Total Pageviews

Follow by Email

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Learn some Spanish before you go!

We are around 10 weeks away from landing in El Salvador.  While the group has translation on most days, we will be living in a Spanish world, one where few people speak English.  

I love this - my language learning really takes off!  One of these years I will spend a few months somewhere in Latin America so i can finally immerse myself in the language.  For the time being three weeks is not too bad.

While I wait for that sunny day, I use a growing number of language tools to immerse myself a little in the language.  I have included four of these tools below - they are all terrific.  If you are planning on travelling to El salvador or anywhere else in the Spanish-speaking world you should consider using one or more of these tools.

You can learn lots in ten weeks, but you need to start soon.







Pimsleur was the first language tool I used and it is still great.  I am now on series IV, but you can start now on series I and learn lots.  I have downloaded the entire series to Dropbox and listen to lessons every morning on the way to work.  The lessons are terrific and it is easy to follow along and learn key phrases quickly.  The series is easy to pick up anywhere.  I would start with this.





I love Duolingo!  This makes learning Spanish a challenge and a game!  Once you get started you easily get hooked.  Like Pimsleur, you can learn very quickly key words and phrases that will really help in El Salvador.  Duolingo keeps track of your learning and even sends you notes of encouragement to keep up the pace.






For me Celas Maya is the ultimate in Spanish learning.  This is very different from the first two tools.  Celas maya is a great language school in Xela, Guatemala.  You have to travel there to take these lessons - but what a beautiful setting for learning Spanish.  If you want to extend your stay in latin America Celas maya is a terrific place to visit.  Plan to stay a few weeks, the longer you stay the more you learn!  You can get some of the Celas Maya experience right at home.  They offer lessons over Skype.  I have used this great service for the past two years - this is a great way to make your learning real - inexpensive too!




This is the latest tool I have discovered (thanks Wayne).  Each week, a new broadcast is produced following the news in Latin America.  As the title says, the news is read slow enough for a learner to understand.  Even better, each lesson comes with a transcript that you can follow as the lesson progresses.  You can even click on key phrases to get an immediate translation!  How cool is that!!  News in Slow Spanish is a subscription service so you can choose to have the transcripts or not.  I find this a great way to learn new phrases and keep up on the news in Latin America at the same time - you can't miss.

So, here is your challenge - pick up one of these tools for the next ten weeks.  It is really important to be able to at least say a few phrases in Spanish when you visit El Salvador.  No one expects you to be fluent, but it is a common courtesy to be able to at least speak a few phrases.

Happy learning!!


Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Reading about El Salvador


Tim's El Salvador Blog 


This is a good time to pick up something to familiarize yourself a little about El Salvador.  I am going to start reading Bitter Grounds by Sandra Benitez.  The story starts in 1932, a pivotal time in Salvadoran history.  I'm reading this book because it is recommended on Tim's Blog and it covers a time period that I don't know much about.


In this post, I am sharing a great blog on everything Salvadoran with you - Tim's Blog.  I strongly suggest, as part of your preparation for this year's trip that you start reading his posts whenever they come out.  He covers a wide range of topics including current affairs, politics, lifestyle and Salvadoran history.  He introduces his readers to new blogs about El Salvador on a regular basis.

Tim also has a great collection of books and resources for those interested in El Salvador.  It is a list that grows as he receives new recommendations from his readers.  You can find this valuable post right here.

What preparation will you be doing?  Does anything appeal from Tim's list?

Happy reading!

a small selection from Tim's book list
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Day by Day in El Salvador: Day Four - The Romero Tour






Day Four: Beginning of the Romero Tour

First stop
The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Holy Savior (Catedral Metropolitana de San Salvador) is the principal church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Salvador and the seat of the Archbishop of San Salvador. The church was twice visited by Pope John Paul II who said that the cathedral was "intimately allied with the joys and hopes of the Salvadoran people."[1] During his visits in 1983 and 1996, the Pope knelt and prayed before the Tomb of Archbishop Óscar Romero, assassinated in 1980, whose tomb here is a major pilgrim draw. President Barack Obama visited the Cathedral and the tomb during his March 2011 trip to Latin America.

How does this fit into the tour?


From BBC On This Day
At least 18 demonstrators have been killed and many wounded after police opened fire on anti-government protesters outside the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador, capital of El Salvador.
The protest in the Central American country was organised by the left-wing group known as the Popular Revolutionary Bloc.


People started screaming and running to the church but many were hit before they could get there

Ken Hawkins, eyewitness 
Witnesses said the steps of the cathedral were littered with bodies. Freelance photographer Ken Hawkins told the Los Angeles Times there had been no warning from government forces before the shooting started.
"There was a continual burst of very heavy fire for about two and a half to three minutes," he said. "People started screaming and running to the church but many were hit before they could get there."
The Romero Tour is another new activity for us.  You can see a description of the entire tour here.  
We have visited most of these sites on previous tours - it is really good to visit all these locations at the beginning of our trip.  The sites connected to Oscar Romero set the context for the entire trip. Archbishop Romero is a national symbol for the people of El Salvador.  He is an inspiration to the social justice movement in El Salvador and to people around the world.  No trip to El Salvador would be complete without at least a day focusing on Romero.

Below are a series of images associated with Archbishop Romero including the chapel where he died and his tomb, located in the basement of the Metropolitan Cathedral.

What do you think of this day?  Do you know much about the archbishop? What are your expectations for the day?











Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, April 18, 2014

Day by Day in El Salvador - Day Three



Just adding this in because it is so fun!

