Thursday, May 8, 2014

Day 13: Thursday, May 8th


After breakfast today we did presentations on our service sites.  There was three groups, with the other two groups presenting on a women's shelter and the other on working with gangs.  It was interesting to learn about the other sites.  Their presentations were very good and I wished that I was able to experience their sites with them!

After our presentations, we went to Shicali, which is a ceramics co-op that is run by people with disabilities.  The artwork was very beautiful and I liked that this shop is completely run by members of this diverse population.  Although we did not work with this population on our trip, going to the shop and learning about it helped show support.  This is a population whose voice needs to be heard in social work, and I'm glad that we were able to spend some time with them.

We returned to the Oasis for lunch and ate with Rocio, who is an activist for the LGBTI community in El Salvador.  She talked to us as a group after lunch and shared her story and passion with us.  She told us about the incidences of hate crimes against this population and about what issues are important for them in El Salvador.  This population receives numerous violations of human rights all over of the world and it was interesting comparing the role of culture as to how this population is received.  After she left, we went to the Wall of Memory and Truth at a nearby park.  This huge wall is dedicated to all of the missing and murdered victims of the war.  Not all of the names are on it, but there are thousands on it so far.  The wall is also accompanied by a mural sculpture also on the wall, that depicts the history of El Salvador.  This wall really makes the amount of deaths more real than just hearing a number.  The wall is also amazing due to the fact that the government did not fund this project, but organizations and individuals did.

After our park visit, we spent some time in a local artisan market.  There was many shops and I was able to buy some items.

After coming back to the Oasis, we packed our bags and began getting ready for tomorrow.  Tonight is our last night at the Oasis, as we are spending the whole day and night tomorrow at the beach.  We went out tonight for our free night out and explored the row of restaurants in downtown San Salvador.

*I am not sure if there will be internet access at the beach tomorrow.  Saturday is full of airports, flying, and layovers so I will only be able to blog if the airport allows me to.  If I am unable to blog the next two days, no worries because I will definitely be blogging the coming week(s) to reflect on my transition back to the United States culture.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Day 12: Wednesday, May 7th


Today was our second and final day at our service site.  We began our day by playing with the kids for an hour or so. I was with the five year olds today and we worked on a house project and watched a bit of Happy Feet.  We also went outside and played on the playground for a bit before we had to move on.  The three of us then went and visited with the school psychologist and we chatted with her about her role at the facility.  For lunch we ate with the kids in the cafeteria and left for home visits.  We were able to do two home visits and went to other homes, but the parents were not there. We also stopped back at the Soy place to pick up some items and bought some natural products from the clinic. We ended our day by thanking the leaders and saying goodbye to the kids. We also celebrated Keigan's graduation tonight with a lovely strawberry cake! Below are pictures of the school building and of the clinic.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Days 7, 8, 9, 10 & 11

¡Hola! It has been more than a few days since my last post!  We spent the weekend in Santa Marta and I was too tired Sunday night to write and have been having issues with the internet the past few days.  Alas, let's begin!

Day 7: Friday, May 2nd

On our way to Santa Marta we stopped at Ciudad Mujer, which is an AMAZING facility for women.  It provides women with resources in health, jobs, child care, and so much more.  I was so impressed with it's programs and buildings.  It is a wonderful project and I wished we had one in the United States.  We were not allowed to take pictures inside, but I do have one of the outside, which doesn't even show half of it!

Upon arriving in Santa Marta, we arrived at Aida's house, which was our base camp for the weekend.  After eating dinner at her house, we met with our host families.  I stayed with Esmeralda and her son Ranaldo.  They were very nice and hospitable to me and their kindness was greatly appreciated.

Day 8: Saturday, May 3rd

After eating breakfast with our host families, we met up at Aida's house.  She gave us her testimony on the history of Santa Marta and her experiences during the war.  She talked to us about having to relocate and about the community came together and rebuilt.  Her testimony was very emotional and inspiring.  She also told us about her trip to Italy, where she also gave her testimony.  We then took a walk around the community with Walter, who gave us not only his testimony, but historical information about the war.  We visited his house and talked to his wife has well.  They both had very emotional testimonies and had witnessed very traumatic events.  Despite their immense hardships, they are dedicated to educating others about what happened.  Walter dreams of having a museum dedicated to Santa Marta's history and has collected different objects.  Below is a picture of half of a bomb that dropped but luckily hadn't detonated.

