It was nearly two months ago that I got the call from my boss Claudia saying my third-year extension had been approved. When she rang with the long-awaited news, I was busy sorting through mounds of just-unearthed potatoes, filling sacks with the big enough ones that would fetch top dollar at market. The little ones were left behind, to be grabbed later by two young boys who arguably should have been in school but had obviously been working most of their lives, put in dissimilar sacks, and were to be sold at a much lower price. Fidel, the owner of the land and all that it had produced, had invited me to come by the field and grab some potatoes that day. He wasn’t expecting that I would want to work for my free potatoes.
In other places I don’t consider myself shy, but here I have developed a shyness that serves me well; I stay away from where men congregate, because that is what all women do. For some reason, probably because I expected all the men to be from my community, I decided to go to the field anyway and arrived late-morning, when Fidel had said to arrive, after the men had already made great progress. Just after sunrise they had started at the bottom of the field and they were already way up the steep hill, those in front using their hoes to unearth potatoes, careful not to cut many, and those behind sorting through the crop. I joined those at the back of the action and for a couple of hours bent over at the waist I chucked the potatoes cut by the hoe, put the market-worthy ones in the sack, moving up the hill as more and more potatoes were dug up. Just before lunchtime I told Fidel I was heading home, feeling like I’d earned the free potatoes he’d offered, and soon filled my sack with, but not the hearty lunch made for the workers who’d been at it since dawn.
The life here in el campo as we call it has still been suiting me quite nicely. Not only do I get to the fields from time to time to get the best freshest produce, I have been enjoying buying just-milked milk a couple of times a week in the morning, boiling it to make with coffee or with cinnamon with breakfast and saving some for a banana milkshake in the afternoon. What I make seems more worthy of the name milkshake as it is made with milk, not ice cream, and frozen bananas.
An update on things here overall:
I have finally set dates for my one-month home leave and will be in the states mid-July to mid-August. I expect to be in my home state the entire time, but if I can make a trip to MT happen I just might do it. I can’t wait for summer in the states… farmer’s markets, bike riding, hiking, long days of sunshine! It will be hard to leave my community and my pup behind for a month, but I’m trying to ignore that aspect of the upcoming trip.
As unexpectedly hard as the transition has been going into my third year, I knew all along that it was right for me and still feel that way. The hardest part right now is seeing all my friends and co-workers leave, as I’m the only one from my group who signed up for another year. My two best friends here have been gone for nearly a month and shortly everyone will be moving on. No longer with the support system I used to have, I know I need to find my new normal. Luckily tomorrow I get some new PCV neighbors who will live within walking distance.
Work here always comes in waves. Right now there is a lull in work as all the stoves are built in this round. People continue to hound me asking for a chance to build one in their homes, so I don’t doubt that a third project will be part of my coming year. The big push currently is getting the ADESCO, basically a local NGO consisting of community members, formed and legalized. Yesterday we had a community-wide meeting to vote on it’s members and now we can jump all the hoops to get it formed and legalized in the eyes of the Salvadoran government. It won’t be fun by any stretch, but it will be worth the effort.
Weather-wise, or rather water-wise, we have been struggling in my community. As we are on the tail end of a long dry season, the rainy season is mid-May to mid-October, things are once again really dry and really dusty. But this was my third March in my site, and it was never this drastic. For several weeks the small amount of water we get each week at the house has only been used to wash dishes and water the gardens. All other needs can be taken care of down at the spring, where there is water to wash the corn for tortillas, to bathe and to wash clothes. But there have been days when even the spring has been depleted as all the neighbors are struggling as well. I have had to visit other houses to bathe myself, and even my dog, from time to time. Last week there was a good rain and I agree with my host Dad that it was a blessing from God. I’m sure all the good people of El Salvador have been praying for weeks for rain. We are definitely ready for the rain – bring on the mud!
Soon Osa and I will have been together for 10 months. Last June I found her thrown away with her sisters down by the river, crying for her Mommy, about four weeks old. With her sad yelps, what she got was a surrogate Mom. Her sisters weren’t so lucky. (I’m not crazy enough to bring home three female pups!) It has been a bit of drama since I carried her home that day as El Salvador isn’t exactly the best place to raise a pet, but I’ve been trying my best. Osa got re-fixed this week. I was told after the first surgery in November that they’d left an ovary in due to possible complications (which is why she went into heat in January). After her heat cycle in January she has been a very loyal friend. She loves to accompany me when I am doing my work around the village, go on long walks or short runs, and is learning to play fetch. We practice doing things like go for walks on a leash and being tied up outside, hoping that the transition to dog life in the states isn’t such a shock. We both have a pretty great life here!
There are finally new pictures up on Flickr – you can find a few below, and all of them all here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/31005864@N06/