Posted by: Jessica | March 11, 2013

Moving to a new blog!

Since I’m no longer in El Salvador and with Peace Corps, I decided to start a new blog dedicated to transitioning back into U.S. life and following my career progression in Youth Development. Please check out my new page at: ElSalvadortoDC.com

Salu!

Jessica

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members of my women's group: my friends in my community

As I was watching a TED talk today by Anna Deavere Smith* I was reminded of many conversations I’ve had with rural Salvadorans over the last few years.  Conversations with humble people who, despite their often limited education and access to good information, shared with me some of the most poignant insights I have ever heard about violence, healing, determination, poverty, and society. For those not familiar with El Salvador’s bloody recent history: this year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the peace accords which officially ended a long, violent civil war. It is estimated that nearly 100,000 Salvadorans were killed during the war that lasted more than a decade (officially 1980-1992), and was the main cause for the mass emigration of Salvadorans (particularly to the US) as refugees.

According to the Salvadoran government and international press, the last twenty years of El Salvador’s history have been peaceful, bringing more trade and tourism to the country, not to mention political stability.  And in many ways, El Salvador IS in much better shape than it was in 1992. However, emigration- both during and after the civil war- has done massive damage to the Salvadoran family social structure, and arguably caused the alarming rise of gang violence in this tiny country, (whether you believe the gangs to be an export of L.A. or not). That, combined with a lack of jobs and fair pay, the “dolarizacion*” (which has caused inflation), and government corruption have now led El Salvador to the brink of being one of the most violent (if not the most violent) country in the world, according to a report issued by The Geneva Declaration* in 2011, with neighbors Honduras and Guatemala also in the top 10 ranked countries.

Salvadorans, especially those living in poverty (including rural poverty), have a lot to say about their society. Perhaps because of the two countries’ close ties, Salvadorans often (unfortunately) compare their country to the US, and find it wanting. They are acutely aware of the lack of social justice which the FMLN promised to provide the lower classes when it became an official political party in 1992. The post-war generation of young adults- with better access to both basic education and  information than ever before- thanks to cell phones and satellite television- see what they are missing. They see injustice. They see the huge economic divide in their own country. They see the families of infamous leaders of the wartime paramilitary death squads continuing to wield enormous political power. They feel a strong sense of frustration about the future because of the high level of government corruption and violence. Many feel that continuing their education is pointless, as they will probably never find work. Many simply want to escape and join family members in the US and Canada. The increasingly dangerous journey North seems a small price to pay to escape the lives of their fathers: breaking their backs in the hot sun cultivating corn for $5/day, exposing themselves to dangerous chemicals and respiratory disease by cutting sugarcane for $6/day, living in fear of being killed for not paying outrageous ‘rent’ to gangs in order to keep struggling small businesses, I could go on, but you get the idea… I believe that because this generation is much more literate than previous generations, (something the post-war government has managed to succeed in doing, although perhaps with unintended consequences), they are able to read news stories, understand reports, and they are unwilling to accept this future of violence, both economic and social, that their country is now offering them.

During my time in the caserío of El Pital as a Peace Corps volunteer, I watched the nightly news countless times with my friends and neighbors. The domestic news always included at least a few stories of bodies that had been dumped in a cornfield or the like, of a family or bus driver that had been shot for failing to pay ‘rent’ to the gangs, or bus crashes that left many people dead or injured. They would always turn to me tell me how the violence sometimes seemed worse now than during the war: less predictable. We would talk about the corruption in the government, and how the peace accords seemed to have little effect on their lives: they still received unfair wages and were much vulnerable to violence than the rich politicians who controlled trade, business, politics, even transportation and, as popular rumor would have it, the gangs themselves. I had many discussions with a brilliant community counterpart about the social and economic struggles of his country which had greatly affected his personal life.  Once an employee of an NGO program in our local school for youth with learning/behavioral disabilities, he was now unemployed because the government cut the program instead of maintaining it when the NGO finally withdrew support. Even though he had a high school degree, he struggled to find work, and eventually lost himself to alcoholism. Once a bright community leader, he was too frustrated to continue looking for work, and when I finished my service, we had barely spoken for months. There are few opportunities for a man like him, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has tried to immigrate to the US by now. He talked about immigrating as his last hope.

