Monday, November 7, 2011

7 Roses

This past weekend I proposed to my girlfriend!  I started to make plans to propose months ago.  More than 7 months ago my fiance and I went to Los Planes de Renderos for our first night out together.  We weren't even dating, we just went out to get to know one another, but since that day I have felt a very great and deep love for her.

Since the 4th was our 7 month anniversary, I wrote a poem for her called 7 Roses.  On the 4th I gave her the 1st rose and with every rose I also gave a little slip of paper that had a promise about what I want to be for her.  The real fun started the morning of the 5th.  We went to the botanical gardens in Antigua Cuscatlan and hungout and walked around the whole morning.  After we had a nice lunch near the town center and then we went to this place called World Games.  We went to this place for her birthday and we both just loved it.  They have arcade games, air hockey, and there was even a mechanical bull that I did!

After playing we went back to the house and took a breather.  We had spent pretty much all morning and most of the afternoon walking around and playing so we were pretty tired.  After resting for a little bit we headed to Los Planes de Renderos to have dinner.  Before we left I had given her the 6th rose and the corresponding paper.

We got to Los Planes and I had her wait outside the restaurant where we first ate out together.  I went in and made sure everything was ready.  A month prior to this weekend I went and let them know that I wanted to reserve a table and have some flowers and candles and have the mariachis sing songs for us.  When I walked in to check everything the flowers looked amazing and they had even been hand picked by the owner of the restaurant from her very own house!  Before eating though we both walked to the lookout point where you can see this really amazing view of San Salvador.

We talked about the first time we came here, what we both thought about that first night, what are hopes were at that time and what they are now, and we remembered other really amazing times that we had had together.  I asked her if she remembered what the pieces of paper said and after she told me I pulled out the last piece of paper that said, "I will love you for all of our days."  I then got on one knee and proposed.  She said yes and we both hugged and cried.

Afterwards we walked back to the restaurant and while we walked I told her there was one more rose that I had to give her.  We walked in and she saw the table and could not believe it.  There was a white table cover symbolizing purity and another one on top of it that was red symbolizing love.  We had our own waiter, were sung to by marachis, had the best table in the place, and after eating we were told that the owner wanted to meet us and we thanked her for the beautiful flower arrangement.

I would not have been able to do any of this though without the help of my fiance's amazing sister and our greatest supporter.  She was the one who helped find me a ring, drive me to Los Planes a few times to plan with the restaurant, and she did everything with lots of love.

I will never forget this weekend.  I am so thankful to have found someone so incredible and look forward to sharing myself with this woman.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pray and Help

The past few weeks have been hard for many Salvadorans.  I remember the day the rain started I was walking to the bus stop and arrived completely soaked.  I remember thinking that it really was not too bad considering I would be in my house within a few minutes and would have no worry about flooding or water dripping from the ceiling.  And the rain did not stop.  For almost 2 straight weeks.

I had a hard time sleeping some nights.  I never got cabin fever, rather I could not help but think of Salvadorans and even volunteers who were simply stuck.  I would get texts about evacuations and even deaths, like the one of a little girl because of a tree that fell onto her house and a wall that crashed on top of her.  Or the thousands of people who were evacuating their communities, leaving their families, and in their hands they carried the remains of everything they have.  I even had a scare one night in my house.  One of the trees behind my home started hanging lower and lower exhausted by the rains and it made a loud sound on my roof.  It woke me up around 4 in the morning.  I was wide awake.  I started planning.  Alright, if the tree falls down and comes crashing in then what am I going to take?  Easy, my cell phone and the envelope of the letters and pictures from my girlfriend and family.  I went outside just to see the tree was and knew that it was impossible for it to fall and crash through the house.

I cried a lot at night.  I prayed a lot.  And finally the rain stopped, we started to help.  The program I work for is funded by CASSA or Compania Azuceria SalvadoreƱa (Salvadoran Sugar Company) and they had hundreds of people helping fill bags with cooking oil, tortilla mix, sugar, salt, water, beans, and other foods.  We went for just half a day and sent more than 1,500 bags out within a few hours.  In one day more 5,000 bags were sent to families that are in shelters throughout the country.  There were more than 200 students volunteering during the weekend and hundreds of men and women who came to volunteer as well.  You can pray all you want but at some point you have to get off your knees and help.  It was amazing to see men who had just gotten off of work and were dirty and sweaty, volunteering for 5 hours when they could have been at home.

Peace Corps had us stay in our homes due to the fact that the streets were very unsafe to be on.  I had not seen my girlfriend for almost 2 weeks and there was nothing else I wanted after the rain but to see her.  On saturday I told her I was at the school and that I would be busy so I would just give her some texts every chance I got.  The truth is that I took a bus in the morning to surprise her at her job.  I finally got to her store and just walked in, my heart pounding.  We both hugged and cried and laughed.  She couldn't believe it.  She stared at me for a few minutes because she was so surprised.  I spent the rest of the day reading a book while she worked and then we talked the whole night.

The next day I came back to my site and now we are back to work at the program and also splitting our time with volunteering for everyone who was evacuated.  I am so thankful for what I have.  I can't believe I get to have so much.  I just hope you and me are doing a good job with what we have and take advantage of our ability to help others.

Just so you have an idea of how bad it was here I have inlcuded some of the data from the past few weeks.  Also I am not asking you to send money or do anything with any particular project.  I am just asking you to think about helping your neighbor, your Boys and Girls Club, your community, the after school program.

Don't wait for something like this...

·         Since the entrance of Tropical Depression 12E, which occurred on October 10th of this year to date, the country has registered a historical maximum amount of rainfall of 1,500 mm in some areas.  This amount of rain almost doubled the amount of rainfall reported during hurricane Mitch (1998).
·         Average precipitation in El Salvador is approximately 1.800 mm per year. So far, in ten days some areas of the nation have registered more than 80% of the amount of rain that falls in one whole year.

·         Hurricane Mitch, in 1998, caused 861 mm of rain, meanwhile Tropical Storm Stan in 2005 produced 766 mm of rain.
·         So far, the death toll due to the tropical depression 12E has reached 34.
·         Preventive evacuations maintained low the death toll in comparison with other natural disasters. Hurricane Mitch caused 240 human loses, Ida left 198 dead, and Stan registered 69 casualties.
·         To date, a million people have been directly affected by the rain.
·         There are 55,976 evacuees (15,195 families) and there are 683 shelters and refuges.
·         In comparison, during Mitch the country had 10,000 affected and during Ida (2009) the amount reached 7,428 in 75 shelters.
·         10% of the national territory is flooded. The rainfall has affected directly 181 municipalities, which represent 70% of the total of municipalities nationwide.
·         Authorities have distributed more than 470 metric tons of food to the victims.
·         There are 18,445 flooded homes, 2,222 affected wells and 879 landslides on highways have been accounted for. There are more than 2,000 houses at high risk of flooding or to be affected by landslides.
·         On October 17 the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador declared state of public calamity and disaster throughout the country for the next 60 days, as a result of the situation of vulnerability.

·         There are 2,935 manzanas of damaged crops (around 5,000 acres).
·         The heavy rains have caused the mudslides and flooding, swollen rivers, destroyed 4 bridges and damaged 14 other in the main routes.