Little life updates

Besides day dreaming about my trip to the States in November, here is a small blurb and some photos to show you what’s been going on here in San Nicolas!

The Microwave

Probably the most exciting development in my life has been the addition of a microwave into the house. We have a new woman living with while her new husband is back working in the US, and he made sure his lady was taken care of! Along with a giant TV, cable package and a car he bought us a microwave, yes a MICROWAVE! Now the significance of this monumental occasion may be lost on some of you, but boy oh boy it is a HUGE life upgrade. Now, I am somewhat of a micro-chef, basically surviving off of frozen dishes all through grad school, so when my host family told me they didn’t know how to use their new toy, I told them I was the girl for the job. The first night I made popcorn all the kids surrounded the microwave, completely mesmerized by the magic of this little box.  Everyone, especially my pregnant host mom, loves the addition of microwave popcorn to our movie nights, but she still prefers to cook everything else over an open fire.

Fatima and I enjoying our new and improved movie nights 

Interior design in the campo 

For the past year I have had one little 4x6, windowless box to call my own. I have tried my hardest to make it feel like home, and I am about 75% satisfied with what I’ve been able to do with the things I have. After discovering that rats were nesting on the top of my old wooden closet and finding dead rat underneath it, I happily donated it to my closet less host dad and bought myself a pair of plastic, rainbow drawers. Every four months or so I get anxious about leaving my furniture in the same space, from what I’ve learned that gives snakes, tarantulas, rats and scorpions enough time to make themselves at home, and go on a cleaning bender. A bottle of bleach and a can of raid are all you need when cleaning in the campo. Here is a look at the latest lay out of my furniture, note the plastic bags used to cover up the holes the rats has made in my screens.

 

San Nicolas’ Next Top Chef

For 5 weeks, the women of San Nicolas, my PCV friend Mario and I have been rocking the school kitchen one country at a time. We have been working with about 20 women; leading women’s empowerment workshops disguised as cooking classes.


Our amazing chicken curry, a surprise hit with the ladies! 

The biggest benefit of cooking classes, all the leftovers! Enjoying a bucket full of Sweet and sour chicken 

Una cora at a time

In an effort to curb the millions of coras the children in my community give to the Diana Churro Company every year, and help them to be able to afford to go to high school, I have started a youth savings group. Working with a few of my favorite community members we taught the kids how to make piggy banks out of plastic bottles and talked about why it is important to save some of your money. This is project is in the very early stages, but I am expecting to see a slight decline in the churro market by mid-2015!  

Caging the Wanderlust

Over the past few months my need to escape has evolved from a slight craving, which could be satisfied by a quick run to the pueblo, to an intense, at times overwhelming, urge to break free. The simplicity to which I have adjusted has now become the catalyst that sparks my need to move. I have established a life here, relationships, a routine which all seem to frustrate me. Being stationary did not always make me feel like this. My time in San Nicolás has gone from being an exhilarating, crash course in integration to predictably normal. My days, and the days of my community members are rarely interrupted by changes. I can with full certainty predict where my host mom will be at all hours of the day. I know which houses to visit for certain things, which people to avoid and who I can count on to work with. I spent my first year working hard to form bonds with the community members, and now that those bonds are secure, what is there to do? I understand how people work here and more importantly how they don’t work. Even with an exciting new partnership with the Green Pepper Cooperative, and the start of a Casa de la Cultura project I find that I am missing that surge of energy I had when I first began working here.

 This type of immersion is what some of my fellow volunteers longed for, and I thought it was what I wanted too. I thought what I needed to be happy here was to create a sense of normalcy, but it turns out, once the initial high fades away, it isn’t all its cracked up to be. 

 

Call it what you will, the mid-service itch or even crisis, but to me it is nothing new. These symptoms, they are reoccurring in my life. Being trapped in one place too long has never worked well for me. I thrive off of the excitement of new people, new cities, different languages, and different destinations. The problems begin when things start to become routine, when new people become old friends and new destinations become everyday sites; that is when I get the urge to move on. I’ve realized that the itch to find something new usually comes after 9 months of monotony. Seeing as I have surpassed that expiration mark by 3 months, the struggle to accept my situation has become a major challenge. There is no option to flee, and that realization has sent me on a mental roller coaster. When I am feeling stuck, I often pull back, and my introverted side begins to show as I lose the energy to be social. These feelings coupled with the ever-present process known as grieving have helped my passive-aggressive, aloof side take center stage.