The violence that is strangling social and economic progress in El Salvador does not seem to be ending any time soon. Even after the supposed ‘truce’ bartered between the government, gang leaders, and the Catholic church last year seemed to lower the rate of reported homicides, my training group was forced to close our service five months ahead of schedule. It was explained to us that because of rising violence in the country, and in spite of the recent ‘truce’, we would be forced to leave our communities so that Peace Corps Washington could dramatically scale back the program with the goal of keeping fewer volunteers in only the northern zone. At the time, it seemed unreasonable to me. But over the next year, and after moving with my husband to San Salvador, I think the decision was ultimately the correct decision. The ‘truce’ has became more of a transparent political stunt; as the homicide rate has decreased, cases of missing persons, extortions, and violent assaults have actually increased, according to reports published by national newspapers based on government data.  It would seem that the gangs are killing each other less, but are terrorizing innocent citizens more and more. Not only that, but the foreign drug gang, the Zetas, are now active in El Salvador, recruiting so they can control the increasing wave of drugs and guns that pass through Central America. Many people live as though there is a war going on; they live with a much higher level of anxiety than is normal; they are suspicious of nearly everyone- including neighbors; they almost expect to be robbed or assaulted (they keep all valuables out of sight including in their cars); they avoid going out or using public transportation at night; and they are desensitized to the violence around them: I’ve watched groups of schoolchildren led past uncovered bodies in the street, and neither the children nor their chaperones reacted in alarm. This is not normal, but it has become so for them. It became normal for me. And that is terrifying.

When I moved back to Maryland three weeks ago, I felt like I was walking around in a parallel reality. I still feel that way. It makes me nervous that my mom’s house doesn’t have bars on the windows on the first floor. I walk into convenience stores with my guard up; I stare at people who take out their phones in public like they are insane. And I worry endlessly about my husband who is still living in El Salvador until his visa is granted. But even when he is able to move here with me, there will still be millions of people living there. Some of them are my friends- dear friends who treated me like family, even taking care of me when I was sick (which was most of the time). What about them? What about their stories, and the reality of their daily lives? What about the violence that they live with every day? Why is no one paying attention?!  It seems the developed world is so focused on the crises in the Middle East and North Africa that they are ignoring the atomic-sized, multifaceted, fast-growing crisis in their own ‘back yard’. My rural Salvadoran friends tell me that in the 70s and 80s, they came to the US to escape the violence. Then in the 90s and early 2000s, they came for economic opportunity. Now, they say, the trend is reversing; they are leaving to escape the violence again; they are leaving because they cannot live with the threat of being killed for not paying ‘rent’ or watching their children being recruited into organized gang crime. They leave because they do not see a future for themselves if they stay. How can I help tell their stories? Who will be interested in listening? At a recent conference in Washington DC, a speaker talked about the problem of the “sleepwalking American public” oblivious to the everyday realities of the developing world; How can I wake people up to the reality of El Salvador and give my friends a louder voice to tell the truth of what is happening in their country? The Salvadoran government has a social campaign slogan that reads, “Hablemos bien de El Salvador”, or “Let’s speak well of El Salvador.” While you will never hear me speak ill of Salvadorans, I will tell the truth about what is happening there, because they deserve better than this; most of all they deserve to be heard.

