The End of the Chapter

How have I ended up at the airport again?

After a few weeks of being a very neglectful bloggist (blogger?), I’m just a few hours away now from my departure from El Salvador. This fifth trip to “El Pulgarcito” has certainly added for me a whole new set of experiences and understandings of the place. Having the opportunity to study San Jose Villanueva has added a great deal more depth to the way I look at this country – and every new place, every interview, every new friend has made this a really enriching experience for me. Now my next mission is to sift through what I’ve gathered and to write a paper that is useful and will contribute positively to the community.

For the moment, some highlights of my last bit of time in San Jose Villanueva:

  • a week-long visit by Rotarian Doug Champ – one of the driving forces behind the Rotary development program that my work has been contributing to
  • a meeting with the board of directors of Miramar – one of the two gated communities in San Jose Villanueva
  • additional visits to the communities of El Porvenir and La Fortaleza for follow up on the EWB project and interviews

La Fortaleza

  • a follow up visit to the solar cooker to find it well in use – folks have already been using it to make soups, boil water for coffee, make rice, etc.

Solar cooker in action

  • two meetings with representatives of Mentores – a microcredit organization looking to get rolling in San Jose Villanueva
  • the launch of a “Ludoteca” (learning through play) project by Plan International in El Palomar

Kiddies exploring part of Plan's Ludoteca

  • a meeting with two Canadian interns working with ACUA on a water resource mapping program
  • the presentation of my research activities and some preliminary results to community members

Presentation of research to the community

And, as always, in between the work there was a good sprinkling of other fun and relaxation:

  • a karaoke outing in the city
  • lunch on the volcano for a friend’s birthday
  • a spur of the moment dinner at the beach and a swim under the stars
  • a picnic-style screening of Up in our back garden
  • a tamale dinner with the family of a new friend in the village
  • pupusas – lots of pupusas

The Epilogos crew had a lovely going away dinner for me before I left. There’s a fantastic bunch of people there and I really do feel very lucky to have spent the time getting to know them, sharing stories and ideas and working together in an effort to support the community.

On March 10th, I moved out of SJV to join the 10th annual Rotary District 7040 Interact Mission to El Salvador as they landed in San Salvador. My first trip to El Salvador was in 2002 as part of the first of these groups of high school student volunteers. And this year I returned to the team as a chaperone. The group – 13 students and 4 other chaperones – just flew out this morning. So, for the past eleven days, we’ve had a jam-packed schedule of house painting back in SJV, mural painting at the children’s hospital, donation distribution in Izalco, school garden preparing and planting in Santa Emilia, an elderly home visit in Aguilares, etc. For most of the team, it was their first experience in a developing country and for me it was fantastic to be part of that experience with them and to remember what it was like for me that first time. For those interested, the photos and diaries from the mission are online at: http://www.savic.ca/elsalvador/2011/index.html

Obama is meant to arrive here at the airport in about 10 minutes as part of his Latin American tour, so the place is buzzing as you can imagine. And fingers are crossed that the arrival of Air Force One isn’t going to make significant changes to the travel schedules of us common folk!

So that’s that. Two months and a bit over in the blink of an eye. My suitcases are mostly packed with tasty Salvadoran treats – so those in Guelph or planning to visit, please come visit and enjoy some alfajores, Pachanga mix, horchata, coconut candy, and beans. I sure will miss this place and these people, but am looking forward to getting back to Canada too. And to starting the new chapter at Ignatius Farm. The adventure continues!

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