I assume many of you have given up on reading this by now, as my updates have become much more sporadic. I assure you that I have the best of intentions, but that just does not always result in action. So this is for those of you hanging in there and still reading. Thanks for sticking with it and continuing to remember me down here! Actually, the two month mark has passed and my days are officially numbered in San Luis. There will be a lot to report in my final eight weeks, but I can already foresee that time flying by.
Many changes have come about since my last post (nearly a month ago), so I will try to catch you up quickly. I now have two new savings accounts, one for the waste management project and one for the soccer field project. Unfortunately, both are currently empty, but just opening them ended up being a task itself. You may be remembering me saying I had the check for the waste management project; we deposited it last week and they need three weeks to cash it as it came in the form of a US bank note. So we are waiting one more week on that one, but the project plans are set to begin spending immediately. As for the soccer field, everything seems to be set and everyone on board except for the Ministry of Education. I too wonder, why are they even involved here? However, their people are supposed to come to talk with our people this week to work something out. My great hope is that will remove the final obstacle to $10,000 being transferred to my bank account, but I have learned here in El Salvador to prepare to face frustration especially when dealing with government institutions and money (whether they will see a penny of it or not).
Speaking of the embassy and soccer, though…last Tuesday we hosted the big soccer clinic with the professionals here in town. Cindy and Jeff (the players) lead the kids in several soccer activities and then sat down to talk about their experiences and the influence soccer has had on their lives. They ended with a snack and by handing out signed diplomas. Afterward, we (Peace Corps), the embassy group and the players went to lunch. I got a chance to hold Cindy’s gold medal from the Athens Olympics, which was a highlight of the day. The kids really enjoyed themselves and are excited to have the players’ signatures as a memory of the event.
The other big news around town is Maggie, the new volunteer who arrived on May 9. She is living with the mayor’s parents, staying in the same room I lived in for my first year here, and seems to be settling in fine so far. I am trying to maintain a balance of introducing her to the town and some projects, but not being on top of her. It’s a hard task to accomplish in a town as small as San Luis. We are together mostly during the day, but for meals and in the afternoons I leave her to do her own thing. In our roles as volunteers it is important to do much of the cultural adaptation and immersion stuff on your own, and I do not want to be thought of as the second Whitney (for her own sanity in the next two years), so I am keeping my distance. So far it is working out pretty well.
I spent last week at the Close of Service conference. It was basically three days at the beach (though we rarely saw the outside of the meeting room) in which it was explained all that I need to do as a volunteer to end my service and go back home. There are various forms and reports to turn in; interviews and doctor’s appointments to schedule; money matters to clarify; packing and getting rid of the stuff that I will not be packing; and saying goodbye to my town, among other things, to take care of. It will be no small feat, which is why I commented that I should have plenty to report on in my final two months, but I think I can handle it on time.
The final news is on the visa front. Things seems to be moving along, and I can only hope they continue to progress at this rate. We received word that our petition for the fiancé visa was approved by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services on April 23. From there it was forwarded cross-country to the National Visa Center for further processing. On May 10, we received a notice that our case package would be received by the US Embassy in San Salvador for following week (last week), and we should expect to be notified of how to further proceed in the visa application process and to schedule an interview after that date. So as we are waiting for some mail from the embassy (which I hope to have next week or the following), we are gathering the forms and information we will need to present at Ismael’s interview. This week we are heading downtown to get his passport. He put in his notice to quit work two weeks ago, and he will be finished at the factory after the first week of June. His work schedule is so overbearing that we decided in order to most efficiently handle all of the running around we are facing to get the necessary documentation, his medical exams and the interview, it would be best for him to be here. This way he can create his own work schedule, help his bother with the farm, and have a chance to spend some time with his friends and family before we take off. I probably won’t mind having him around either J.
Finally, mentioning Ismael, his birthday was this past Thursday (May 15). He was working the night shift and I was at my conference, but I made sure to call first thing in the morning and have the whole Peace Corps group sing him Happy Birthday, which he thought was hilarious. He really did not want to celebrate, so no cake or gifts this year; I promised him that he would not get away so light next year, though.