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Archive for March, 2006

When we were in Ko Pangan (island off the eastern coast of southern Thailand) we stayed at this quaint little “resort” on the beach (see door to the left with two blue chairs). I remember waking up one morning and thinking while I stared at the cracked ceiling, “Oh gosh. We could be living in a house like this for 2 years….”. I can’t say what I was feeling at the moment, but I had already had my share of insect bites, stomach ailements and cold showers, so the feeling wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

Back on the mainland, we stayed in a bungalow that was up a bit of a hike on a mountain side. We liked it there and both agreed it’d be “interesting” to live in a nice little place like this for two years–complete with cold bucket baths, a mosquito net, chickens outside and heaps of bloodthirsty mosquitos. The “terrace” was quite nice. And had we stayed there longer we’d have gotten a hammock. It had a western toilet, but you couldn’t flush toilet paper down it and you had to pour buckets of water down it for the “flushing action” to occur. Ah, so much better than squat toilets.

Both the night of sleep in our soft bed after having arrived back in Melbourne and the hot shower I took the next morning, which probably used up the daily water supply for a large family in rural Thailand, were the best I’d had in two months.

Who would have that that I’d be craving a hot shower more than a proper slice of vegetarian pizza someday?

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Having recently been invited and just one day under two months left before we depart our lovely Australia, Will and I have started crunching in the hours in Spanish. I want Will to get into the highest Spanish group that he can during traning–so does he–so I have started tutoring him twice a week in Spanish.

It pays to have a partner who is a native speaker of the very language you need to learn and not have to pay a single dime because they are more than willing to work with you–that’s me. I’ve been tutoring English and Spanish for some time now and kind of have the drill down. I think we had a good day. We started out with a short article about the most famous archbishop in El Salvador who was assasinated during El Salvador’s civil war and then briefly discussed a few of the key points. The session started out quite seriously because we’ve never actually had a formal tutoring session together, but by the time we got to the end and were using imperfect and preterate verb forms to talk about why Thanksgiving is his favourite holiday and what exactly he was doing when it struck 12 this pas new year, we were having good time.

When I started uni I knew almost nothing about Spanish grammar but after having helped Will with an assignment here and there and taking Spanish classes with near beginners and intermediate students because I had no other choice, I’ve learnt heaps.

Huh. I actually quite like grammar.

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Guess what came in the post today via in the infamous Deutsche Post. My dental file! The thing I’ve been waiting for for the past 6 weeks! I was just about to head over to the dentist to reschedule my appointment for next week. I figured by then I’d have received the “special” form from the medical screening office, which was meant to allow me to be reimbursed for having to replace my panoramic and bitewing x-rays. Instead, I showed up at the dentist and said to not cancel my appointment and that I had my x-rays.

Turns out I’ll need more than Peace Corps asked because the dentist in Thailand “overlooked” something. Darn. I hate dentists and I hate novacaine. I’ve only just now regained full feeling of the left side of my face.

When you get invited to your assignment, Peace Corps sends you a package that contains a CD with information about the country you’re going to. I ran into Will on the way back to the dentist and he was on his way to the copy place to print and bind the huge PDF file on the CD. It’s much easier to read it on paper than having to sit in front of your computer for hours–I do that anyways, but it was nice to read it on paper.

Things we learnt:

  1. Apparently eating vegetables is a huge process because they must be properly cleaned to get rid of any microbes you don’t want to be eating. You have to wash your vegetables in soapy water or soak them in water treated with clorox or iodine tablets. Water isn’t drinkable in El Salvador and washing your edibles with contaminated water defeats the purpose of cleaning them in the first place.
  2. Magazine subsriptions must be sent to the main Peace Corps office because they need to be delivered to a street address. Depending on how often we are able to get to the Peace Corps office, we will always have a bundle of magazines to pick up.
  3. Volunteers get free copies of Newsweek, which are available for pickup at the main Peace Corps office.
  4. After you’ve completed training and are ready to move into your own accomodation, be it with a host family or alone, you recieve a moving-in allowance. Couples are counted as individuals, so we basically get two moving in allowances. Plus!
  5. When packing, they recommend you pack most of your clothes ins one bag and enough for four days to be used upon arrival in El Salvador. I read somewhere that you stay in a hotel for a few days before moving in with your host family.

