Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Not-so-good Recent Happenings in El Salvador

Yesterday saw the declaration of another Alerta Naranja -- an Orange Alert for possible landslides as a result of the recent rain. It is worrisome, because we are only two months into the rainy season, which is supposed to last through October. The heavy rains do not affect Geoff and me, fortunately, because we live in well-insulated concrete areas of the capital city. But, everywhere else, things are awful when it rains. Most Salvadoreans live in huts built with mud walls, at the foot of deforested hills. :( In this most recent bout of rain, the restaurant that Ali's boyfriend helps to run down by the beach had collapsed. Its original base of rocks, sand, and silt had been entirely washed away by the river, and before his family can rebuild the restaurant, they will need to first fill the base with rocks and concrete...

In other news, while I was still in China, I read a news article about a bus that was set aflame by gangsters in El Salvador. 16 people were trapped inside that bus and burned to death. It's deeply horrifying and sad. --Will justice be served? I hope so, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Some suspects have been arrested*, but the prison/judicial system here is so lousy that there is really no guarantee what fate they will receive.

*By the way, Geoff heard that the reason why cops wear masks when they make arrests in El Salvador is so that they cannot become the target of a counterattack of vengeance. I don't know if this explanation is true, but you can see in the pictures from XinHua that they are indeed wearing the famed masks.

...Maybe some day, the conditions in El Salvador will improve. Sadly, if that day does ever arrive, it will take a really, really long time. In the meanwhile, the disparity between the have's and the have-not's is heart-rending, and the plight of the poor continues unabated.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Next steps

Geoff and I are quickly approaching the end of our fourth year of being together! :) September 2010 will be that next milestone. I could not have imagined, even a year ago, where we would be right now with our relationship. Moving together abroad was an excellent decision, because we had to learn tolerance, communication, and compromise in order to live together and to be able to rely on each other day in and day out. I still love Geoff for all the same reasons as before -- his goodness, his love of adventure, his career ambitions -- but I have also learned to appreciate his relentless patience and protective love.

So, what's next??

(Since I know this is on all of your minds, all three of you that read this blog...) We do want to get married and to start a family, EVENTUALLY! We're just not in a big hurry to do it yet. I also want to go back to school to get my PhD, not for the name of the degree, but because I really want to someday help math teachers to be better at their craft. Thus, Geoff and I looked at our timeline for the next five to ten years, and decided that if we still wanted to live somewhere else (ie. Europe), we would have to do it relatively soon, before our lovely future arrives and we are slammed with raising a family and possibly my going back to school all at once!*

*And yes, I'm well-aware of how impossible/crazy that sounds to try to play both roles at once. But Geoff and I have discussed it and are hopeful that we will find a way for it to work, somehow. Even if I have to be the oldest PhD student ever and/or Geoff has to be a part-time stay-at-home dad! haha

So, our gears are turning. Stay tuned... (Don't get all over-excited though. Remember the last time we had decided to move abroad, it had taken us close to two years to get everything in order!)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

LA and Shanghai

I just arrived back in San Salvador after a two-week whirlwind trip to Los Angeles and Shanghai. Honestly, I had been a bit antsy to get back, because I don't like to be on the road constantly, but I was ridiculously sad to say goodbye to my parents in Shanghai nonetheless. The older they get, the more heavy-hearted I feel when I leave them after each visit. (My mom especially misses me when I'm gone...) Unfortunately, for financial reasons, I see my parents at most once a year. ...Maybe some day things would change and I would live at a closer proximity to my parents, but until that happens, visits home are almost as difficult as not being at home, because my mom counts the days until I would have to leave again. :(


Anyway, en route to China, I was able to see and quickly catch up with some high school friends (Cat, Helen, Danna, and Jenny) and to visit my sister, my cousins, and my grandma in Los Angeles! My short stay in LA was busy and fabulous. Since I only go back to LA once every couple of years, it was so good to hear how everyone's life is moving and changing ever-so-rapidly. I miss my California girls and my sister already... Seeing them and missing them made me reflect that we each pay a steep price for our wanderlust -- or any other life that we choose to live.

In Shanghai, I went with my parents to briefly check out the Expo 2010 (aka. World's Fair), for which the entire city of Shanghai had been transformed in preparation. But I also spent a good deal of time home with my parents, besides going out with my parents to eat and to go to the hospital. (--Long story, but I am on a two-month herbal medicine regimen until my "moisture diminishes", my "heat lowers", and the root cause of my recurrent infection is cured. It was actually my idea to try herbal medicine this time, because I had been sick for well over a month with a common recurrent infection, and Western antibiotics seemed to be of little help. I figured I've got nothing to lose in trying the alternative. Although, I had to ask my mom to sit and wait outside during my examination/consultation, and that was pretty awkward... But, really, I think it was definitely the lesser evil of the two possible awkward situations; she didn't even expect me to say that I am on birth-control pills, despite knowing that I'm 28 and that Geoff and I obviously live together!) At home, my parents and I watched a lot of TV, talked a lot, and I learned a lot about the history and attitudes of the mainland Chinese people. Consequently, I felt more connected with Shanghai than I had felt during my previous visit...

I also took some time in Shanghai to check out its swing scene! This was my second try at swing-dancing in Shanghai, because Geoff and I had gone two years ago to the only small bar that had hosted a weekly swing dance. This time around, the venues have changed and there were definitely more dancers. In fact, I got to meet various cool international folks who are currently living and working in Shanghai; they helped me to appreciate Shanghai as an increasingly international -- and metropolitan -- community. I had super fun dancing, and (even though I got a little out of breath) I was surprised to feel how quickly I was falling back into the rhythm of the music.

Now I am home! :) Am ready for some serious downtime before we head out again (to Peru, in mid-July). How funny is it that we always want to get away, and then as soon as we do, we start to miss home?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Graduation and Goodbyes

The past weekend was beautifully slow. I had to attend the Upper School graduation for a few hours on Saturday morning, but it was nice to see all the teachers dressed up at the same time. The graduating senior class of ~100 kids is impressively heading off towards different parts of the world (a perk when your parents can afford to send you to Italy, France, or Spain for college), and it reminded me of how bright-eyed and bushy-tailed I was as a high-school senior, prepared to take on the world...

(I am still taking on the world now, a bit at a time.)


After graduation, some of us headed down to Atami for a nice day trip. We dipped in the pools, read in the hammocks, and drank a few buckets of beers before heading back to the city. It was every bit the time-away-from-the-city that we needed, and the sunny weather was a merciful break from the torrential downpour that we had been having!

On Sunday, Geoff's and my electricity was out -- AGAIN. We actually have ceased to be shocked by this, but it is somewhat annoying nonetheless. Geoff played his guitar and I read and slept in the hammock to pass the time, and it ended up being a super relaxing day away from the daily hustle and bustle. Since our stove is hooked up to a gas tank, we were still able to whip up a pretty yummy chicken dish to bring to the goodbye party held for all the international teachers who are leaving. In the end, the weather was beautiful and we sat by the Complejo pool and enjoyed each other's company while bathing in the warm glow of the sunset.

All in all, it was an utterly beautiful end to a beautiful year. :) I'm heading off very soon (in a few days!!) to visiting family scattered in different parts of the world, so I probably won't be updating much until after my return (towards the end of June). Take care, loverlies!