Alternative Spring Break 2015

Midpoint Reflection by Kelsi Madrid: Love, Laughter, and Poverty

Wow. I don’t even know where to begin. So far this trip has been so amazing in ways that I cannot even begin to explain. When I was seeing El Salvador for the first time in the daylight, I remember thinking to myself how beautiful this country is and how different my imagination had projected it to be. I also remember feeling like I wanted to cry. I don’t know exactly why I was withholding tears but it was a very powerful moment for me because at that moment everything became real. I was really in El Salvador on my way to meet these amazing people.

I have never felt this kind of love, heard so much laughter or seen this kind of poverty. It amazes me how happy and positive these people can be. My family is AMAZING in so many ways that I can’t explain all in one blog.

There have been many culture shocks so far. For example, the trash everywhere, the guards carrying huge guns outside of most doors, the bathrooms having no toilet paper and so much more! But I am sooo glad I am getting this experience because I have gained so much and have a new perception on life. Every day is a powerful day and I go to bed with new emotions every night. I literally think that every day I have either said to myself or out loud that I love this place. I love the people, food, love, laughter, soccer and even the bucket showers. My heart is so full, I wish I had more time here. I am in a hostel tonight and I already miss my host family. I will never forget this experience and these people will always have a place in my heart. Thank goodness this is just a midway blog and I still get to spend more time with the students and my family gibt es viagra ohne rezept. If you are reading this, thanks, and ¡buenas noches!

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Midpoint Reflection by Jessica Trujillo: Culture Shock and Family

I can’t believe Day 5 in El Salvador is already over. Time is flying by. Today was our “tourist” day in San Salvador, coincidently it was also the 35th anniversary of Oscar Romero’s assassination. It was interesting to learn more about his life and see where he lived and where he was murdered. We spent all day driving from place to place, and to say that traffic here is crazy would be a huge understatement. The cars drive so close to each other, cut each other off every second, and motorcycles zip right through all of it without a second thought. It was cool to see the other side of El Salvador by spending it in the city today compared to where we’ve been staying in El Espino.

Before the trip, I didn’t exactly know what to expect when I found out I was going to be staying in a house with a host family. Now that I’m here, it’s a complete culture shock to say the least, but it’s really not all that “bad.” My first bucket shower was cold, sure, but I got over it pretty quickly because it is what it is. This is how they live every day and it’s completely do-able. Regardless, they still have family, friends, education, love, and that’s what is important to them—that’s what should be important to all of us. The biggest culture shock by far is the security guards walking around everywhere with their huge guns all the time, every day, and it’s completely normal to everyone else. We don’t have anything like that in America.

It’s actually pretty crazy how much I’ve come to already love the family I’m staying with. Maybe it’s because they have a fairly large family and I come from a large family myself and they remind me of my own home. What’s even crazier, though, is that we speak two completely different languages. I remember the first night I was with them, I went to bed so frustrated because I couldn’t communicate with them. I kept thinking to myself how much language is such a barrier and I was just really upset that I couldn’t do anything about it. But over these past few days, I’ve surprised myself as to how much more Spanish I really know and how much more I’m picking up on. I can actually start and somewhat hold a conversation with people. In fact, it’s almost like while I’m trying to learn Spanish, they’re also trying to learn English, and often times, a lot of our conversations end in someone saying “No entiendo,” and we’ll both just laugh. It’s great.

I would totally keep writing about this trip if I could; there’s so much more to a developing country than three little paragraphs. I know I still have three full days left here but I wish I had more. I also wish that more people had a desire to try this, too, because what I’ve realized is how much there really is a difference between reading about this and living through it.

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Day 5: Reflection by Rachel Wagster

Today has been an intense, incredible, and infinitely life-changing day in El Salvador.  We had the honor of visiting some of the historic places of Oscar Romero on the 35th anniversary of his assassination. First we went to the Jesuit school to see a memorial dedicated to Romero and the Jesuit martyrs.  We saw pictures, clothing, and heard stories of how gruesome the war was in El Salvador. I remember getting chills when we saw the blood stains and bullet holes in the clothes of those who were murdered. We learned about the massacres that occurred during the war and how unbelievably inhumane they were. The brutality and cruelty that these people endured is heartbreaking.

