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Assignment #3

Written on: Thursday July 16th, 2009

A journal entry from: El Salvador

--The following was written on Tuesday--

I am currenetly healing after spending last night vomiting violently, fainting twice (poor Alice was startled awake by the sound of me dropping to the floor at the foot of her bed) and spending the night with chills and aches. My blood sugar is currently very low, I am dehydrated, running a fever and pear nectar and toast are about all I can stomach. I vow to never cook for myself again.

Now it is Thursday and I have healed!

But on to more relevant ramblings! In general, adapting to life in San Salvador has not been particularly difficult or traumatic. I did not (or have not) experienced the initial exhilaration and subsequent homesickness and crises that we were warned about in orientation. In fact, after a good weep on my way to the airport, everything has been completely calm and unproblematic. The adjustment period did not happen for me, at least not overtly.

One of the strangest things I have experienced here has been related to the imposed Gringa status that follows me everywhere. Here it does not matter that I identify as Latin American. It really doesn't matter that I am not from the United States because everyone figures that I am. It does not matter that I speak perfect Spanish. None of that is relevant at all?I am a Gringa and that's that.

Yenny discussed piropos in her blog. Walking down the street, especially alone, is half-amusing, half-horrifying as staring, whistling, honking, screaming and kiss-noising happens IN EXCESS. Seriously. My base for comparison is Mexico City, which I have walked through numerous times in my life and I am getting to a point here where every time a man says ''Hola Chelita'' or ''Mamasita'' or ''Ven aca'' with that look in his eyes I want to answer SOMETHING, ANYTHING just to see what in the world might follow. It's a strange interaction because women don't answer. I see it every day, women, myself, walking down the street, the comments and nobody reacts. It's how it is. 

The moment I stepped into El Salvador I have had my guard up in a way that I cannot describe and I had never felt before.  I have adapted to this feeling. It isn't fear, exactly but it is definitely an effect of fear. I don't walk around terrified, or even slightly afraid every day but I walk around completely alert, in ways that I have never experienced anywhere else. I see everything, everyone. Or try to. Every morning we stuff our bras with extra money, if we need it. We carry the bare minimum. At night, we double lock the doors. We listen to friends stories that begin something like ''So I got robbed this weekend...'' and it doesn't make my heart sink into my stomach the way hearing about guns pressed into ribs and spines did a month ago.

Political discussion in unexpected places. Over the dinner table. Something that very rarely happens in Canada. We listen to stories about war, about bombs, soldiers. About Radio Venceremos, people huddling in kitchens listening to it barely audibly so not to attract attention. We watch the news. Since the coup, so much activity has been going on both in and out of the office. While sitting in on meeting/training session for a women's co-operative in a small community in a mountain I realized that these women, most of them with VERY VERY VERY little formal education are more informed, organized and politicized than most of the people I know back home, with degrees. How strange. How sad.


From Waheeda on Jul 20th, 2009

what did you cook?