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School census in ES

August 13th, 2007 at 11:15 am

The Ministry of Education of ES conducted a school census to verify the quality of private schools...there are ~1400 private schools.... ~400 are going to be closed down...students can finish the current school year and that's it....
The remaining schools have been divided into categories: A, B, C and D...
A's get 10 year permits with yearly follow-up visits
B's get 5 year permits with yearly follow-up visits
C's get 28 months to improve or else they will be closed down
D's get 16 months to improve or else they will be closed down

the criteria included such things as infrastructure, teacher certification, student-teacher ratios, full-time vs part-time teacher ratio, among others...the list was released yesterday...

Ale's school has been classified as a C school, which wouldn't be too surprising, given that their facilities are two converted houses...but, other schools with similar infrastructure made the B list (some of the other schools I visited but couldn't afford).

Now, I like the school and, I'm hoping that the deficiencies found can be easy to address and that the school will do something about it (I also hope this doesn't include charging more or asking for additional $$, because I REALLY cannot afford that)....Today is the first day and, I expect to have a memo from the school before the end of the week (customary). I hope that the principal will include this important issue in the memo, but, if she doesn't, I think I'll write to her next week to try to find out: 1. what were the areas that received the lowest ranking, 2. what is their action plan and 3. as a parent, what can I do to help?...depending on her answers, I'll have to devise my own action plan (but, just in case, I need to start putting money aside for those pesky one-time enrollemnt fees at other schools, which can be anywhere from $1,500- $10,000 depending on the school!)

Domino effect!

July 10th, 2007 at 02:54 pm

soooo....since the price of corn has almost doubled, prices at the marketplace are already rising:

onions used to be $0.15 each, now= $0.25
lb of beans was $0.56, now= $0.64
platains were 6 X $1.00, now you get 5
tomatos remain at $0.25 by some miracle...

and, potatoes have gone down...they were 5lbs/1$ and this weekend they were 7lb/$1...

It's my turn to do grocery shopping this weekend...we'll see how far I can stretch my $$$

why tortilla prices matter to me

July 6th, 2007 at 01:26 pm

tortillas are the basis of Salvadoran diet, so, if tortillas become more expensive, EVERYTHING will soon be more expensive, too!!...they used to be $0.04 each and now they're $0.05 each!!...we hardly ever eat tortillas at my house (or bread, for that matter...did you know white bread is considered a "luxury item" by some segments of the population here??) but, if corn prices go up, soon everything else follows!...because of the atypical rainy season we're having, corn is scarce....ES is opening it's borders to Honduran and Nicaraguan corn to try to bring down the price a bit...I do hope the Salvadoran corn crops can be saved, though!

We made history!! **looooong entry!!!

April 23rd, 2007 at 05:54 pm

These past two weeks were crazy, but it was worth it!...we had our First Northe rn Zo ne Tour last Wednesday...

To oversee the completion of the compact signed between the Milenium Challenge Corporation and the government of ES, a board of directors, consisting of 4 cabinet members, 2 NGO representatives and 1 private sector representatives was chosen at the beginning of the year...

We helped organize a committee to go to the NZ of the country, where the aid will be concentrated, as this is a "poverty belt"...well,let me tell you, it was EPIC!!!.... we set out at 5:30am, a caravan of 14 vehicles, carrying 60 people....including the ambassador....

So, here I was, little old me, with all these prominent people, whom I see on the news everyday: the minister of education, the minister and viceminister of public works, the minister and vice minister of agriculture, the deputy technical secretary to the presidency, the managing director for our organization, people from the private sector, the ngo representatives, the newly elected executive director and deputy executive director in charge of actually complying with the compact, the coordinator and several members of the National Development Committee...10 drivers,2 translators and some of us "lower level" people from 3 different organizations...no press, so that the attendees could concentrate on actually hearing what the people were saying instead of on what they were going to say to the press!...this was WORK!, not a publicity thing!

It took us 3 hours to get to our first stop, where the group met with mayors on the advisory council, members of a coffee cooperative, cattle farmers and members of a group of municipalities involved in water preservation...

We had a VERY tight schedule, but, the people at the towns we went were VERY organized and managed to stay on track with the time!...

After that first meeting, we left to visit a National Education Institute in a small village 21 kms away...so you have an idea of how bad the roads are there (about $200K for road construction), it took us 45 minutes to get there!!!...We were greeted by the school children, who were waving flags... it was very touching...

Here, the meeting was to hear the expectations and plans of the students, parents and teachers at this little village....the parents said they expected that the educational component of the compact would allow all their children to study and complete their high school education, and, who knows, maybe even go to the university some day...The representative of the private sector asked what they thought were the reasons for the high migration rates this village has and, the parents told her the lack of jobs...being honest, even if you graduate, what then, if there´s really nothing there, no stores, no factories...and, the land is really inhospitable there!...

