February 17, 2006: Headlines: COS - El Salvador: Extension in Service: The Hillsboro Argus: Troy Montes may stay another year as a Peace Corps Volunteer in El Salvador

Peace Corps Online: Directory: El Salvador: Peace Corps El Salvador : The Peace Corps in El Salvador: February 17, 2006: Headlines: COS - El Salvador: Extension in Service: The Hillsboro Argus: Troy Montes may stay another year as a Peace Corps Volunteer in El Salvador

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Troy Montes may stay another year as a Peace Corps Volunteer in El Salvador

Troy Montes may stay another year as a Peace Corps Volunteer in El Salvador

"The people of Las Tunas are urging that I stay another year. They've even assured me that they'll search for a Salvadoran wife for me, believing that if I end up with a local wife I might just stay forever."

Troy Montes may stay another year as a Peace Corps Volunteer in El Salvador

Update from Las Tunas Local Peace Corps volunteer considers adding a year to his service

Friday, February 17, 2006
By Troy Montes

Special to the Argus

Well, we near the two-year in-country mark and my group is about to close out service.

It has been a wild and challenging ride.

The dry season is upon us and things are heating up.

Las Tunas is finally on the verge of realizing some major infrastructure projects.

The mayor

After a recent meeting where I explained to the community how our mayor lied to us and thus we lost the opportunity for a soccer field, he showed up for the following road project meeting.

Besides pledging to help with road improvements, which are scheduled to begin in March, he also stated that there might have been some confusion recently but that he still intends on fulfilling his campaign promise from last election to put in a soccer field in February.

We'll see. No coincidence that we're also about to have new mayoral elections throughout El Salvador on March 12.

A new house in 21 days

Besides the road and soccer field possibilities, we have also recently finished our third house.

In the beginning of my service nearly two years ago, I agreed to try and help five of the poorest houses in Las Tunas.

The workers with whom I contracted began construction of Luisa Mungu?s new adobe house on Dec. 2, 2005, and completed the home on Dec. 23.

Luisa was incessantly grateful and I finally told her that she need not thank me or the people back home who donated to the effort, but that her home was a Christmas gift from God.

She smiled quietly then agreed by nodding her head and simply stating, "S? In the case of this poor campesino woman who was in dire need of a real, solid house that can withstand the rainy season, I am certain she looks around the new home every now and again and considers it a true miracle.

We have also, since my last submission, received confirmation from the Japanese Embassy that Japan has agreed to fund our water project and work is to begin in April, the deadline for my two years of service as a volunteer.

So hopefully by fall of this year Las Tunas will have transformed into a village complete with a potable water system, a cemented road, some new homes and a new soccer field.

To stay or not to stay

This, however, brings me to a dilemma.

Do I leave in April to let the next volunteer see these endeavors through, or do I stick around another year to make sure these things really happen?

We'll see. I have a few weeks to make up my mind.

The people of Las Tunas are urging that I stay another year. They've even assured me that they'll search for a Salvadoran wife for me, believing that if I end up with a local wife I might just stay forever.

It's a strange cultural aspect I'm not accustomed to, but I've come to realize they are serious. That's just how things work in the campo.

There's no such thing as dating like back home. In the campo, one must ask permission from the parents to court their daughter and after an indeterminable courtship period, she moves in with the man and they begin a life together of raising lots of babies, corn and pigs, chickens, ducks and goats.

Christmas in the campo

Christmas in the campo is a different affair than back home.

We spent Christmas Eve eating tamales and drinking coffee before going to the chapel to sing and pray for five hours.

Afterward, around midnight, it sounded like there was a small battle going on nearby as people lit fireworks until the early hours of the morning, and the fireworks here are of the illegal nature according to US standards. It's amazing more people don't lose digits.

Christmas is a mellow event where I sat around chatting with neighbors, drinking more coffee and eating innumerable tamales.

No buses run on Christmas and so we chat about life and the coffee harvests that are being picked.

"feliz a??uevo"

New Year's Eve is more minor explosions until the wee hours of the morn and a few warm beers (no electricity equals no refrigeration.) More tamales and coffee and well wishers shouting "feliz a??uevo" to their neighbors.

The holidays are much more simply celebrated here than back home but here no one worries about getting rid of the numerous unwanted gifts on e-bay, and no one stresses out about getting all their shopping done or which new year's party they'll attend.

As I close, I contemplate these past two years of service and wonder if I've really made a difference.

Ultimately, such a difference probably won't be seen until years after I've gone, if at all.

And as I consider extending a third year, I think of the memorable times here both good and bad, and wonder if I'm capable of enduring another year of the hardest fun I've ever had.

Until next time. Peace.

Troy Montes grew up in Forest Grove and was a Washington County probation officer before he joined the Peace Corps two years ago. He writes occasional accounts for the Argus of his life in Las Tunas, El Salvador.

When this story was posted in February 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: The Hillsboro Argus

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