I have come to believe that the need to escape from ones problems is part of the gringo genetic code. At home it is all to easy to run away, to change your scene or find something new to push you out of a funk. Taking time away, mental health days are completely acceptable things in the US. In Peace Corps circles it is not uncommon to hear volunteers talk about how much we need to get out of site, to get out of our host families house, away from the latrine. This characteristic does not exist in the Salvadorans I live and work with, and is a trait that makes the cultural differences much more apparent. No one in my community has ever told me that they just need to get out, that they need a break. Maybe it is the almighty faith in the restorative powers of God or that they are more resilient than their fragile American counterpart. Obviously, there is more to this than meets the eye. The scars of a painful civil war and other struggles justify this hard line, but don’t make it any easier to deal with your own issues under the watchful eyes of your community.

With a full year left in my service I am going to have to find a way to reclaim the excitement that I started this journey off with. I need to appreciate the time I have, enjoy the moments I will never experience again with people who have welcomed me into to their homes. It’s time to reboot.

Winepocolypse 2014

You may have been wondering what has happened to your favorite gringa blogger. Have my responsibilities as Queen of the Corn Festival taken over my life? Am I too busy with projects to write? Or, maybe you thought, she is trapped in a Salvadoran jungle? The unfortunate truth is that for the past month I have been in the process of reinventing my life in the campo sin computer. Yes, that’s right, bad luck struck and I lost my computer to the lethal combination of red wine and public transportation.  

The biggest #PeaceCorpsProblem yet: Winepocolypse 2014

 

My trip home from Metro Centro on that fateful Saturday was your standard, run of the mill, post pizza hut bender. (Metro Centro is the MECA of San Miguel. An outlet mall with a grocery store, American restaurants and WIFI) After shopping for ingredients for our cooking class we jammed enough noodles, sausage and French bread for 30 hungry women into our backpacks, along with a few specialty items (i.e.: a 1 liter glass bottle of red wine) and headed to the bus terminal. This was not my fist time smuggling alcohol back to site, nor was it my first time riding a bus so how such a rookie mistake happened is still beyond me.

The bus was packed, which was so full that poor Mario had to hang out the door, and in the mad scramble to unload our pounds of groceries without accidentally elbowing someone in the eye, the bottle of wine I was lugging home broke. Just like that, el sangre de Jesus Cristo was pouring out of my pack, spilling everywhere!

            The 4 stages of grieving: the death of a MacBook Pro

The Initial Freak Out: As the Merlot is pouring out of your backpack, spilling onto innocent commuters, ruining their white shirts and your pristine reputation, your mind goes into a state of shock. As 2 Peace Corps trainees watch in horror, you rip the bags of cooking supplies out of your pack to discover that, magically, the bottom of the bottle has fallen off and there is a pool of red wine drowning your computer. Literally there were pens floating in the bottom of my bag, it was a disaster. As you take your computer out of its sopping wet case, you see that wine is dripping out of the USB slots, and the keyboard is stained red. Things are not looking good.  In a rage your throw the broken bottle into an adjacent field (and regretfully send said trainees to go retrieve it later) and then try to figure out how you are going to return to your host families house smelling like a total bola.

Optimism: After throwing away a majority of your wine soaked possessions, and dumping a bucket of bleach on your bag, you trudge home. Now, when you are sulking over your current predicament, the LAST person you should seek solace in is your host mom. Let me preface this by saying I love my host mom. She is sarcastic, she loves to chill, and we get along great, but she is not the person who will give you sympathy when your electronic device breaks. But then you have an epiphany, rice. There was that time when you lived abroad and rice saved your iPod and phone, so it HAS to work again, everything will be fine.

Reality Check: A day two-rice therapy treatment did nothing to revive your computer; you head to the PC approved tech center and hand over the goods. The Salvadoran pc master gives you a half-hearted smile and sends you on your way. The next morning you return to the shop, ready to hand over your credit card for what you will assume will cost $150, which is half of your monthly salary but totally justifiable, then reality hits: $800, months of repair- you are screwed. You slump out of the shop, and mentally prepare yourself for what is to come, writing your grants, reports and VRF all by hand. At this moment my dependency on technology became undeniably clear-I had forgotten, that yes, it is possible to live without a computer.