It was amazing to me to see something so desolate in my country...I would have imagine this was pure forests and, instead, I saw some cows that were kept together only by their hides....trees that twisted in the dry, hot air, like lost souls out of Dante´s inferno...here and there you would see a tiny house made out of tin or cardboard.... and, here and there you would see Mansions (yes, capital M, houses as luxurious as the ones you see in the capital city, only larger!)...these are the homes of the families that receive remittances from the US...I mst say, I understand the lure to migrate...even for those in the mansions....If I had one of those mansions in THAT place, it´d want out....not necessarily to the US, but, at least to the next town!!!! ...but, for those in the tiny shacks....well, just think what they must feel...the difference is really EXTREME!!....

After about an hour and a half of more bad roads, we reached the Lempa river....our ancient Father river...even in dry season, we needed to board the ferry to cross (the compact also includes building a bridge over it)....it was a beautiful spectacle....once all 14 cars were across, we went to yet another town, for yet another meeting, this time with the cattle farmer cooperative, who also explained the opportunities they see with the new road, and with the productive development component of the compact....we had lunch there, organized by the mayors of all these towns we had visited...local river shrimp (they looked more like tiny lobster than shrimp) and hen....quite tasty...

Then back in the cars for the last meeting in a small city, this time on paved roads, but, they were so narrow and full of curves, the cars couldn´t really go much faster than they had on the dirt roads!...

At the last town, the meeting was with the business sector, especifically transport and small commerce representatives...

by this time, it was 4:30pm and, you can imagine how tired everyone was!!!...we left the small city at 6:00pm, back to our capital city....we took a different route this time, and it took only 1 hour and a half to get back home (we COULD have taken this route, but, the whole idea was for this people to actually SEE what the people in the NZ have to live every day and how urgent it is to do something for them and how much of an impact our work will make in their lives)...

Everyone was tired when we left, but, all the people in the caravan where very pleased with the tour and very glad they had joined the tour...could you believe very few of the attendees (me included!) had never visited that part of the country? (where the heaviest fighting was during the war) and, we even had one person who had never actually left the capital city!!!

I don´t have enough time to polish this entry, because Ale wants to play, and it really is a shame, for I know I cannot begin to convey the sense of historic momentum that this trip left in all of us!

I will tell you more about the new job some other time, but, for now, this is the most important thing and, I really wanted to write about it before the feeling goes away!! (and, honestly, I hope it never does, because I feel like I´m really part of something much greater than myself at the moment!)

35 Celsius!

March 12th, 2007 at 07:47 am

We're frying!...it has been so hot this past weekend, that the fans have been on 24/7...and I still got a migraine from the heat!...and yesterday none of us could sleep...except Ale, who totally "disconnects" herself at night...and to think rainy season officially starts in May...and we may not even get scattered showers before mid-April....

changes in ES tax forms!

February 9th, 2007 at 11:54 am

I just read the news this morning, ES tax forms have changed!...rats! ....just when I was starting to understand the old ones!...oh, well, I hope the changes are for the best and will make things easier!... (I already printed the explanation off the local newspaper site!)...in the meantime, I cannot even start thinking about doing my taxes because the company hasn't given us our tax retention letters... Frown

I forwarded the news to our payroll dept!...(it was during our lunch break, so it should be OK!) :P

2 sisters - how can they be so different!

February 8th, 2007 at 07:28 am

yes, I know, we are all individuals and that means we ARE all different...however, the mentalities of nanny's daughters really baffles me!...

Daughter #1 - the eldest who just graduated from high school has gotten a job at a bookstore...it pays minimum wage ($175) + commissions (so, now I will have to switch from buying at the branch in mall X to mall Y, but that's ok, they're both close to my office!)...anyway, she wants the money to pay for her university, as she wants to become an engineer....

Daughter #2 - the one that had a baby at 14...is currently going to night school to get her high school diploma...working as a maid, making $30/week...she wanted my cousin to take a credit line (in cousin's name) so that she (Daughter #2) can get a 25" or 27" TV...never mind that the family already owns a 17" TV, but has no refrigerator...

Now, nanny herself would never even think about asking me to get a credit line in my name to buy something for herself...at most, she asks me for small "loans (rather, advancements on her payment, which I discount in smaller amounts...she never asks for more than $50 and, I discount it by $5/week, for example)...

Now, I know that having gone through High school instead of quitting after 9th grade - the way she originally wanted - changed Daughter #1's outlook on life and of her own potential, but, still...you'd think having a baby would have made Daughter #2 more responsible with money...

I'm really looking forward to seeing how Daughter #3 will turn out! (she's 12!)

$16K for Telethon

February 3rd, 2007 at 08:24 pm

...through numerous initiatives and fierce competition, the company employees were able to raise over $16K for the Telethon...the owner matched our $$$ 2X1...so total from the company will be almost $50K...of course, thanks to the PR fairies, the employees' donation was the first one of the event, so it got a special mention in the press!...

Still, it IS a good cause and, they HAVE built new centers not only in the capital city but also in some of the other major cities....

when fierce competition yields something good!

