Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Back in the USA

Today was a complete mix of emotions. I really am very excited to see my family and friends and anxious for all the summer plans I have back in Provo and Oregon, but it was so hard to leave my life in El Salvador. I have become so attached to all the people I’ve met there; not just the incredible group of volunteers in our house but all the locals I’ve met through various projects and circumstances. I didn’t think I would cry as much as I did, but I was tearing up for most of the taxi ride to the airport.

One of the hardest things about leaving is knowing that life in that little house in San Salvador doesn’t stop when I leave. There will be fun memories, inside jokes, amazing project successes and learning experiences that everyone else will be there for and I’ll miss out on. But I’ve learned over the years that it doesn’t do any good to worry or dwell on what things I might miss out on, because I can’t do everything.

I plan on filling the rest of my summer with work hours, late nights in the adlab (creative track bonding moments), spontaneous runs to Smith’s for munchies and redbox movies with my roommates, at least one road trip to California, new friends, and no regrets.

It’s hard to sum up my experience in El Salvador in a few words, because honestly, it was life changing. I am a better (I hope) different person than I was 6 weeks ago, and I hope that the ways I’ve grown will allow me to better help others for the rest of my life. We had our last meeting last night before we left and the country directors, Dalyn and Adán, had the four of us who were leaving go around and talk a little bit about our experience. For me, the biggest thing I’ll take away from this trip is that, though I hope and believe that the experiences and interactions with people I had in El Salvador impacted them in a positive way, but more importantly, that the person I became and the things I learned through those experiences can have an even greater impact wherever I am. And, going along with that, getting to know someone and learning to love them is the most important first step before trying to help fill a need they have or find a solution to a problem.

Although I didn’t create and implement some radical new project and change the world in 6 weeks, I think I learned a lot about the people I met, the culture of El Salvador, and the many ways to go about doing development work. And that sometimes the best thing you can give someone is love.

Again, thank you to everyone who supported me in any way for this trip! It has been such a blessing to be able to do it and I am so grateful for all I've been able to experience and learn.


PS: I really will add more pictures or post them on Facebook when I'm at a place with faster internet, so check back soon!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A little over a week

It's crazy to think that in a little over a week, I'll be leaving beautiful El Salvador.

I've become pretty attached to this place and to the wonderful people I've met here.

Today, we went out to Getsemani again to help with Lauren's crocheting class. (She's just begun teaching women in this community how to crochet in hopes that they can make little purses and baby booties and things to sell). We have a couple of other projects going on in this area and it's been interesting to learn about the dynamics (and drama) of the community leaders and residents.
There weren't as many women at the class today as there were last week, but hopefully we'll have more next time. Those who came seemed to have made strong progress since last week and Lauren was still able to teach them some new things today, so overall it was a success.

Tomorrow I will either be going with FUDEM to do vision screenings or I'll be going back to Getsemani to work with one of the employees of Habitat for Humanity doing census records in that community. It would be really interesting to do the second project because I've never done anything like that before and I'd definitely get to use my Spanish some more.

I still have a bunch more pictures to post, but it's kind of tricky to get them off my camera and up on this blog, so bear with me. They'll be worth the wait, hopefully!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Dalyn, one of our country directors, asked me the other day if I feel like I've accomplished something when I leave, or if I feel like this experience has been worth the time and money.

Of course it has.

Maybe it's selfish to think of how my skill set has expanded, or how I've learned so much, but that is definitely one of the biggest things I'll take home with me (in a little under 2 weeks, mind you). In a few short weeks, I've:
  • Learned how to plan and teach an intermediate English class.
  • Experienced microfinance firsthand and met with several experts on microfinance in El Salvador.
  • Conducted preliminary vision screenings for elementary school children.
  • Discussed life goals and aspirations with young women who have been abused, former drug addicts and my team members. *Seriously, the girls at CIPI and CREA are so fun to talk to. I think I'll miss them the most out of all the Salvadoreñas I've met here.
  • Gotten to know the bus system of San Salvador (believe me, that is an accomplishment of its own).
  • Experienced Latin American culture firsthand and fell in love with it (naturally).
  • Improved my Spanish and gained confidence in my ability to communicate effectively with native speakers.
  • Learned to live with 19 different personalities in a non-air conditioned house with 3 showers, and one small fridge.
I feel like so much of this trip has been me listening, speaking, experiencing and soaking up all the knowledge I can about so many different aspects of development. One of the greatest takeaways I have now is the desire to continue to be involved in development wherever I am. I really want to volunteer with the Hispanic community in Provo, not only to continue to use my Spanish, but just because I think it would be fun.

Apart from the personal gains I have experienced, I really do think I've been able to help in some small way the people of El Salvador. Even if it's just helping build a walkway around one house in Ahuachapan, teaching some eager students how to use the past tense in English, or reminding the girls at CIPI that they are loved, I hope that my time here has helped someone, somehow.