Here is where you will find what I did during my time in El Salvador. There is no way that I could tell you about all of the experiences that we shared, but here is where I try to recap the major events. Note that this is a sample only. If you attend the program in the future, your itinerary will vary.
Day 1 – Flight arrives, beach, walk the “fish pier”, lunch at a cafeteria-style restaurant, arrive at Casa Oasis.
Day 2 – Hear Damien’s testimony on the war and his role, visit El Jabali coffee plantation for presentations on organic, fair-trade coffee production, market and dinner at Paseo El Carmen.
Day 3 – Presentation on gangs/meeting with community and gang members at Anades, lunch on Lake Ilopango, masculinities workshop.
Day 4 – Equipo Maiz for a history lesson on El Salvador, economic exercise in the market, meet with Sister Peggy in Suchitoto, tour the facilities there, and walk into town for shopping/dinner.
Day 5 – Visit La Divina Providencia, where Monseñor Romero was killed, meet David Morales, Procurator for the Defense of Human Rights, lunch at a restaurant in town, visit and play games with human trafficking victims.
Day 6 – International Worker’s Day march, lunch with Maria at her home (where we learned to make pupusas), free night (for us, this involved going out to Fajitas restaurant and to the Irish Bar).
Day 7 – Visit to Ciudad Mujer, an entire complex dedicated to providing services for women who desperately need them, lunch at a restaurant, arrive at Radio Victoria and hike to Santa Marta (stopping by CoCoSi on the way), arrive in Santa Marta and meet host families.
Day 8 – Breakfast with host family, then meet at Aida’s to hear her testimony, followed by a walk to hear about the history of Santa Marta from Walter (pictured below). Lunch at Aida’s, then meet with Carlos for an agriculture talk, Reginita for a discussion of her bakery, and then dinner at Aida’s before returning to host family’s house.
Day 9 – Breakfast with host family, hike from Santa Marta back to Radio Victoria, go on the air at Radio Victoria, hear a presentation from workers there, lunch at Ercilia’s house, shop for hammocks and other crafts.
Day 10 – Visit Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) and the Monseñor Romero Pastoral Center to see the site of the murder of six Priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter, including the rose garden that the women’s husband/father planted in their honor after he found the bodies. Lunch at Beatriz’s house to hear a mining talk from Pedro. Fernando Llort art gallery. Talk with immigration lawyer.
Day 11 – Placements. Mine was at a preschool where we sat in on the classrooms, talked to the Social Worker, went on home visits with the school staff and talked to them about the clinic that is associated with the school, which offers natural remedies for illness. Lunch at Soy Cafe.
(We were asked not to post pictures of the kids online.)
Day 12 – Placements. More classroom and home visits. Lunch with the kids. Discussion with the School Psychologist.
(Again, no pictures from the school because the kids are in them. But rest assured, those kids are ridiculously cute. If you absolutely have to see them, I can show you the pics.)
Day 13 – Presentations to each other about our placements (other groups went to work with urban/gang organization and human trafficking shelter). Lunch and presentation/discussion with LGBT community member. Shicali pottery (made by disabled community members) and artisan market. Free night (which for us, involved dinner at a Chinese restaurant… don’t ask).
Day 14 – Leave for the beach! Our last night was spent at an amazing beach resort on the Pacific Ocean. Had our final in-country debriefing and enjoyed some amazing meals together.
Day 15 – Leave for the airport. Say goodbye to Kike (our bus driver/friend) and Cristina (our translator/guide/friend). Fly back to Michigan.
The first picture above is our bus with Kike, our driver and friend, in the back.
Kike is one of the most genuinely kind and wonderful people that you will ever meet. On top of that, he’s also the best driver you will ever meet. See a street that looks tight for a Mini Cooper? Kike will fit a bus through it. Bumpy mountain road that Jeeps would struggle with? Kike will get the bus up there while you sip a cup of coffee without spilling a drop. This guy should seriously be competing in rally races somewhere, because I would bet on him to win every time.
The second picture is me with Cristina (left) and her friend Melissa (right).
Cristina is the person who coordinates all of the in-country logistics. She is both well-known, and well-respected, around El Salvador (for good reason). Cristina not only helps you see and hear the stories all around you, but she makes you think about them critically. I will always remember at our final debriefing, talking about how I cherish the connections that I made in El Salvador, even if some of those connections are people who I will never see again. Cristina challenged that, telling me that I will see them again… just in a different way. And you know what? She’s right. I do not need to see someone with my eyes to have them impact my vision. The people of El Salvador have affected how my eyes view the world, and that connection is one that will never die. Somehow, even when we get together as a group here in Michigan, things do not quite feel complete without Cristina here.
Melissa joined our trip for about five days, becoming a wonderful addition to our group. It was not until the night before she left that someone happened to Google her name and find out that in addition to being part of our group, she is also Emmy and Oscar award winning actor Melissa Leo. Seriously.