Next we visited the cathedral where Oscar Romero held mass on Sundays, where his tomb lies underneath. The tomb, chapel, and streets were filled with people whose lives were touched by Romero. He was a man who saw the injustices of the government and how they were hurting the people. Romero saw the poor staying poor and a select few benefit from their suffering. He did what only the best kinds of people do; he spoke out loudly and justly for those who did not have a voice.

One strange aspect I thought of was how my parents were exactly my age when Romero was assassinated. I wondered if they even know about the war happening here. I questioned the values of my home country during that time. I am filled with sadness for all of the loss and devastation the Salvadorans have endured and continue to endure. For most of the day I had to fight back tears. Not because I did not want to fully feel all the emotions running around in my mind. More so I wanted to show respect to those who were grieving such a terrible loss, and I was just starting to understand how impactful it all was.

On a slightly more positive note, most of the people we have met down here seem to have only positive memories of Romero. To me, this means they are healing from the devastating loss.  I just wanted to take this last moment and thank everyone for their love and support. Being here has been humbling, and I cannot express the amount of love we are encountering. I love you all and despite the intense day and somewhat depressing blog post, we are all doing well here.  Unfortunately, the lack of sleep from the around- the-clock roosters has left me sleep deprived. Gracias a mi familia aquí y en los Estados Unidos,  Anna,  Mesa Católica y todos que ayudan.  Buenas noches, mis amores.

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Midpoint Reflection by Leah Jane Davidson: Thirsty

This country makes me thirsty. The humidity is quite the contrast to the arid desert climate that I’ve grown accustomed to.  I lick my dry lips and take a gulp of water, and yet my need remains unquenched.

This thirst I can’t seem to satisfy isn’t one that my body demands, but rather one that my soul is provoking.  I have, just like the others, fallen in love with this country and these people and I have been trying to wrap my mind around the lifestyle here.

The people of El Salvador are resilient and wise like the trees that extend their branches to the sky and to God, growing and adapting through the passing of time. The roots dig deeply into the ground of this land and are humble—yet robust—and have withstood the most hammering conditions.

I need to figure out how I can help, and until I find my path I will remain thirsty.

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Day 5: Reflection by Audrey Maddox

If you had asked me yesterday about the year 1989, I would have told you that my older brother Jake was born.  The movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was released in theaters, which forever transformed my concept of the backyard.  Nintendo released the original Game Boy, a handheld machine that’s younger brother, the Game Boy Color, used to provide me with hours of fun.  It seemed like a pretty good year.

Today, I stood in a beautiful rose garden on the University of Central America’s campus and learned that on November 16, 1989, six Jesuit scholars, their housekeeper, and her daughter were taken by armed soldiers from their residences in the middle of the night and massacred on that same soil.  I felt the dark energy from what had happened there slither up from the earth through the soles of my feet and consume my body.  Later, the group visited other locations where more brutal events had taken place during the Salvadoran Civil War, which lasted from 1979 to 1992.  It was disquieting to stand in the same place where such a horrifying war was fought not long ago.

Unfortunately, the aftermath of the war still greatly affects the country today.  The war may be over, but this is not a peaceful country.  These people’s reality is somber.  On the day we visited the school, I saw young children run and play with each other weaving around guards armed with huge guns.  It is bizarre to realize that I was blind to the struggle of an entire country, especially now that it is so close to my heart.  It is strange to think I’m only halfway through my time here.  I can’t imagine how much more I have to learn.

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Day 3: Reflection by Leah Jane Davidson

Tired is a feeling that hangs heavily in my bones this evening. Normally I’m sleepy by this time of night because of my “three-job-18 credit hour-study-exercise-socialize-then clean it all up” lifestyle. But tonight, tired is my state of being because of the wonderful and satisfying day I had here in El Salvador.

Sunday: Church, cooking and eating with our families and friends, a game of soccer as the sun set. It’s funny to me that I can summarize the day in one simple sentence even though I feel like there aren’t enough words to describe it viagra in polen kaufen.