January 26th, 2007 at 12:49 pm

we are having a Telethon for the construction of new physical therapy centers here in ES...our company typically donates all the artist's flights, but we, as employees, also contribute...since last year the amount we brought was $10K, this year the goal is to reach $12K...so, they have organized a competition among all Vice-Presidencies, to see which one can collect the most...insider knowledge says we are in second place right now (ok, so one of our guys is dating an HR girl!)...we have collected about $800...there's a rally tomorrow and we're all hitting the malls to pester people for money, er, ask people to donate...a group is also going to the airport...what's nice is that, no matter who takes 1st place, we all win! Smile

Blessings!

December 12th, 2006 at 10:59 am

Father Vito once said, if you work to help the (abandoned disabled) children, you will be much blessed....

well, the guy from whom we bought the hot dogs surely was!...as is customary, I deducted 10% for income tax from his pay (actually, what we generally do is "add" the rent, so that these people making marginal profits or less-than-minimum wage can have a break! and then give them their $$ in full and then the next year they get their income tax return as a "bonus")...guess what? the lady at accounting said the receipt was wrong...that even if he had brought people to serve the hot dogs, that actually was a purchase of goods, not services, so I shouldn't have "deducted" the income tax...so, she had me redo the receipt and gave me $17.85 to give "back" to him!....(even with this, and with me having given him $10 "fuel surcharge" -- because the Home IS a far drive from the city), the hot dogs were still about $1.20 each! (we had budgeted $1.25)...so, this nice man gets $17.85 that he wasn't expecting!...he was soo grateful!...evnthough I really had nothing to do with it, it makes me feel good!...times are tough and it is good to see someone getting some unexpected "help"!

"...so, who pays taxes in this country?"

December 8th, 2006 at 08:45 am

The question was asked by one of our PM's upon learning that our maintenance facilities are at a "Free Zone" (meaning tax free) at one meeting and then hearing that taxes are "territorial" in ES during another - related to planes...it's hard for me to explain all that in English (I barely understood it in Spanish!)...

Our answer? ...a handful of raised hands (all the locals, and a few expats - not all of them...depending on their resident status! LOL!)...

Living costs in El Salvador (long!)

November 27th, 2006 at 11:30 am

Sarah asked about living costs in El Salvador....so here it is!

This is a Salvadoran Colon...it is the national currency, but it was phased out when we went to the Dollar in 2001. 1 USD = 8.75 SVC


Minimum salary has just been increased from $ 5.28 per day to $ 5.81 per day (yes, that is not a typo, it’s $5.81 PER DAY or about $175/month! – pretax!), -- this means my salary is about 4.8 times a minimum salary…We pay nanny $175, no discounts….the other maids in the neighborhood hate her because she only works Mon-Fri, from 9am until I come home from work, and gets holidays off! (a typical “full time” maid stays in your house, works from 6am through 8pm and, gets 1.5 days off every two weeks!...making anywhere from $100-$200/month, depending on the neighborhood!)

The textile industry minimum salary went from $5.04 per day to $5.24 per day.
Agricultural worker’s minimum salary went from $ 2.47 to $ 2.72. Coffee pickers were making $3.57 and now will be earning $3.93 per day.

If you earn more than $225/month, taxes are discounted monthly from your salary and paid directly by our employers to the Government – 10% to 20%, depending on your salary….I pay 20%. At the beginning of the next fiscal year, we submit our tax report to see whether we get a refund of whether we get to pay more!...as a salaried person, I can deduct up to $571/year for medical expenses and up to $571/year/family for schooling!...(if you have 1 child, you can deduct $571, if you have 10 children, you get to deduct the same $571!)...that's about all I can deduct...If you are in sales and are not given a company car, you can deduct gas and car-maintenance expenses...Different deductions apply for business owners or independent professionals, depending on their line of work...

Value Added Tax is paid on all services and/or goods, and the rate is 13%, by law, prices have to be posted including taxes (which is why I get surprised in the US when the total amount to be paid is always higher than what I have calculated...I always forget to add the tax!)

We speak of “collective transportation” rather than public transportation because the government gives special permits to different transport (bus) companies to operate specific routes. Inter-urban bus fare is $0.25 --payable every time you board a bus …that means if you are lucky and only need to take 1 bus to go to your job, you pay $0.50/day on transport….There is an initiative to force all buses over 25 years to be eliminated. To this effect the Government gave all bus owners very low-interest long-term credits, + $5,000 per unit delivered as “downpayment”….believe it or not, some bus owners still didn’t take advantage of it and some really old buses are still running ….the government has said it will not renew permits for such units, so, as the permits expire, bus owners are forced to change the units, relinquish the permits to other bus owners with newer units…The next phase of this project contemplates elimination of buses over 15 years ….but this is opposed at the National Assembly (mainly by some “diputados” –congressmen—who are bus owners!)….There have been many accidents in the past few years that involved old buses that were not properly serviced!...That’s why, provided you have the means to buy yourself even a small, old car, you will sacrifice to do so instead of using the buses!...gas prices are $3.04 for premium and $2.80 for regular right now….