*www.ted.com/talks/anna_deavere_smith_s_american_character.html

*http://www.genevadeclaration.org/fileadmin/docs/GBAV2/GBAV2011-Fig-2.3-detail.pdf

*www.nodo50.org/…/Areas/AreaSalvador1.htm

I thought I’d share this: I am a recently returned Peace Corps Volunteer actively seeking opportunities in both the public and private sectors in the Washington, DC Metro area, especially in the areas of Cultural Diplomacy and Gender and Youth Development. I am eligible for noncompetitive appointment for federal hire until April 20, 2013. I am best contacted by email at: jessicachenry@gmail.com. Please visit my profile on LinkedIn for more information. Thank you!

https://www.linkedin.com/pub/jessica-c-henry-de-mariona/59/865/443

Posted by: Jessica | January 20, 2013

Yessica (out of) El Salvador: Gratitude is the Attitude

Ever since I stepped off the plane at BWI two weeks ago, it’s like I’ve been processing my Peace Corps experience at warp speed.  It’s as if it were delayed almost a year to let me deal with all the other things that happened after my training group was told we were being forced to early COS last February; scrambling to finish up projects in my site and saying my painful goodbyes, getting engaged, finding a new job and a place to live in San Salvador, serious family illness and death back home, getting married (!), teaching and planning, starting the visa process for Moi, and moving back to Maryland.  Whew!  2012 has not been an easy year, and I think my brain simply put Peace Corps on the back burner so I could manage EVERYTHING else that was happening to me, around me, and far away from me.

But, no longer: I’m finding myself feeling many of the same emotions I experienced during those first few months in my site: loneliness, boredom, feeling unproductive, and most importantly… (drum roll)… feeling completely out of control of what is going on in my life.  Out of control of my financial situation, the visa process, my career; the list goes on.  But yesterday it dawned on me; even though I’m feeling many of the same things I felt starting out in Peace Corps, there is one important difference; I am not the same person I was nearly 3 years ago.

Peace Corps, Salvadorans, (and perhaps most importantly) my husband have taught me so many lessons about patience, creating happiness, and honestly accepting what I am in control of, and of what I’m not in control. Lately, I’ve been focused only on the ‘what I’m not in control of’ part, which has led to some serious stress, impatience, and desperation in the few weeks I’ve been back.

Those who know me well know I’m fiercely competitive and at the same time terribly afraid of failure (real or perceived); it was part of why being an actor was such a self-destructive experience for me in my early twenties, and that negativity was a HUGE part of what I wanted to root out of my life through being a PC volunteer. And while I can’t say I managed to do that in those early months in PC, I did, poco a poco, begin to stop measuring myself against my peers, begin to not feel left out of gatherings I wasn’t invited to, and begin to cherish the people, projects, and moments that did make me feel loved, proud, and happy. Many mornings when I woke up in my site feeling down, I would recite the famous prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr to myself:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

*(I’d add one more line to that): God grant me the patience to be at peace with all of the above, however long it may take. 

I’ve realized that the lessons I learned in El Salvador are something I must continue to live now more than ever in these tough first few months back in DC, where everyone seems to have earned a master’s degree ‘en utero’ and been born with a resume as long as my arm… Sometimes I can’t help but feel like I don’t belong here.  It is so easy to get caught up in the frantic pace and politics of “being successful” here, and to start down the road of self-doubt and desperation.

I am so grateful for the people and experiences that have taught me a different way of living and working over the past few years; I see now how much those lessons have prepared me to take on the next chapters of my life; readjusting, new beginnings, and building my future.

A response to Esther Katcoff’s article in HuffPost:

Esther : I wanted to reply to your article as a fellow PCV (El Salvador 2010-2012).  This may come across as harsh, but guilt is not an effective emotion. As a volunteer it can make you feel overwhelmed, and even paralyzed.  Like you said- where do we even start? Everywhere we turn in our communities there is someone in need. I completely understand your point of view- having had a serious bout of first-world guilt myself during my first year, but it may save you a lot of heartache to realize now that not everyone you meet in your community is motivated  to change their circumstances, or interested in what you have to offer as a volunteer, and you can only be an effective volunteer by concentrating on the 20-30% that are truly motivated/interested. I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying, ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.’ It’s a great metaphor for how PCV service may feel at times. Even if you have years of specialized experience in the area you’re working, (and many PCVs do not), those in your community may not take you seriously, or may not participate (even though they’ve petitioned PC to have a volunteer) for various religious or cultural reasons. It’s tough, especially when you want to serve, but you simply have to focus your attention where you are receiving positive results and community participation.

