© 2013 Brent Hassebrock

Getting out of our cocoons

Being here in El Salvador we are out of our cocoons in a number of ways. I am often reminded of the one entomology class I took while in my undergrad when I learned about all the nasty diseases you can get in Africa from very few insects. Here we keep being told by the hardened, much tougher and less sissy Salvadorans, okay, my host mom, that the insane bugs we find will not kill us in our sleep despite what we may think.

Our nerves have fought back a few times and been beaten back a few times as well. We have kept the peace by not smashing bugs uncontrollably, but we bucked up Tuesday night when I took several photos of the bugs on an excursion around and outside our house on Tuesday. We were very brave, sort of. Alex claims that a cockroach crawled over his back that night and there supposedly was a splatter mark from making contact.

I will start talking about things other than bugs. The country is very difficult to become accustomed to because of the hardships that the people have faced that we simply can’t even fathom. I still haven’t met my host dad who is a casualty of the devastating civil war and who I am told arrived at the site of a large massacre immediately afterward.

Our work only exposes further the depth of the impact from the war- widespread poverty. I am part of a team charged with evaluating how Mangle, our in-country associate organization, effectively runs its microcredit program that gives small loans to artisanal shrimp farmers. Everything indicates that almost no work exists in the country or you may sometimes work for three months for as little as $200 to live on for you and your family during that time. The shrimp farmers describe having a great relationship so far with Mangle, but they are completely dependent upon the organization for their livelihoods.

Today, one of our interpreters, Kayla, put the war more into context for me. It either involved or completely changed the lives of everyone in the country that is about my age or older. That is something I don’t even know how to think about.

As I end my first blog post for the trip, my colleague Amy gives me hope. She reminds me that the people here know how to persevere. These people were refugees and made their own cities and their own communities strong. I am here to help the communities of the Bajo Lempa and have found that the Bajo Lempa people are one of a kind in their compassion and willingness to help me. If they can make it through war, hurricanes and gangs, I can sleep through the night thinking about things other than insects.

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