Acceptance: Returning back to site, it was time to accept the reality of the situation. I had lost my computer, but that, I discovered, wasn’t what was upsetting me. Seeing that I have always been awful at backing up my hard drive I had lost some of the last pictures I had taken while my dad was alive, the last notes, things that were priceless to me.

Lessons learned: Buy boxed wine, be prepared for the bus driver and cobrador of to forever harass you about the contents of your bag (even if it is 7:30am, they still thinking you are packing a bottle) and backup your hard drives.

Born to wear the Corona

*Corona = Crown

After 8 hours of smiles, presentations, stuffing our faces with El Salvador finest corn based treats and a mild case of heat stroke; I was officially crowned of the Festival de Maiz! The day was long, the stakes were high, there were 30 other candidatas but overall it was a fantastic experience, a way to further integrate into Salvadoran culture and connect more with my community. Overall $8,000 was raised, and the construction of the youth center will begin in the next few months. While the “glamour” of being queen is what drove my competitive spirit, the reason we were all there was much more important than a bedazzled sash and a fantastic photo op (but those things didn’t hurt).  To everyone that helped me raise all the funds through your generous donations, THANK YOU SO MUCH! This youth center will be built with the support of both Salvadoran and Americans, and help to lessen the influence of drugs and gang activity in the pueblo of Sesori. I fully support that extra curricular actives help to keep kids on the right track, and in a country where the influence of the maras is everywhere; I couldn’t be more of a champion for this cause.

  • Preparation for the big day

My equipo de belleza or my beauty team worked tirelessely for a week prepapring our looks for the festival. Now, the past candidatas from my community have been young children, whose tiny dresses and pantsuits require a days worth of work. This year the 6-foot gringa and her equally giant escort presented quite a challenge for the ladies of San Nicolas. They worked for a full week putting together accessories, decorating my skirt and Mario’s outfit. They hand glued/sewed hundreds of pieces of corn onto everything, joking and singing as they worked. Two nights before the pageant I worked with them for 5 hours putting the final touches on every thing while they planned out my hair and make-up. Without these girls none of this would have been possible, and Mario and I would have looked like total amateurs 

Nexy adding the final touches to Mario’s pants 

Look at that detail, I was so lucky to have my little design team! 

  • La Festival

Our day started with a 5:30am wake up call, which no one was happy about. Sandra showed up at my house ready to make me over and to do my host sisters, the 2013 Queen, hair and make-up. Since my campo look is a high bun and no make-up everyone was so excited to see what I looked like when I put on make-up and straightened my hair. The day did have it’s lows, I was upset to realize how much a brunette I have become. After my host mom and Sandra approved our looks we piled into the car to head to the pueblo, unaware that our carriages (cattle carts) were waiting. Now, as a tall white girl in El Salvador I have grown accustom to the constant stares and whispers, but I was naïve to how much more attention the tall white girl in a traditional dress made of corn would attract. The fact that we had a good foot on all of the other pairs didn’t help either.

The Serrano-Canas-Lampi-Lima-Castro clan

Selfie with my beautiful host sister/Queen of 2013

Two stylish hombres 

The parade kicked off with the high school band leading all of the candidatas and their escorts down the main street of the pueblo. We all had to ride in little carts pulled by cows on a poorly paved street as we threw candies to the on lookers. The ride, which was terrifying since every bump we hit made the cart feel like it was going to fall apart, drug on for a painful 30 minutes because the whole procession would halt every time someone took the microphone. Mario and I were able to find the humor in the situation, and feign smiles as we tossed dulces to the crowd.

Our chariot

Queen Estefany on her special carriage

Once we finally made it to center of the pueblo it was time for our first official presentation as candidata and escort to our adoring fans. 

The rest of the day was spent socializing, eating, avoiding the sun and enjoying the local high school band. In order to build suspense each of the candidatas were given an envelope which we used to pass along the money we raised. My host family told me the trick was to give $5 the first round, $10 the second round and then during the last collection put in the rest of the money. The point of this is to keep the competition fair, since no one knows how much money the competition raised. The downside of this system is that it adds an extra 3 hours onto an already long day, because the judges have to count and recount all the money they are handed. 