The most important lesson I learned as a volunteer was this; neither you nor I can change anyone. Honestly. At the very least, we can be an inspiration, and at most the catalyst for change, but we are not going to lift our entire community out of poverty in two years. I say this because I spent many precious days chasing after reluctant community members, trying to convince them to come to small business meetings or fill out a scholarship application when they honestly weren’t motivated enough to do their part, even with an opportunity staring them in the face. Think about it: do all of us born into relative wealth in the “first world” take advantage of every opportunity we have? Of course not!  It may not make sense to you, (why wouldn’t everyone in the “third world” want to change their circumstances for the better? you might ask), but those in your PC communities are only human, just like us. No matter what economic sphere you are working in, there will always exist those people content to just ‘get by’ in life, or those simply aren’t interested, or afraid of risking and failing, and there are those willing to work hard and take advantage of opportunity when it comes knocking. Reading about Occam’s Razor opened my eyes to the power I did have to serve my community effectively, if I concentrated my energy in the right places. Reading Poor Economics and The White Man’s Burden were also helpful in refining my projects. 

For the first 8 months of my service I took it personally when someone didn’t respond to my attempts to ‘help’ them, until I recognized the progress I was making with select community members who responded positively to my projects and classes. When I started funneling all of my energy into nurturing the aspirations of those select community members, something miraculous happened: the guilt started to subside. The members of my community who ‘helped me help them,’ essentially assisted in their own rescue: they stopped themselves from drowning: all I did was throw them a metaphorical rope.  My involuntary early COS (due to security concerns in EL Salvador) further forced me to hone in only on the people and projects that would have the greatest chance of sustaining themselves after my departure.  It was painful, but ultimately productive in ways I hadn’t planned on.

In remittance-ridden countries, (and there are many in Latin America), it’s a frustrating truth that many people want you to do 100% of the rescue (and then continue to keep them afloat), and while it may seem like feeding every hungry child in your community is a moral imperative, it’s simply not sustainable, as you expressed in your article.   It also may create an unsustainable attitude in the host country culture. (It was difficult to respond patiently every time someone in my community asked me what I was going to build them.) Searching for those motivated, self-starting counterparts can be a long process with several false starts, but don’t be discouraged.  When you find them and start to work with them, you’ll see that THEY are really the ones who will change the community, not you, and they’ll continue to do so for years to come because you gave them the chance to realize their full potential; not because you saved them.

Peace Corps is an experience best lived in the moment and processed afterwards. You may not think so now, but just by being present you have already had an impact as a positive woman role model.  I wish you the best of luck in your remaining time in your community: don’t let guilt rob you of fulfilling your own potential in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as a volunteer- it is a humbling, amazing ride!

Posted by: Jessica | January 23, 2012

Making it count- my last three months in Peace Corps

Last Friday, I got a shocking text and then a phone call from my APCD Claudia, saying that my Close of Service date had been moved up from September 15 to April 30.  This means I will have 5 months less to complete the projects, camps, trainings, and community improvements I had planned.  While I was, and still am, very upset about this news, I’m trying to keep in mind that 3 months is more time to wrap everything up than the volunteers in Honduras had…

In light of my group’s new COS date, I decided to make a campo bucket list.  I realize I can’t do everything I wanted to do when I thought I was leaving in September, but in order to not drive myself crazy, I decided to prioritize.  Here goes:

 

1. Cut sugarcane with my neighbor Lena

2. Take another tour of the local sugar processing plant with youth from El Pital

3. Lead my new service youth group in painting a world map at our school, and educating them in HIV/AIDS prevention and reproductive health.

