I have spent just over two weeks here at my new home in Caluco. Caluco is a sleepy little town of 600 people, with a total of 8300 in the municipality. So most people live in the hills above Caluco, with beautiful views, sometimes of the sea on a clear day.
So far I feel very blessed to have been placed here. The people are generally very nice and welcoming to me, although I am sure many of them are curious to why I am here and what I am doing. It is quite a strange thing to have someone come from a great life in the US to live in a tiny town in El Salvador for two years, as most people here are trying to move to the US. People are generally astonished when I tell them how long I will be living here, and quite honestly, I am too at times!
My daily life is pretty relaxed. Mondays through Fridays I go to the local city hall in the morning, and spend the majority of my day there, drinking coffee, going to meetings, and sometimes going for rides up to the rural towns to meet with people there. I have not begun any large projects yet, as the first three months my main job is to get to know people, the area, and build trust. Oh yeah, and learn Spanish! However, some projects are in the works already, and I am starting to carve out a little role for myself. I think I volunteered to organize the Gender Assembly here in Caluco, which is a project funded by numerous Salvaldoran gender-equity organizations, and also from a NGO in Spain. Caluco was selected to be part of a country-wide project to start women´s committees in the rural towns, orchestrated by the city hall, to increase equity and citizen participation. This means that numerous classes about gender issues will be given, along with providing important educational classes to the women´s committees, so that they may be more empowered and be better equipped to take care of themselves and there families.
I have met numerous people from the NGOs here in Caluco (there are many here helping out, as Caluco is the 5th poorest municipality in all of El Salvador) and it is exciting to be around so many motivated people!
I live in a nice little house with an older woman and her brother. During the week, their niece and nephew stay at the house, since they have to travel far to go to their high school and arrive at home late. They are very nice to me, and I think being called by anything else than Senorita Kelsey would be strange! I have my own room to myself and close access to a bathroom, which is quite nice (especially in those moments when a pupusa is not sitting well...). In a while I will move to a different room across the courtyard, so I can be on my own, although I have considerable privacy as it is right now. They are both very relaxed. The woman especially loves teaching me new slang terms and giggles incessantly when I make a silly mistake, like saying "good morning" instead of "good afternoon." They have two dogs, a wiener dog named Tiffy and a cocker spanial named Pooky, along with three cats, two toucans, and supposedly a tortoise that lives in the garden. Both are semi-retired, although the woman runs a tiny little restaurant, so during meals I have the opportunity to chat with the local police, students, and who ever else wanders in. Also, the guy is building an addition onto the house, where he will start selling food, candy, phone cards, and the like.
Now that I am getting settled in, I will update more frequently. But all is well, I am loving it here, although missing you all at the same time. I greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers, and know that you are in mine as well!