My time in El Salvador
As I traveled to El Salvador, a thousand thoughts were spinning through my head. I had so many questions, so many worries, expectations, and insecurities. Although my plan to go to El Salvador was well thought through I felt, as I was sitting on a plane with only Spanish speaking people, that I was a fish out of the water. I knew I was going to teach, but not what or how I was going to be able to do this, as I had only previously worked at a day care center, looking after smaller children. As I was picked up from the airport by Joaquin I felt a sense of relief right away, a feeling of safety. Because that is what Joaquin will give you – a safety net, because believe me, there will be times when you feel completely lost. However, all your worries will be forgotten, when you meet the girls at the school and feel their love and gratitude. They truly make you see that even in the worst of times; you can always find something good. I am thinking about the time I bought a pair of earrings at the street (normally you will find students working in their free time) from a girl in my 4th-grade class, telling her she could keep the change, she refused because she wanted to be a fair sales girl.
Or the time another girl gave me her bracelet because I made a comment on how beautiful it was or the time a student gave me some of her food because she thought I might be hungry after teaching her class all morning. Those times make you cry because you realize that they value everything in this world, so much more!
My day in Santa Tecla usually started with me teaching either the morning classes or the afternoon classes. I would prepare a topic for the week, and teach this through board lessons, as well as printed tasks for the girls to fill out. By the end of class, I would reward the ones who had done well or had really put in an effort with a sticker. Those stickers (that I had brought with me from Norway) created so much engagement and happiness among the girls. I would then sometimes eat lunch in the city, or at home. For dinner, I would usually go with the other volunteers to Taco Loco on the corner and eat tacos and pupusas (They are amazing - tacos at home will never taste the same).
I got to travel quite a bit, during my time in El Salvador, and I made some experiences that opened my eyes and that will never forget: I saw the beautiful nature of El Salvador, the forest, volcanoes, beaches, small villages and the kindness and warm welcomes of Salvadorans. I also got to travel to Nicaragua, during a time of several earthquakes, something I had never experienced before – I freaked out while Joaquin and the locals laughed at me. It was definitely part of the experience, though. I got to see Guatemala and go on a coffee tour, in El Salvador traveling from island to island to understand how their amazing Nature is. Of all the things I got to experience in El Salvador, the most random one was being offered to model, which I had never dreamt of doing. The experience in itself was fun and rewarding, however, it also opened my eyes to the big gap between rich and poor in this country. I enjoyed being a model (for a short time), and they even paid me! While not a whole lot, it was enough to cover the cost for new whiteboards in almost all the classrooms in the school.
So my time in El Salvador was so much more than “just” teaching. Seeing the girls at the school, have such belief and faith in themselves and their future, made me realize that they actually taught me a lesson about life. I returned to Norway more confident and more positive and with a feeling that I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to. Santa Tecla and the girls at School will forever be in my heart!