Before I came on this trip to El Salvador Anna and Andrea gave us an idea of what it would be like, and even though I have seen what they were talking about I have noticed that some things were left out. For example, they said that we would be living with families but they didn’t say the size of the families we would be living with. Mine and Jordan’s family includes my mama, my papa, my three hermanos, my three hermanas, my sobrino, my sobrina, my abuela, and my primos. The family is very loving and protective. In fact, I am positive that they would put their life on their line to save mine, and even though there are a lot of us living in one space I wouldn’t have it any other way. They have made us feel very welcomed and protected while staying with them in El Espino. My family is very funny and there is never a dull moment. In fact, I don’t think I go five minutes with them without laughing at them, with them, or at myself.

Anna said that while we were here we would visit the school and I imagined us at the school giving a presentation and then leaving. However, that was not the case. When I was talking to students who came on this trip before me, most of them said their favorite part was visiting the little chicos and chicas in the school and after visiting them myself I could see why. The little boys and girls were so excited to see us that the moment we opened our arms to them they attacked us! No, they didn’t come at us swinging fists; they were hugging us and I have never felt so loved in my life. They sat on our laps and talked to us in Spanish and a little in English with nothing coming out of their mouths but kind and loving words. As the day went on we distributed books, pencils, pens, crayons, and various supplies and they were so appreciative for things I find myself taking for granted when it comes to my education.

The same thing took place in the afternoon (there are morning classes and afternoon classes) except after distributing the school supplies I got to play soccer with the boys. Being that I was the only “gringa” playing, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was the only person out there not doing cool tricks with the ball and hitting the ball with my head but they continually passed the ball to me knowing that I was probably going to mess up. In fact, I messed up every time. I even fell, but they all just smiled at me like they accepted me because I fell and I was trying so hard to win the game. My team of course won with three points, beating the other team which only had two points. No, I didn’t score any goals, but I got a pretty awesome assist. The fact that I got an assist is pretty miraculous for a girl who has not played soccer since she was 12. I also am going back to America with a few scrapes and bruises, which I am pretty proud of.

Our trip leader and founder of the Foundation for Cultural Exchange, Anna, explained to us that the FCE sponsors students in El Espino but I didn’t know that we would be spending so much time with those students. Every day I see and spend time with one of the scholarship students and they are all amazing people with bright futures thanks to Foundation of Cultural Exchange, Center for Exchange and Solidarity, and the community of El Espino. Before coming to El Espino I didn’t know that I would have the honor of visiting the new scholarship students so I was very excited when I found out that we were going to be a part of that process. In fact, the visits so far have been my favorite part of the whole trip, which may seem weird considering all the fun events we done so far. The interviews during the visits touched my heart because the students have so much motivation, dedication, and passion when it comes to their schooling. They really want to make a difference somehow and I’m glad they have this scholarship to support them while they work towards their future careers.

The most touching interview I listened to was a boy who wants to become a doctor and has more motivation when it comes to his schooling than most students I know. Sounds like other students, right? Well, how many students do you know whose father is in prison, mother was killed, and whose family is spread out everywhere? I wouldn’t think very many. That is what makes this boy so special because even though he has every reason to give up, he keeps going.

My favorite question to ask during the interviews was not for the students, but for the parents. I asked them, “How would you describe your son/daughter?” Of course they said nice things but it wasn’t what they said that warmed my heart, but the sparkle in the parents’ eyes when they looked at their student with pride.

I will never forget the moments I have experienced with my new family in El Salvador. I will cherish them forever and I look forward to the memories these next couple of days have in store for me and the rest of the group.