We will be spending all day at UCA - Universidad Centroamericana "José Simeón Cañas" (UCA)
UCA played an important part during the war sadly because of the massacre of the Jesuit priests and their housekeeper and her daughter.  
Now UCA has satellite campuses in various parts of the country including San Jose las Flores where they are training teachers.  This will be a good day!

All day:  Seminars at Central American University (UCA – Jesuit University) covering education topics, e.g. liberation theology, critical pedagogy, popular education, the role of the Church in social struggle, the legacy of Archbishop Romero and the Jesuit scholars.  Here is more about the university from Wikipedia:

"José Simeón Cañas" Central American University[1] (Universidad Centroamericana "José Simeón Cañas", UCA) is a private university with non-profit purposes in San SalvadorEl SalvadorCentral America run by the Society of Jesus. It was founded in September 1965 at the request of a group of Roman Catholic families who appealed to the Salvadoran government and to the Society of Jesus to create another university as an alternative to the University of El Salvador (Universidad de El Salvador).

UCA has since evolved to be one of the best institutions of higher learning in Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama).[2] This is the case, despite the university's focus on playing a decisive role in the transformation of the unjust Salvadoran society.[3] Such a focus within the Salvadoran context has driven the university to give priority to undergraduate degrees, research within the social sciences, popular presentation of research results ("proyección social") and local peer-reviewed journals. All of these are elements which formally reduce the university's impact in international rankings. In the 1970s and 1980s during the Civil War in El Salvador, UCA was known as the home of several internationally recognized Jesuit scholars and intellectuals, including Jon SobrinoIgnacio EllacuríaIgnacio Martín-Baró, and Segundo Montes. They were outspoken against the abuses of the Salvadoran military and government, and carried out research to demonstrate the effects of the war and poverty in the country. The extreme social conditions in El Salvador provided a very rich empirical basis for innovative research within sociology, social anthropology, philosophy, social psychology and theology. These scholars made important and lasting contributions within these fields. Ellacuría, Martín-Baró and Segundo Montes, along with three other Jesuit professors, their housekeeper and her daughter, were murdered by the Salvadoran Armed forces on November 16, 1989 in one of the most notorious episodes from the Civil War (see The murdered scholars of UCA).

This is a new day for us, we should take a careful look at this day - what are your impressions of this day?  Is this interesting for you?  This day was originally designed when this trip was going to be a university credit.  Does this work as an element in an introductory tour of El Salvador?  Please comment on this.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day by Day in El Salvador - A Discussion

Day Two in El Salvador

Day Two in El salvador looks like this:

AM: Workshop with Equipo Maíz on socio-political history of El Salvador
PM: “Contrasts Tour” of San Salvador to witness the geographical distribution of social
inequity and exclusion among some of San Salvador’s neighbourhoods

We are starting our discussion with Day Two because we will only get into San Salvador around 8:30 PM - too late to do anything but get settled and sleep - the travel days are long!


We start Day Two by visiting with Equipo Maiz.  This is the best way to start.  On past trips we have had a terrific introduction to the history of El Salvador from this group.

They have a very interesting way of teaching using popular education techniques.  Equipo Maiz has conducted workshops throughout Latin America and the United States.  They use great illustrations like the one above to build a picture of how the current struggles in this country have evolved over time.

This is really important - how can people expect to understand the current dynamic in this country unless they have some understanding of its history?

Here is an excerpt from one of my journals detailing my first visit with Equipo Maiz in 2005:

We went to a lot of meetings in the first two days in El Salvador. On our second full day 
we met with Equipo Maiz, the Corn Team, who gave us an alternative history of El 
Salvador. History is so important if we want to get a true measure of the character of a 
country. This is the specialty of Equipo Maiz. They have worked since 1983 with small 
communities to develop a greater understanding of the people’s situation. Through 
workshops on gender issues, civil participation, privatization and leadership, they hope to 
equip people with the knowledge to better understand their current situation. They also 
specialize in telling the story of El Salvador’s past.

A key point in the story. In 1932, the government exterminated over 30,000 indigenous 
people after a failed revolt. This has resulted in the total denial of the native heritage of 
the Salvadorans. Unlike Mexico and Guatemala, there is no talk of an indigenous culture 
in El Salvador. There are really only two indigenous communities now in El Salvador. 
You can see the native heritage in the faces of the people, but the culture is kept in check. 
People fear a return to the 1930’s. They have good reason for their fears. Other 
countries like Haiti and Guatemala have suffered from similar disasters. 

Our history lesson included the FMLN, still a strong presence in the country. The 
FMLN, named after Farabundo Marti, the leader of the indigenous insurrection of the 
1930’s is a coalition of leftwing groups that formed in 1980 to present an armed front to 
the military government of the country. Most of the areas we visited are controlled by 
the FMLN, now a legitimate political party. Many of the people we worked with, 
including Miguel and Damian are ex-FMLN fighters. 




The afternoon activity is new to me - I will ask Rene our trip coordinator for information about this and add this to our blog.

What questions do you have for Equipo Maiz?
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tour Builder - our tour for this July in El Salvador

I have been using Tour Builder to illustrate what our trip will look like this summer.  This is a terrific tool that can give people a very good look at where they will be going and what the different locations look like.

I finally finished this last night and have sent this off to all this year's trip participants.  I am hoping to get some feedback from them so we can build a schedule more attuned to the interests of the group.

Take a look at our tour - our will need the Google Earth plug-in to view this, but it is really interesting.

Any comments you have about our trip are very welcome!
Enhanced by Zemanta