As for housing costs, it all depends of course on the area of town in which you want to live…a small house in a lower-middle class neighborhood might cost you $75-$100 if rented and between $100-$125 if owned (monthly mortgage payments)…if you want an upper middle class neighborhood, you’ll pay anywhere between $300-$700 rent for that same house or, if you want a nicer house, $700- $1,500 rent…to buy a house in an upper-middle class neighborhood, you need a combined household income of $2,000 - $5,000 per month, and 10% of the house’s price as a downpayment…

We rent in an upper middle class neighborhood…the smaller houses in the area, and we pay $315/month between my sister and I….there are real mansions in our area, too, going for $1,200 a month –rent….we live near the American Embassy and the newest shopping malls….we could afford a larger house in another neighborhood, but, living near the American Embassy means security is VERY good!...and we are willing to pay for it!...

Houses in ES do NOT have warm water as a “standard” feature…nor clothes washers and dryers…dishwashers are almost unheard of….but, then, almost anyone has a maid….coming at least a few times a week… in houses where there are no clothes washers, the maids do the laundry by hand….so every house has a “lavadero”, or a place to wash!...(we use it to wash mops, and to bathe Fiona, mostly!)…we do have a clothes washer at home…my family has had one for as long as I can remember…(my mother’s family was wealthy, but in typical fashion, 1 generation made the money, the next one managed to keep it and the third one –my mom and her siblings—managed to spend it all!)…. I was surprised the other day to learn that the most common fuel used in El Salvador was still wood…but, thinking about the composition of the population, it makes sense….people in rural areas still use wood stoves and most have no electricity or water in their houses…Even in the cities, you’ll find places with little or no access to water…

Public schools in ES are for the very poor…anyone making 2 minimum salaries or more will try to pay for a private school for their children, or at least a parochial school….costs for education can go anywhere from $15/month to $600/month for Kindergarten (think parochial school vs the poshest bilingual school!)….The poorest public schools don’t even have bathrooms, or even chairs and tables for the children… Sis sent her children to a school that does not offer the best education, but offers you the best possible “connections” outside the bilingual school circle and paid $125/month for her daughter….I chose to send Ale to a bilingual school, I still don’t know how good the overall education is, but their English program is VERY good and am paying $137/month….figure it’s worth it if I don’t have to pay any additional English lessons!... My unit at work has chosen to sponsor a public school as our community development program…we raised money to replace the roof (children had to move their desks around during rainy season so as to sit in dry spots and not under leaks!!) and fix the bathrooms…we also repainted the classrooms…we are also teaching English to the top 5 students in the 8th and 9th grades and, have decided to start a scholarship program for the top 2 students in the 9th grade, so they can continue with their high school studies… The school principal is very active and has managed to get a computer center built and furnished, as well as equipped through the Ministry of Education and other private institutions…so the outlook for our little school is good….If you want to learn more about it go to: http://tacasdg.blankenstein.info

If we talk about groceries, the cost varies depending on where you buy (market vs supermarket), but, eggs are $2.75 a carton of 30, beans are $0.57/lb, rice is .40/lb, a loaf of bread is $1.27, tomatoes are $0.67/lb….these are supermarket prices, you might be able to find slightly lower prices at the market…I buy most of my groceries at the supermarket and go to the market only for the veggies, fruit and fresh cheese…chicken is cheaper at the market, but, it sits on an un-refrigerated counter most of the day (they only put it in the fridge for storing during the night), so I’d rather not risk it….likewise with the meat!...Meat at the supermarket is about $2-$3 per lb, depending on the meat you buy, chicken is about $1.70-$2/lb and fish is $4.40/lb…a 400gm bag of powdered milk costs $2.32…a lb of ham is $2.74-$4, depending on the ham you like… a can of soda is $0.40…shampoo is about $2.35- $6.00, again, depending on the brand…a 1.5Kg of detergent is $2.60-$5.00—local brands…a gallon of water is $0.63, but, if you buy the 5 gallon bottle you pay only $1.25-$1.60… a lb of unrefined iodized salt is $0.07... combined expenses for groceries, including toiletries and cleaning supplies for our house is about $340/month (we are working on it!)…As you can imagine, most Salvadorans do not eat much beef or fish (except for coastal towns or villages near lakes and rivers!)….and for some even chicken is a luxury!... We are meat eaters at our house...

We pay about $10 for water (there is a subsidy if you spend less than X of m2 per month), and about $40 for electricity…. We also pay $9/month on municipal taxes (includes garbage disposal and a “sweeper” – there’s a nice old man and a younger woman in our neighborhood, that come to sweep the streets 3x a week!)…technically, we don’t live in San Salvador, but in Antiguo Cuscatlan…the mayoress has been elected for 7 successive periods or something like that….Antiguo Cuscatlan is the wealthiest municipality in the country…In contrast, a friend who lives in San Salvador (in one of the poshest neighborhoods, too!) says she pays about $23/month in municipal taxes and the garbage collector comes only 1 a week….and she has to sweep her own street!....

