When I woke up this morning, I awoke at around 5:30 am. Realizing that I had to wake up two hours later, I decided to continue sleeping forgetting that my wakeup call would be hearing a bull horn. Sure enough, a little after 7:30am, the sound of a duck noise (which was the bull horn) woke me up. It didn’t help that when the sister using it asked if the boys were up one of the guys from Villanova said, “No.” Upon him saying no we got up, but she still proceeded to come in our room and make noise a couple of times. It was an interesting first day to say the least.
Following the glorious wake up call, we got ready and went to breakfast where I chose to have frosted flakes and cantaloupe. Though simple, it was nice to get up without being in a rush and taking my time to finish my cereal and think about the day ahead.
After breakfast we all bunched in a van (that can hold all 25 of us, if I may mention) and made our way to mass to the Maria Auxiladora Church. It was a wonderful service given by the priest and the church had beautiful murals, statues, and stained glass windows. While there, it made me appreciative as I started to think about my upbringing and my ability to understand the Spanish being spoken for mass, but also the message that was being expressed by the priest.
Once mass was over, we visited the tomb of Archbishop Romero who was a very important figure for the lower class people of El Salvador. To be in that room and to hear about some of the history regarding this man was humbling and it was also tragic the way that he died. I am glad that I had the opportunity to learn about a man who said, “As long as people are starving in El Salvador, the walls of my church will not be decorated.”
From there, we went to a market in the area that had many small shops where I was able to purchase several things for family and my sponsors. What was important to me, however, was to get to know some of the shop owners as much as it was important to get souvenirs for people I care for. I met a woman that had a small shop for 35 years, had two sons and one of which was helping her in her shop. I went to her shop twice and the second time I thanked her for her service and left her with a warm hug and a big smile. Sometimes we take for granted the living conditions and jobs that we have in the U.S and rarely take the time to reflect that our opportunities are far greater than other people. To be there and have a conversation with that woman, made me appreciate what I do have and to be happy for those things. We then left the shops and went back to the house for lunch.
Finally full from a couple of tuna sandwiches, we hopped on the van once again and made a one hour trip to an orphanage. Once there, we started playing basketball with a couple of the children and at one point we had a four on four game going. It was an enjoyable time and at one point, Griffin, a participant from Fort Hays State University, took video of me playing with the kids. After looking at the video I came to recognize something that I hadn’t before. As I had mentioned before, we have more opportunities in the U.S. than most people do in other countries and something as simple as playing basketball came to mind as one of those things. When we played with the kids they traveled, double dribbled, fouled like crazy, and didn’t take it back to an imaginary three point line after our team missed making a shot. In the U.S these things are considered to be incredible mistakes that would have anyone ousted from a basketball court. With these children, however, I realized that it’s not as simple. The norms in the U.S are things that are overlooked especially when the people here are poverty stricken and worried about having a decent job to help take care of their families. Hanging out with those kids and reflecting on that experience on the way back made me truly appreciate many things especially the power of a smile that with its genuineness can transcend anything and brighten someone’s day.
The day ended with dinner and a talk from a man named Eugene Palumbo who has worked for many publications including that New York Times. His talk included information about the country as well as other information that was truly helpful to understand the reasons for why the Salvadorian people are the way they are and why difficult times have come about in this region. I really appreciated his visit and the wealth of knowledge that he was able share with us.
It was a busy and thought provoking day that brought about many questions for me to ask and find within myself what I truly value in life. I hope to continue to have more experiences that I can challenge myself with.
Miguel Acero Jr. is a Senior at the University of Arizona and member of Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc.