Stenciling 159 country names is not recommended.
...and I'm almost out of mangos.
Here it is, the long awaited update! I hope not everyone has stopped checking this blog, and so here is a new post for you, loyal follower.
The last few months have been a flurry of activity here. I have had three visitors: a roommate from college, my mom, and my sister. Each visit was a blast, maybe my favorite part of my job is watching fresh off the plane gringos interact with rural Salvadorans. The language and cultural barriers supply endless entertainment for me, the only one who understands both sides. It is great to see the enthusiasm and excitement of people interacting with people vastly different from themselves.
In case you don’t know, Peace Corps El Salvador is undergoing radical changes. It started in late December, rumor has it that it began with an incident in Honduras. (I won’t say what it was here, for fear of being censored. Peace Corps monitors these blogs and has been known to demand posts be taken down) All of the volunteers in Honduras were sent home, and the El Salvador and Guatemala programs developed plans to drastically reduce the number of volunteers from about 130 to 30. Peace Corps began offering people the option to leave early (think “honorable discharge”), a few have taken that option. Volunteers are now banned from the capitol city of San Salvador, and our ability to travel has been severely restricted. These new rules have definitely made the job less desirable, making the option to leave early more appealing. I was seriously considering leaving myself when it was announced that my group was being made to leave early, in April instead of the original date in September, effectively cutting our service by 5 months. Peace Corps service is usually two years in site, plus two or three months of training, making a total of about 26 months. It looks like I will only do 21 months. I welcomed the news of early departure, as a felt like I had done my work and am ready to be done. Many of my friends, however, are involved in large projects that cannot be finished by April, forcing them to either rush to get them done or tell their communities that they must cancel them. Peace Corps is considering giving extensions to those who need them. I has been a turbulent time for everyone.
Faced with only three more months of service, I realized I had better figure out what to do afterward. I seem to go through phases of either loving being in another country and traveling or being hopelessly homesick for America and all it contains. Last week I took a quick trip back to Arkansas for my Grandma’s funeral, and in doing so got a healthy dose of America (biscuits and gravy, beer, BBQ, friends, family, cold weather, cars, Wal-mart) and now I have decided not to go home when I finish. I am still looking to go to grad school in the future, and I will probably start a career right after. That means that I should do whatever I want to do now, I know America will always be there when I need her.
While traveling in Costa Rica with mom (great trip) I met an American guy who had been teaching English in Japan for a few years, and had later moved on to teach science in Korea. As he told me about his life in Japan and his work, my eyes grew to the size of saucers and I knew he had planted an Inception-esque idea in my head that could not be erased. Japan had taken root. A few key aspects made it seem feasible:
1. He had gotten a job there speaking no Japanese and having no experience other than a certification course and a college degree.
2. English teachers in Japan make a decent salary, which I need since those pesky student loans will no longer be on hold after Peace Corps.
3. I love a good adventure.
So that is my goal as of now. In the beginning of April I plan to get certified to Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) in Guadalajara, Mexico. It is a 30-day course through an organization called ITTO. A friend of mine did the program and said she had a great time, so I signed up. Now I am deciding if I should take a fly to Guadalajara or take the overland route.
I found out about a exchange-type program for teaching English in Japan called JET that seems to be just what I am looking for. The program assigns people to schools in Japan to be assistant English teachers for one year, with the possibility of extending for more time. They take care of most of the logistics, cover the flight, and pay a good salary. No Japanese experience is required, and they say you can just learn as you go once you get there. (Wish me luck with that one. I thought Spanish was hard) If I do that program, I would apply later this year and not leave until summer 2013. So I would have a year to kill. The TEFL program guarantees a job in Mexico for you after the course, so I will see if that looks appealing. Alternately, a Peace Corps friend of mine and I had talked about going to Columbia to live for a while, where it seems like I could find a job teaching English. Either place could be fun to live in until an opportunity in Japan arises. Then, go to grad school after 2-5 years. There it is, my plan tentative plan as of now. What do you think? Comments? Suggestions?
The storm has passed and the sun has returned. From around the tenth to the twentieth we weathered a couple of major storms, with rain lasting the whole ten days and not a ray of sunshine. The news said it was the worst storm in about 50 years, killing more than thirty people here in El Salvador and leaving many more homeless. The main dangers were houses built near rivers and landslide areas. Luckily where I live has not been too deforested, so there is not much landslide danger. The Peace Corps put us on house arrest to minimize travel and dangerous situations, so that meant ten days of not going outside or really doing anything. I am taking the GRE (standardized test for admission to grad schools) next month so the rain did give me a good chance to study. Everyone was definitely going stir crazy by the end though. I have never been more delighted to wake up to sunshine finally streaming back into my life.
In other news, I received a kindle from Mom for my birthday, which I had been wanting but could not rationalized buying for myself. This little gadget can surf the internet using cell phone signal for FREE even here, and Amazon foots the bill. Being able to check email, facebook, news, and blogs from my village has been a revelation; it makes such a big difference in staying connected and not feeling like I live on a different planet than everyone else. Thanks Mom!
School was closed for the duration of the storm, and will be open only for another 2-3 weeks before the 2.5 month break. This also coincides with the coffee picking season, which means no work for me to do until February. If you remember last year, I have retired from coffee picking, luckily I don’t have to work all day in the fields to make $5. In February I plan to do a world map mural on the side of the school, give the teachers more classes on how to use our new laptop and projector set up, and make sure we get this reading pavilion thing built at the school (basically a roof and tile floor making an area for quiet reading time and outdoor classes)
Other than that, I am looking forward to a string of visitors here soon, I can’t wait to spend time showing family and friends around crazy world I find myself in. Everyone is still invited, if you don’t have plans to visit yet (I’m not sure who still reads this) you could come in early March, or anytime in May or June. Think about it. If you are coming, nice work taking the initiative, I promise it will be the experience of a lifetime!