The high school band playing all the hits-including Rolling in the Deep 

Mario and the lovely ladies of San Nicolas 

Nexy showing off her craftsmanship. All those little corns were individually colored and attached

Posing with fellow candidatas 

And then it was time, the moment we had been waiting all day for, they were FINALLY going to announce who had secured enough votes to take home the crown. All afternoon we had been hearing rumors that someone else had raised $1,300, which sent us into a panic. Things weren’t looking good for the San Nicoals team, and when my host dad came over and gave me an awkward speech about being ok with losing and saying congratulations to the winner, we figured it was clear that this American was coming in second. The head judge proceeded to call up the top 3, the girls who had raised the most money, and Mario and I went up to the stage. I was ready to come in second, there was no way I was going to win, but then, to all of our surprise, the announced the Reina was ME!! I had to look back at Mario to confirm, was I hearing things, was I translating what this women just said correctly, had all the chambre been a trick to scare me? The crowd errupted into cheers, the Father of the Catholic Church escorted me to my throne (a plastic chair) and the crown was placed on my head. I was in shock. 

All hail the Queen 

Thinking to myself “it this real, am I really a Salvadoran Queen?”

I’ll take it from here Father 

The first family of Sesori 

The King and Queen of the Corn, and the best dressed PCV’s in all the land

Posing with the winner of the Best Dress competition

Posing for pictures with the fans 

After the festival ended we piled into my community guides car and headed back to San Nicolas where a grand celebration was waiting for us. Instead of napping and watching movies with some wine, we were treated to a night full of karaoke with all of my favorite community members and my host family. That night I realized this day was not just special for me, but for all of the people that have become my friends and family in site. From start to finish they had a blast supporting me and celebrating with their new American friends! 

Emily and the San Nicolas crew belting out the hits 

The last photo of the night, everyone tired out from a long day and night! 

Preparing for Festival de Maiz domination

Welcome to Agosto, here in San Nicolás I have been I have been busy cooking with the women, planning for year 2 and plotting my upcoming reign as Queen of the Corn (which I will hopefully win this Sunday). Instead of translating information on the life of the “Rural Italian Woman” I have decided to write a little update:

Being sick in the campo really sucks.

With the return of the rain also comes the spread of gripe, an annoying flu like head cold that is a right of passage for anyone trying to integrate into life in rural El Salvador. I had avoided the gripe, despite the fact that every member of my 6-person family has had it at least 4 times during my stay here. On a scale of 0 to dengue, gripe comes in at an annoying 3.8, but my recent round of discomfort has reminded me how much it sucks to be sick when you are away from home. Having to take the bus an hour and a half to San Miguel, to take three different cabs to three different pharmacy’s to find the cold medicine recommended by the doctor, annoying. Having to wait at the seedy bus terminal, being harasses with a pounding headache and the chills, annoying. Having the power go out midday while you are trying to nap/binge watch The West Wing (that means the fan doesn’t work), annoying. That’s the thing you realize when you are feeling under the weather here, everything is just that much harder, and the ladies selling food, drinks, candies, etc. on the bus are that much more annoying.

Cooking our way to Empowerment

I am a big picture person, an idea person, who in the midst of planning and organizing often forgets where her strengths lie. So now that it has come time to execute my grand cooking workshop plan, I realize how lost I would be without my kitchen aid Mario. We kicked off the first round of classes last Saturday and are off to a great start. While I can talk your head off about women’s rights or the social and cultural factors hindering development, I cannot cook. That’s where Mario comes in. He teaches the women how to properly chop veggies, boil chicken and how to measure out spices, while I help the teams out with their duties and the women joke that this workshop is good for me too, because my new skills in the kitchen will help me find a husband. While the women were chowing down on their burritos, we talked about the problems facing women in Mexico and how they are similar/different than those facing the women in El Salvador. When no one wanted to speak I brought up the machismo culture that exists in both countries, and my experience as an outsider dealing with it. It was interesting to hear women, both young and old, say that there has been a change in attitudes here in El Salvador and the machismo attitude was much worse before. Since discussions on the rights of men and women are far and few between in my community, I think it will take a few classes for the women to feel comfortable sharing stories or opinions. Even if vocal participation is limited to a handful, all that matters is that there are 15+ participants, taking time out of their week to be there.

