A disastrous week

Landslide in San Vicente, El Salvador

As many people know, Hurricane Ida hit El Salvador recently. The city named Verapaz suffered greatly from the hurricane. Verapaz is located in the department (departments are equivalent of states in the U.S.) called San Vicente and that’s where we had our pre-service training 4 months ago. It rained like cats and dogs on Saturday, November 7th. Usually, during the rainy season in El Salvador, it rains at night but not during the day. But on Saturday, it had been raining since the morning. It was unusual after all.  I felt sick from the morning but went to our training classes anyways.

I ended up going to San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, to buy a yoga mat although my health condition didn’t improve at all. Unfortunately, a wall-mart-like store in San Salvador didn’t have what I wanted to buy. Well, it did have it but it was very expensive and came with unnecessary stuff. So…it was a completely wasteded trip to the capital. Rain continued and seemed like never stopped. I went home and went to sleep. I didn’t feel like eating so my host mom just gave me a platano sancuchado (boiled banana) and cafe. I took some medicine and continued sleeping until 2am.

Around 2am, my host family got up. I heard something like “the volcano in front of our house just erupted.”  I wasn’t sure what was going on at this moment but it became apparent on next morning. The volcano didn’t erupt; however, due to the heavy rain, a huge landslide occurred in the volcano. You can see how it was like in the photo above; all the dirt did not exist the day before. Many people passed away and lose their homes. Many fields have been destroyed and tons of crops, which are the main source of  income for rural Salvadorians, were lost. Fortunately, my host family lives up in a hill so we didn’t get affected directly by the landslide.

I got a phone call from the Peace Corps to make sure that I was safe. I was but I was sick too. But the Peace Corps seemed too busy to deal with my minor sickness. There are more than 170 Peace Corps volunteers and staff in El Salvador so they had to make sure that every was safe first.

Electricity was cut off the night before and so was water. I still didn’t feel well so I tried to sleep. Around noon, many people who have lost their homes started arriving at my host family’s house and the school nearby also became a refugee camp. My entire family went to the school to help out people. I also went there when I couldn’t sleep anymore. I ended up working there from 7pm till 11pm.

Next morning, the Peace Corps called me again and told that I had to evacuate to the office in the capital. Although I didn’t want to leave my family, I had no choice. I stayed in the capital for 2 nights. The training got canceled and rescheduled. Although many of us wanted to get involved in some type of relief work, it was difficult for security and logistical reasons. We just had an opportunity to work a little bit to sort cloth for relief aid in the capital.  I had to go back to my site for several days and the training has begun again on November 15th. Right now, I’m in training in Santa Ana and 3 more days to go. It’s been pretty crazy for the past several weeks. Nevertheless, I’m doing fine! Hope to update more about the training in a few days.

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