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I Learn that "I Can" in Spanish

Once I returned from my trip to Guatemala, it was time to start writing a four-page budget proposal for my field trip to Semane. It was a grant request for $1,200 from USAID in Spanish. It took me two whole days to write, and put my brain to good use. I felt exhilarated at the end of writing it, because I realized that I could speak and write Spanish well! Then, I walked down the two-hour road to Camasca arriving at the Recursos Naturales office. The secretary helped me by typing the proposal on their office typewriter. She was the only woman employee and the secretary, which explained why my counterparts didn't take me seriously. They apparently didn't want to work on an equal footing with a woman. The next day, I took the proposal the six hours to Teguc, and got it approved at the Peace Corps office.

That night I ate dinner at Wendy's fast food restaurant and got violent food poisoning while staying overnight in Teguc, the capital. I returned to La Esperanza the next, and stayed with my new American ex patriot friend J for two days. We went on a walk up to the top of the hill above town, looking out over it. We talked about the past, present, and future. I was already feeling like I had one foot back in the US, since I would be leaving in about five months. It was a strange time, and I was grateful for a slightly older American friend, who could listen to my mixed feelings about life.

J lived with another woman named S. They were trying to form an orphanage, but it wasn't work out, because they didn't really get along. Also, they really had no plan or way to organize, and few Spanish language skills. J was a free spirit, but S was more rigid. They quickly learned that living and working together wouldn't be a positive situation for either of them. J was just realizing this, when I visited her.

When I got back to Concepcion, it was time to get ready for an exciting event. Six months before, I had told an American medical brigade that I was available to interpret for them when needed in the future. Suddenly, they were back, and they sent me a telegram to meet them in Magdalena, about three hours east down the road towards the El Salvadorian border. I left that Monday to interpret for a week. They gave me free room and board in exchange for full days interpreting for the local citizens and doctors. It was quite exciting, as I learned that I could really function quite well as a Spanish interpreter. There were a few of us along, but I was the only Peace Corps Volunteer one who wasn't part of the group. The leader asked me to interpret for another brigade expenses paid, but my work was getting much more busy, and I told him that I couldn't. I did feel gratified for the request, though.

Each day, we would see men, women and children with health issues. Most were dehydrated, or had headaches, and colds; but sometimes there would be a case of something unusual. One time, the doctor that was examining a young man called over all the others, and they hemmed and hawed over what he might have. Unfortunately, there was no hospital, doctor, or long term solution for him. The whole thing was rather sad and depressing. We also saw a mother with a malnourished toddler who had a harelip. Now, they actually have a clinic in my site of Concepcion and also Camasca through an organization called Shoulder to Shoulder, but then, they just had nurses. In the country, there was no way to really help the worst cases.

One day, the American doctors had a chance to go and buy some local artwork from the people of Magdalena. They were selling mahogany carvings, hammocks and pottery. The mahogany was very intricate and beautifully crafted. I was surprised though that a doctor paid 60 Limpera for a lasso hammock. Being a local resident, I told him he could have gotten it for a better price, but he was content to pay them more.

On the last night, there was a meeting where we were introduced in the main square. I spoke in front of the group, and did my best. By that time, I was a bit tired so my words didn't come out perfectly. After the meeting, a young man stayed longer to talk to me, because he had taught himself English. Of course, I wasn't the only one who spoke English, but he wanted to speak to me only. He took my address and wrote to me once. I decided that I wouldn't write back, because I really didn't need any more attention from these guys.

I worked in Magdalena until Tuesday, and then left that evening in a vehicle that dropped me off at 1:00 am on Wednesday. That same morning on April 27th, I awakened at 6am for my field trip to Semane! Yes, this was the day! My two counterparts from Recursos Naturales came by half an hour late at 7am, and picked up the people from Guachipilincito, San Miguelillo, and me. There were five of us. Then, we collected the rest of the people from Plan Verde. Altogether, thirteen of my farmers went along with my two counterparts from Camasca, the volunteer from Semane, and myself.

We met K who was the volunteer in Yamaranguila, about an hour and a half west up the road. Since we were behind schedule, she'd been waiting for us. The first thing we did was drink coffee, and eat bread that was made of the nitrogen fixing soybean, that I'd been selling to everybody in my groups. People were impressed with how good it tasted.

Then, we learned how to make a compost pile from a local farmer. Everyone participated, and they constructed a good-sized pile. After this, we went over to Don G's farm. He was the first farmer in the area to convert his whole farm into labranza minima-leveled and picked land. Proudly, he showed us his four acre, legendary field and demonstrated how to incorporate cattle manure into labranza minima. Then, we had a typical lunch served by the local women. It was very good, although I didn't eat much, since I was so tired and nervous.

Later, we visited another man's tomato plot, and listened to him lecture about the "Human Farm". He talked about how important it was to share new information with others, and help one another learn as much soil conservation as possible. Everyone came out of the lecture feeling optimistic, and as if they wanted to tell the world about what they had seen and learned! I got a lot more farmers to work with me after this. It was a long day, and we finally got home at 7:15 pm, after dropping off the Plan Verde crew. There was no electricity that night, and I went to bed right away. I was satisfied, but dead tired! What a week it had been! Those were some of the best memories!

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