4. Give a toothbrushing workshop to second and third grade students using donated toothbrushes and paste.

5. Support two local youth with $100 scholarships to matriculate at the national agricultural university.

6. Help my friend and neighbor Maria write out a business plan for her new bread-making small business.  If possible, I would love to find her funding to buy the supplies she still needs, but as I can no longer submit the grant I was writing to WorldConnect, this is looking less likely.

7. Realize at least one of the two camps I had previously planned on attending with youth from my community.

8. Keep teaching my mish-mosh yoga/pilates/dance classes at least once a week.

9. Help get one last $500 grant for my ADESCO to help repair their failing water supply system.

10.  Give a workshop in harvesting and drying Ojushe to the women interested in my community.

11. Spend an afternoon with all of the families that have given me support and friendship for the past year and a half.

12.  Eat lots of mangoes.  Lots and lots of mangoes. 🙂

 

Maybe this list is too ambitious, but I’ sure going to try to cross off every item before April 30.  Then it will be time to plan out the next chapter of my life in El Salvador.

Posted by: Jessica | January 14, 2012

So… this wasn’t exactly the plan.

When I accepted the invitation to become a Peace Corps volunteer here in El Salvador, I did so with relatively open eyes.  I don’t think anyone takes a job in a third world country thinking their level of security will be equal to what it was in the U.S.  They may even take the job hoping to come back with a few “war stories” of their time in the ‘real world’.  

The thing is, once I got here, I felt nervous and oddly lucky at the same time.  While there is a lot of violence here in El Sal, it’s definitely not the only country like it in Central America, and in recent PC history, no volunteers have been direct targets of violent crime.  We witness it on the roadside; the uncovered bodies: victims of gang violence or brutal car/bus accidents, but so far we’ve been, well, pretty lucky.  Maybe an armed robbery, some sexual harassment, but I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that those security incidents are the price we pay for sticking out like a light-haired sore thumb in a mostly dark-haired country. 

I, and I assume a lot of other volunteers, have gotten accustomed to pushing the fear and anger we feel as a result of our ‘security incidents’ to the side, and just try to focus more on my projects.  For me, guilt plays huge role.  Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself about having to deal with the daily cat-calls and the occasional sexual assault, I remind myself that for me this is just two years out of my life, and there is not a Salvadoran woman I have met that hasn’t been followed down the street, or groped in a bus, or worse.  For them, this is their permanent reality; hence the guilt at feeling affected by the negative experiences I’ve had here.  

But as much as I may try to push all of that aside, it has affected me.  I’ve learned to live in a state of heightened anxiety and anger towards most men I encounter in the street outside of my community.  As more than one male volunteer has said to me here, “the volunteer experience for women here is completely different.” That heightened anxiety has become my ‘normal’, but i know it is changing me.  I don’t think anyone WANTS to live like that, but its a survival tactic.  And its a tactic that most middle-class Americans such as myself haven’t had to depend on for extended periods of time.  If you ask Salvadoran women about how they feel, they shrug their shoulders and say, “yes, it is very dangerous, but what can we do?”

This all brings me to the current state of affairs of the Peace Corps program not only here, but also in Guatemala and Honduras.  It seems volunteers aren’t always dodging the sometimes proverbial, sometimes literal bullets anymore.  Our relative ‘luck’ seems to be running out as the violence is getting worse.  I’m hearing more reports of fatal shootings on buses that volunteers regularly ride, and more stories of volunteer site changes due to violence and murders in close proximity.  I feel like I’m living in a bit of a bubble… No one has been shot on my bus, or in my community for that matter, in recent history.  I would consider my site safe, and there are many people there who care about me and look out for me.  

However, the bus line I take into San Salvador has been involved in several fatal accidents in the last year, and a volunteer in a close by town has been moved because of multiple gang-related murders in his site.  I’m having a crisis of perspective on the current situation; is the reality that the situation has always been dangerous and we’re making a bigger deal out of it than it is? Or is the reality that volunteers have been very lucky until now and haven’t been in the wrong place at the wrong time (and we shouldn’t push our luck)?  

