These are images from my last day at the school.
Now that I’ve been home for a few days, having been in El Salvador almost seems like a dream; a very pleasant dream. It is time to wrap up these posts about my eight weeks in El Salvador. To do so, let’s look at how I did on my three goals:
Maintaining Health and Safety: This was primary because without this the others could not happen. Other than the notable exception of my insistence on using my camera around the markets, I followed all of Joaquin’s other recommendations and had no issues with people bothering me or trying to take my belongings.
I was sick twice, first with a cold and then with a one day bout of GI distress, but expected these to likely occur and went to El Salvador with medications to deal with both. I actually returned leaner and stronger than when I left. Walking several miles a day with a day-pack will have that effect, I guess.
Teaching English in the Local Public School: This is more difficult to judge. My future graduate work will likely provide me with a better framework for evaluating this. Many students were exposed to and demonstrated some learning of new materials. Eight weeks is not a lot of time. All I did was to teach them the bit that I could in that period. Others will come and teach more. It may seem disjointed to have these students learn English from a bunch of volunteers who may or may not have experience in teaching, but there is no formal program teaching English in grades 1 -6. Without Teaching You, there would be nothing for them until Grade 7.
I was successful in engaging the students in learning and was told this repeatedly while I was in El Salvador. My Spanish tutor told me I had to make learning fun. These girls would not sit for lectures on grammar. We played games that I found or developed to teach the concepts I was asked address. The students learned the material in order to win the games. And we had a lot of fun.
Experiencing the Language, Community and Culture: I cannot claim to be fluent in Spanish at this point. I still struggle knowing exactly what is going on. But my skills are much better now than when I arrived. When I shared some food with the police officer on the hike up Volcan de Santa Ana, he was curious and asked me a lot of questions about myself and my thoughts on our two countries. I could manage that in Spanish with no problems. My Spanish is best when I don’t feel pressured or tired.
I tried just about every opportunity that was offered to me to experience the culture in El Salvador. Some things were things that I am not really drawn to in my life here at home, but were worth trying and seeing there. I am glad that I did, but as I said in an earlier post, you can go someplace else but are still the same person you are at home. Ultimately, I embraced more the things that were consistent with my life back here in the US.
Being a part of the community there was one of my favorite parts of my trip. In a small community in which people walk places, you are just always seeing people you know. Over the eight weeks, I developed more friendships and acquaintances than I ever expected. The open and generous nature of the Salvadoran people definitely contributed to this. Helping to serve at the program to feed those who are hungry was one of my favorite parts.
As you can imagine, I feel very positive about my time in El Salvador. I’m glad I went, and was able to experience these things and to help people there. This will be my last post in this series. Tomorrow, Milford Street will return to being a photo-blog. You may see some stray photos from El Salvador from time-to-time, but I’ve already started to make new images back here in the U.S.
My thanks to Joaquin, Marina, the faculty and staff of Centro Escolar Margarita Duran and all the others who made this trip such a positive experience. My thanks also to my wife and family for their support.