A. Meeting Your Community and Host Family
When your bus arrives, you will be greeted by a friendly crowd. There will be a welcoming event where you will meet your host family and the community leaders. After dinner, return to your house and get to know the family. Make sure you know their names and they yours. Ask them for the house rules: when they go to sleep and wake up, where you will sleep, where to put your stuff, where you wash, how to use the water, location and rules for the latrine, etc. Also tell them about yourself, and show them pictures of your family, pets, house, etc.
B. Bring Photos and a Camera
Bring pictures of your family, home, neighborhood, school. They will love seeing your life. Plan on leaving a picture of yourself as a gift – they will like and value it. You may take pictures of people, but it is polite to ask permission. Everyone almost always says yes, and they like it, but it shows respect to ask. Both kids and adults are fascinated to see themselves in digital camera displays. A Polaroid camera is ideal because the pictures are wonderful gifts.
You will share a house with one or two delegates and your host family. You may be offered a hammock, a pallet on the floor, or a bed (and you may have to share a bed with another delegate as the family usually does.) If you need to sleep on something in particular like a cot or a therma-rest mattress – bring it. A sheet and/or a light blanket will be sufficient. Sleeping bags are too warm. A flashlight is necessary for night latrine visits. Don’t keep the family up late. They will stay up to be polite to you, but don’t be impolite to them by doing so. Most Salvadorans arise very early so talking even among yourselves and keeping them awake will make their next day difficult. If you have trouble sleeping, bring a book to read or write in your journal using your flashlight.
Get up when they do or soon afterwards, which will be early because it is coolest and most beautiful in the early morning. Remember near the equator, the sun goes down at 6pm and dawns at 6 am.
D. Water Etiquette – Bathing, Washing, Dishes, Laundry
Most houses will have a large outdoor concrete sink, a “pila,” with 2 basins. One basin will be filled with fresh water, either carried from the river, or from a rainwater cistern, or from a public faucet, or piped to the house during a few hours every other day.
- Washing Yourself – You dip a plastic bowl into the water, and then pour it into another bowl in the second basin. Keep the basin with water and the dipping basin free of soap and dirt.
- Bathing – is a more public activity because the sources of water are limited to the sink. People therefore are more casual about nakedness. However, bathing in underwear or a shirt is customary, and you should be prepared to do it. Strip down, or to a tee shirt or your undies, fill a basin with water and dump it over yourself, soap, and then to rinse pour another basin of water over yourself. Some families bathe instead in a river. This is much more pleasant, but by river bathing you risk illness because rivers are also used for washing clothes, a septic system, watering “diaper-less” live stock, and pesticide run off. When river bathing, don’t swallow any water and wash your hands afterward in purified bottled water.
- Dishwashing – Hopefully your family boils water for themselves before using it. You will insist that they use the bottled purified water, which we will supply, to wash dishes and vegetables that you will eat – even though they think it is a waste of money to buy water.
- Laundry – Clothes are washed at the “pila” if there is one, or on a rock in the river. Often we make an agreement with your host family to do your laundry since you have very busy days. Check the arrangements before assuming it however.