Whatever reality I chose to believe, Peace Corps Washington seems to think something needs to change.  They’ve just put several new restrictions on how and where and when we may travel, and have banned us from coming to San Salvador.  These are huge changes from how I’ve lived my volunteer life up til now, and the restrictions completely prohibit me from visiting my boyfriend or his family as they live in the greater San Sal area.  I don’t know now I’m going to deal with that.  

This was not in the plan for how my last year was supposed to play out.  Im worried about how many friends are going to leave before finishing, and Im worried that PC Washington is just prolonging the inevitable; that they’ll just end up closing the program before September anyway.  I have a lot to think about in the next month…

 

Posted by: Jessica | September 2, 2011

Back from the hiatus

Aug. 29, 2011

So, once upon a time I had a blog, which I occasionally wrote in, and lately I’ve been thinking I should start it up again. I can’t honestly say I haven’t had the time to write, because we all know better, but I’ll have to blame it being a chronically poor journal-writer. It’s a problem I’ve had since childhood. That said, I think the evidence is compelling that I’ve been focusing my attentions in other efforts, and my first year here in El Salvador has been busy. Maybe I should summarize here a few of the projects that have been keeping me busy these last 8 months…

My shampoo group is still going strong, with fewer members now, but very committed to producing and selling 80 bottles of natural aloe shampoo in the surrounding 5 communities.

In the last few months I’ve been working with our ADESCO ‘town council’ to improve our community’s water system infrastructure, which has included getting $500 from Appropriate Projects International to build a second water holding tank to provide running water to more houses in the community for more hours during the day.

Work has also taken me to San salvador a lot for rehearsals and performances of an original musical written by a previous Peace Corps volunteer, Kali Rosenberg. Kali is part of the Gender and Development committee, along with me and 6 other volunteers. We worked with a youth theatre group from the center of San Salvador to stage the musical, and we’ve been completing a tour or the musical in 7 of the 14 departments of El Sal. Peace Corps volunteers have been bringing students from their villages and towns to come see the play, which touches on themes of safer sex, gender equality, gender stereotypes, goal setting, and preventing family violence. It has required a big time commitment from all of us on GAD, but it has been one of the projects I’m most proud of.

Other projects have included selling Stoveteam International stoves and delivering them to my community- a project I’ll be doing again next month with two other volunteers who live close, an overnight camp for mothers and health promotors (working in collaboration with 4 other female volunteers in my region), a boys soccer tournament (we won!), and getting a USAID SPA grant to improve our school. I also am in charge of 6 students with scholarships to attend high school and college through Aid El Salvador. This responsibility has been an often stressful one, as raising money for the scholarships has proved difficult ( how many times can you reasonably ask family and friends for donations?), and Aid El Salvador has turned out to be a pretty poorly managed joint on the U.S. side, with managers not returning correspondence, and in July, insufficient funds. I’m really hoping they’ll improve in the future.

In other news, my health here seems to be getting a lot better than it has been for most of this year. (Of course, not that I say that I’ll probably get Dengue fever, right?). After several bouts with parasites and bacterial infections from food and a hospital visit, I’m hoping I’ve built up enough resistances to keep me relatively healthy this next year.

Though life here is anything but ‘normal’, things have seemed to have normalized for the time being. My vegetable garden may actually produce a few cucumbers and pumpkins, my dog, Indi, is almost a year old, and I seem to have learned, more or less, how to live on $300 a month. The other big ‘development’ in my life is my 8 month relationship with my boyfriend, Moises, which has surprised a lot of people, including me. He’s from San Salvador, but he’s been accepted generously by my host community, and sometimes I feel like he’s a better volunteer than me- he’ll play soccer or Uno or monopoly with the kids in my village for hours. He’s also been an amazing source of moral support to me during those darker moments over the months. We’re both hoping he’ll be able to make a trip with me next year to visit the states.

