Pre-Trip Reading: History of El Salvador

Students going to El Salvador have been assigned a handful of books to read before the trip and after the trip, each requiring a brief written reaction piece. Here’s one of mine:

History of El Salvador by Christopher M. White

Of all the assigned books for this trip, this may end up being the one I take with me for practical reasons. First, it’s full of context, both historical and present-day, which will likely serve as handy for reference purposes as we travel to specific locations or learn of specific events. Second, the six-page term glossary and nine-page topical index will indeed be helpful, for I not only do not speak Spanish but sometimes find it difficult to keep track of new acronyms and terms. Finally, as I wonder about what we’re going to learn, trying to anticipate how best to be prepared, this collection of information gives the widest birth of information compared to other books we’re reading for the trip.

I admit, I was a bit nervous reading the first chapter about El Salvador today, particularly the paragraphs on tourism. They mention how often tourists get robbed (often) and how guerillas are still prominent in public and some people even carry unconcealed weapons in public. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this, save hunting rifles slung into the gun racks of pick-up trucks in Wyoming. I’m doing my best to be positive regarding safety issues and know if we watch out for each other and I keep my wits about me, there shouldn’t be (m)any problems.

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Pre-Trip Reading: Globalization at What Price?

Students going to El Salvador have been assigned a handful of books to read before the trip and after the trip, each requiring a brief written reaction piece. Here’s one of mine:

Globalization at What Price? by Pamela K. Brubaker

We live in a global market and just when we thought the recession was hitting the U.S. hard, Pamela Brubaker posits others around the world have suffered for the U.S. consumer’s benefit for a long, long time. This is a topic which is coming more and more to the forefront for today’s recession-immersed society. As we reflect on how we got here and ask ourselves where we go from here, not only in terms of the current state of the US economy but in our relations to the global market, this book states the case for giving developing countries a break in terms of distribution of work and wealth.

The two items Brubaker focuses on which I found most harrowing were food and clothing. Pointing out how globalization affects my daily life is a great way to get me to think about this more. She uses the term “McDonaldization” to describe how the food industry and service industries uses labor practices which prey on the weak and “maquilization” to describe many of the same practices in agriculture (Brubaker, 55-56). Pointing out how my one-dollar McDouble is making other people’s lives miserable is enough to make me think twice about buying one (as if the health concerns weren’t enough already).

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Pre-Trip Reading: Witnesses to the Kingdom

Students going to El Salvador have been assigned a handful of books to read before the trip and after the trip, each requiring a brief written reaction piece. Here’s one of mine:

Witnesses to the Kingdom: Martyrs of El Salvador and the Crucified Peoples by Jon Sobrino

A figurehead of liberation theology, Jon Sobrino is a respected theologian who’s writing about those who have gone before him who engendered both his respect and represented something profound in their theology or what they represent theologically. He’s writing about martyrs.

Rather than tour through all of the stories Sobrino tells of martyrs, I want to address his writing style and philosophy because that is what intrigues me most as a writer. With all due respect to those who have died for a cause, all I can say about reading these stories is I was struck by how I’ve never even contemplated this sort of thing to be a part of my life. I don’t know anyone who has died for a cause and I don’t know what cause I believe strongly enough in to offer my life. I’ve heard it said many parents would die for their children though perhaps I need children in order to truly understand this idea. I’m still wrapping my head around the concept of martyrdom, even after reading the stories in Sobrino’s book, though something tells me it’s going to come up more than once on the trip. With that said, exploring why Sobrino’s writing style is so powerful definitely intrigues me and is inspirational in terms of my own desire to produce better writing.

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Anticipating Culture Differences

The trip to El Salvador is bound to be full of surprises, particularly to someone like me who hasn’t been out of the country before (aside from a weekend in Toronto five years ago). We’re doing our best to prepare ourselves physically and psychologically for what we’ll experience, from reading books to watching brief documentaries about Salvadorian culture.I knew there would be differences between America and El Salvador in terms of traditions and social norms, but it’s the little things that I’ve found add up fast.

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