We are finally back home in Monterey and it already seems like El Salvador was a dream. I am asking myself how much of a difference a small group of people can really do in three weeks and I am not liking the answer that I keep getting very much. It makes it that much more important that Team El Salvador is strengthened by getting more students interested and involved, and getting them to not only see the program as a J-term practicum but as an opportunity to go year round and work with Asociación Mangle, the organization that TES works with in the Bajo Lempa region of El Salvador. I am hoping that the MOU and Strategic Plan that Natalie, Adele and I worked on while we were on the ground, along with this possible agreement with the Universidad Nacional de El Salvador will not only open up the possibilities that MIIS students have to work in El Salvador, but also their minds as to what they can accomplish there in tandem with local communities.
Some of my favorite moments from the past three weeks are the following:
The surprise birthday party that we threw for Lolo, one of our trusty drivers. We got him a Batman piñata, a cake and sang him Happy Birthday in about six different languages (he has a real affinity for languages and was constantly surprising us with his curiosity and ability to remember EVERYTHING) and proceeded to dance and celebrate for the rest of the night.
Our lancha tour of the Bahía de Jiquilisco. I am not really a boat person but learning all about the mangrove systems together with enjoying the absolutely breathtaking sunset as we rode back was worth feeling a little woozy.
Working on our three-year Strategic Plan with Asocación Mangle. A lot of the time it felt like we were banging our heads against the wall as we tried to create a shared vision with our El Salvadorean counterpart, develop a solid body for what we wanted our SP to look like and figure out what three or four projects should take priority for the next three years but I am very proud of what we came up with in the end and how much we accomplished in the very little time that we had there. I hope that we can indeed get the MOU and SP agreed upon and signed by the end of the summer.
I already miss all of the wonderful people that I had the opportunity to interact with and become close to. Breakfast wasn’t the same this morning without the shenanigans of Lolo and Alexis, our two drivers. All of the intelligent people that we worked with at Asociación Mangle who were always good for a coffee and a quick chat about development challenges, and the incredible students that we met from the University of El Salvador whose ambition and desire to learn and improve themselves is inspiring will also be missed enormously. The one consolation is that I am sure it will not be the last time that I see them all.
Article about our visit to UES to meet with the Rector and Vice Rector: http://www.eluniversitario.ues.edu.sv/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2397%3Adelegacion-de-estudiantes-extranjeros-se-reunieron-con-autoridades-centrales-de-la-ues-una-delegac&catid=41%3Aacontecer&Itemid=30
Article about the UES students coming to meet with us in the Bajo Lempa: http://www.eluniversitario.ues.edu.sv/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2403%3Aintercambio-estudiantil-entre-la-ues-y-el-instituto-de-estudios-superiores-de-monterrey&catid=41%3Aacontecer&Itemid=30