After lunch we met with Carlos and talked about agriculture.  He discussed the history of farming and the land in El Salvador and in Santa Marta.  He showed us some of the corn that he grows and talked to us about environmental issues that are social issues, like pesticides and pollution.  Below is a mural from one of the centers in the town that depicts the war.

We next talked to Reginita, who works at the local bakery.  She told us about the history of the bakery and how it started from nothing and has become successful.  She also told us about how the bakery has helped empower women and her history of hard work and dedication as an entrepreneur.  She also baked us a lovely cake.

Day 9: Sunday, May 4th

After our last breakfast with our host families, we said good-bye and headed toward the town of Victoria.  Along the way we stopped at a wood-working shop.  In Victoria, we went to Radio Victoria, which is a radio station run in part by our leader and is dedicated to promoting social justice and truth.  We talked with members of the station and they enlightened us to their history and to some of the challenges they have faced and continue to face.  Their testimonies were powerful and inspiring and I have immense respect for what they do.  We got to talk live on-air and we all thanked our host families (it was translated for us), as we knew that they would be listening.

On our way back to San Salvador we went on a crafts tour and went shopping.  We arrived in time for dinner and it was wonderful to be back at the Oasis!

Day 10: Monday, May 5th (Cinco de Mayo!)

We spent the morning at the University of Central America, or the UCA, which is home to the Mons. Romero Pastoral Center and has a museum dedicated to the massacre that took place there during the war.  This location was home to six Jesuit priests who were assassinated along with the gardner's wife and daughter by soldiers in the eighties.  This experience was very emotional and some of the images we saw were graphic and horrific.  Incidents like this in history remind me of the importance of protecting human rights so heinous acts of violence and destruction do not occur ever again.

We ate lunch at Beatriz's house, who is a friend of our leaders.  During lunch Carlos talked to us about gold mining and about how it heavily impacts the environment and humanity not only in El Salvador, but in other countries as well.  Carlos is an environmental activist and he shared his vast knowledge and passion on this topic with us.  I sometimes forget about how the environment plays a role in social injustice and how issues in one country impact people outside that country as well. Carlos' testimony was a good reminder for me.  After our talk we went to Fernando Llort's gallery.  Llort is a famous artist in Central America.  I was not allowed to take pictures inside the gallery but I took the one below of the artwork outside his gallery that resembles his style.

We ended our day by talking to Kay about the issues of immigration and youth.  She informed us about the history between the United States and El Salvador and about how this history has led to a complicated and frustrating relationship when it comes to immigration.  I learned a lot from this talk and it made me reflect on the issue in ways that I have not thought about before.

Day 11: Tuesday, May 6th

Today was the first day of our service site placements.  Mario, Chris and I were placed at ANADES Nuevo Amanecer, which is focused on schools and community.  After talking to the directors about the program, we each were assigned to different rooms for an hour and got to spend time with the kids.  I was assigned to the room of four-year olds and it was very interesting.  The kids were fascinated by me and it was a bit challenging to understand their Spanish.  I enjoyed playing with them nonetheless.  We went to their clinic next, which promotes natural medicines and we talked to a gentleman there for a while learning more about what they do.  We ate lunch at a nutrition organization that is soy-based and talked to the woman that runs it. After lunch we accompanied a staff member on two home visits and met with the parents of two of the students.

I didn't take many pictures today because I am not allowed to take pictures of the children and post them online and because we were busy learning about the facility that I wasn't able to take touristy pictures.  I was able to snap the picture above of the front part of the facility at the end of our visit.  We return tomorrow to this site and I will try to take more pictures.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Day Six


Today was May 1st, as you are aware, but here in El Salvador that means that today was the International Worker's Day March.  The March was full of numerous organizations representing themselves and others as a means of solidarity.  As guests in the country we of course did not join in (it wasn't a protest, by the way), but we observed.  We also actually recognized some of the people we had met this past week who were participating in the March.  There was also fireworks going off during the March, which I didn't quite get used to.  I really appreciated the collective aspect of unifying for human rights and celebrating solidarity.

After leaving the March, we went outside of the city a ways and visited Maria's house.  Maria is a close old friend of both of the leaders of the group.  We learned to make pupusas (pictured below), which are tortillas filled with beans and cheese.  We have eaten them at meals many times before and it was fun to actually make them!  It was nice meeting with Maria and her family and making food together.

After visiting with Maria for a bit, we came back to the hotel and had the rest of the evening to do what what we wanted.  Our group decided to go out and explore the town.  Before we left I took a picture of the outside of the hotel, as I mentioned that I would include pictures eventually.

**This will be my last post for a few days, as we are headed to the northern part of the country for the weekend and staying with host families.