Sunday, January 30, 2011

2011 El Salvador expedition

Hola a todos!!

In January of 2010 I wrote to let you all know I’d be leaving to spend 6 weeks in El Salvador teaching English. Well, it’s a year later and I’m writing to tell you that I’m again leaving soon to teach in El Salvador, this time for 10 months. I head south on February 7 to sunny El Salvador and after a few days will make my way to Berlín. This will be my fifth trip there, and I’m thrilled about returning.

Like last year, I will be teaching at a boy’s school in Berlín in the mornings. It will be wonderful to see the students and teachers again. I am also hoping to give private English lessons at the Pastoral House where I’ll be staying, teach at a couple marginalized schools in the afternoons, and possibly getting out to the small canton (village) of San Francisco to give lessons there as well. My Spanish language skills will be getting daily workouts, which is important if I ever want to conquer verbs in Spanish (the dreaded preterite vs. imperfect past tense). And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the beans and plantains that are calling my name.

However, due to some unforeseen hip problems, I won’t be able to start out quite as vigorously as I would have liked. I may need to ease into the afternoon lessons, and I certainly won’t be climbing jocote trees any time soon. I’ll just have to wait to see how I feel when I get there. Thankfully, my mind and hands are moving at full speed so I will absolutely be blogging again when I’m in El Salvador!

I also want to encourage you to take a look at the website of Our Sister Parish, which is the organization responsible for the partnership with and mission trips to El Salvador. There you can find the history of the mission, the mission coworker’s blog, church delegations that go down, and Don Justo coffee information. My church in Des Moines, Westminster Presbyterian, partners with the canton of San Francisco. The website is

Many people have asked me questions about my time in El Salvador. Here are my responses to some of the frequently asked questions:

Are you getting paid to do this?
No, this is a volunteer position that I applied for through Our Sister Parish. Actually, it’s a position that I helped to create after returning from El Salvador last March after teaching for 6 weeks. Compañeros, the coordinating body for the Des Moines Presbytery’s El Salvador mission, needed policy requirements and a formal application process for individual short- and long-term volunteers to El Salvador. After we created official volunteer positions I eagerly decided to be a guinea pig for the committee that would be accepting the applications. I developed a work plan detailing specific goals that I want to achieve during my time in El Salvador, learning activities that will help me reach those goals, and indicators that demonstrate I have met those goals.

What’s the school like where you teach?
The boy’s school has only the basics: desks, chairs, a whiteboard, and workbooks provided by the government. They buy their own notebooks and pencils (which sometimes prevents kids from attending school). Last year I had 7 classes, about 250 kids, and my class sizes ranged from 32 - 40 kids per class. Most of the time there is electricity though occasionally it does go out.  There is no air-conditioning at the school. There’s no soap or toilet paper in the bathrooms at the school so I bring my own. There are no computers in any of the classrooms. There is no projector to show them things on the internet or to use as a teaching aid. There’s no place at the school where I can photocopy or print out exercises, homework, or quizzes. There’s a printer at the Pastoral House, but ink and printing paper are expensive and I’m not even sure you can get them in Berlín. Thankfully, I’ve had the past three months to work on lesson plans and have tapped into the creative side of my brain to work on ways to keep the kids attention and make learning fun.

Does anyone in Berlín, El Salvador speak English?
A few people do. I can count on one hand the people I know who speak enough English to have a conversation. This really challenges me to use my Spanish and continually learn more. The mission coworker at the house where I’m staying is American so if I feel a hankering to speak English I go to her office and sit in her hammock chair.

I want to thank everyone for supporting me and walking with me on my journey. Your love, encouragement, and prayers mean so much to me. Keep me apprised of everything that’s going on in the States!

Peace and love,