Preparing to be Queen

Now, by far, one of my most memorable experiences in El Salvador will be being a candidata in the Festival de Maiz this Sunday. Whether I win or not, feeling like my life is a scene out of Drop Dead Gorgeous has been pretty enjoyable. My custom decorated corn dress is almost ready, my handmade, hand painted San Nicolas sash came today, and my beauty team (aka the girls who normally paint my nails) have my pageant day look all planned out. Everyone seems to be a little surprised at how excited I am, I guess they didn’t realize how much their gringa loves an excuse to dress up for a theme. I’ll be sure to post a detailed, day of the Festival photo series!

Euro Matt in El Salvador

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My main travel partner in crime, Matt Delima aka Mateo, touched down in El Salvador 2 short weeks ago and now that he is back on American soil and I am back in the campo I finally have time to recap our Salvadoran adventure. My goal for his time here was to show him all the different aspects of my life in El Salvador- from the #PoshCorps beach trips to nights spent playing Ocho loco and Jenga with my host sister, he was able to experience it all.  (He even went the extra mile, coming down with a case of Amoebas, making him an honorary PCV) Matt’s trip here was very different than my mom’s, who briefly suffered through the campo in between resorts. He arrived, 2 hours late, during a downpour and we rushed out of San Salvador the next morning at 5am so I could make it to a meeting on the other side of the country.

So now I present to you the adventures of Euro Matt, Addy Caddy and the Kia!

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The little Kia that could. This baby survived the campo, the city and the beach and we only blew a tire once.

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Driving and eating a pupusa, such skill! 

Chapter 1: Matt and the all carb campo diet. 

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Matt meets the PC gang. 

After a trip to the mountains, hanging with my PC friends and two days of tanning and sampling El Salvador’s selection of beer at Playa Cuco, we headed back to my community, only stopping to pick up Cheesy Poppers and pizza for the family. After getting Matt acclimated with his mosquito tent and his first meeting with Princess Fatima, we ran up to the school, where I threw together an English Class. Matt, being the good sport that he is, put together a presentation about his life in Spanish and English, helped my students with some of their work and was basically my English speaking guinea pig- “ok students your homework is to think of 5 questions for Mateo, Mateo you need to teach them some Portuguese”. It’s always good to have friends who are willing to go with the flow. 

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Hola, mi nombre es Mateo, tengo 25 años…….

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Don Mateo working his English charm on my host sister Estefany, the least interested student in the class

After class I took Matt on a round of house visits, to my favorite chambre queens in the community- mistake number 1. While these ladies have become my favorite people in the community, simply because they have zero shame and always have the best stories, it quickly became clear from the whispers and the looks they were shooting my way that they did not believe me when I said “My friend, just a friend, from America is here”. The news spread faster than wildfire that the ginga had a gringo in town. Such a scandal. When we got back to my house, my host mom had prepared chicken pupusas and everyone had on clean clothes, quite impressive. We passed the night playing cards and playing with Fatima, then after a few secret cups of wine Matt crawled into his little tent and passed out. The rest of his time in my site was packed, he did everything that I did in the first 2 months in 7 days- 5:30 am wake up call to milk cows, check. House visits, where you sit for hours and eat plates on plates of unwanted food, check. Attend a General Assembly and awkwardly introduce yourself to the community, check. Trip to San Miguel to visit the extended host family, check. 

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Campo Mateo learning the ropes from my host brother Kevin 

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My host dad totally likes Mateo more than me. Bros before Bichas i guess?

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The fam and I enjoying some luxury in San Miguel, Thanks Tia Cecy! 

Two of my favorite moments from Matt’s week in my site were our family trip to the water park and his debut as a soccer star. Taking advantage of the Kia, we piled in my host family and drove to Flor del Rio to escape the brutal heat. My expectations were blown away, I had previously avoided going to the water park, thinking it was going to be, well gross, but it was clean, it had 14 pools and hammocks everywhere. We spent the whole day pool hopping with Princess Estefany, convincing my host brothers that they weren’t too cool to play water volleyball and helping little Fatima learn to swim. My host mom even joined in on the fun! Seeing how happy the kids were made the sunburn totally worth it! 

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The crew, ready to swim! Matt fits right in! 

