Lauren's Peace Corps Experience in Honduras

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed and experiences described in this travelogue are mine personally. Nothing written here should be interpreted as official or unofficial Peace Corps literature or as sanctioned by the Peace Corps or the U.S. government. I have chosen to write about my experience online in order to update family and friends; I am earning no money whatsoever from this endeavor. Please do not copy or forward any of these contents without my permission.

Monday, June 18, 2007

El Salvador and COS in Teguc...

Well last Wednesday I left Santa Rosa for San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, with a PCV friend named Cynthia. The trip went ok, just a minor problem at the border that stopped us long enough for our bus to leave, so we caught another, luxury bus the last 2 hours to San Sal.

San Salvador is an amazing city. Obviously all central american countries are not the same. The city feels much safer than Teguc, the drivers don´t honk their horns, the bus system is amazing and efficient and cheap, there is a lot of culture - great live music, museums, art, ballet and symphony, there are great bohemian type restaurants and fancy ones. Cynthia and I got there around 2 and set off to a bohemian cafe to have lunch. I then realized that my bank card had expired - had a minor freak out, and then called my parents so that they could western union me money, which was a first for me. Luckily I have great parents, and they did it right away. El Salvador actually uses dollars, which is a weird change for me. It makes things pricier there than in Honduras, but it seems to be helping business in the big cities - life in the country I hear is the same, the poor stay poor. We used lots of quarters, nickels, dimes and lots of pennies. We went to the mall and I bought some cute shirts at a Spanish store called Zara, which has really great clothes. The first night we asked around and found a great cozy place called something like Luna Casa de Arte, it´s pretty famous and they are known for great live music and good food. We walked in and paid a small cover, choose a little table right off the little stage, and ordered mojitos and food. It was a dark room, the tables were lit by candles, and most people were sitting in couches with low tables and chatting quietly waiting for the performers. Not long after 2 guys, one older and one young, got up on their stools and started playing some excellent acoustic guitar and singing original songs. The older guy talked a lot about El Salvador´s revolution in the 90s and how it has formed the identity of the people. The younger guy talked a lot about love and how he got into writing music. They were both really talented. The second day we got up early and had breakfast and set off for the museums. The bus system is highly efficient, we used the city buses to go everywhere, and it´s a big city. It cost 25 cents a ride, but in comparison, taxis cost 3-5 dollars. The art museum was EXCELLENT. I don´t know that much about art, especially latin american art, but the museum was very nice. There are many famous El Salvadorian artists because during the cold war, many European artists fled to latin america and they left many influences. I took lots of pictures of the art. We spent a good 2 hours there and then went to the anthropology museum, which was nice, but not anything better than the ones I´ve seen in Copan and other places in Honduras. We then set off for the town center to see where the Jesuit priest was martyred during the revolution in ´89 and the huge cathedral. I wasn´t feeling too good because we hadn´t eaten and I had a stomach bug and it was hot, plus the first bank we went to wouldn´t give me my money transfer because the computer said Lauren Mohlie Mohlie, and that´s not what my passport said...ugh. So we had to go to the headquarters. We stopped by the mall to use internet, and it was like a little haven after a long day. We didn´t have much time because we wanted to get back to the room and shower and get to the free symphony at 7 pm that we had found out about at the art museum. We finally made it and thoroughly enjoyed the classical music...geez it was different from Honduras...people appreciating classical music, wow. They played Brahms and Beethoven, and I especially enjoyed one piece that they did with a classical guitarist and it sounded very latin, kinda like a classical piece from Zorro, just nice to feel the culture influencing the music. The director was a guest from Panama. So we really enjoyed San Salvador.

The second two days in El Sal we spent near La Libertad, the famous surfing beach about 45 minutes from the capital. We actually stayed about 15 minutes from La Libertad, a ´gringo´hangout called El Tunco. We were some of the only guests that didn´t go to surf but it was still nice. Good seafood, fun to hang out on the beach. It was a black beach, because of the volcanoes. I wanted to try surfing but they had had a big swell a few days before, eroding the beach and creating a big undertow and a bad environment for learning, so until next time for me. It was fun hanging out with travelers from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Europe.

From there we left on Sunday to go back to Teguc. To make a long long trip short, we spent 12 hours on the bus, changed buses 7 times, and only made it to La Paz, Honduras, because we chose a dirt road to come back to Honduras (to make Cynthia´s trip shorter, we thought). Big mistake. I had to leave at 5:30 the next morning to make it to Teguc by 9 to start Close of Service (COS), my official ending of my PC service. It was surreal, how quickly 2 and a half years have passed! I finally got to know the PC headquarters ironically, where everyone (including my manager´s) offices were. I live 8 hours from the central PC office so I have only gone a couple of times and don´t know my way around much like the volunteers who live close to Teguc do. COS was a long line of beaurocratic things to do to end your service. This included: medical stuff (urine and 3 stool samples, yay, pap smear, exams, blood tests, blah blah), closing bank accounts, signing waivers, writing reports (Description of Service document, my project evaluations, my 6 month report, my evaluation of my site), going to the dentist, my spanish language interview, interview with my boss and the country director, filling out surveys, etc etc. It was a lot of stuff. Everyone doing COS that week was as exhausted as I was. Luckily I was staying with Lauren instead of the hotel and it´s so much better because I can relax, use internet, watch tv with her, go out to eat, she has a car and gave me rides, got laundry done, and just basically chilled.

Thursday I finally finished and went back towards DNC, got stuck in San Pedro Sula with my traveling buddy Justin because the late bus left, and finally got back to Dulce Nombre on Friday and saw Lester. I was so so happy to be back, and just rested for like 2 days. I had planned to just stay in Teguc with Lauren and then go with her to Utila this Wednesday, but I decided to spend a couple days back home. It´s nice to be here for a few days. Tomorrow I am gonna spend the night in Santa Rosa and go out, and then Wednesday I´ll meet up with Lauren to pick up our friend Jenn from the airport and we will drive to Ceiba for the night. Thursday through Saturday we will be in Utila, one of the carribbean islands of Honduras. I am excited because I´ve never been, we went to Roatan. We are going because two of our PCV friends are getting married! Joe and Emily. We aren´t going to the actual wedding because it is intimate for just family (they have too many friends), but we will be around on the island for the celebration part! It is fun because lots of PCVs who have already returned to the states, like Jenn, are coming back for those days because they knew Joe or Emily and wanted to be here, so for me it´s nice to see people again and say goodbye to others. My last 10 or so days after Utila will be spent back in Dulce Nombre in packing, goodbye parties, and giving presents and making preparations for departure on July 5th! It´s so weird to be leaving...

Well, love to all, can´t wait to see you!