Posted by: Jessica | September 16, 2010

Are we there yet? :)

Later today our group of 30 “aspirates” will officially be sworn in as Peace Corps volunteers in San Vicente.  The last two months have seemed to fly by- except for those long mornings spent in 4 hour training sessions or spanish classes.  I wouldn’t say these last two months have been easy, but then again I know I’ll probably have to navigate some much more difficult situations in the two years ahead, and honestly, the last few months have only made me want to be here even more than I did at the start.  For everyone who didn’t hear the major highlights of my first two months here, I’ll try to give an update:

My small community group of 5 people started out in the training community of Santa Clara; 4 women including me and one guy.  Although my host family living situation included a few less than ideal details (lots of visiting family for the first month, extensive ongoing construction of the house, a host grandmother who was really too tired to do much more than give me tortillas, beans, and vegetable soup- there’s more, but I can’t share it all…), I was fairly content, chocking most of it up to cultural differences, and resigning myself to what I thought could possibly be 2 months (or years) of digestive issues from forcing down Queso Duro and frijoles for breakfast.  I’d say things started to take a -ahem- challenging turn when the one guy in our group had to change training communities because of a fairly real security threat- I won’t go into too much detail here, but it involved a serious grudge against an extended family member.  Jesse had been a great member of our group, and I was really bummed to lose his even keel ‘tranquilo’ personality from our group.  From there I’ll skip ahead a few weeks to avoid any more gory details…. but pretty much my spanish teacher Lilian and a substitute spanish teacher both noticed some very ‘less than acceptable’ conditions at my house, the ones I’d thought were just cultural differences, and two of the other girls in the community had experienced other, different incidents with host families being less than the normal, hospitable Salvadorean family.  To make a VERY long, complicated story short, the higher ups at Peace Corps made the decision for us a week later to move all of us out of Santa Clara to a new host community in hopes of showing us what the host family situation normally looked like.  Unfortunately, there was one casualty in this move, my friend Amy’s host family, who were doing a great job, and who were understandably upset and confused about why Amy had to move too, but again, the decision to move us wasn’t ours.

In the end, the move turned out to be a good change for me; my host family in San Isidro has been wonderful, and I’m sad to leave them tomorrow even though I’ll be back for a few more weeks of training in November (PST II).  I am however, very ready to get to my site in Santa Ana, and stop hanging around so many gringos on a regular basis.  I’ve been happy to make a few genuine friends in my group in the last two months, but at this point we’re all pretty much over training and 8 hours of sitting in plastic lawn chairs every day, getting stock answers to our endless stream of questions like: “It really depends on your community.” “Some sites may be that way, others won’t….”, and “You’ll just have to wait and see when you get to your site”.

We’re done being able to wait, now we’d all really just like to start the “see”-ing part, por favor.

All of that said, the last two months showed me a lot about what I can handle and get over, how other people’s tolerance levels are lower (or higher) for this cultural change we’ve gone through, and where I fit into this small group of trainees.  I’ve been a little surprised at the mix of people in our training group; I expected a lot more relaxed, granola hippie types (there are a few and I love them), a few more professional people, and all around an older average age, (I’m on the upper end of the group at 25).  I do get some pangs of missing my aged 25-35 friends back in Maryland, along with the occasional flashback to junior year of undergrad with our training group’s dynamic.  Anyone who knows me well knows I usually end up absorbing the energy of a group, and looking back I wish we all had been significantly more chilled out.  I know I wish I had been more relaxed, and it quickly got difficult to do that when it felt like anyone who wanted to be heard had to yell.  …And being a wallflower isn’t really my style. 🙂

I’m also really looking forward to expanding the creative ideas and impulses I’ve had to push aside for these somewhat dry training sessions- I don’t really know how to say it other than that I really miss being in a community of artists; it’s been a little weird being around so many ‘normal’, practical people- not that it isn’t useful to have those characteristics, but it can be limiting when any idea out of the realm of mainstream all- American culture isn’t exactly valued, and the trend is to go along with the majority opinion.  I’ve caught myself falling into this way of thinking in our group sessions these last two months, and it’s something I’d like to change ASAP.

I’m really excited to meet my new host family and community, and I’m very happy that the volunteer I’ll be replacing in my site will be there for the first three weeks to help ease the transition.  He’s started several projects I’m interested in keeping up, including a theatre group and a dance group with youth, and I’m thinking of ways to get plays and other theatre materials down here in Spanish for the kids in the community, as well as planning possible workshops and charlas in other areas.

Poco a poco. 🙂     Right now, swearing in and getting to my site!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: