Maybe I’m not a very good blogger. I say “maybe” because I don’t want to write myself off just yet. The goal in the beginning was to do a post everyday. I’ve been here almost a month and I’ve already slacked on that front. I had a suspicion that this would happen. I knew I would be overwhelmed with the everyday of living in another country, learning another language and working. I want to share this experience though, my process and my adjustment. So it may not be an everyday thing, but I will do my best.
Status update: after nearly a month here in El Salvador I have been feeling homesick the last week or so. Some days I feel so ready to go home. I miss the people I love and who are my support. Yet, they continue to be my support here as well.
I have days where I feel defeated because I can’t communicate the way I would like to and I feel like a stranger in a world where everyone else knows the way around. The language barrier can sometimes make me feel lonely. I am the type of person who needs and thrives upon expressing myself. I love to talk. Here, I find myself smiling and nodding a lot or I am just concentrating so intently on translating that I am not even thinking of a response.
But I have it isn’t all a struggle. I have visited some beautiful places and met extremely friendly people here as well. I eat delicious, new foods almost everyday. Also, maybe this silence on my behalf isn’t such a bad experience. I spend more time listening and not always thinking about how important it is what I have to say.
It’s a bit of a roller coaster of emotions. In one moment I am feeling excited and proud of myself for making it here. Then I am lost and wondering how I am going to accomplish what I want to here. I think, “I want to do stories in a country where I am not fluent in the language.”
Yes I do. And I will.
Each day is a new day and presents the opportunity for me to make the best of this adventure I am on. I am signing up for a Spanish class at one of the local universities. I will continue to practice and ask questions even when I feel stupid. I am going to follow the passions that led me here in the first place. No, it is not going to turn out how I imagined. Nothing ever does. But it will be something. It will be an experience that frightens me, teaches me and pushes me to grow. I am grateful for that.
Tuesday was my first day at El Faro. I met many of the journalists, some from Spain, most of them from El Salvador. I will be working with the multimedia team, recording and editing video and audio. I am not fluent in Spanish so it is difficult for me to do interviews on my own and of course, I am not at a fluency level to write articles. Also, I really do not fancy myself a “writer.” I am a journalist yes, so this may seem like a contrary thing to say, but it is not what I believe to be my greatest strength. I think I am better at sourcing a story: finding people to talk with, asking questions, editing, for example.
I know I am going to learn so much from the talented journalist here. They are writers, photographers, and documentary filmmakers. A number of them risk their lives for the topics they report on.
Here are some examples of recent work.
El Faro won the highest award in Spanish journalism for this multimedia project. El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in the world. I am talking about of countries not in a war. It is in a different category than say, Afghanistan. There is only one, just one Forensic Scientist in this country. This is a profile of him. Even if you cannot understand the language, the pictures are enough to make you cringe.
This is an article published this past Monday about a young woman raped for over three hours by 15 gang members.
This is a common story here. What is most disturbing is how communities are paralyzed by fear by the power of gangs. This fear keeps people from speaking out about violent acts such as this.
In my few days at El Faro I already see how crucial journalism is in a region in crisis. This is what journalism is supposed to do. The reader’s comments on El Faro range from outrage, sadness, hopelessness and anger towards El Faro for publishing something so horrific. Although it’s not too hard to believe that people would rather live in ignorance. Carlos Dada, editorial director, told me today in response to those grateful and ungrateful for their work. “[I don’t care whether people are praising us or hating us; they are reacting. This is what our job is, to provoke people into action.]”
I am going to learn as much as I can from these journalists, not only on a technical level, but also about the culture on which they report. Despite El Salvador’s many problems, this country is home for many of these journalists, and they are passionate about their position to influence change.
I may post some pictures of El Faro’s office later, but will not be sharing much about the operation of the news organization out of respect for the security and privacy of the journalists. I will make sure to keep you posted on the stories and projects I am working on.
Here are some great pictures from one of El Faro’s photographers.