To catch this blog up I am going to start with the basics of why I am living in El Salvador, a bit of what I have learned about this country, and my new life here.
Two months after my college graduation I moved to El Salvador to work in economic development for the next two years. I have been assigned to work with a cabbage cooperative in Las Granadillas, a community way up in the mountains by the border of El Salvador and Honduras.
Pledging to live in poverty in the country with the 2nd highest murder rate in the world was definitely a plunge.
But, even though at times life here is really difficult, I know this is where I am meant to be at this point in my life.
I knew I would be living in poverty but I never could have imagined what poverty is like in El Salvador.
The average daily wage here for people in the “campo” (country) is about $8 a day. I know people in my community who only have tortillas and salt to eat on this salary.
Most houses in my community have dirt floors, contaminated water, and leaky roofs. The majority of children stop their education after 9th grade because the bus fare to the closest high school is too much to pay.
But, even though where I live the poverty is extreme, El Salvador at times feels like the 51st state. About 1/3rd of Salvadorian people in the world are living in the States, usually sending part of their salary to family and friends in El Salvador. Having a family member “over there” who is a manager of Subway or working in the back of a restaurant in a source of pride.
People also love to wear clothes with English writing (even though, usually, people have no idea what the writing means which leads to little boys wearing “Girls RULE” shirts and house wives wearing clothing that says “I am a BAD, sexi GIRL”). People also wear shirts with American university logos, names of cities/states in the U.S., and shirts supporting American sports teams. At times, walking around the cities here feels like walking around parts of East LA.
El Salvador is also incredibly conservative but what did I really expect when I decided to live in the only country in the world named “Jesus” (El Salvador means “The Savior” in Spanish)? Some people here are so conservative that they think it is sinful for women to wear pants, to play cards, or dance. I spend a lot of time in the Catholic church.
My new life here is pretty nun-like.
I wake up at 5:30 AM, “run” in front of my house for a few miles (AKA jump/dance/skip until I hit my distance goal on my iPod because I am afraid that I will be bitten by dogs if I run on the street), and then bond with the community.
I do almost anything and everything to get close to my community. I put flowers on graves during the Day of the Dead, go to two hour long Catholic church services, learn how to plant onions, and make tortillas in funny shapes. I am getting a small following of 4 to 5 year-olds. I think they like me because, on my good days, I speak Spanish like a 4 to 5-year-old.
It’s definitely an adventure. I promise more regular updates soon.