Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Biblioteca itinerante

You can read about the Biblioteca itinerante in La Paz and in Yucuaiquin, which I don't know why I haven't taken the time to write about before. It's a joint project between the embassy and the Centro Cultural Salvadoreño Americano, which basically amounts to being a Bookmobile without the vehicle. The set of books stays in a casa de cultural for a month, where they are available to the surrounding schools and general public. I've gone to the openings off and on since I lived in San Miguel, and it's been a great way to get to know more of the pueblos of El Salvador as well as proving that I'm not a good extemporaneous speaker in Spanish and that try as I might I'll probably never get protocolo down. Above all, it provided me with fabulous television appearances where I would then go to the Charlaix to run and people would say, "hey, I saw you on the news yesterday!" These are pics from Paraiso de Osorio in La Paz, Ciudad Barrios in San Miguel (where I wanted to borrow all the books I haven't read since maybe sixth grade), and Chinameca in San Miguel (where they gave me some yummy totopos).

Gift giving and packing

I remember being envious of my mother when I was younger. Every time there was a holiday, and especially Christmas, she would come home with piles of gifts from her students. I've received many presents in my time here in El Salvador, but I think that the most valuable gift that I've been given here is that of thanks. A simple, "thank you for making my job easier," or, "I've learned a lot from you," is much more meaningful than any gift certificate or detalle, as they're called here, could ever be. I wish I could say that all of the projects that I've had at CCSA in the past two years could have been completed successfully, but that's not the only goal of the ELF program. In addition to enhancing English teaching capacity, mutual understanding and sharing between cultures is one of the objectives of our time. In that sense, being able to share perspectives and ideas with my coworkers--teachers, administrators, and facilities management alike--has been even more fulfilling as the project work itself. Although it's nice to receive a diploma or envelope from the institution thanking me for my work as an ELF, the simple gift of thanks from those I work with daily is what I will always keep with me.

When gifts are given, I always think "and how exactly am I going to fit this in my suitcase?" It's amazing how many things one acquires in the space of two years, and how every time I travel, the weight limit has gone down even more. I weigh, take out, weight again, take out again. I'm no longer traveling with bathroom supplies or books. I can scan a piece of paper or part of a book, but the rest has to stay.

I also have to figure out what to do with the gatito, since I can't take him to Colombia with me until I find out all the rules on Avianca and see if the apartment they got me will allow me to have a cat. It's expensive, especially for such a short period of time, and I have no idea how much I'll be traveling.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

National Conference for Teachers of English in El Salvador

For months we'd been planning the 10th National Conference for Teachers of English (NCTE) and of course the week it happens is the week I would get sick! Like having a party and not being able to enjoy it (missing talking to A LOT of people I wanted to meet or catch up with, missed the reception, missed ALL of the concurrent sessions that I really did want to see). I spent most of Tuesday in a blur...mc'd for a while and sounded like a frog...went to lunch with Kay where I don't think we actually talked about my projects, but didn't need to anyways...bought more artesanias that I'm not sure how I'm going to get home. I also didn't get any good pictures, so I'm going to have to see if I can borrow some from someone else. I did get to hear the ambassador speak for the first time since he got here and caught two good plenaries from Jodi Crandall and Joan Shin.

This was the last "official" project for me as an ELF at the Centro Cultural Salvadoreño Americano and I'm happy to say that it went well. There was a little over 200 teachers in attendance not including the 49 presenters and 39 people on the control committee, and would have been more if not for the ministry. Quite a few people came from UMBC to present and help out, which has been great for me as well since I can pelt them with questions about the doctoral program I'm interested in there. I'm sure I'll be back in El Salvador in the future, but I'm a bit sad to be done.

We also had four post-conference institutes. I had 15 people in mine on Strategies for Integrating Technology in Language Learning, where we had 10 hours of learning how to find resources online and develop activities and lessons using technology. One of the students even won an iPod shuffle while we were talking about podcasting! I've heard excellent comments from the participants in Jodi Crandall and Joan Shin's institutes as well. I was able to sponsor 20 teachers to attend the conference and one post-conference institute with my activities allowance and another 20 were sponsored by the embassy.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hospital Fun

I finally had to break down and take myself to the doctor after waking up this morning with a fever and nasty sinusitis. So, I headed back to the hospital I took a friend to last year, Profamilia. I guess I'd never noticed that it's mostly a maternity hospital. Very nice people, as before, but I really got a kick out of the sign hanging in the waiting room that lists their commonly offered services and the prices. So, for my general consultation it was $5.75. You could also have a STD consultation for $5.75 or your tubes tied for the mere price of $39.95 (male version I think was $34.95). Pap smear for $4 and something (the nurse tried to sell me on this one). Awesome! Way better and far more amusing than the general physical I had to pay for with one of the post-recommended doctors which came out to around $200 in the end just to fill out some papers.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Happy 4th of July

After getting soaked to the bone the night before at the embassy's party, at least there was a little bit of sun for the kiddies to dance. We taught them the Virginia Reel, since they came on the 3rd and said they needed to learn how to "square dance." The last time I'd done square dancing of any kind was at the Appalachian Studies Association's conference back when I was still in AmeriCorps, but luckily the students are quick learners and good at inventing. It was the most country music I'd heard in a long time, and songs that were from the early to mid 90s. This fourth was significantly more fourth-like, with ribs, hamburgers, hot dogs (with cole slaw on them...new for me and don't think I'll try it again). Even fireworks, although there was a humongous tree blocking the view...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Trash, trash everywhere (but the garbage can)

I'd heard a lot about the trashy group of PCVs that's been getting on buses to talk about the littering problem in El Salvador from various different people, and now here it is on You Tube! Much more effective than the teeth-clenching I've done the few times I've taken the bus from San Miguel to San Sal.

Edwin quickly discovered that he can't throw his trash out the car window anymore or I'll start screaming. Now he just has fun with me by opening the window and threatening to drop whatever it is. They make a good point really...trash = money here. Sometime last year I was going someplace with one of the drivers from CCSA and on the way we stopped to drop off a couple of bags of soda cans. There's no recycle bins at work, so the cans had been picked out of the trash (silly, since many educational institutions and otherwise have separate bins at least for organics and inorganics). I think there was three trash bags full and he got some $30 for them! I even took pictures of the bins at other binational centers and made a recycled paper box in supervision, but still no separate bins for the cans.