Friday, June 27, 2008

Today we celebrated father`s day in the cultural house in Azacualpa. I metion this because the Salvadoran folkloric dance group that I joined two months ago danced for the lucky fathers. Even though I felt like something from the produce department in the supermarket I really enjoyed dancing. You can judge for yourself. Happy Father`s Day!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Long time no blog. Where to begin? Life is good. I just finished hosting a group of five people, two teachers and three students, from a charter school- Yes Prep- in Houston, Texas. Imagine nine days of six people, one small modest room-house, five meals a day, hands and legs covered in oil based paint, and a lot of conversation about poop. Needless to say it rocked! Our goal was to make the escuelita, little school, of Cuesta Marina a more inviting and lively place. Job accomplished. The six of us with five days to paint an entire school and two murals finished the task with grace and exactness. The process, which you can see by the pictures, was very cool. We first drew our farm mural on taped together newspaper. We then flipped it over and filled the backside with carbon- charcol. the ready newspaper and taped to the wall and with pencils we traced all the animals and the barn. This, for me, was a very cool process and surprisingly worked quite well. Although we had a time restraint, the final product came out beautifully. I could not have accomplished this on my own so my kudos go out to Alison, Dave, Elena, Mikhail and Armando. Thanks you guys. Here are some pictures of the group, Cuesta Marina kids and of course the murals. I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy!!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

It is my favorite time of year: mango season. Lately I have been eating at least five mangos a day. Mangos are a breakfast, lunch and dinner food. There are various classes of mangos- magos indios (smallest), mangos manzanas (medium sized), mangos papaya (ginormous and juicy), and etc. Mango season is amazing for its mangos but also for the other fruit it brings our way. The jacote fruit a small reddish fruit that grows in groups on a tree and tastes like heaven is just one of mangos season exciting surprise. The other is carago which is more of a seed than a fruit. The seed grows in a large brown pod and the people here make fresco- juice- out of the seeds. I am including pictures because well I find fruit exciting!
Since I have been in my site more than two hands full of people have fled “mojado” –wet back- to the USA to follow the American dream. Thankfully the people from my community who have left have made it safely. However, this is not always the case. Two women from surrounding communities died last year on the path to following the American dream. For most of the Salvadorans that leave for the United States the American dream consists of a lot of Washingtons, Hamiltons, and Franklins- money. From what people in my site tell me it seems like the wall that has cost the US government $$$$ only helps protect illegals from the cops that patrol the boarder. It’s easy to cross they tell me. Many friends of mine have passed the boarder various times, when they get tired of the USA they return to El Salvador and when they run out of money they go stateside. In a country the size of Massachusetts there are six million people, however there are 8 million salvos worldwide. Thankfully two million people live in other parts of the world most of them illegally and most of them in the United States. I say thankfully because there is no more room to put people in this tiny country nor are there jobs for the existing residents let alone for those who have moved out.
While in many respects illegal migration to the states has helped many people obtain a higher standard of living it has created many problems for El Salvador. Through working with the school and high school I have learned the crisis that illegal migration has put the education system in. “Raise your hand high if you have family in the USA,” I ask them. The hands shoot up. A couple kids don’t raise their hands but I know their family that’s in the states personally. Ok next question. “How many of you want to go to the USA,” I ask. Some hands without pause shoot up, but the majority of hands are much more tentative. Ok scratch that question, “How many of you have thought about going to the states.” Many more hands go up. “Why?” I ask “What makes you want to go?” Blank faces look at me as if no one has understood my accented Spanish. So I ask “everyone understand the question?” They all nod. One kid shouts “money.” “There are jobs in the USA and there are no jobs here.” After one kid starts kids start yelling reasons. “I can work manual labor for a lot of money.” “I don’t want to make $5 a day like my dad.” “I want to know what its like.” So why is this a problem? Why study, why concentrate on math and science when you can potentially go to the states, easily, and rack in the Franklins? There is no good answer to this question. Professors, some lawyers, hotel workers and so on in El Salvador make less money here than an illegal construction worker who is making $15 per hour in the states. Argh.
At the beginning of March I invited a Salvadoran NGO worker to come talk about migration to the United States. Although he has a visa to go to the states and is married to an American women, Señor P has gone “wet back” four times to the US A in order to fully understand the camino- path. I invited him to talk to the high school and middle school kids and their parents about the realities and the misconceptions of Salvadoran migration to the United Sates. Included are some pictures of him and his talk, but more importantly he brought pictures of some aspects of the journey to obtain the American dream. I enjoyed them so much I took pics of the pictures. Enjoy!!

Monday, February 25, 2008

For about five years now I have wanted to run in a 5k, yet every time the opportunity presents itself I make an excuse for why I should or cannot run in it. While the idea of running in a 5k has always been in the forefront of my mind, the idea of coming in last and reaching the finish line panting and crashing to my knees has always prohibited me from entering a race. So, when I turned twenty-four last year I made a promise to myself that before I turned twenty-five I would run in a 5k race. I figured I had a year to talk myself into it with something like this: “Look Joanna it’s only 3.2 miles and it’s not about winning it’s about participating and giving it your best.” I think that is what my parents told me when they wanted me to participate in sports as a child. Last Thursday February 21, 2008 the opportunity to run a 5k presented itself to me in my community. A teacher in the high school, Don Francisco, put up a flier welcoming all students, teachers, and community members to run it a 5k race as a commencement to the fiesta patronales in Azacualpa. My neighbors and some close friends told me they would run and that I should join them. The only thing that gave me pause was that I thought I would be the only woman because well women here detest running and see it more as a form of punishment than enjoyment. So Thursday morning I put my pride aside and my running clothes on and made way to the plaza where the race began. It was so much fun!! There were only about fifteen of us, which is a sad number considering the hundreds of people that live in the community, but it turned out to be a really good group. I was one out of four women which thrilled me because I was not the only one. There were two teachers, myself and the rest of the runners were students, but one teacher spoke eloquently about the importance of exercise and a healthy body. I was presented a medal for being the first girl to cross the finish line and am happy to say that I came in before some of the guys. I was not only proud of myself but super proud of all of the people that participated, because here a 5k race is something rarely seen especially in the campo and to participate in something new and different takes guts. Here are some pics of those who ran and kicked butt.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I finally had my first quinceañera experience this Sunday. It was much more than I had expected. It was very different than MTV’s version of “My Quinceañera.” Through this experience I learned it really is glorious to turn fifteen in this culture. While my fifteenth birthday was very lovely with a small gathering of my friends and parents, I don’t remember feeling like I had just become a woman. Actually I can not remember one day in particular when I became a woman, I may still be waiting for that day to come. The quinceañera princess’s name is Evelyn. Evelyn is a girl that I have gotten to know very well, she has become a good friend. So when she and her mother accosted me to take photos of the special day I was more than happy to record her day of becoming a woman. Becoming a woman in this culture is awesome it is like having a wedding but only for yourself. There is no one that you have to share the attention with: it really is all about you and your journey in a new phase of life. I have taken various photos of the birthday girl and her special day. The pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy!