This past March I went to El Salvador on an Alternative Spring Break trip with the Catholic Center! Who could resist a heavily subsidized weeklong trip with some of my closest friends serving and experiencing a whole other culture?? I sure couldn’t!
What perhaps made this trip even more special was the fact that I had never been out of the country before! Or even been on a service trip before! So I was killing two birds with one stone, and was totally ready to do so. Believe it or not, over winter break my mom advised me to get a passport because “you never know when you might need one!” Undeniable proof right there that mothers have that eerily accurate sixth sense.
We started off the week doing manual labor, mostly painting and digging out dirt to later fill with concrete to create the foundation of the house. Not only was it hard work, but we were in 98 degree humidity, and constantly ran the risk of getting dehydrated. So we were constantly reminding each other to take really frequent water breaks so none of us would collapse.
To take some time off and relax from all our hard work, we took a few hours after working one day to walk down to the river to cool off. On our way to the river we saw the site and heard the story of a huge massacre that happened in the early 1980s while the Civil War was happening. It was very unnerving to be standing where 200 people were surrounded by 6,000 soldiers and essentially mowed down with guns.
On a much lighter note, the Chancellor of the country (the States’ equivalent of Secretary of State) came to visit our group and planted with us the beginnings of the “Forest of Solidarity.” This event was covered by the press, and our picture was spread throughout the media in El Salvador.
Overall, I had such an amazing experience being immersed in a different culture and spending the week with such kind, open and dignified Salvadorans.