I left San Salvador on Wednesday (26-Oct-11) afternoon to head to San Miguel. In San Miguel I would meet up with Jorge, a member of Comencemos – the organization I am volunteering with here. Comencemos means “We Start” in English. I promise it sounds better in Spanish, and it fits here since they really are trying to start something amazing in this, the poorest state of El Salvador.
I took the two hour bus ride from San Salvador to San Miguel, which was a comfortable coach and cost $5, and got off at a particular stop. Jorge was there waiting for me and I spent the night with him and his wife and two small kids (3 years old and 5 months old).
We talked a lot and had a great time. He introduced me to the organization and explained some of the problems that exist in Morazan. The hardest thing to see was pictures of the school. Its roof is completely destroyed and in shambles and he said many parents have pulled their kids out of school due to worries about the structural integrity of the roof/building. There is lots of work to be done here.. Comencemos-We Start!
Jorge’s family took good care of me and definitely fed me for battle. I could barely move after their amazing dinner and breakfast!
It was especially nice to spend time with Jorgito, the 3 year old. I hope to volunteer in a school in Nicaragua, partly because I really don’t know how to relate to little kids. They are aliens to me and I want to better understand and relate to them for when I (maybe) have my own someday.
We took a chicken bus in the morning to head to the city of Yoloaiquin in the state of Morazan. It took two hours and was pretty comfortable. Below is a video showing the vendors getting on the chicken bus to sell things to the passengers. It’s a sight to see, and hopefully you can appreciate the organized chaos that ensues. The same happens in Honduran and Guatemalan chicken buses, but I never got it on video.
Rene, the passionate founder of Comencemos, was there waiting for us when we got off the bus. He took a picture, gave me an El Salvador hat, and a bottle of water. That should set the tone for how welcoming and hospitable he and his family are.
We took a truck up the hill to where he lives, which otherwise takes about 35 minutes to walk. I am staying in the NGO’s office, which is a separate building from the living quarters. It’s simple and I really like it here. They get their water from a well, the bathroom is a separate structure that feeds a hole in the ground, bathing occurs outdoors (with privacy) using buckets of water, cooking is done over a wooden stove, etc. It’s very tranquil and connected to nature, which is exactly what I needed!
There is electricity, and until someone cut the cable, there was internet access. In some ways I was hoping I’d have minimal internet access here. In Honduras I overdosed a bit on the internet. I got a lot done, but I felt myself creeping down a path I didn’t want to go down – spending time in the virtual world at the expense of experiencing the awesomeness the real world has to offer.
I have to balance things better between my project, my volunteering, planning the future (which for me means one month in advance), and enjoying life. In Honduras, despite being so connected, I somehow neglected to focus on finding a volunteering experience in Nicaragua and now I’ll probably pay a bit for that. I think my conversation with Maria helped a lot in that regard too, going back to the roots of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it to be more balanced.
Well, Rene’s welcome was wonderful. Over lunch he explained how Comencemos came about, what the situation is like in Morazan, and what kinds of projects are going on. It sounds like I can help out and make a difference here. And the best part is that I’ll draw on some of my volunteering experience in Guatemala and Honduras while here. I figured this would happen at some point, but I never expected my experiences to so quickly start paying themselves forward to help other communities later on.
Kids Are Awesome
Rene’s two daughters are cute as can be, and while I rested in the office working on some things (like this post) they would bring me water or coffee. They’d call my name, I’d bring the water or coffee in through the window, and then they’d run away as fast as they could laughing the whole way.
In going back to saying I see kids as aliens above, one thing is certain.. I may have done my Happiness Plunge by leaving the corporate world and charting my own more rewarding path/life. But it seems like kids are always happy and it’s this cruel world’s environment that slowly erodes at that. Some would call it the loss of innocence. I say it’s just plain wrong that if I give someone coffee, the last thing I’d think about doing is running away laughing the whole way!
These kids didn’t decide to be happy, as I have done. They just haven’t decided to be miserable, like all of us have done at some point. I hope to work with kids much more during my trip, as they could quite possibly end up being my best teachers about life.
Great Start To A New Adventure
Anyway, so far so good. A great start, great people, and I hope another great experience to share!
Oh, and I took a walk and this is a small sample of the kind of scenery there is to be had here. As always, the picture doesn’t do the scene justice, but it’s beautiful here.
Tomorrow I’ll meet a group of youth that Rene is teaching English to. One of their homework assignments was to translate my Happiness Plunge philosophy from this webpaage! So I can’t wait to meet them, hear their stories, and see if I can help them in any way.
Rene, in his infinite awesomeness, teaches English with an empowerment/positivity angle. He often gives assignments, or shows examples that are positive and empowering for these youth who might otherwise find it easy to resign from life and lose hope. He shows examples from movies like Rocky or motivational videos and then they discuss the English from there. Quite an innovative and awesome idea. The Eye of the Tiger, one of my anthems, works in any language!!