On my second day in Yoloaiquin Rene planned an amazing day for me.
Speaking To Students
First, we went to the nearby city of San Francisco Gotera where Rene teaches English. As mentioned before, Rene interweaves self-empowerment in his English classes. I was part of that, as the homework assignment he gave them was to translate this page from my site.
I spoke to the students about who I am, why I have made the decisions I’ve made, and what I’m doing in their country. It was truly awesome interacting with them and in some ways it helped me understand their condition a bit better.
They are all there voluntarily, and they pay for their English classes. Many have more than an hour commute to get there. Their commitment is commendable. But I was sad to see that when I asked how many of them were going to the university, or will soon be going, very few raised their hand.
They are all smart enough, I’m sure. But there isn’t a university close by and the tuition costs alone are often way beyond the means of the average Salvadoran family. Sad. But in many ways not so different from home.
I tried my best to communicate that their attitude is the most important component in determining their success. They shouldn’t discount their potential because they find themselves in a bad situation or in “poverty.” I also tried my best to break the notion that going to the U.S. will guarantee a better life and that they shouldn’t idolize American culture, which I think happens a lot here.
But let’s see what happens. I wish them well and I think they enjoyed listening to my stories. This one, for example, was a great way to break the ice with a bunch of people learning a second language. And they said my accent didn’t bother them too much 🙂
Civil War Museum
After the speech to the students, I went with Kevin, one of Rene’s friends, to visit the Museum of the Salvadoran Revolution in Perquin.
The museum was five simple rooms with some outdoor exhibits. But trying to encapsulate all the pain endured during the 12-year civil war in any museum would be impossible.
Unfortunately, Kevin’s father died during the war in 1982, so his explanations of what happened and how they healed afterward took on a new meaning.
I didn’t realize how much outside assistance/interference (depends on which side you support) happened, and it made me wonder how much the war was allowed to perpetuate as long as some were gaining from it. But I guess it’s probably more complicated than that.
One thing that was interesting was seeing all the female soldiers in the pictures. Kevin said about 20% of the fighting force was female. Great for equality, but horrible given the context!
This picture of a child seemingly innocently playing while soldiers in full dress and shield seem ready for battle behind him kind of sums up everything in a way.
Morazan, the state I’m staying in and the state that contains the museum, suffered the most during the war. It was the front lines and most people here had to flee to Honduras during the fighting. The people here suffered greatly.
Perhaps no community, however, suffered more than El Mozote. Just a year into the war, this community of more than 1000 people were massacred. More than 85% of those killed were children. The whole incident reflected very badly on the U.S. since it supported the side that committed the atrocity. Only one inhabitant survived to tell the story, and she told it all over the world to help get people involved in calling for an end to the war. Too bad it took 11 more years..
After the sobering experience at the museum, we headed back to Kevin’s house and I got to meet his awesome family. The kids are full of energy and fun. We got along really well right from the start (maybe my accent is endearing?). Karla especially took a liking to me and we had a lot of fun playing together.
When I told her that I couldn’t spend the night, she thought maybe she’d get creative in convincing me to stay the night. She offered me $1. I had to refuse and I said that no amount of money would convince me otherwise because I had plans in the morning.
So, being a creative 5-year-old, she understood and proposed a counter offer – 4 Quarters. How awesome is that! So clever.
Later on, she asked me where my Eva (Eve) was since my name is Adam. It was really funny and I had to explain that despite the fact that I’m 29 (she guessed I was 52), I am still looking for her. 🙂
At one point she handed me something in Spanish and asked me to read it to her. About 20-30 seconds in, she interrupted to ask me to read it in Spanish. I guess my accent was so bad she thought I was speaking English! 🙂 But then I read her a lot of things while Kevin and his wife prepared a traditional meal of eggs, beans, fried plantains, and tortillas. I also tried sardines for the first time. Not my favorite, but I didn’t mind them.
All in all, it was a wonderful way to end a great day filled with great experiences and the sobering contrast between war and the preciousness of human life that Karla embodies. I hope I helped inspire the students in some way as they taught me a lot about life here. The museum was eye-opening, sad, and somber. And the evening was fun, happy, and rejuvenating – definitely the note I wanted to end on. And when you see how cute and innocent Karla is, for example, it’s hard not to want to make the world better place for people like her.