Toes in the water

Sorry, I had to begin with another picture of the beach from a nearby cliff. The waves are supposed to be huge this weekend, meaning I’m too much a ‘fraidy-pants and inexperienced surfer to try that out. So while I’ll be toes-in-the-water only this weekend, surfing has been absolutely fun for me– a translation in water sports.

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So after surfing for 3 days last weekend, I spent Sunday with two of the loveliest people climbing the Volcano Santa Ana. It was a 4+ hour round trip experience, and we went with a group. Maybe 100+ people climbed the volcano, and we were accompanied by guides and policemen. At the top, someone had a marriage proposal waiting for their partner as we overlooked the crater lake below, bubbling and fuming sulfur. It was a beautiful walk up, with red and yellow vesicular rocks crunching under our feet after tromping through the densely forested hillside. The views of coffee farms and the neighboring volcano Izalco were astounding.

By the end, we were pretty zonked, and piggy-back rides were 100% necessary.

I have also done some work, contrary to what these blog posts might otherwise indicate. I did some writing for the Coffeelands blog that CRS runs. I’ve also been working with a team to formulate baseline indicators of soil health and fertility. My role has been to take the soil chemistry data (500+ samples from coffee, corn and bean, and some cacao farms! a dream!) and think about it in different ways. My academic Spanish language skills are growing as I attempt to translate analyses of soil chemistry data into easy to understand terminology. I’ve been helping with correlations between different nutrients and am hoping to bring in some socio-economic data soon. It’s exciting stuff to have free reign over the data!!!

Next week, I’ll be going to the field (el campo) to see some coffee farms and begin to understand management practices. I’m learning a lot about agriculture already, like the 4R System for administering nutrients. It’s been exciting to see that despite knowing some things about soil chemistry, my practical application is lacking, and I have a lot of room to grow here.

It’s fascinating how Fulbright allows me to live here in El Salvador in a way that is excessive to most Salvadorians. My sense of self-preservation, after being told numerous times to not take the buses or go out after dark, has grown drastically. I’m much less risky, but I’m allowed that ability to be stupidly safe– I taxi anywhere that’s not within a few blocks of my house (luckily, the pool and the office fit that bill!). I often look out the window of a comfy cab to see the old school busses that serve as public transit packed with people, hanging out the doors and window during rush hour. I’m afforded a different level of being.

Notable also, is the way I interact with news from the States here. Things seem more distant but also more acute, and I’m still figuring out how to best take in those injustices that right now are headlines in newspapers and links on Facebook.

Welp beach again tomorrow (oy! can you even believe it!) and another week zoomed along!

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Aquí, no solamente hacemos pupusas (We don’t only make pupusas here)

These first two weeks have been a roller coaster of adjusting. With a brief trip back home to say goodbye to my Poppa, and to hug my family close, I’m back in San Salvador.

The house where I’m staying is enormous! I have my own room and bathroom. Two people, Beatrice and Marcos, are there all the time to keep up the house, which used to be the house of the father of the person I’m renting from. She was in no rush to sell, so I get to live here for 10 months, with a gorgeous garden!

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I met the people who I’m working with for the first time when they invited me to the beach to go surfing, which boded well for my first impressions of the team! Their house had a gorgeous view of the ocean at El Sunzal, the beach where we surfed. Despite a year without a board, I stood up twice, albeit for a very marginal amount of time.img_0016img_0012It was also their neighbor’s birthday, so we went to his house, which had a dreamy infinity pool overlooking the densely vegetated cliffside. img_0011

After a few days in the office, my friend Anne suggested baking for the office to help with awkward introductions and so I could show my face around. We made cookies with quick oats and Brookside dark chocolate pomegranate pieces. The office was certainly happy when I brought them in the next day, and everyone sauntered to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee to drink with their mid-morning snack.

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And because we’re on the subject of food, the fish is delicious here! I’ve had it every chance I get. An example below:img_0020-2

I was also lucky enough to peripherally befriend Anne’s roommates, who were going to this festival de los Farolitos in Ataco, about a 2 hour drive away. They invited me along, and after some insane traffic, we arrived and spent a long night wandering the town looking at lanterns and eating bread and humus and sun-dried tomatoes at a restaurant. 14225411_10153607708177757_4584987360039951348_n14237769_10153607708727757_3127101904154386700_nimg_0023-2

To avoid being a fish out of water, I recently joined a pool/gym at Centro Español literally two blocks from my house. I swim outside in a 25 meter pool with the view of a mountain. img_0030-2

I have yet to update on the technical aspect of my work here. I’m based in San Salvador at the CRS (catholic relief service) office, which is the umbrella for all the organizations that work here. Everyone is working on some aspect of watershed management and soil quality and fertility testing. As I test the waters of this new opportunity, I look forward to the moment when I can analyze data and feel productive. Until then, I’m writing and reading about coffee and soils and soil chemistry, and eager to eat more pupusas.