Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I have a pact with my best friend to visit a different country every year. This year we chose El Salvador. I had been there before, but I took one for the team. Plus I have a relationship with the country. My friend pretended he didn’t know that I went there. He should more properly use the term “forgot.” Anyway, he also “forgot” to tell me he was bringing his girlfriend until the moment right before he bought the ticket. I kept trying to figure out why he was telling me to bring a girl friend. Then he subtly mention, without asking, that his girlfriend would be going. Ha!
It’s funny how life works. I thought I was going to be a third wheel, but one person in El Salvador, upon observing us, told me SHE was the third wheel! Imagine that. I think that was temporary or just because that person wasn’t used to our relationship because between all the kisses between the two, the cat calls (mwah, nwah), the “babes” and “cute,” I had to increase my medical doses to cope with the nausea. Well, . . . ok. . . . sometimes I wanted to make a cat noise, too, but they would look at me with that singular look which when translated into human speak is “Three’s a crowd.” So I would make dog noises behind my breath.

Other than not being invited to play with mice, We had maybe 5 nights where I had to pay for my own room which changed my price expectation (normally I would have shared a room the entire trip or with my friend, and all three of us DID share a room for the other half of the trip—those were the best days :D ). But the trip was grand. I enjoyed it. We toured the country and got to know the people somewhat. I became familiar, again, with the pupusa, that ingenious invention of the Salvadorian mind. I love the food and if you put the right food inside it, it’s maaaahvelous.
I don’t buy clothes, but my friend was going to buy a shirt for me if I didn’t so I purchased a matching shirt to his to show solidarity. I wore it at the party in DC and people liked it. I like the colors of the indigenous clothing and cloth here. It’s a beautiful country.

For part of the time I was there we stayed at a site where there were two Peace Corps friends. I was hoping to talk to them about possibly restarting the high school summer international service program that started in 2005. [Quick summary: In 2005 I helped to start a summer international service program where we took high school students in groups of 10-12 to a foreign country for 1 month to do service work including a large, tangible/visible primary project plus many diverse secondary projects; the kids had language training, project training, and fundraising meetings throughout the year preceding the summer trip, and they engaged in pen pal relationships with kids at the site, in the community they would visit; There were reflections each night, strong relationships built and life-changing experiences held; the students became more globally cognizant, understanding, considerate, other-focused, responsible, etc.; the difference with our program is that it didn’t cost the kids anything as long as they were willing to work, and our preferred mode of working in the country was paired with a Peace Corps Volunteer working in his or her site/community; each year we returned to the same country and added a new country, maintaining old relationships and building new ones; Long story short, the program won a national character education award in 2007 and I went to the National public Charter Schools conference that year to speak about service in education. There I was told that I should make the program its own non-profit; I left the country and didn’t think about it much though it’s been on my mind. I was going to wait until there was a proper way to generate revenue but I went to El Salvador and they were interested in having someone now and. . . . . I could start it and simultaneously work on the business model; so this program that was so successful (at least with the trips I was involved) is restarting, and it’s going to be an exciting ride!]

Well, both of the Peace Corps Volunteers were ecstatic about me brining a group of American high school students to El Salvador in the summer of 2011 to do service projects in their community. Not only were the Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) excited, but the townspeople. I met with the ex-mayor and the head of a private school in the community. The community board in the town disbanded a few years ago, so the private school used its building. The community board has reformed (fortunately; this is good), but they demand the building back. I asked why they don’t just build another building; they don’t have the money. So the director looked in my eyes and told me “Everything happens for a reason.” It was a chilling moment; of course, he didn’t know that I went there with the intent of discussing possible projects with the PCVs. They deftly had us sit down for a meeting together during my last night there and mentioned that I am part of this program. They let him connect the dots and he loves it. But the meeting snowballed too quickly. I just wanted the seed of the idea planted. The school owner did more; he called someone to come in with architectural plans to show me; this was the ex-mayor. I just wanted to see if there was interest. I didn’t mean to discuss details. I still hadn’t found a school! The program started in Houston but I now live in DC and it was going to be hard to run it while not being a K-12 teacher. How was it to work when these people were already thanking me in advance showing me the new building my kids (I didn’t have kids) were going to build and the life-savers my kids would be?

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