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With my babies

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My host mom, Esperanza, styling at the pool 

Matt also showed off his soccer skills to the local youth, when he decided, well more like he was forced, to play in a game in San Miguel. We traveled with the team to the city, where they were playing an away match in the middle of a field with zero shade. Matt prepared for his debut by enjoying a Big Mac and a few adult beverages- the best mix before running in the 95 degree heat. After jamming his feet into my host brothers 2-sizes-to-small cleats he charged the field, got in a few solid passes and then after 20 minutes of hell subbed out. But that is all it took for all the girls in my community to start swooning. Matt, there is always a jersey here for ya! 

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The look of triumph, and heat stroke?

Matt was such a trooper, we canceled half of our original plans so we could spend more time in my site. Personally, it is great to have someone from my “real” life who can understand the goings on here in El Salvador. Who understands that my room is a sauna, knows what the purple building in Chapeltique is and who can see why I think the people in my community are so special! 

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Matt’s last moments in site, schooling the bichos in soccer. 

What does 1 year in the Peace Corps mean?

On July 24, 2014 the COED 13 cohort celebrated our first big milestone, our one-year anniversary in El Salvador. You are going to have to excuse the delay in a blog; I was busy spending the weekend celebrating in Playa Tunco. But now that I have had a few days to reflect on whom I was when I started this journey and where I am one year later I feel I can put into words what the last year has meant to me. Looking back at my journal entries from my first few months here, I realized that I often found myself wondering what “one year in Peace Corps would look like”. Would I be able to speak Spanish? Would I be integrated? What projects would I have going on? My predictions, for the most part, were completely off base, but nonetheless enjoyable to read. No, past Catherine, in one year you have not brought giant projects to a community nor are you blonde again- but you do have a nice tan! Gauging what I have done in a year is difficult, and giving my self some credit for the things I have done is much harder than focusing on what I haven’t done. So what does this milestone mean to me?

It means less dependence on home, on my old routine, my old life. Now I can’t deny that every now and then I need my American Fix (aka Pizza Hut and Wine) I have become less dependent on the things that were once so crucial to my life. When my friend was visiting he mentioned how “humble” I had become, which I thought was interesting. I now find it hard to be concerned about what is going on in the States when I have to wonder if there will be water in my community, or if this sudden dry spell means that all the milpas will be dried up. That, my friends is integration. 

It means that the people I live with are no longer strangers or tenants they have become family. I realized this a few weeks ago, when I caught myself going on and on about my host sisters, passing around my phone to a semi-interested crowd. When I am out of site for more than two nights, I wonder what they are doing or if they saw the last episode of Trato Hecho. Even though there are things that are so inherently different about our lives and our cultures, we have developed a routine and I applaud their efforts to make me feel as comfortable as possible (and for hosting my non-Spanish speaking house guests).

It means the 13 strangers that I was sitting through training with last July have become my little family. When you are going through an experience so unique, it is extremely comforting to be able to call up someone who understands how frustrating working with an ADESCO is, can laugh with you over the scorpion in your bed and understands that sometimes the only way to fix your problem is to meet up for a Pilsener. These people just get it! 

It means I can speak enough Spanish to make jokes, understand stories, eavesdrop, yell at the members of my women’s group when they don’t show up and tell the bolo who always harasses me to go to hell (in the nicest way possible) with out batting an eyelash. 

It means I have found every WIFI outlet in the pueblos, cities and even figured out which kids in my community have internet packets on their phone, when I desperately need a Facebook fix. 

One year in Peace Corps means a million little and big things, but mostly my time here has been a whirlwind of highs and lows, of success and failures and discovering who I am. 

Cheers to the second, and final leg of this journey! 

Cooking our way around the world

Last Thursday marked the 2nd Clase Previa for the Empowered Kitchen Workshop. Once again, I was over the moon when 25 women showed up ON TIME to learn how to make a tres leches cake. Flora, our chef/community member has really found her groove, she told me after the class that she wants to continue helping with community cooking projects- SCORE! What I enjoyed the most about this class is seeing how ideas are beginning to churn in some of the women’s heads. While we waited to enjoy our cake, Del Mira and Christina pulled me aside to complain about the lack of communal space in our community. For these kind of activities we either have to cram 25 women into a small house or wait until the weekend when the school is free. They have begun brainstorming, and discovered a community need I identified a while back. Slowly but surely things are coming along, and I am starting to believe it when they say your second year is your most productive year! Here are a few photos of our DELICIOUS cake and my right hand woman Flora getting her teach on! 

Flora pouring one of the three milks onto the cake 

Yes, that is an electric mixer!

Let the icing begin!