Education, opportunity, privilege, resources, and motivation are just a few components to understanding the world and all its historic events and happenings. Today would bring these five together in a way I’ve never experienced. During breakfast, our professor let us know one of our classmates would be heading back to Michigan for health reasons. We have a tight group, so while we understand the reasons, nevertheless the person will be missed and hopefully our group interactions will still be full of energy, perspectives and excitement.
Our first stop today was to Equipo Maiz an organization known for El Salvador (ES) publications, education and advertising, to learn the history of El Salvador from their earliest recorded to the present. I cannot summarize hundreds of years of knowledge and events, but I can highlight some key factors. The indigenous natives of El Salvador (the Pipil) spoke a language known as Náhuat, though when the Spanish arrived and colonized (took) their land, the Pipil were stripped of their traditions and cultures. The Spanish also raped many women, and that is one reason why the majority of current El Salvadorians are of blended Pipil/Spanish heritage. The speaker used detailed cartoon drawings given to each of us to convey key pieces of history in chronological order, and I encourage readers to research their history further, including the civil wars, political fractions (FMLN & ARENA) and the part the United States played in this struggle.
Our next activity was an economic exercise at the San Miguelito market. Our group split up in groups of threes and we each took a list of items to buy. The inside of the market was filled with fruit, veggies and common household items. After getting what was on the list, A saleslady held up some boxer briefs and smiled, and I soon found myself saying “no gracias” a lot. As usual, people were all nice though and knew by my culture, clothes, etc., that I was from abroad. After we returned with all our items, we debriefed as a group about how much the foodstuff cost, minimum wage prices, and calculating logistics of working enough hours to make enough money to by food that can sustain a person or family. Like the history talk, it raised awareness of this system.
We had dinner and got to explore Suchitoto at the end of day. Though first we visited the Art Center for Peace to talk with Sister Peggy O’Neil. This community was beautiful and sister O’Neil’s witty, honest and compassionate talk forced me to pause in my adrenaline rush of studying abroad to reflect on who I am, what I’m doing, and who/what is affected by it. Though I am a Christian, it has been a while since I’ve been to church, and her words were like nostalgic hymns I had once memorized and almost forgotten.
Her words and anecdotes made me feel vulnerable, they made me think about thoughts I needed to reflect and process but haven’t. Who am I? I’m a young adult aiming to work in higher education and student affairs. I’m at my absolute best when I’m in this environment, and I just have this internal feeling that this is where I belong: helping new college students navigate their new environment. What am I doing? I’m trying to be the best, excel, never lose and always succeed. This is where I need work. Her talk conveyed there are more important aspects of life and professional work than winning–it’s what’s learned that matters, and mistakes are a part of this process. I’m far from perfect and only allow others to see the “best me”. While it’s nothing serve, I did learn it’s best to solve internal/external problems to avoid them in the future and focus on succeeding.
Her last point, who is affected by the work I do was the biggest question poised, and I only have half an answer. I want to positively work with college students. However, how will I process this El Salvador experience when I leave? Honestly, life is not what I thought it was growing into a young adult living a very sheltered, privileged life (even while being a minority of oppressions via Africa/The United States). The systems of oppressions globally, lack/fabrications/omissions of education globally, and dictated hierarchies anger me–they make me feel angry because of the unnecessary suffering attached to them. My classmate leaving for home may be gone tomorrow, but that person said something that will alway stay with me:
“I may not be able to change the world, but I can change the world of one person.”
I sat in my El Salvadorian environment and thought about this for hours, because it made me happy. Happy that there are social workers, educators, and other individuals out there trying to make a difference. If enough people took this type of ideology, then the world really could be changed for the betterment of equality and justice. The machete I bought represents this: though the blade is sharp and capable of destruction, if handled correctly it can be used for good and no harm sheathed. This is pictured against my College Student Affairs Leadership M.Ed. binder. While I am not a social worker, I am an educator, and by working with college student I hope to impact them to make positive choices domestically and remind (or introduce to) them that there is work to be done globally.