Day 6: Reflection by Amanda Willmarth

Today was filled with all new sights and knowledge. We went to a coffee cooperative to learn about what they do and how they do it. I personally don’t like coffee, but it was still really interesting to learn about what these people do for a living and how much effort it takes to grow the coffee trees and make the actual coffee. When we arrived we met an amazing woman, Alicia Morales, who is the president of the coffee cooperative. She is also the only female president of a cooperative in El Salvador, and she seems like the perfect person for the job. Alicia has taken many classes to learn how to produce organic coffee in a way that doesn’t hurt the environment but helps it instead. They implement these methods that she learned in all of the locations where they grow coffee. We went to see the location where it all started (which was quite a hike), helped plant one of the trees, and learned about why they plant the way that they do. They told us that the planting season is in June, but they’ve already been digging holes in preparation for the June planting. It’s crazy to think that each farmer needs to dig so many holes per day in order to get his small wage of just $6. Benjamin only had only dug part of one hole and planted the tree and he was already sweating a lot. It’s really hard work and each person has to do so much each day just to earn such meager pay. It’s still hard for me to believe how hard these people have to work for so little while most people in America earn way more than them in just an hour of work (which is usually way easier than digging 100 holes in the blazing heat). We are so privileged in America and most of the time we don’t even realize or appreciate it.

The other place that we went to today was the ruins of a community that was buried under volcanic ash around 1500 years ago. It was really intriguing seeing the ruins and learning how the people used to live. There were 13 different structures which had been uncovered, a few of them were houses, but the rest were all different. They had a shaman’s house, which acted as their doctor’s office, a public kitchen area, plots of corn next to the houses, and a sauna. It was surprising to see that they had a sauna way back then, but it makes sense when you think about how they used it to purify themselves spiritually. There was also a life-size recreation of the sauna near the ruins themselves which we tourists were able to go into. We had to crawl through the entrance, but once we were inside I could imagine all the Mayans huddled inside it purifying themselves as a community; it was really cool.

Overall, today we all learned a lot about El Salvador, its history, and its culture. We also got to see some amazing ruins, take in an incredible vista of a beautiful lake at the coffee cooperative, and spend more time having fun and getting to know the other members of the group. It was a really good day.

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