Telephone service is billed as follows: you pay a flat rate of $9.82 just to have a line, and that includes 100 “free” local minutes….any additional use is charged according to where you are calling….our typical phone bill is about $30/month….and we do not make international phone calls!...we are working on this, too…but we have a teenager in the house!...You can get a cellphone for about $29 (currently there's a special, you can get a Sagem for $15!) and depending on the company, you pay anywhere from $0.10-$0.25 per minute...a lot of people in ES own cellphones...even some of the people that sell at the marketplace own cellphones!...you don't pay for incoming calls, just for outgoing ones!...I have managed to maintain an average expense of $12/month for cellphone use this year!

We pay $30/month for internet service…if we wanted to add cable TV we would pay about $16 more per month….cost/benefit ratio says it would be ridiculous to do this!...sis, niece and myself have about 2 hours max time to watch TV everyday…so Ale would be the only one with enough time to watch tv and really take advantage of it....since I am more than happy that Ale doesn’t really like watching TV all that much….makes no sense to pay for cable….especially not with our current financial situation!

Interest on personal loans is anywhere between 7-13%/year, depending on your credit history and, most banks will require a co-signor (unless you get paid via direct deposit at the bank from which you borrow!)...credit cards charge anywhere between 25-47%/year interest...savings accounts pay about 2-3% per year (my company coop pays 4%!)...

Special credit to get your children's toys??!!

November 10th, 2006 at 08:13 am

This toy store (our regional version of Toys'r'us) has t his new special offer this year: reserve your toys now with 25% of the total purchase price and you can pay the difference in 6 installments...OR, charge the 75% difference to your cc's and these 3 local banks (Evil Card is NOT among them!) will give you 6 months to pay at 0% interest....

This is the card that arrived at my house...




To me, even considering this sounds crazy, yet I'm sure there are people "taking advantage" (or being taken advantage of?) of this offer...this is crazy...first of all, I imagine there's a minimum to even qualify....I cannot imagine that minimum being less than $100...and, I cannot imagine spending anywhere near $100 in toys! (maybe if I had 5 children...)
Still, I think it's crazy...

We went there the other day, as this is one of the stores from which we buy wholesale, and ask the manager how things were going (as we have had very few orders, and it's already "late" in the year...generally, we get most of our orders in October....)...they said things are very slow for them, too...like us, they have presented many quotes, but they've gotten very few orders...Up to a certain point, this is good news to us, since they are our "brand name" toy supplier...seems most companies are going for cheaper toys this year (they do not carry these lines) and, we do have other suppliers, so that could mean more orders for us....

Good news for medium-range salaried employees in ES!

October 24th, 2006 at 07:34 am

I was listening to the radio this morning and, they was and interview with the Chief of the credit department at the Fondo Social para la Vivienda...traditionally, they have been more geared towards low-income employees (meaning people making 1-4 minimum salaries), and they have lent up to $23,000 for the purchase of a new/used house...now, they are also targeting employees making mid-range salaries ( 4- 6 minimum salaries)...that means they are now covering people that make up to $1,075 per month! ...that is really good news!...and, they have raised the amount they can lend up to $50,000 (depending on income, of course!)...The best thing about going through them instead of the commercial banks is that the requirements to get credit are easier to meet!...(for a $50,000 house, commercial banks require a family income of $2,000/month, for example!)...so, if you made less than that, but more than 4 minimum salaries, it was very difficult to obtain financing for a house!...
not that this does me any good at the moment (I have far too many debts to take care of and no spare cash!) but, once I get my finances in order, I could save for a downpayment and take advantage of this!

FITI's 10th anniversary

October 9th, 2006 at 12:10 pm

The Children's theater festival (FITI) just closed it's 10th season...we went to 3 shows...it's a nice change of pace for Ale and me...we both enjoy it very much...She was upset that FITI is older than she is...(the Festival's mascot is also named FITI, here's the official poster)

...this season was dedicated to Hans Christinan Andersen... Ale wanted to know if, 20 years from now, FITI will still be older than her!

The first show we went to was the Three LIttle Pigs, on Sunday, then on MOnday night - a VERY special treat for us to go out during the week! we went to see Thumbelina, which was a Black Theater show...very unusual to see in this kind of festival, that's why I wanted to take Ale so much!...and the last show we saw was the Emperor's new clothes...the King actually came down and walked through the aisles asking people if they approved using the kingdom's treasure to buy the fabric for his new clothes...of course, he threatened to behead all those who said "no"...to those who said "yes" he would say: Thanks, you are a good citizen...at one point, he went right past us and, after telling someone they were good citizens, he looked at me and I was just half-smiling waiting to be asked and he just said: You're not! off with your head!...Ale couldn't stop laughing!...

In all, we spent $21 for those 3 shows, and, eventhough that "kills" our enterntainment budget for the month, I consider it worth it!

