Friday, November 26, 2010

Back to earth

The last two weeks in El Salvador were beautiful. We spent the weekend at Lake Coatepeque with a few friends. The lake is gorgeous and we had perfect weather. It was a nice way to spend the last weekend in El Salavdor for a while.

I returned to Tennessee this week to be the "caregiver" for my mom as she undergoes a stem cell transplant (used to be called a bone marrow transplant) to hopefully cure her MDS. She'll start chemotherapy on Dec. 9th to prepare her for a transplant on the 17th. It's amazing that somoeone out there is giving up their day to donate their stem cells to help out someone they don't even know - my mom. If you haven't already done so, you should join the marrow registry so that you could improve make someone else's day. Anyway, she'll have to be in Nashville for 100 days after the transplant.

We have a lot of reasons to be optimistic... she has a "10/10" match with a non-related donor, she's been in good health, and she doesn't have leukemia. However, the statistics are pretty grim, and even people who are "cured" still may have to live with chronic "graft versus host disease," a disease caused by the donor's T-cells ordering the other white blood cells to attack the host's organs. This is treated with immuno-suppressants, so there's a good chance of having to be on these drugs for years.

I hope to keep posting on here, but it won't be about El Salvador for a while. However, this is what many other foreign service officers and EFMs deal with every year, and I am so grateful to be able to return so easily and do what is needed for my family. I can't imagine trying to do this from farther-flung places on the earth. I am also grateful to work with people who are understaning and accomodating. I have much to be thankful for this year.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Life in the Tropics

The weather here is perfect.  I played soccer twice and ultimate once this week.  In the middle of November.  In shorts.  You really can't beat that.  I guess I'll use that as a reason for why I haven't posted in a month.  Life here has gotten to be pretty normal and relaxing - it's nice.

So, what's been going on over the past month?

Well, we've had a few good weekends of getting outside.  On the 18th of October, I joined a group of Salvadorans on a ride from San Salvador to La Puerta de La Libertad, a town on the coast.  The ride was what I would call a typical Salvadoran ride.  Lots of biking on a dirt/gravel road through tiny villages, beautiful vistas of the surrounding mountains, rounded off by riding through some private fincas.  Then, to top it off, we ended at the beach, where we got tamales and beers.  Not bad for a Saturday morning!  The real treat, though, was riding back to the beginning in the back of a cargo truck.  Awesome.

We signed up for an adventure race for the following weekend at Bahia de Jiqilisco - bike, run, kayak.  Sophie and I were supposed to be on the same team, but Sophie hurt her knee by crashing and burning on the pavement while playing ultimate, so it was just me and 2 Salvadorans.  Our team name was Team USA.  We hadn't thought ahead, so we didn't have a place to stay for the race, but the bike shop owner let us stay at the cabaƱa that he had rented, so we got to meet his wife and stay with them and other bike shop employees.  My Spanish is really not that great.  At one point, one of the employees was telling a story and everyone was laughing, including Sophie and I, and the bike shop owner turns to us and says " means naked."  Apparently we had been listening to a story that involved nudity and we were completely oblivious.  Oh well.  Se la vie.  Team USA didn't do that great, but we had a lot of fun, so that's all that matters.  The bike course was pretty flat but really pretty.  The run covered the same trail as the bike.  The kayak was in the bay, which was gorgeous.  After the race, we relaxed with some beers before taking a free pontoon ride around some of the islands in the bay.  Paradise.

A lot of friends here are involved in a 'pedometer challenge.'  People are in teams of four competing against each other to see who can 'walk' the farthest in 3 months.  Everyone has a pedometer, and then there is a conversion chart that you can use to convert your 30 minutes of strenuous swimming into a step equivalent.  I think it's pretty silly, but a lot of people have gotten into it - perhaps a little too much so.  Anyway, with that in mind, we decided to climb the Santa Ana Volcano once again, this time with a newcomer.  It was a gorgeous day - most days that we've gone to Santa Ana, we haven't been able to see the volcanoes until we were relatively close.  With the weather now, it's pretty easy to see them once you get about 10 minutes outside of Santa Tecla.  Anyway, we had a great hike with great views right up until we got to the top of Santa Ana, at which point it turned into a bit cloudy with really high winds.  It was pretty intense.

On the hike, we met an Austrian woman that is around our age who is working for the Inter-American Development Bank.  We invited her and her coworker to join us at Playa Sunzal the following day before their flight left for Honduras.  45 minutes after picking them up, we were on the beach, sipping beers, looking at the gorgeous beach.  The last time we'd been to Sunzal was probably in September, when it was still raining a fair bit.  Now that it doesn't rain that often, the ocean has calmed down, and the sand has returned to the beach.  What used to be a tiny beach with lots of rocks was now a nice, black sand beach with a good bit of sand.  The water was also just about right - you didn't feel cold when you got in, but you also didn't feel like the water was too warm.  Perfecto.

This post is getting a little long, so, I'll wrap it up.  The past two weekend have involved another trip to the volcanoes (this time to do Izalco again), a trip to the beach (surfing at Sunzal), karaoke, oktoberfest, and an 80s dance party.  Fun stuff.