A small country with a big heart

I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, just west of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and a long, long way away from any sort of tropical climate. The first time that I travelled to El Salvador, I had just finished a Masters degree in Engineering and decided that, after 6 ½ years in University, it was time to do something completely different and to embark on the adventure of my life. That was over 4 ½ years ago and since then I have been to El Salvador 4 different times, lived there for almost 2 years, and now consider it a second home.

El Salvador is a small country with a big heart that has a way of enchanting, and I was no exception; it is charming, chaotic, full of surprises, unique, and I loved it. I camped on mountains, surfed the best breaks in the world, hiked volcanoes, dived in waterfalls, and travelled to wild gulf islands. I visited historical city centers, helter-skelter markets, museums, art galleries, explored mayan ruins, and stayed in romantic colonial towns where the streets quietly daydream of bygone days. I even had the opportunity to play on a volleyball team and travel to neighboring countries for tournaments.

What I love the most about El Salvador are the people. Salvadorans are happy, animated, proud and very eager to show off their home. A cordial “Welcome to El Salvador” from a stranger on the street can quickly lead to an invitation to come for dinner to meet the whole extended family. I am extremely lucky to have had the opportunity build lifelong relationships with people that I now consider family. During my time there I have shared and experienced weddings, quinceañera parties, birthday parties, family vacations, and spent christmas with local families.

Much of my time in El Salvador was spent volunteering in the school in Santa Tecla, which will always be a very special place for me. I had the pleasure of teaching kids from 1st all of the way to 9th grades. They are amazing, happy, bursting with energy, and always ready to share with you. The environment is very loving and appreciative with no shortage of hugs! It is such a wonderful feeling to watch as students excel at English, purely because of the efforts of volunteers, and instills the feeling that it is possible to make a difference.

Travelling to El Salvador has made a difference in my own life. When I first went, I spoke little more than “Una cerveza por favor”, but now am nearly fluent in Spanish. I would have never imagined but this has proven to be a valuable asset in my engineering career when I ended up with a job working in Germany requiring me to spend weeks on end in South American jungles relying completely on Spanish for my raw survival.

El Salvador has inspired me to travel and explore the world and since my first trip, I have been to more countries than I have fingers, toes, and appendages to count on! It is a flame that ignited a life of learning, exploring, and adventure and a place that will never be forgotten. Although often overlooked, El Salvador is never missed.