Posted by: Jessica | November 13, 2010

A la Cancha (soccer field)

Tonight in my training community of San Isidro, San Vicente, our group of 4 volunteers went out to the cancha with a huge group of kids to launch a paper hot air balloon (made in one of our training classes) that we thought was surely going to just burst into flames.  We rehearsed with the kids what to do if this happened: “RUN!!!!” (with their arms flailing above them)  to avoid getting burned.  This experiment would clearly not be allowed with schoolkids in the states, which is partially why it’s so cool…  After a slight downpour which threatened to postpone the launch Cape Canaveral style, the rain subsided and we lit the piece of wax-soaked T-shirt at the base of the balloon, and waited for it to inflate as we carefully held up the top 4 corners.  I quickly patched a little hole in the side with masking tape, and within a minute, the balloon was on the verge of floating.  It. Was. Awesome.  The kids were so excited when it started to float out of our hands: almost as excited as I was that this might not actually end in a ball of flaming ttissue paper.  The balloon started to drift upwards amidst squeals of delight from the kids (and from me).  Any second now, I thought it would burst into flames, but it didn’t!  This little balloon made of tissue paper and wire flew up above the cancha, then caught a nice breeze, sending it more than 200 feet into the air.  The kids ran to the edge of the cancha to keep it within eyesight.  After several minutes, it DID catch on fire, and it fell to the ground a good mile or two away from the soccer field.  I hope it landed in the road and not on someone’s roof!  The kids literally chanted, “Se fue, se fue se fue se fue!”  and we volunteers felt like rock stars.  These kids (and the moms who came with them to supervise) had never seen anything like this before, and I think even if the balloon HAD ended up catching on fire immediately, it still would have been spectacular to them. 

Later, my host parents came into my room to tell me they wanted to thank me for everything I’ve shared with them and for spending this time with them again for my second training session… I told them I was the one who was thankful, they make me feel hopeful about being successful in my site, even though I live clear across the country. 

It’s going to be hard to leave tomorrow again, but at least now I have two Salvadoran families I feel at home with, here in San Isidro and El Pital.  Plus, I get to come back in two weeks to take my German Shepherd puppy home with me…..one a bus… actually, it will be 5 buses total to get Inigo (Indi) from San Isidro to El Pital.  But that will be a story for another day.  🙂 

Next up, last 4 days of PSTII trainign in San Salvador, and next week I’m being temporarily adopted by an Embassy family for a real life Thanksgiving dinner.  I’ll also be taking four students from my village to the ENA agriculture University (assuming they’ve all passed the exam) to start college.  Vamos a ver!

Posted by: Jessica | October 7, 2010

Here’s the wish list with addresses!!!

So some of my lovely friends and family have been asking what they can send me, so here’s a little list to start, but truthfully I’ll be excited to get anything, even just a card with a photo- people in my site love seeing pictures of my friends and family from back home!  My address is: PCV Jessica Henry, Lista de Correos, Chalchuapa, Santa Ana, El Salvador

Wish list in progress:

Polaroid camera & film

REI: Sea to summit brand camp shower

Simplicity or other brand clothing patterns (from Jo-ann fabrics) simple skirts and dresses, women’s purse patterns

acrylic paints/paintbrushes

colorful permanent markers (especially metallics)

breakdance/ballet/ hip hop dance videos, posters, music, etc.

blank CD’s/DVD’s

almond extract, chocolate chips & butterfinger candy  (all impossible to find here or really expensive!)

friendship bracelet thread/beads/buttons

*** here’s the tricky part:  if you’re sending anything valued over $25 or so and it’s in a box, it’s best to send it care of my friends at the American Embassy.  It’s a government address, so the packages are more secure in transit.  I can’t publish that address, so please shoot me an email/ FB message or text message and I’ll send that address to you

***if what you’re sending is valued at less than $25, or for any type of letter or padded envelope, please send it to me in my site at:

Jessica Henry PCV, Lista de Correos, Chalchuapa, Santa Ana, El Salvador, C.A.

Thank you!!!!

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