I cannot understand how people who will take their child to see a 1hr and a half movie can tell me that she'll get bored by 45 minutes of live theater! (kid-oriented, and interactive, too!)

I'm afraid to go to the gas station!

August 4th, 2006 at 09:17 am

Yesterday we passed one and, I happened to notice the prices: $3.66 at the self service pump! ((faints))

Can I make it?

July 28th, 2006 at 05:12 pm

I might just make it at budget this month (previous months tallied have both been grossly over-budget, so I can tell already that this month has been an improvement)...there's no way I can survive unless I get much tougher on myself/my family, though, but, little by little...

Rising gas prices are not helping, of course, and, neither are electricity rates (which just went up by 14%, according to the Superintendency of Energy and Communications!)...with these 2 rising, groceries will soon follow ((sigh))...sometimes I feel like this is all wasted effort, but then, all these past efforts mean that the impact will at least be minimized! (trying to look at the bright side here!)

I'm melting!

July 1st, 2006 at 02:58 pm

I swear, it is just TOO hot!...I was hoping to make this a no-spend day, because Ale and I have plans to go to the movies tomorrow morning --matinee is cheaper!(to see Cars, which just started last week, or Over the Hedge, which started on Friday), and then in the afternoon to the Children's Museum (gotta use up all those tickets!)...but, it's already 4:00pm and the sun is as fierce as if it were high noon!!...I might cave in and go get some ice cream with Ale...just to be in the air conditioning (few people can really afford it here, most of us have fans only...and, believe me, right now, the fan is NOT enough!...I wish I had a bathtub, so I could fill it with ice water and stay in there all afternoon! --of course, I'd have to fight sister for it, as she, too, is melting!-- the electricity bill is going to be horrible this month!...oh! and the government has announced an increase in the cost of electricity starting Jul 1st!)

::think cool thoughts:: ::snow:: :: penguins:: :: pool:: ::waterfalls:: ::ice cream::

I hate computers!!!

June 20th, 2006 at 10:35 am

well, no, not really...but, I hate it that yesterday I stayed after work to fill out my application to the contest and, it took me 30 minutes to fill out (and it read great, if I may say so myself!) and, when I hit the SUBMITT button, I got a message that said: field "name" is mandatory....I went "huh?"...guess what!...my whole application had been deleted!! ...
so, now I don't know if 1. my application went through and it's just that the site doesn't have a confirm message or 2. my application really got lost and I have to resubmitt it!...

So, I guess I'll re-submitt it (just to be on the safe side!) UGH!

School related expenses - 060616

June 16th, 2006 at 07:45 am

no school supply list yet...I have all that stuff in stock, so I don't have to worry, but, if I didn't have it, that would mean reduced time to look for good prices on the stuff...which is difficult anyway, as most schools in ES follow a Jan-Oct schedule, so the "good" time of the year to shop is actually Nov-Dec!!...
Maybe they figure if you have enough money to send your kid to a bilingual school you don't care about costs?? (WRONG! I know a lot of people in my same situation....trying to give our children an education that is as close as possible to the one we received on limited income!)

I guess I have to focus on getting those navy sweatpants in the meantime!

Neat contest! -- need help with ideas!

June 15th, 2006 at 08:47 am

the ministry of economy of my country is having a contest for entrepreneurs!...basically, if you are salvadoran and have a small business or if you have a good idea, you can participate...I'm thinking of participating...they have 9 "grand prizes", which are $6,000 seed money and follow-up counseling for a year. Also, the ministry would be your co-signor so you could apply for credit from the local banks (which traditionally don't give credit for micro businesses)...the really cool thing is, even if you don't win, the different phases of the contest include:
1. they'll help you write your business plan
2. They'll give you special training in different areas of your choice (administration, taxes, human resource management, strategic planning, accounting, IT, for example)

so, even if you don't win, you get something very valuable out of it!

I want to do something with translations...at this stage, I have a vague idea of what and how I want to do it (that is ok, that's all I need)...but, I also need A NAME!!!....I've never thought about this...anybody have any ideas?? (good or bad, I'll take them all!...I can work with anything and see how I can adapt it or something!...obviously, I have to do something that will be good both in English and in Spanish!)

HELP!...I have a week to turn it in!

The company's 75th anniversary party

May 30th, 2006 at 12:16 pm

ok. I have to blog about this because this was not AN event, this was THE event...the company is based in ES, but, flies to 35 cities in 19 countries...they flew people in from all the stations...not only employees (manager or higher hierarchy), but also media people from all 19 countries, as well!...Revenue management people said that 70% of the flights were carrying at least 20 people traveling on space-confirmed passes that day!...

Well, I received my invitation and I thought...maybe someone made a mistake...but, later in the week there was an email confirmation, so...I had decided to splurge and have my hair done...but, work committments kept me at the office until 6:15pm! (the invitation was for 7pm!)...so I had to forget about it and just rush home to change!...I went for the LBD approach, because the invitation said: FORMAL...so, I didn't want to be overdressed...but I also didn't want to be UNDERdressed, either!...I put on some makeup...it was sooo funny...Ale kept looking at me and, just before I left, she said: "Mom, you look....I love you!" and came to hug me...I guess she wanted to see if I was still the same mommy...(answer to that is YES!)...

