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The Business of Travel – A Diary of My Trip to El Salvador

Jessamine Rey

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I started my three month internship in El Salvador at the beginning of June of this year. I got an internship at Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (Center for Exchange and Solidarity) located in San Salvador. CIS is a non-for-profit organization that offers numerous programs to help Salvadorans.

About CIS

CIS is an organization with various programs that support education, organization, and social justice. They offer English classes that are targeted to those involved in social movements, women struggling for their self-determination, and others who are unable to attend another language school due to financial reasons. In addition to the language school, they work in partnership with Salvadoran enterprises for women, where Salvadoran women receive training in administration, accounting, and planning. This organization provides local women with business training in order to help empower them and allow them to have a successful livelihood.

My Work

I work as a marketing intern for the language school at CIS. I work on creating a catalogue for the artisan products that CIS sells. I also help with administrative tasks such as doing inventory and transferring all the data from paper to online. The work environment at CIS is very laid back. A benefit to working in a small non-for-profit organization is that I am given real tasks apart from photocopying or filing. I am given more responsibility in my work. I also love the work environment at CIS because it is very laidback. I do not work in a traditional office. Sometimes, I work in the garden sitting in a hammock as I work on the catalogue.

Salvadoran Culture

Upon arrival to El Salvador it became very clear that their culture is unlike the one in Canada. For instance, they have a very relaxed concept of time. Punctuality for meetings is not very important here. At CIS, I attend Spanish classes that start from 8 until noon. The class however, does not usually start until about 8:15 or 8:20. In addition, it is normal to be 15 to 20 minutes late to events as a sign of courtesy. At times, I must admit, it can be frustrating when things start late as I tend to be a very punctual person, but over a month, I have gotten used to it.

In El Salvador, people are very nice and friendly. The Salvadorans are very warm and hospitable people. For instance, my AirBnb host treats me like family. They invite me to family outings.  Also, during one of our excursions around El Salvador a group of us interns were warmly welcomed by a local to his home. His family fed and gave us a place to stay as we waited out the rain.

My Adventures

El Salvador is one of those countries that have a bad reputation due to gang violence. Upon doing a Google search on El Salvador, I saw many articles on the matter. This country is even dubbed as the murder capital of the world. Upon arrival here, however, I have not witness any crimes. Many articles about El Salvador make it sound as though crimes happen on every corner, however, the city is very much like Toronto; full of life, not crime. Granted there are places we have been told not to visit, as they are more dangerous, but there are a lot of beautiful places to visit here.

I have been taking every opportunity to explore El Salvador. One of my favourite adventures was to Playa El Tunco, which is arguably one of the most famous beaches in the country. It welcomes guests from all over the world for its perfect surfing waves. For me, it was a very fun adventure that some of us interns took on our own. We did our research and asked for directions on how to get there by bus. The bus was super cheap – $1.50 for an air-conditioned bus that took us directly to the beach. As soon as we got there, we immediately realised that it was not a beach meant for wading. The shore was very rocky and the waves were strong.

Another one of my favourite adventures is when we went camping to San Miguel Tepezontes. We camped right beside Lago Ilopango. This was very memorable to me, as it was my very first time camping. On the trip there we took an 8-seater van and fit 14 people in it. It was very cramped, but nevertheless we all had fun on the ride there. Then in order to get down to the lake, we took a pickup truck. Since there were 14 of us, some of us rode on the back of the truck. I was seated on the edge of the truck holding on for dear life as we went down the mountain to our camping site. It was one the most exhilarating and terrifying moments of my life. The ride was well worth it, however, when we saw the beautiful lake. The camping trip was a lot of fun and was a bonding moment for all interns.

Being in a different country has brought out my adventurous side. I have been a lot more open to trying to things, foods, and going on different adventures. This internship has been eye opening, exposing me to a different culture and different business practices.

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