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Archive for April, 2006

We had friends over for dinner last night for some Latin American food: pupusas, arroz con “pollo”, guacamole, refried beans and pico de gallo. I must be the only one in my family who eats food from 3 or 4 different Latin American countries in one meal. Having been vegetarian for 6 years now it’s been ages since I’ve had arroz con pollo and since I’ve never been to El Salvador, I’ve never eaten a pupusa. (The arroz con pollo was made with mock chicken)

Back in November there was a Hispanic Festival in the city and I found a shop where I could buy masa lista (cornmeal flour) for making tortillas, arepas and other cornmeal based things. With just under a month to to here and 2 kilos worth of masa lista I figured I should get cooking!

The pupusa is similar to the venezuelan arepa (see second photo for a look at an arepa), so making them wasn’t terribly difficult. Apparenty they eat pupusas all the time in El Salvador and they even have pupuserias, which are shops or stands dedicated to selling pupusas. It’s basically a round pancake type deal filled with beans, cheese or anything else. Yum.

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I got something in the mail yesterday from Peace Corps, it turned out to be from the department that deals with the medical and dental reimbursements. I followed directions to a “T”: I filled out the form, included a letter explaining why the itemized reciepts were in Thai currency, included the current exchange rate according to XE.com and put the amount we were owed in US dollars . I made photocopies of the form, the letter and the reciepts and sent off the originals in hopes that some day this year we’d recieve two check for $30 each.

Instead, I recieve an envelope that included the following:
1. A small letter requesting missing information, which happened to be the itemized reciepts of the fees charged to the patient (us)
2. The original reimbursement form I had signed with a small rip in the middle of it

I let out a big sigh and went to go look for the copies I’d made to make sure I didn’t accidentaly keep the originals and send the copies. Nope, I had the copies and the originals were no where to be found and I knew I wouldn’t find them either (because I sent them to Peace Corps) I know they lost the reciepts, as well as the letter I attached because I taped them together–tape is more difficult to remove than a paper clip and I didn’t have a stapler.

This is not the first time this has happend. The same thing occured with our lab reports. I know for a fact that we included our lab reports in the medical clearance package because we had copies of it and checked it at least 3 times before sending it off.

I know people make mistakes, but losing important documents that are time sensitive –everything you send Peace Corps is time sensitive, we’re all working to meet a deadline– is really irresponsible. You think that because you don’t have to see people face to face it and work for the “system” that it makes you less accountable for your mistakes–news flash people, that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

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The event that has been marked on our calendars as the thing tha would suddenly send time into crunch-time mode has finally come and gone: Will’s family coming to visit

Back at the end of last semester we would say to eachother, “You know, as soon as your/my parents come in April, time is just going to fly by and before you know it we’ll be gone”.

Well, April is here, we went up to the Yarra Valley for a wine tour and then up the Queensland to check out the Great Barrier Reef and now it is Monday, April 23–just around the corner from May.

With just a bit over a month left here, we are going to have to start doing some actual prepwork. The most important things:

  1. Finding a home for Sophia –our cheeky little pet mouse
  2. Selling stuff like our DVD player, futon, etc.
  3. Our thesis!
  4. Doing something with our friends every week without fail

So far I have found 2 other people who will be in our El Salvador group, both girls. There must be others somewhere in America. They should get online and find the Yahoo group. Everytime I do a search for blogs, this one comes up in 75% of the results! Hmmm.

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Melbourne is a fairly residential city and home to many residential buidings as well as commercial buildings. It is now home to the tallest residential building in the world, Eureka Tower. Take that, New York! We live in the heart of the CBD (central business district) on the main street–Swanston street. I have to admit city living is great, if you have a city budget. Our apartment complex is right next to Melbourne Central, -the biggest shopping centre inside the city with 5 levels – across the street from the State Library -where we were photographed to appear on the libary’s promotional brochure-, the tram drops you off in front of our building and there is a major train station stop next door on the ground floor of Melbourne Central that takes us straight to our university in the ‘burbs of dreary Clayton. Life is so easy and modern here. We will miss it dearly.

The top photo is what our street looks like on any given day, save for when the Commonwealth Games (the Olympics, but for Commonwealth countries like Canada and Sierra Leon) were on. The city turned into New York for a while. The second photo was taken from a website kept by a Municipal Development worker in El Salvador. It depicts her street, her neighbourhood. Whenever I imagine what our new neighbourhood will look like I think of this photo. Whenever I have days where I just want to disappear and go somewhere for a bit, I’ll think of Swanston street.

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And Counting.


6 weeks or 43 days until we leave our comfy home in Melbourne: This also means I have 6 weeks to finish my thesis project and hand in the best translation I’ve ever done. Same goes for Will, except by the end of 6 weeks he’ll be an expert about what we’re meant to be doing in El Salvador–he’s doing his thesis on capacity building in El Salvaor.

7 weeks or 52 days until we leaving for staging in Washington DC: I’m looking forwards to staging. We won’t know anyone and neither does anyone else, so everyone is anxious to get to know eachother and become PC “besties”. Our group is probably quite small, I’m doubting whether there will be another couple.

7.5 weeks or 55 days until we become official residents of El Salvador:
Pupusas, frijoles y arroz. Yum. And once again, we move on to start a new life. A new house. New friends. New job. New life. We get to live billingual lives again. And gain 50 kilos eating pupusas. Heaps to look forwards to.

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Passport? Check!

We finally got those passports sent out. I think I mentioned before that Will’s DS-11 application was held hostage at the consulate for a few days until they were able to contact PC headquarters to figure out exactly what they were meant to do with the form. I was turned away due to inappropriate passport photos–no hair coverings allowed unless it’s for religious purposes!

Remember – should anyone who reads this blog find themselves in our place – not to follow the instructions that PC sends you with your invitation package if you reside overseas.

  1. Fill in the paper application, but don’t sign it!
  2. Have 2 passport photos
  3. Bring your current passport along with a driver’s license or birth certificate and $30
  4. Have a passport official at the consulate witness your signature
  5. Leave your application with the consulate and they will process it themselves–according to the head consulate lady there.

On a more cheerful note, I did a test packing of the clothing I would ideally like to take with me and miraculously it all fits into my hiking pack and I made a rather sleek video about our travels through Thailand and Cambodia with my iBook on Final Cut Express. I have many plans for making short films on various subjects during my time in El Salvador–my Visual Arts degree is coming in handy for once–one of which will be a documentary on the Peace Corps experience from start to finish (applying, packing, orientation, training, etc).

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So You Want to Join the Peace Corps by Dillon Banerjee is an ok book for US$12.95, however since I had it shipped here from America, it was slightly more expensive and it took 6 weeks to get here. I must admit that by the time the book actually arrived, I had already done enough research on the internet through Yahoo groups and the Peace Corps website, that there was very little new information in the book. I read it anyway because I figured I should after waiting for 6 weeks.

The book follows a Q & A format and is helpful if you have absolutely zero access to the internet and can’t be bothered to type “Peace Corps” in a Google search. I’m sure the book was heaps helpful when it was published in April 2000, as I had just gotten my first email address ever that year and internet was still kind of new and expensive–it came in packages of hours and unlimited use was only for the rich and the famous. I lived in Costa Rica at the time.

Would I recomend this book? Yes and no. Yes because it does contain heaps of useful information for anyone interested in Peace Corps, but if you have access to internet, save your US$12.95 and spend a few hours doing research on your own.

The Peace Corps 2 Yahoo group is a great online resource to begin with and it’s free.

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