In this community, the connections that are made with others serve as the ship that guides people every day; the lighthouse of love gleams relentlessly through any darkness. There’s an emphasis on creating lasting and powerful relationships and it’s clear by the manner in which my family has been taking care of me, my compañera Audi, and our fearless leader Anna.

We are living in peace and happiness in the casa of Anna’s longtime Salvadoran Mamá y Papá. I’m getting along well with my sister Vanessa, who is sweet like the sugar I put in my coffee each morning. There has been so much conversation within the rest of our gringo group about communication, or a lack thereof, but I feel full of satisfaction and pride when Vanessa and I talk to each other.

Spanish is something I have fallen madly in love with over the past years. It has brought me to amazing places and has introduced me with a firm handshake and a smile to the most amazing people. It is still hard for me to speak with the fluency I desire and to understand that which I so crave to understand. But I know that these are the moments that make a mediocre Spanish speaker into an eloquent and graceful conversationalist.

The friends I am making within the group of delegates is also something to be excited about. We have to leave our newly found friends in El Sal when we return to the US, but I’m so pleased to be establishing bonds with the other Americans. We laugh at ourselves often and ask each other how to say something correctly in Spanish. I really admire the other students. Everyone has their own way of handling each situation and I am learning a lot from them.

I miss my family at home (and if you’re reading this, I love you so much) but I am having one of the most enriching experiences of my life.

Thank you. Thank you to the Foundation for Cultural Exchange. Thank you to Mesa Catholic. Thank you Anna, thank you Hunter. Thank you to the professors who taught me what I know. And to the first Spanish-speaking country I got to spend time in: Spain, thank you for giving me the courage to use my voice all the way across the globe. Thank you, con toda la fuerza de mi corazón, to El Salvador and its people.

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Day 2: Reflection by Audrey Maddox

After arriving in the capital late last night, today we got our first glimpse of El Salvador in the daylight on the road to El Espino. The team crammed all of our luggage into the back of the van, piled in and observed the scenery in anticipation of what was to come. With the Spanish language dominating every street sign, the brightly colored graffiti covering the walls, and the verdant greens of the grass and trees, it was evident we were in a place very different from Grand Junction. I eagerly watched the locals walk through the twisted pathways on the sides of the streets. Some spots along the road were piled with trash and the images of Salvadorans meandering through it together struck me.

Once in El Espino, we passed an armed soldier as we drove through the gates to the community building. There, I was honored to meet the hardworking students and families of the scholarship program. I immediately felt warmth and acceptance in their presence, and was grateful to be in this unique environment that allows me to closely witness this culture. After learning more about the community and the country from the students, we shared a delicious feast with rice, potatoes, beef, and tortillas, complete with two vegetarian-friendly meals made especially for Anna and me. After the meal, I was nervous to reach out to the Salvadorans and make them to listen to my gringa Spanish, but I forced myself out of my comfort zone with the desire to learn more about them and connect with them. I was able to get to know several students in the program and I am extremely impressed. They were energetic, hardworking, patient, and extremely grateful. One of my fondest memories of the day was playing limbo with some of my fellow ASB team and many Salvadoran students. Enthusiasm was high as we cheered each other on and laughed as the bar dropped too low and some fell to the ground. It was so relaxing and awesome to be able to connect with these people that I have heard so much about.

The biggest surprise of the day was the safety and comfort I felt within the gates of the community building. I could go up to any person of any age and they welcomed me completely. I loved announcing “Tengo que hacer pipi” (“I have to pee”), which happened a lot, because I’m making sure to stay hydrated. (You’re welcome, mom!) Just before we left, I was able to give out packs of school supplies to some of the scholarship students I had gotten to know through the course of the day. I was truly honored to present them with this small gift after speaking with them and hearing them share a bit of who they are with me. I can’t even imagine how much love I’ll feel for them by the end of the week after spending even more time with them.

Tonight, I am filled with gratitude. It is an honor to be participating in this program. I am a privileged person and I want to do something positive with that privilege. Coming here and participating in this program gives me a taste of how I might be able to do that. I am so grateful for my time here. I have so much to learn from the beautiful souls surrounding me throughout this experience. After today, I’ve realized that I have no idea where this journey will take me, but I am filled with gratitude to be on it.