I got my invitation out and noticed there was no indication of which ballroom the event would take place in...only the hotel...and I thought: hmm, how are we supposed to know where to go?? Oh, well, I'll ask at the hotel...

About a block from the hotel (it's on top of a hill) I realized WHY there was no room name...they had red, blue and yellow (the company colors) spotlights lighting the sky....((just follow the batsignal!))...

I had also decided that I was NOT going to leave my car outside and traipse uphill in my heels and nice dress, so I had decided to use the valet parking....I had my $2 ready...so I left the car with the valet...and was given a voucher that said: paid for! woo-hoo!..they even paid for the valet parking for any attendees that chose to use it!! (I imagine they told very few people about it, though!)...

As we went in, they had the photographer to take pictures...we were kept waiting in the hall until about 7:30 or 7:45...just mingling and commenting...and then, they asked people to walk down the corridor to the main room...the owners of the company were there and also the 4 Senior vice-presidents...so we got to shake hands/ kiss hello as we went in...((I kept feeling someone was going to courtsey to them! LOL!))

As we went down the corridor, we could see the "smoke" of the dry ice and, they had some girls dressed up as macaws (the company's mascot)...it was a very fancy tulle thing...you could tell they were supposed to be macaws because of the beak-like hats on their heads...it was very Las Vegas-like dress...

As we came into the room, we heard the swwwwoooooshhhh of an airplane taking off...and, as you came in, lots of pictures of airplanes taking off being projected on giant screens across the room ...they also had acrobats hanging from the ceiling!...it was VERY impressive!...and more dry ice "smoke", of course...

They had ice statues of planes on EVERY table...and a souvenir on EVERY place...a glass cube with the 75 Anniversary logo sketched inside...very tasty...very pretty....very heavy!! ((LOL!...someone mentioned this was NOT the thing to have around during an argument with your spouse!))...

There were also little menues on the table: ((markio, here's the menu!))
Salmon napoleon with asparagus, lemon sherbet, meat in wine/mushroom sauce, sauteed shrimp, potatos and vegetable napoleon...everything was yummy!...but, let's continue with the party!!

They started off with a video of the owner's son (in his 20's, very handsome boy!) saying what the company means to him and how much he admires his father ...then the owner read his speech (difficult, as he hadn't been told about the video beforehand, so it was a total surprise, and a very emotional moment for him!)...the President of ES also made a speech...and then they called to the stage a man that is a curator for the Smithsonian, who wrote a book about latin american airlines, and included a chapter on the company...THEN they called the grand-niece of the original founder (he was from New Zealand) ...

THEN they played a video highlighting the history of the company...where it started and were it is hoped it will get...they ended with: "if someday there are shuttles from Central America to the moon, we hope to be the ones operating them..." swoooshhh of space shuttle taking off .....

and the doors swung wide open and in comes a batucada group (10 people, drums only!...each drum playing a slighly different rythm, but in harmony)...you could see people wanted to get up and dance...but, I guess we were all too dressed up to give in! LOL!...good thing, too, as right after the batucada group, in came a group of dancers dressed in traditional costumes from different countries and paraded around the room, as if it were a carnival... in front of every small group of dancers came a girl with a banner with the name of the country being represented and a picture of a macaw (think the presentation of the countries at the Olympics)...then the batucada stopped and the first group of dancers -representing ES - danced a bit of traditional dances....there were 19 short dances in total!...very nice, very energetic!...(of course it was the same 20 people getting changed into different costumes, but, still!) in the end, all 20 dancers came to the floor and danced a couple of verses of "Pero si son latinos..." (there's some that mentioned the names of Latin American countries, they chose the ones that mention the ones we fly to) and the dancers even brought some people to dance from the closest tables...

After that, they presented the new campaign, which will be based around cultural diversity, will start officially in June 5th...

After that, they brought dinner (this was around 11:30pm!)...and a jazz band played all through the dinner...

Part of the room was curtained off and, at 12:00, we could see light coming from behid it...we thought it might be a cake or something...but, it wasn't...it was a band (Orquesta San Vicente, quite known here)...playing Happy birthday...after that, the dancing was to start!...this is when I had to leave, it was already 12:30!!...they tell me it went on until 3:00am!

As I was leaving, I saw the pictures on the table...also a special magazine and postage stamps...I took my picture, a copy of the magazine and 2 postage stamps envelopes!!...I went outside and requested my car...end of the night for me!

As we say here: they threw the house out the window on this event!

