El Salvador in one word: beautiful. Flying over the land into El Salvador one could tell that it was beautiful. It was an endless array of green suggesting fruitfulness and vegetation. It of course appeared that way. Flying was one thing but landing in El Salvador was a whole different story for I initially found that the apparent fullness was not so full.
For me, this was my first real experience outside of the country which I was beyond excited for but I believe my expectations were set a little too high. In the comfort of America one has access to water fountains and the ability to flush your own toilet paper in most all public places but I came to realize that those appealing amenities were not a given. I understood it was going to be a different environment but there is only so much National Geographic can tell you before you see it for yourself.
Once we had made it to Berlin we visited many schools and daycares which many would agree got increasing moving as we continued on. Our last stop of the day was at the physical therapy center which was not physical therapy in our sense but it was a center for around 30 children who had a physical or mental disability where three women ran the center and cared for the children throughout the day. Special needs persons have always had a special place in my heart so I had a feeling that this was going to be interesting. I was so moved by the amount of love these children gave to us strangers who just walked in the door one day. It was admirable to see these women care for these children and it was shocking for back home, students with disabilities have one on one attention which these women are still managing to provide. My friends at home with a disability are always thought to have a hard life and a difficult one but with everyday their optimism shows me that their disability is not one that hinders them at all. By being here in El Recreo, it has shown me that disabilities are universal whether that be mental, physical, or any type of setback life may throw at you. But to see them succeed and flourish still, it became clear that it’s all up to attitude on whether you will let it hinder you or not.
Success was definitely something very apparent with the high school students we were able to meet. One girl named Estephani was 17 with interests in languages and the study of people all in which are very similar to mine. I thought very highly of her for she would spend a lot of time on her studies in hopes of going to a university to study languages. Little did I know that every day she would wake up at 6 am to get ready for school, leave at a quarter to 7 for her hour long walk to school, be in class until 4 pm, walk an hour back home, eat dinner, do her homework for 2 hours, and go to bed around 9 to start the day all over again. And I thought my schedule was rough. We later talked about college and their aspirations in life and so I shared mine but at the end she said most people here have these dreams but they can never fulfill them because they have to work for the family. All of this hard work and dedication to their school work that they may never have a chance to use. We are blessed with that accessibility to education and even blessed with a ride to get there. Estephani is an inspiration to all students out there and I pray that one day I can have half the dedication that she has.
During the week, we had the honor of going to the homes of the inbound members of El Recreo and you could instantly see that these people were beautiful. As we came around the side of the house in look of a man, we found a large plot of green land with crops budging out in between mountainous rocks and once looking a little farther you could see the 90 year old man cutting crops on the far end of the field. He made his way back to meet us and the translators told us that he lives alone in this makeshift home with sticks and branches to cover the doorway. Alone! The idea that this man who has lived here his whole life, with a story of his own, has thrived in these conditions for almost 90 years and is still working his field. And here I am, a 17 year old girl blessed with beyond comfortable living conditions and for what? Why should I be blessed with so much and he with this? But then it came to me that his conditions may seem rocky to us, but he is still flourishing in the midst of it. God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle and these people must be the strongest people out there if God knew they were capable of handling it: That is what is beautiful.
I thank St Boniface parish for this wonderful opportunity and I pray that other youth will learn a lot from this experience as I have.