Wow, where to begin? It seems impossible to write down a fraction of my experiences from this trip and it is only halfway through. Although there are so many thoughts and memories that I cannot compare, as they are all so uniquely wonderful, there are those that seem to stand out just a bit more.

The very first thing I noticed about El Espino is how beautiful the souls of the people are. They have so little and yet the things that they do have they are more than happy to share with me or simply give to me all together. Beds, food, water, time, endless attention and care; there is no limit to the kindness shown and bestowed upon me.

The second day of the trip my roommate and I met the family we would be staying with and we immediately felt like royalty. (Yes the fact that our toilet is infested with cockroaches and we shower with a bucket of water came as a culture shock, but the love we have received has made each new experience a joyful one.)

The room with the biggest bed was so graciously given to us while five members of the family would share a room so we could have privacy and feel comfortable. Our Mama slaves all day for us: cooking, cleaning, and making hot water for our showers so we don’t yelp and laugh every time we step in it. Our Papa is quite possibly my new favorite person on the planet. He is so quiet and shy yet so happy. Always hugging us and kissing us on the cheek, repeating over and over again that now we have a second family, in El Salvador with them.

This type of genuine love makes my heart ache, but in the best way possible. I’ve noticed that many people in the United States would never be this giving, and sadly we have countless more things and avenues in which to do so. How can I feel so much more love from people I have known for a few days, who can’t understand half of the things that I say? It is truly incredible.

Speaking of the language barrier, I have realized that it is not much of a barrier at all. My older brothers in El Espino both speak some broken English but my sister and two younger brothers, along with my parents do not speak it at all. My roommate doesn’t know any Spanish and I rely on my very limited knowledge to piece sentences together. This may sound like a huge issue, but it has not made any roadblocks besides a few miscommunications.

If I am not laughing with my family, I am smiling with them. We all laugh and smile in the same language: that along with respect and love is all you need to successfully and happily live.

Not only have I been touched by these people, but they have also opened my eyes to the blessings I have that I take for granted on a daily basis. Celso, one of my brothers, takes three buses to his university, is up at five each morning, commutes four hours each school day and attends school from 8am until 8pm, doesn’t get home until 10 and does homework throughout the night. It is rare he gets more than three to four hours of sleep a night. And here I am rolling out of bed at nine, complaining about walking to my class that is five minutes from my on-campus apartment; talk about a reality check.

Education is a luxury, and I have always seen it as a normal part of life that I have to get done. I need to enjoy and revel in that gift as many kids would do anything to be in my carefree position. Thank you brother for showing me true dedication and hard work.

These are only a couple of the perspectives I have gained during this trip and I cannot wait to continue to learn and feel so much more. El Salvador has captured my heart, I will forever be grateful.