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Day 1: Reflection by Rachel Wagster

Wow. As I look around and feel the warm Salvadoran breeze against my back, I am in awe. I feel so blessed to have made it to San Salvador. The day has been filled with laughter and smiles as we all anticipated our arrival in a new country. Getting to know the group members has been a rewarding experience within itself. Each person brings something unique, from Anna to her cultured, intelligent stories of world travel to Leah who documents it all. It is truly amazing that after weeks of planning, packing, and preparation we can actually say WE ARE HERE! Just as I typed that a gecko started chirping in my ear (it sounds like little kisses – besitos), I think they are excited too.

It is hard to put into words how exactly all of this feels viagra versand. Seeing all the locals waiting for friends and family at the airport portrays just how caring this place is. First stop- pupusas– and, whew! were they amazing. I recommend to anyone who gets the chance to try an authentic pupusa to do so ASAP. While we were sitting with the group at dinner, it started to hit me that we are here. There is so much I am looking forward to experiencing here, and I hope it doesn’t go by too fast.

I cannot wait to go to the community of El Espino and meet our students. I am thrilled to get settled in at our homes and meet our new families. I am nervous and excited to practice my Spanish with the Salvadorans. I am amazed at how much I have already learned, and hope to continue to learn throughout this journey, and long after. I am open to the new experiences that will happen over the next nine days. It is incredible that I can already see this experience changing us for the better.

Thank you a million times over to Anna, the FCE, Mesa Catholic, all those who donated, and all of those who support us for this opportunity. To everyone back home who may have been concerned, we have made it here safely. I miss my friends, family, and puppy back in Colorado, but I already feel like I could stay here forever.

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Pre-trip Reflection by Leah Jane Davidson: Seeing life through new eyes

In a mere two days I will be in El Salvador. I can smell the Central American air when I take a deep breath in…Of course, I’ve never had the opportunity to travel to Central America before so the scent in my nostrils is just my mind playing tricks on me. But I’m curious, what does El Salvador smell like? I can imagine the thick, heavy air hanging wet with moisture around my shoulders carrying the scent of the famous pupusas (which I hear are totally delicious and very similar to eating a stuffed tortilla). I can imagine the bright sun on my face as I take my first look around the town that we will be spending most of our time in, called El Espino.

I am thoroughly excited to participate in this adventure and I know I will return to the United States looking through changed eyes. Travel has a funny way of changing people for the better and I can’t wait to grow and learn with the other participants of the trip. It’s so interesting watching relationships blossom between people and I think I’ll have a few new friends when the journey is all said and done. But who wants to think about the end before the trip has even begun? Not me, that’s for sure! I want to be fully involved and present each moment that I’m gifted with in El Salvador.

In general, I’m most excited to speak Spanish with the local people, to try new food, and to visit the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Really, anything we do down there will be something I’m excited about. It will be interesting to test my Spanish skills once again. I hope that I’ll be able to communicate the way I’d like to–without too much struggle & strife–but I guess that’s all part of learning.

Ah, there’s so much to do before we go, but I let the pre-trip stress roll off my back and remember how lucky and grateful I feel for this opportunity. Two more days….. two more days….

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Pre-trip reflection by Kelsi Madrid: It’s almost time!

I cannot believe we are leaving to El Espino in a few days! The months that we have spent preparing for this trip have been so remarkable. I have learned so much and am very thankful for this opportunity and for everyone who has helped make this possible. So many people were excited for me and made very generous donations. I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am for everyone who has supported me along the way.

There are so many thoughts running through my mind knowing that I will soon be in a totally different environment and culture. Although it is going to be more difficult for me to communicate with the people of El Salvador because I do not speak much Spanish, I believe knowledge and love can be shown through other attributes.

We have been getting to know the scholarship students by reading their blogs and now we finally get to meet them and hear their stories in person! I couldn’t be more excited! I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in a place with such poverty. I know there is poverty all around the world but it has always seemed surreal to me because I have grown up with endless amounts of opportunity, so it is hard for me to believe that people can live in such difficult situations like most of the people in El Salvador and I think this trip is going to open my eyes to a lot of things. I believe this experience is going to change my life and help me grow so much as a person.

Every day I think about how happy, thankful and excited I am to be making friends with these amazing people.

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