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I happened upon a website today for an online Salvadorean chain supermarket where you can purchase your groceries online for store pickup or home delivery–very modern. Of course I looked around for prices of some favourites and random items. The American dollar is the currency used there, so no conversion was needed:

Cosmopolitan Magazine in Spanish $2.95 (even though I don’t read it anymore)
12 pk of toilet paper $3.05
Large frozen pizza: $4.18
l LB of fresh cheese (queso fresco) $2.34
Dove stick deodorant $2.55
750 ml of olive oil $5.25
1 LB of granola $1.84
5 oz of Badia Complete Seasoning (a must in my cooking) $0.11
750ml of red wine $2
750ml Smirnoff vodka $5

This supermarket is, of course, where I won’t be shopping as a Peace Corps volunteer, but it was interesting to check it out. The $2 may not be of high quality, but it’ll do for sangria and tinto de verano–two of my favourite drinks from Spain.

One thing about having cooking as a hobby is being able to come up with ways to make do with the same (local) ingredients and end up eating something different each night. I know those 3 months living with a host family will not provide us with a varied diet. From what I know, most meals will consist of beans, rice, eggs, cheese and tortillas. I can think of a dozen ways to cook those ingredients. Definately more than a dozen if I include ingredients that are available to everyone nation-wide.

I think I might just come up with a mini cook book and call it Adventures in Salvadorian Cooking: The New Side of Vegetarian Cuisine.

Now that’s something I can put on my resume 🙂



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Triumph!

Well, my dental clearance fiasco has been solved!

After weeks (6 weeks to be exact) of not getting anywhere with nice phone calls and emails, I wrote one very stern email to a dental assistant and left one very stern message at the head dentist’s extention and got what I wanted–permission to receive reimbursement for having to replace my x-rays that were lost in the post.

Going to any medical facility when one does not posess adequate insurance because one simply can’t afford it is nervewrecking. International students are required by law to have medical insurance, but dental insurance is only for those who have parents lucky enough to supply or those who earn enough from their part-time job to pay for day-to-day living expenses AND dental insurance. We fall into neither category–so having to replace those x-rays was a big deal to me. Instead of running to my father for financial assistance I put my foot down and for once in my life, demanded that something be done about the situation.

I’m not very demanding and two years ago I would have just let this slide and paid for the replacement x-rays one way or another without questioning the situation.

Well, I’ve had my first triumph as a young adult! I find it hard to be taken seriously at times, even with all of the wisdom and knowlege I have at 24 years of age. However, today was not one of those days.

El Salvador, here we come!

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I thought after getting invited, the paperwork was over. Quite the opposite! There are so many things that have to get taken care within the next two months and I don’t understand half of it.

1. No-fee Passport application: complicated because we must apply from overseas, that complicates things always 🙂

2. Student Loan Deferment and Consolidation: I really don’t understand how this works. If you are deferrring your loans because of “finacial hardship”–which the Peace Corps will surely be– why on earth would they ask to you pay interest? You can’t apply for deferment until your grace period has ended, but if you want to consolidate your loans you have to request early repayment. But if your loans are consolidated, you still have to pay interest on some loans and not others. This is one of those times when I wish I could just hand everything over to my dear father and have him figure it out. I really don’t want to have to pay interest while I’m in Peace Corps…

3. Personal Items Insurance: This could come in handy. Again, more paperwork because it’s through a private company.

4. Aspiration Statement & Updated resume: The aspiration statement simply requires that you write about your expectation of your Peace Corps service, your strategies for adapting to a new culture (easy one!) and your personal and professional goals. The resume is a resume, I haven’t done much between the time I submitted it with my application last year and now. Except for continue on with grad school, take up Spanish tutoring and travel around southeastern Asia. Not much at all…

5. Flight reservations to orientation…this only requires a phone call and waking up really early or staying up quite late.

The adventure never ends…

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1. As much as I hate that silly clock in the shopping centre next door that plays that stupid song, I think I just might miss hating it.

2. The sound of the trams going by outside.

3. The dumpling place where I order the same thing every single time and it tastes as great as it did the very first time.

4. Living next to the biggest shopping centre in Melbourne–it’s quite handy.

5. Veggie Bar–my favourite vegetarian restaurtant that’s so trendy and hip you’d never notice it was a vegetarian restaurant.

6. How clean the air is.

7. Avocado hand rolls from the sushi shops.

8. A perfectly toasted crumpet with vegan butter.

9. A nice cool bottle of Strongbow from Safeway Liquors. Yum.

10. Pumpkin all year round.

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