view of the lake that was probably more than 4 miles around/in diameter/whichever way helps you visualize best.
  5. Supporting the local economy by making a lot of purchases at an artisan shop at one of the praxis sites.  Many gifts were bought.
  6. Memorizing the order of car alarm noise and making dances out of them.
  7. Eating pizza for the first time in almost a month.  Once again the crust was almost pure butter, which also meant it was pretty much pure deliciousness.
  8. Meeting some long-lost family members.  I had been informed by my Aunt that I had family here and to give them a call sometime but I hadn’t gotten around to doing it yet when one morning I got a call from a Doris. Thankfully she spoke English and we were agreed on lunch plans. It was so nice to finally connect with her and she reminded me a lot of my family back home. We went to lunch, shared about our lives, and planned to meet again soon after I figured out my busy schedule.
  9. Seeing the SCU Immersion Delegation.  It was great to see some familiar faces and figure out what was going back home.  I was also reminded a lot of what I was feeling last year when I was on the immersion and how far I’ve come since then. It also marked a year of having short hair (woot woot!).
  10. More praxis visits! But with my partner this time. My Spanish is getting a lot better and sometimes I can actually speak at a normal pace (sometimes even rapid fire) and people will kind of be able to get what I’m saying, if I’m lucky they’ll even understand it.
  11. Another praxis note, I taught my first English class today! I had a morning class, an afternoon class, and a small session before lunch with 3 7th graders where we just talked.  They went better than I expected considering my Spanish is limited, I mostly just used phrases I remember hearing in my Spanish classes (gracias Profesora Lisses).  As if I needed another reason to love my praxis site, the kids were so eager to learn and wonderful and amazing and smiley and I could barely believe it.

Puchica! (Dang!) This is a long post, I will plan on being more efficient if the future so people will actually not feel burdened when reading these posts.

PS More pictures will be up tomorrow!

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.