Saturday, December 28, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas my friends!

I hope you had a lovely holiday.  I had a good Christmas.  A bit sad to miss out on my family Christmas, but it was still nice.  I went to Guatemala for Christmas and celebrated with the family that I used to stay with every summer in El Salvador (and they moved to Guatemala several years ago).  We had a full house with lots of Christmas fun.  Their oldest came home from college in Arkansas and it was so nice to get to see her.  She's loving college and is really excited about all of the opportunities she has.

Here's a picture of the family waiting in the cold wind for her to arrive at the airport.

The celebration starts on Christmas eve, that's when the big meal is served and then gifts are opened at midnight and all the neighbors light fireworks.  Not the silly little ones we do (like sparklers), but slightly smaller versions of a big firework display in the sky.  

Christmas day we went up to a mountain for a favorite restaurant and then to a beautiful site with stores, restaurants and a big field and playground and horseback riding.  Lots of pictures were taken.

I came back to El Salvador on the 26th, and my souvenier was a sore throat!  I'm hoping that it is a result of too much time on the road with the pollution and not that I'm getting sick again.  Not fun.  This week will be filled with more counseling, more holiday fun and a bit of sadness that it's my last week of vacation before school starts again. :)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A car at last!

Well, my first week back from the visiting California was a bit frustrating.  I don't know if it was because i'd switched cultural gears and was no longer patient, or if my patience just naturally came to an end :)

But my week back I was excited to be returning and I had two possible cars to buy that both didn't work out and the kids at school were crazy with me returning and it being the last week before vacation, and then through other circumstances all of my counseling appointments were canceled.  So, i ended the first week pretty frustrated.

This last week has been quite the opposite though!  I found a car.  It's quite large especially when compared to a smart car (which is just slightlly smaller than it).  It's a 2007 Hyundai ATOS.  I googled it to compare prices and only found comparisons in South Africa.  (after some currency conversions, I did discover that it was being sold at a reasonable price).  It's a manual transmission - which I did better than expected with after not having driven a 5 spd for 6 years!  I've been driving for 5 days and have yet to kill myself, anyone else or get so lost i have had to call someone for help! I'm pretty proud of this accomplishment.

Counseling this week has also not been boring.  Had a great session with the group at the women's shelter and also ended up helping with a crisis at the orphanage I've been helping at.  A bit of an emotional breakdown by one of the children a few days ago and today we ended up checking him in to the hospital (their equivalent of a 5150).

My spanish blunder to entertain you with this week is that I accidently said that there was an eyeball in the butter instead of garlic in the butter.  you're welcome.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanks Holidays for the break!

Clearly the holiday season has begun because people have been too busy to harass me about failing to post anything new in my blog for a few weeks :)
So, I've had a bit of an adventure lately.  Originally, I had intended to go to Costa Rica for a week to deal with renewing my visa to stay in the country.  Long story, but I ended up not being able to take the bus and the flights were the same cost to go to Costa Rica as to go home.  So I spent the last 2 weeks in Fresno getting to enjoy family.  I got to see so many people because they were arriving for thanksgiving, but I flew back to El Salvador on Thanksgiving morning (because the flight was much cheaper then).

So, I'm just trying to re-acclimate back.  My skin and hair have resented the traveling back and forth between the two climates so frequently, but at least the bugs and mosquitoes are happy about my return!

I've got a mechanic checking out a car and if all is well I think I will end up with a car this week!  It shall be strange to have a bit of freedom and flexibility in my schedule back.

Hope everyone has enjoyed Thanksgiving and the beginning of the Christmas season!  Miss you all! (or probably most of you anyways :] )

Saturday, November 2, 2013

New stuff now

I began counseling this week at the the orphanage and the women's shelter.  At the  orphanage I began with someone who had a family death this week.  It was nice to begin in my comfort zone of grief! (And yes, I do enjoy the awkwardness of how I phrased that).

Now that I've begun at two new organizations (with a third I'm contacting this week), I have the same problem I always do. . .i want to do it all!  Unfortunately, I've still never mastered the skill of being in more than one place at a time, and will have to get creative with my schedule.

I'm going to Costa Rica in a week.  It's time to renew my visa and my closest options are Mexico or Costa Rica to exit and receive a new 3 month stay.  I'm sure I can figure out some fun ways to spend a few days there.

Well, I'm going to say goodbye so I can enjoy my pupusas for dinner!

Friday, October 25, 2013

nuthin new

i've got nothin to add.  So, you will successfully waste a couple minutes if you continue to read on!  I hope you are wasting it while avoiding something horrible. . .then I can pretend that this is a useful entry.

