From Questions to Flying Cats: My First Four Days in El Salvador

image1 (1)Well folks, I am finally here. I am also finally going to put out in writing why I’m here. Where you ask? Today is Day Four of my four month (or more…) adventure in El Salvador. Why El Salvador? Great question. Why I’m here started with a question….

My undergraduate research focused on the Salvadoran Civil War. Using newly released documents from the United Nations, my classmates and I formed our own research topics. About halfway through the semester, our professor mentioned internship opportunities through the U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities  Network. Sister Cities defines itself as:

a grass-roots organization of U.S. citizens and residents who have ongoing partnerships with small rural communities in El Salvador. Those partnerships began in 1986 as a citizen-based response to the U.S. intervention in El Salvador’s civil war. Today, seventeen sister cities from across the United States are paired with Salvadoran communities in six of El Salvador’s fourteen provinces through our sister organization, the Association for the Development of El Salvador, CRIPDES.

Looking at the different work they had available in El Salvador, I became interested in participating. I was even more excited when I discovered my classmate, Katie, was interested as well. I will be talking more about Sister Cities as an organization when I begin my work, but for now I’d like to sum up my first few days.

From Questions to Cats: Four Things that Happened in my First Four Days:

1.  As soon as Staff Emily picked me up from the airport, we pulled to the side of the road and got a coconut to sip on. It was quite the pick-me-up after my long journey, and I began to drill her with questions about herself, El Salvador, and Sister Cities. She is an amazing resource and was patient with all my spastic questions.  We stopped by a centro comercial and picked up a couple cheap phones for Katie and I to use. Mine looks like it belongs to Barbie.
2.  PUPUSAS: What are these magical things and why hasn’t Montana discovered them yet?! Pupusas are a typical Salvadoran dish. They are a tortilla filled with beans and cheese, and they are all I need in life (besides, like, water and love and stuff). My first night, Staff Catie ordered some from a comedor where the ownders know her by name. They gave us extra hot sauce. I have eaten a pupusa every day since being here.
3.  Yesterday, Emily took us site seeing in the city. We went to UCA (University of Central America). Unfortunately, this beautiful university has a dark history. In 1989, 6 Jesuit priests, a woman who worked at the university, and her sixteen-year-old daughter taken out of the rooms they were staying in and murdered by the right-winged military coup who was funded by the U.S. government.  We took a tour through these rooms, as well as an exhibit that displayed the clothing the victims were wearing. The museum also had displays playing homage to these people, a timeline of the war itself, and several displays dedicated to Archbishop Oscar Romero. The loss of these eight lives is one of the major catalysts for grassroot support efforts to make headway.
4.  After rescuing Katie and Emily when their car ran out of gas in the middle of a busy street (see her blog for detalis). We were driving back to Catie’s house through a calm neighborhood when we heard the most horrible cries coming from on top of a roof. Suddenly, a cat was flung from thirty feet above and landed right in front of our vehicle. We saw a shadow scamper off. The image will forever be imprinted in my mind. But the flying cats don’t end their… After our first night staying at a friend of Catie’s house, Catie picked us up in the morning to go to the office. “How was your night?” she asked. “Great!” replied Katie, “We saw a monkey jump from one tree to another!” Catie slowly blinked at us and said, “There are no monkeys here.” So my conclusion is… flying cats are common.

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