It has been quite an interesting few weeks. Shortly after I got back from the All Volunteer Conference, I began to notice these red splotches starting on my arms, later spreading to my legs, and eventually covering my entire body. My host mom told me I probably had sarampion (the measles) because she and my host sister had been sick with it earlier. Even though I’ve been vaccinated, the Peace Corps doctors were a little concerned about what I might have contracted, especially since the measles has supposedly been eradicated in El Salvador. So, they sent me to several doctors and labs to try to figure out what was wrong. In the meantime, I was basically quarantined until the test results came back. The nice thing was I got to spend about a week in air-conditioned hotel rooms, hot showers, and cable, and even got to spend the weekend chilling at the Country Director’s house eating ice cream, skyping, and watching the Grammy’s! In the end, the test results came back negative for everything (mono, measles, rubella, etc.) but I’m happy to report that I am now rash free.
After my medical mystery, I headed out east to Santa Rosa de Lima in La Union to help translate for an eye care campaign. I have to say it was probably one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences of my Peace Corps service thus far. The campaign was comprised of several doctors from all over the US who come to El Salvador each year to do eye exams, surgeries, make false eyes, and provide glasses to those who need them. I helped by registering people, giving near-sighted eye exams, and translating for the guy who fits/makes false eyes for people. I learned a few new Spanish words in the process as well, like ‘pegajoso’ which means crusty. Don’t know when I’ll ever use that word again except maybe at the next eye care campaign! It was also great because I got to see several of my friends whom I haven’t seen in awhile due to all these temporary travel restrictions and see another part of the country. I wish I had photos but I was living off an overnight bag I packed during the medical frenzy not thinking I would be away from site for two weeks (and I will admit, my clothes were pretty smelly by the end) so of course I didn’t think to pack my camera. I also got a box of glasses to take back to my community and a t-shirt, which was much needed at the time!
I attended my first Salvadoran funeral on Saturday. After returning from the eye care campaign I was notified that an elderly man in my community had passed away the day after I left for San Salvador. Therefore, I had arrived for the ninth, and final day of the Salvadoran funeral process. I learned that the first few days, the family keeps the body in the house for the viewing, then there is the burial, then several more days for visitors to come by and give their condolences to the family. On the ninth day, the one I was there for, there is an evening mass and the family makes tamales and invites the entire community to their house as a final goodbye for the deceased. My host mom helped and had to wake up at 2am that day to make all of the tamales! Through talking with others, including the daughter-in-law of the man who died who lives in the US, the Salvadoran funeral tradition is one the culture could probably do without. It is so stressful to have to make food for so many people and have visitors for nine days after the family member dies. My only reasoning for this is that it might help the family through the grieving process by keeping them preoccupied and busy in the days after the death.
I have yet another scorpion story for you: as I was getting ready to go to mass, I grabbed my mary janes that hadn’t been worn for several weeks. I made sure to shake them out because surely some animalito had made its habitat in there over the last three weeks. Some dirt came out but that was it so I slipped them on. After walking around for about 5 minutes, I felt something moving inside my shoe. I slipped it off to see what it was and found a baby scorpion! Of course I freaked out and handed the shoe to my host sister who is less afraid of creepy-crawlers to take care of it. I can’t believe I didn’t get stung though. Que suerte!
Not much more news on the security front. They pushed the security assessment back so it began just yesterday. The team (made up of 4 people from Washington) will be visiting several current and possible future volunteer sites as well as interviewing many PCVs. I’m a little disenchanted now because I heard that volunteers had already been notified that they would have an interview with someone from the assessment team. I feel like my department, Cabanas is plagued to be forgotten forever. No one has notified me about an interview or anyone coming to visit my site which makes me think that I will likely be forced to move. It is such a shame because where I live is perfectly safe. The problem is that there are so few volunteers in this region. After the group that is scheduled to leave on April 30th, there will only be 2 of us in the entire department. Only time will tell. I will hopefully hear the results of this assessment in three weeks or later (bureaucracy is a bitch!) including revised travel rules and if/when I will have to move sites.
Oh, and that COS option isn’t going to last forever, so if I have to move sites and decide I want to leave, I am only given a month after moving to my new site to make that decision. I suppose that’s fair but I wouldn’t want to leave a community after only being there for a month and giving them the hopes of having a Peace Corps volunteer and then taking it away from them. Our boss has also told us that changing sites isn’t for everyone. I know how hard it is to integrate into a community. I’ve been here in Palacios for almost 6 months and I am just now gaining trust and really getting to know people and be productive. Therefore, if I have to move sites, I will have basically lost a year in project development.
I would love to stay but I don’t know if I’m willing to put up with the fact that I probably won’t be able to use public transportation nor travel to El Salvador’s bordering countries, and go through all the stress of moving to a new community again. At the same time, I feel obligated to finish my two years here. I came into this knowing it wasn’t going to be easy and that I was going to have to make sacrifices, I just wasn’t expecting something like this. On the other hand, this COS offer is a pretty sweet deal and if I decide to stay, will I kick myself for not taking advantage of it? My plan is still to just wait and see when this assessment says and make my decision from that, but this next month is going to be HARD.