Still struggling with spanish.  I'm not taking any formal lessons, but i've gotten very creative in the free resources available to me and I found a wonderful teacher on YouTube today.  So between the youtube videos, free apps and taking advantage of the people I live with, i think im doing pretty well!

Teaching is going ok - I've lost the 'new teacher smell' though, and have been dealing with a lot more classroom management issues this month.  It's no longer an exciting event to have the new american so they are all testing which rules they can break without me knowing (about either the rules or catching them).  It's nice to have confirmation that kids around the world are all the same :)

Still fun delays in getting a car.  The last hurdle is simply getting the cash.  I've started a process, but it will still be 3 or 4 weeks till completion.  To add to the fun challenge in getting the cash, my bankcard expired. . .so now i'm even out the option of the ATM (with high fees) for small amounts.  I'm lucky to have a bunch of supportive people around me to help me out through this gap of no access to money.

I still am on hold about working at the shelter for women who were victims of sex trafficing, but am going to start volunteering next week at an orphanage.  It's a long-term home for kids that the government has pulled out of abusive homes.  It seems like a perfect setting to both learn and hellp out in.  They are wanting a full time counselor, which conflicts with my teaching. . .but we shall see what pans out!

ok - you can stop procrastinating now ;)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The joys of learning spanish

Learning a language is always exciting!  Here's a couple of my blunders from this week that I thought you'd enjoy:

I mispronounced while reading a sentence that said: "They lived as friends" to say, "They lived with ants."

I used a verb in the wrong context and instead of saying that the "Third grade class was. . ." I said, "The third grade class has died"

and this is with my spanish improving!

I find this process exhausting (the learning, not the blunders. . .those actually make it more enjoyable to me).  i'd rather deal with numbers than words, so language is never easy for me, but working in english all day and then switching at night to try to learn leaves me exhausted trying to constantly keep up with which language my brain should be functioning in.

I've been informed that I'll be proficient in 3 languages when I'm done with my year here: English, Spanish and Spanglish.  I'm happy to triple my language count and make this process more efficient!   :)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Human trafficking, Spanish. & mosquitos

It was a good week.  Classes went smoothly, I made progresss on the fun process for buying a car, and I have made contact with a program that provides home and help for young women that had been victims in sex trade.  I will be following up this week about doing therapy with these women.

My Spanish is slowly improving.  I'm receiving lessons from one of the ladies I live with each evening and it's helping me a lot.  She's making me work hard though, and my brain is exhausted!

Another success of the week is that I only got a couple new mosquito bites!  I'm still using the electric racket to kill them and get greater enjoyment out of each killing because I've started thinking about it in terms of the generations of Mosquitos I'm killing rather than just one.  So, I looked up the life cycle of Mosquitos and found that most breeds live about a month and when they have eggs, there are about 200-300 eggs.  So, I didn't read if they make eggs more than once, but even if you assume it is only once in their lifetime, then in a year I've still killed thousands of Mosquitos by just preventing one from reproducing!  Definitely more satisfying with each kill this way!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Dia del Niño

Remember when you were a kid and after mothers day and fathers day you asked, "why isn't there a kid's day" (and you usually got the response 'every other day of the year is kids day')?

Well, in El Salvador they have Mother's day, father's day, grandparents day, and of course, children's day!  We celebrated children's day this week on Friday.  The kids didn't have to wear their uniforms and the kindergartners and pre-schoolers were dressed up in costumes.  The school had one of those fun blow up slides and the kids played games all morning, the teachers put on a play (I was goldilocks) and then we watched a movie.

I'm starting to enjoy the fun bureaucracy of the country in how things get done here.  I still don't have a car because i don't have my cash without a bank account.  i can't get a bank account until i have a financial id card.  i can't have a financial id card until i have both a document from the police in the US saying i have a clean record and documents showing i am in the of applying for residency here (and applying for residence is a whole nuther list of things i'd need).  so, i've got a couple people trying to help me to work around these issues.  we'll see.

I had a fun day of tourism yesterday.  Went to a town that makes a lot of the typical souvenirs for the country.  I loved  all the wood work they make and i bought a wallet (not made of wood).

It's been brought to my attention that i have been failing in the area of taking pictures.  So I tried to fix that and got my camera out.  Here's some pictures of the Children's day celebration at the school and one of traffic - cause nothing will give you a more typical picture of the country than of the traffic!  (it's on a small street a couple blocks from my house)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

An impossible task?

It took about 15 minutes my first day of teaching to get an, "i love you miss Tiffany" from a first grader.  it took a week to get an "i love you" from a second grader and a month to get one from a third grader.  im wondering if a year is long enough to capture the affection of a 6th grader.  I'm not sure.

It's interesting to see the changes in how people contain their affections.  I've been interested in this phenomena since working with a pschizophrenic homeless man while at hospice a couple years ago.  It was amazing to work with him because he experienced kindness for the first time at hospice and he was overflowing with love and happiness and acted like a 2 year old unable to contain his excitement.  But you aren't reading this to discover my social experiment interests :)

I had a great weekend in Guatemala visiting friends.  So nice to be able to visit them for a weekend!  We had fun and I got to visit Antigua (one of my favorite cities. . . You should google it).

I still don't have a car.  There's a new one we're looking at and a friend is calling tonight to see if it is still available.  It's a 2000 civic which will be quite a smooth transition since my last 2 cars were civics.  Hopefully this will work out.  There's a lot of good things that will happen when I get a car, the best being that I can drive to the school in the morning and not have to get up at 5:30 am to get my shower time to ride with the family I'm staying with.  Yes, it will be nice not to be sleep deprived.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Apparently, I've already failed at updating my blog and am in need of reminders and encouragement to do so! (But perhaps it was quite foolish to advertise that that is effective)

Well, in the last 3 weeks I've been very busy becoming an expert teacher!  Ok, so maybe adequate is a better description.  I think I'm more nervous about the tests I'm giving next week than the kids. I'm about to find out just how bad I've been at teaching them!  It actually shouldn't be that bad.  I just get to teach the fun part of English. They have another class to learn grammer and my job is to increase their vocabulary and encourage them to speak and use it.  So I am selfishly filling the classes with games and songs I enjoy and changing them to pretend it is educational.

 Last weekend i moved to the home ill be at for the year.  It will be a great spot.  It's close to the church and school, will have room for my car and is complete with a lovely family I've been friends with for a few years.  And I don't think I've had a mosquito bite in the home all week!

My Spanish is still pathetic, but I'm working on it.  I think I'm going to end up with either another civic or a Kia.  I'm also going to start counseling soon with some clients who speak English and in another week or two I'm going to visit an orphanage and see about counseling kids there.

I think that's it.

I'm going to go and get my laundry that's drying outside to make sure it doesn't get rained on now.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A real teacher!

So, I became a teacher this week. Even though I agreed to it, it still came as a surprise to me! (Yes, this is the part where you start thinking how grateful you are that I'm not teaching your kids. . .but at least I'm not teaching logic!)

I don't know what I thought I would be doing, but it wasn't working 9-3 4days a week teaching English to first through 6th graders.  I guess I had thought something casual, not something with 5 sets of curriculum and 6 classes a day.  I think I'll like it.  Is it bad that I already have favorite classes and students after 3 days?

This will still leave me with 2 days and some evenings to do therapy. Which, I'm ok with because building hours is a slow process and I wouldn't want to be bored in the meantime!  It's also less than I worked while at hospice.

Things are going well. It's nice to see a lot of old friends and I've managed to keep my mosquito bites down to only 2 or 3 a day! (Which is quite pathetic considering I put repellent on at least 6 times a day)

Friday, August 23, 2013

I made it!

I survived the journey!

It was an interesting adventure and I thought they weren't going to allow me on the plane from LA to El Salvador.
So. . .my flight from Fresno to LA was delayed (which is why i'm grateful i booked a 3 hour layover in LA), I ended up behind George Takai in the security line in LA (before they bumped him up to the fancy first class line), and while at the gate 30 minutes before boarding, they called me to the counter.  My airline didn't like that my return flight is beyond the time frame of the 3 month stay that immigration would give me when I arrived.  They had someone on the phone talking about my ticket for 10 minutes and then told me i would not be allowed to go unless i went back to the ticketcounter (outside of security and where i knew i couldn't make it back in time for the flight) and changed my return date, or went online to buy a bus ticket to show the airline proof that I would be leaving the country before my tourist visa would expire.

So I started searching online for bus tickets and the one i was familiar with had their site down.  There was one other that had site issues and then all others that you could "book online" simply had an order form and then they would email you back about a ticket and as they were starting the boarding for the plane i knew there was no hope to buy a ticket online.

I went back to the ticket counter expecting them to send me away, but they said ok, and that i would just have to go to the consulate when i was in el salvador and see about renewing my tourist visa.  I was a bit relieved to be walking on that plane!

And immigration did not have any problems with my travel plans when i arrived.

I've got a nice room and have spent the morning relaxing and have already made friends with a local mosquito.  Apparently, i needed a reminder of how diligent i need to be with my repellent :)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Farewell Tour

I started my drive up California to say goodbye to friends and family.  I wish the pics out the window captured my pretty view.
I've sold my car and am now having all the fun phone calls to insurance and phone companies!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The adventure begins!

I bought a ticket!  I leave on August 22nd.  I've got less than two months to finish selling everything and packing up to go.  I suspect a lot of that will be happening in the very last week ;)