For fear of posting too much about my mushy feelings of how I'm loving El Salvador, or our fun weekend trips (only on the weekends, mind you), I will attempt to describe a typical day here by recapping what I did on Friday.*
6:30--Get out of bed, get ready, eat breakfast, etc. (depending on the day, but every day we wake up to bright sunshine, a rooster, and the dogs next door who NEVER stop barking.)**
7:15--Catch 3 buses to get to ASEI, a microfinance organization in San Salvador, where we would be accompanying them to a village about an hour away to meet with a group of women who had requested a group loan.
10ish--After an hour-long ride in the back of the ASEI pickup, we arrived, and got to hear about the women in the group's various microbusinesses (selling tortillas, clothes, etc) and listen to their thoughts and experiences with microfinance and community banks. It was incredible to see how the goals of microfinance and the benefits of community loans are actually working in this community.
I know that microfinance can't solve every problem, but it was really cool to see how it really is benefitting these women. I've learned about microfinance and Muhammad Yunus in classes, but it was totally different to see it in person. That is the power of an idea.
1:00-After we got back to San Salvador, we grabbed lunch and went to Hogar CREA, a rehab center for female drug addicts (a voluntary 2 year program, with a strict schedule and religious emphasis). After the director gave us a tour, we met with the girls and talked to them about their goals for the future and the things they like to do. I feel really strongly that, with organizations like CREA and CIPI, building a relationship with the girls and being a positive role model is the most important thing I can do while I'm here and is crucial before planning any activities or solid project ideas. It was amazing to listen to the responses of these 8 women (ages 14-50) and see that we aren't that different in the things we want for the future. We're hoping to go back next Tuesday.
4:15--After leaving CREA, a few of us went to teach our Friday night English class. At first, I wasn't very interested in this project, but it is turning out to be one of my favorites. I think that is partially because I feel like I can make a real difference before I leave (in 2.5 weeks), because the class is 3 times a week and I'm really getting to know the students. It has been so fun to come up with lesson plans and teach them, and see their progress.
I'm constantly amazed by how much English they know; seeing the looks on their faces when something clicks is priceless. I never realized quite how much of an asset English is. As these students have told me, there are a lot of employment opportunities that are only available to you if you speak English, so that is even more motivation for me, as one of the teachers, to do my best to help them be successful. (As a side note, I really feel like my Spanish has improved significantly in the past couple of weeks. After getting over my fear of speaking incorrectly or sounding stupid, I really feel like I'm able to communicate better and more articulately than before this trip).
6:30--Every night our cook, Estela, makes the most amazing food. After long days like this one, I am so grateful for her and for the food she cooks. It's also really fun to meet up with the rest of the team and discuss the day's events. Now that things have really started to pick up, it's really fun to hear about everyone's adventures, challenges and successes.
After dinner, a few of us went to the Cinepolis to see Pirates of the Caribbean 4. It was actually pretty good, and it was fun to relax a little bit, and enjoy the air conditioning.
Anyway, I'll post about the rest of the week another day. Hope all is well back in the U.S. of A!
*Every day is different, because we are working on so many different projects, but here's just a sampling of what I've been up to.
**Friday was especially interesting because our water was shut off, so none of us got to shower before heading out for the day. Luckily, it was back on by Saturday morning, but I didn't know that until I had already taken a bucket shower. An experience, for sure, but it was just fine.