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Photo by Ben Hasse
El Salvador's version
of the ol' swimmin' hole provided a much needed break from training
for American Peace Corps volunteers.
Editors Note: Ben Hasse was named outstanding male student
at Purdue prior to graduating in May with degrees in forestry and Spanish.
Hasse is putting his forestry and Spanish degrees to work in El Salvador
as a Peace Corps volunteer. He also volunteered to write about his experiences
for Connections readers. Connections Editor
From: Ben Hasse
Organization: Peace Corps
Date: November 2001
I´ve been here a little over two weeks now, and all
goes well. I´m living with a couple in their 50s (I think) named
Josefa and Elías. They are wonderful people, with four children
in the United States and one here in Santa Clara, a village of about
600 people about 30 kilometers east of San Salvador.
I have my own room at their house, so it is pretty posh.
There is no running water or flush toilet, but we have electricity.
In all honesty, it is very comfortable, and Josefa is a very good cook!
The food here is much better than in Honduras.
If you ever have a chance to try a pupusa, the Salvadoran
food, try it. It's basically a thick corn tortilla filled with beans
or cheese or pork, etc. It's eaten with tomato sauce and what's basically
hyped up sauerkraut!!!!
I'm just finishing up the second week of Peace Corps
training. The 27 volunteers in my group have nine weeks to go. We have
class from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. We don't have much free time,
but I have managed to keep up with my e-mails, swim, play hacky sack
and hang out with the locals as much as possible.
The people here are pretty friendly. I've had few basic
communication problems ... I've got a lot of local slang to learn.
Next week we'll be going out to stay at a volunteer site
for four days doing fieldwork and seeing what the Peace Corps is really
Training consists of Spanish, cultural and technical
education. There are really only two of us in the group with a forestry
background, a few with agriculture or agronomy backgrounds, some with
biology/environmental science, and a good number of history, social
work, or other degrees. I'm surprised there aren't a few more people
with forestry/agriculture degrees.
The 27 volunteers have been split into eight groups by
language ability. I'm in the highest group, but the other two people
in that group, Casey Miller and Rebecca Wheeler, definitely speak Spanish
better than I do.
We three live in Santa Clara. The other groups live in
other villages around San Vicente.
I was surprised by the uniformity of our Peace Corps
group. We are all middle or upper class white kids between the ages
of 21 and 27. Not much diversity in any respect compared to the U.S.
as a whole. I guess I expected this for the majority, but not the totality!
So, apparently the non-traditional volunteers, or minorities, just didn't
get sent to El Salvador. In any case, it's a great group.