© 2013 Amy Kessler


Two hours until our departure from the Bajo Lempa, and I’m finally writing a blog.  Thus, let me get to straight to the underlying theme of our time in El Salvador: Farkel.  A simple dice game, Farkel has been the staple of our trip.

The first weekend in Ataco we were all filled with excitement and nerves as to how this trip would unfold.  Some of us had been close friends before coming down, others had the prospect and expectation of bonding over gecko sightings and spontaneous dance parties, while others were still trying to remember everyone’s academic program(s), slightly complicated as many of us are undertaking dual degrees.

The first night in Ataco the team leaders left dinner plans open to allow everyone a little independence before our lives were to be consumed by community meetings and lengthy discussions detangling the MIIS-Asociación de Mangle-La Coordinadora relationship.  Thus, in search of food and drink and a bit of relaxation, people started to split off.  Being our first night in a new area, we wanted to explore a bit. However, despite Ataco being a vibrant town with the walls of every café and market splashed with color, it became a rather quiet community past 9 pm.  Thus, after enjoying empanadas and quiches (neither of which were as good as the typical El Salvadorian papusas we had for lunch that day), we returned to our hotel to entertain ourselves, and my fellow team member unpacked Farkel.  That night only a few of us partook in the game.  But as we played, our teammates started to trickle back to the hotel and paused to see what was causing our outbursts of elation and frustration.  No one else joined the game that night, but it sparked what would become the Team El Salvador-Farkel love.

After we arrived in Ciudad Romero we started our work and had less time to play during the week, but come the following weekend, the Farkel love resurfaced.  By then we had gotten to know each other pretty well, as only being crammed in a bus for 6 hours driving down bumpy roads can achieve.  So as the team got closer, Farkel games expanded.  We started to play after long days to decompress and during spare moments between meetings, excursions and debriefings.  We even enticed Lolo, our language and guacamole-loving driver, into playing a few games with us.

From the first week, Farkel started to break that barrier between us, bonding us through the ups and downs of a game based purely on chance and probability.  Just as we threw the dice, we threw ourselves into these communities knowing that we were unable to predict what would transpire.  Whether any tangible results will come of our work is still uncertain, but we threw the dice and joined in on the process, both learning and instructing as we went, and however we can, we will continue down that bumpy course.

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