31 July 2012

Lots of things!

Lots has happened since my last post. We met our maids last Friday and organized which days they were going to come. One of the perks of being here is having inexpensive help around the house, and our complejo residents pay much more than the ladies would be making elsewhere. Megan and I have Antonia on Tuesdays and Fridays, and we pay only $24 a week. She does laundry, cleans, and will even make food if we want. Next week I'm going to have her make that tamarindo drink I like so much. I'm so glad I'm able to speak with her and the vigilantes, etc. around here; it's come in really handy and saves us a lot of time.

The new elementary teachers and I are planning a trip to Perquín for the Agostinas coming up. I called the place we wanted to stay, and of course they had no one available who spoke English. I'm happy to report that I booked the whole thing, complications and all, in Spanish. I think this is a first for me. The weird thing down here is that you can't hold the room with a credit card; you have to go to their bank and make a deposit into an account. So, I took my first trip to Citibank the other day, which happens to also be our bank. It reminded me a lot of the DMV. I took a number and waited to be called, only to find out that the lady couldn't transfer money from my account to the other account. I had to go outside and around a corner to the ATM, take money out, and come back to deposit it inside the bank. What a pain! I definitely missed the conveniences of home that day.

We also took a trip to Ataco, stopping at a few places along the way. We ate at an amazing garden/restaurant for lunch, bought some stuff at artisan markets, and stopped by a gastronomical festival.

I don't remember which day, but we also took a trip to downtown San Salvador. It was quick, but interesting. Definitely a very different world from our school bubble over here in San Benito.

Today we went to La Libertad to the beach club that the school has a membership to. It was a nice, relaxing day. Megan and I plan to come back to the States super tan for winter break.

After we got back today, a few of us were feeling under the weather, so we took a field trip to the farmacia across the street from the complejo. I described everyone's symptoms and we walked away with medicine that would for sure need a prescription in the US. One of the things I really like about being abroad is the ability to walk into the pharmacy and get things like antibiotics with no problem. I remember in Spain I had a blister that got infected, and I just went to the pharmacy to get prescription-strength antibiotic ointment. It's incredible and such a time/money saver.

Tomorrow we're going to La Palma. I have no idea what we're doing, and no one else seems to know either. It will be a surprise!

26 July 2012

A Very Productive Day

Today was long. We started with breakfast an hour earlier than usual, then had a presentation about our salaries and taxes (we have to pay into the Salvadoran pension program). It's nice how much the school does to figure out the best way to get us tax-free income.

After that, we met with our department heads and got keys to our rooms! Very exciting. Our principal and vice principal took the four of us foreign elementary hires to lunch at El Circulo Deportivo Internacional, a country club type thing in our area. We all felt pretty classy, I think.

Then, we had to go back and deal with banking stuff, get our debit cards, and sign a bunch of forms. We had a brief Spanish/culture class then bussed to a home store called Divesa and got some stuff for the condo. After that, we went grocery shopping and got our cell phones! I'm happy to report that my unlocked iPhone now runs successfully on Tigo. Hooray!

The guy in the store quoted me prices of $.30 per minute for local calls, $.09 for a local text, $.15 for a text to a US cell, and $10 per GB of data. I don't know how quickly I'll use this up, but I got a pay-as-you-go plan, so I'll figure it out and report back.


25 July 2012

In which I use a lot of italics...

Today Megan and I got up and ran on the track (pictured) before breakfast. What a view!

 In the morning, we had a meeting with the director after breakfast, got our fingerprints scanned to get into the complex (we have a fingerprint scanner security system...it makes me feel like James Bond), and went shopping again. Megan and I unpacked our kitchen things, so the downstairs is looking much nicer. For dinner, over 20 of us went to a pupusería and had a great meal. I had two beers and two pupusas + curtido for $7, including tax and tip. Amazing. There was even live music!

A note about our living sitch - My school has us living in a complejo (complex) with only teachers. I'm really enjoying this perk of being here, especially since we only pay a small utility fee to stay. Megan and I live in a condo with our bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs, plus a patio, dining room, living room, and kitchen downstairs. There's a beautiful pool, not to mention maintenance workers to take care of anything we need. We'll meet our maids on Friday morning.

The complejo is guarded 24/7 by vigilantes and is in a really nice area of San Salvador. We don't ever lock our door. It's kind of giving us a false sense of security as far as walking around and exploring. When we go into the city this week, I imagine it'll be quite a bit different. No jewelry, no valuables, etc. Can't take the public transportation due to the risk of gang violence.

The other new elementary teachers and I (there are four of us) have been discussing renting a car to travel around during the Agostinas (August holidays) coming up. I got an international driving permit at AAA before I came, but apparently our US driver licenses work fine here. Someone on the welcoming committee told us that it's only about $25/day to rent a car. We're thinking of doing the Ruta de Café. We'll see where the week brings us!

Settling In

First of all, I am having the best time. The weather is awesome, San Salvador is awesome, and my school is AWESOME. I'm helping some of the new teachers with Spanish, and I feel important.

Today we woke up and had breakfast together at one of the condos, then we went to get our residency cards. This involved our passports, a $1.25 fee, waiting in line for a long time, and signing a paper. It was nice to have the Escuela Americana people there to guide us.

Then, we signed stuff to open our bank accounts (CitiBank), got our settling in allowance, and went shopping for some basics at Wal Mart (haha). Wal Mart here is weird - there are like people standing on every aisle trying to sell you things...? I don't get it. My roommate and I got stuff like clothes hampers, trash cans, hangers, a coffee maker, etc...stuff that the condo didn't come with. She had already bought a kitchen set from a departing teacher, so we are pretty set. I'm excited to go grocery shopping! Produce! Yes!

Tomorrow we are getting finger-printed for our complex, more shopping, meetings, etc. Meg and I are going to explore the track in the morning before breakfast. Hooray!

This is our condo!

24 July 2012


I have arrived in San Salvador! My housemate Megan and I are unpacking...we've already killed a roach.

We have a lime tree in the backyard. :)

Big day tomorrow - grocery shopping, bank stuff, etc. Looking forward to seeing San Salvador in the sunlight. 

01 July 2012

Cell Phone Stuff

Did some research into cell phones in El Salvador and decided that I'm too addicted to my smartphone to live without one (so pathetic, you have permission to roll your eyes at me). As Verizon phones don't have SIM cards to be switched in other countries and smartphones in ES are pretty expensive, I bought an old, unlocked iPhone 3G yesterday in hopes that I'll be able to purchase a SIM card and plan when I get to San Salvador. We'll see if it works! Otherwise I'll just have bought a really expensive iPod touch.

Verizon lets you suspend phone service for $15/month, as long as it's active for six months out of the year. Guess I'll suspend it Aug-Nov this year so I can have a US cell when I come back for the winter holidays. 

T-minus 22 days until departure!