Today we left San Salvador and drove to Ahuachapán where we will be for the next eight weeks. We are all so excited to start working with IMU – our in country organisation – this week, particularly after having learnt so much about the nation over the past two weeks.
Our two weeks in San Salvador have been jam packed. Every morning, Monday to Friday, we had a four hour Spanish lesson at CIS, El Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad. We were split up into groups according to our level of Spanish, but most of us were very basic as we had never done Spanish before. The lessons were at a quick pace which meant we learnt phrases and words a lot faster. This was really good and meant we made quick progress in the language. We are nowhere near being fluent but we definitely have a much better understanding of the language, though with enough time and practice we hope to get better.
After Spanish lessons in the morning we spent the afternoon having sessions with various organisations and people to learn more about the country. We spent an afternoon at Equipo Maiz, an organisation born in 1983 to give an experience of popular education, where we learnt about the history of the country. It was particularly interesting to hear more about the civil war as earlier that day we visited the Monument of Truth and Memory. It was a monument erected to remember all those that were killed or went missing throughout the civil war. There were 32,000 names on the monument, but these are only the names that were collected. It is estimated that 10,000 people disappeared and 75,000 people were killed.
We had a wealth of other sessions in related to the Millennium Development Goals that we will be working on whilst out here, respective to our group projects. These were all very informative, each gave us a better idea of the progress that is being made in El Salvador and which will continue after we leave.
Last weekend we went to La Sabana, a village in Tecoluca, and stayed with local families. This really was a test of how much Spanish we had actually learnt as the villagers spoke no English. The people in the village were extremely generous and welcoming as they let us live in their homes, eat their food, and sleep in their beds even though we were complete strangers. It was an amazing experience and allowed us to see how most Salvadorans live their life. Despite the language barrier we still had an amazing time with our host families and were just as sad as them to say goodbye.
We are all really excited to start working on our placements on Monday, and will hopefully be able to learn just as much as we contribute to the various projects.
ICS volunteer Tamara Short writes about her group's first 2 weeks in El Salvador.