La Castellana

May 2nd, 2006 at 08:22 am

Ever since I saw the first billboard go up a couple of years ago, I said: ooohhh, I'd love to live there!...today, we went to look at an apartment there...beautiful apartments, great location....it's a four tower complex, with tennis and basketball courts, a pool and even a 1km trail for walking!...the smallest apartments (~160 m2) are $180,000 ....they're all sold out...the last phase is being built...apts there are ~250-280 m2...and sell from $280,000 - $300,000 ....

Dreams are free, aren't they??

Dark morning!

May 2nd, 2006 at 05:50 am

It's raining in the mornings now (rainy season is officially here!)...I had to get up to work on the computer, but I would have prefered to stay in bed under the covers...(want to bet we will have a fierce sun on Saturday and Sunday morning??)

((sigh))

Freaky Friday

April 29th, 2006 at 01:08 am

Today was one of those days when I wished I had worn rollerskates to the office!...I've been up and down, here and there and everywhere...I had to prepare a bunch of payments, was given about 4 new travel expenses to prepare, 8 documents to scan, 1 document to review/fax, 1 message to send, 1 pakcage to mail...had to retrieve 2 letters from accounting (May 2nd is the last day to file your income tax here, these letters are for the owners of some of the houses we rent...sure, now they want ME to hurry getting them! they've been ready since mid February!!!!)... had to deliver some documents for signature....had to take the (company) car to the insurance company so the adjuster could give us the authorization letter for the repair shop...had to make about 4 work-related phone calls...Had to send 1 message to Travel Control because one of the analysts had a travel expense rejected and didn't know why...had to file the house expenses (expat housing) for the past month...and update my excel file with the info...had to rush to HR to be measured for the new uniforms...which will probably arrive in October!!!

Things left undone: data entry/presentation from feedback forms from the latest training...translations...pick up of signed forms...

Then I had to come home and take my niece out to buy her b-day cake...only to realize I had left my wallet at the office!!! ...rush back to the office to retrieve it (luckily, I had sister's car, as she was finishing getting the house ready for my niece's birthday party - only 8 kids invited..they later went to another friend's house, as it was his b-day, too!)

Right now it's 2 am....the neighbors are having a bacholerette (sp?) party...they must have a stripper, because they keep yelling: mucha ropa, mucha ropa!! (too much clothing!)...and "go for it Yani!!!"..."Way to go, Lorena"...they're listening to reaggetton, of all things!!! ((faint))...so I figured I might as well update my blog... ((sigh))...at least, now it only sounds like 5 or 6 women...at the beginning of the night it sounded more like 15-20...

Soooooo....the guy with the car says he'll take it to the gas emissions thing tomorrow and bring the car along so I can take it for a drive....and on Tuesday he'll take it to the Vice-Ministry of transportation for the new license plates (takes a couple of days)...so close now...

Monday is May 1st...the FMLN has already announced they'll have "peaceful" demonstrations...which means they'll close the streets, write on walls with spray paint and burn tires on the streets...it's like a re-run of what they did on the 80's...I guess some people never evolve!!...

Rainy season is here!!

April 26th, 2006 at 12:43 pm

It's pouring outside!!!...you can't even see the street!!

$3.30 a gallon??

April 20th, 2006 at 11:13 am

Wow!...I noticed this today as we went by the gas station in our neighborhood...AND, this is without the newest increase, because prices get changed on Fridays here!!...((faint))

Who's the new Mayor??

March 13th, 2006 at 07:09 am

We still don't know and, unlike previous elections, this time the percentages are REALLY close!...so we really won't know until all votes are counted (well, they have been counted by the individual voting tables, but the numbers have to be consolidated!) ...either way, it's a victory for ARENA...San Salvador has been headed by the FMLN for the past 9 years and, traditionally, the difference has been abysmal...
Now, San Salvador is our capital city, that's why we all care about who won, but, actually I live in Antiguo Cuscatlan, and we know who won THERE!...Milagro Navas has been the Mayoress (does this word exist?) for 9 years there!... I used to believe that she got elected because of the inordinate amount of people from San Salvador who chose to vote in Antiguo (it's extremely close to San Salvador, so many people opted to vote there in the past, to avoid crowds, nowadays you can't really choose where to vote, it gets decided based on your address!)...but, when we went to sell school supplies at the Antiguo Cuscatlan fair this February, she came by to see how things were doing at the fair and, everyone seemed to know her - and like her, too!...Also, if you go to the city hall, they'll tell you: we don't support any party, we support HER...and, really, she has done a lot for the town and its surroundings...

Voting places were really crowded!

March 12th, 2006 at 05:25 pm

seems like everyone decided to wait until after lunch!...there were no parking spaces, either...I had to park almost 5 blocks away!...but, if bullets couldn't stop us in the 80's, 5 blocks, crowds and traffic jams are certainly NOT going to stop us now!

We are still waiting for the results, of course, but, they should be announcing the preliminary results at around 8:00pm tonight (it's 7:30 here!)

Elections!

March 12th, 2006 at 10:18 am

I already bathed the dog...Ale is having her bath, then I'm next and, after lunch, off we go to vote!!...it's National Assembly Representatives and Mayors this year....


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