Firstly I must confess that prior to my arrival I knew little of the small Latin American country known as El Salvador. I could no more point out its existence on a map than regale you with facts about the country´s rich history and culture. Since landing here, however, I have learnt so much and have come to love and respect the country and community I am calling home for these ten short weeks.

El Salvador is a place of great contradictions; of incomprehensibly flat plains and grand, jutting mountain ranges; with a history of repression and sorrow but a culture of laughter and celebration. Its people will welcome you into their homes and treat you as if you were their own, offering you most of what little they have regardless of whether you have been in their community for two days, ten weeks or your whole life.

My first experience of El Salvador consisted of the nightly raucous cacophony of pets and livestock, booming early morning announcements (rudely awakening you from slumber to wish you a good morning and making it hard to return the sentiment) and a continual torrent of bean-based dishes; a mind-boggling array of combinations that would inevitably creep their way into every mealtime. My days were (and still are) a whirlwind of commemorative festivals honoring those who died in the civil war and early morning starts in clothes covered in a delightful mixture of cement dust, clay and cow dung. 

Through all this there is one thing that has not escaped my notice and that is the people of El Salvador: the ever jovial presence whose warmth accompanies us throughout all our trials; who toil away beside us in the blistering heat and torrential rain, and who laugh and joke with us after the work is done. They are somewhat of an enigma to me. Despite their tortured history, having lived through the most harrowing and frightful experiences, they retain such a vivacious spirit and enjoy life to the full. It is impossible not to admire a community who remain unbroken after such adversity; their outlook on life fills me with immeasurable love and respect for a people that just a few months prior was completely unknown to me.

El Salvador is a country that slowly, but surely, seeps into your heart and soul. I know that no matter where I go, and what I do, a part of it will remain with me always; reminding me that happiness is not measured in terms of worldly possessions, but rather who you surround yourself with and the company you keep. I will remember fondly these nights spent with friends underneath the intoxicatingly beautiful Salvadorian sunset, and I look forward to the rest of my time here. I am driven to work as hard as I may, so that I can give back to a community that has already given me so much.

Written by ICS volunteer Adam Griffiths