Reality has just set in. I'm sitting here after what I would describe as an emotional conversation with my host mum and its hit both of us. I've only got two weeks left. Two weeks! After which this cycle will be over and I'll be leaving Santa Catarina Masahuat, a place that's been home to me for the last two and a half months.
10 weeks ago I arrived here with nine others just like me, in the sense that we all got on a plane at London Heathrow airport and set off to El Salvador, with a common aim based on all that we had been told about our project, to work to strengthen a youth organisation based in this community.
We may have started out the same but along the way we all realised how different we were. Different interests, skills, abilities and even journeys. The journey is what comes to mind now in this moment of reflection.
At 25 going onto 26, I'm one of the older members of the group. It was at the start of the cycle that I noticed this more evidently, for example, I witnessed others go through new experiences that may not have been all that new for me, like pila/bucket showers, cutting grass with a machete, sleeping under a mosquito net or even presenting to a large group of people for the first time, to mention but a few. Times like these I couldn't help but feel that other volunteers were taking a lot more from this experience than I was.
However, looking at it now I see things differently. I too have gained my share of brand new experiences, I have played a part in constructing a bench using bio-bricks and cob, I have made jewellery out of newspaper and Coke cans, I have climbed a volcano and seen it all the way through to the top and, believe it or not, I have actually played in a football tournament, granted our team lost but nevertheless I did it.
More to the experiences I have gained is the people I have met, my host family who are some of the humblest people I have ever encountered, inspiring young people who are fighting to be heard and given a voice in a country where they are very lowly regarded, and my fellow volunteers with whom I have spent the majority of my hours here with. All people I'm not ready to say goodbye to.
And now as I look back I see a lot of things I will miss. Hugging my little host brother every morning as I leave for work, frijoles for breakfast and aguacate at lunch, the cute old couple that greet me every morning on my way to the bio-park, work banter with the other volunteers, my host mum’s super fresh queso, and even speaking Spanish every minute of every day.
And as I carry on looking back, I am grateful for all the bonds I have made, proud of all the work the team has accomplished together, such as an improved bio-park and a brand new play, not to mention that I will forever remember the year I spent International Women's Day in El Salvador.
It may have taken a while to realise but I truly have gained a lot from this experience and I can gladly say that I'll be returning home more fulfilled. Only I will be a little less whole as I'll be leaving a bit of my heart here in Santa Catarina Masahuat.
Written by ICS volunteer Caroline Komuhangi