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Assignment #4

Written on: Tuesday August 18th, 2009

A journal entry from: El Salvador

 My blog has been abandoned for a month and I have no excuses to offer. I have internet access. All the time. I'm here now.  Hello internet!

Since Larissa posted the assignment before the latest we've (my fellow interns/other foreign friends and I) had several relevant discussions and I wish I could just whip up transcripts of said discussions because I do not have a blogging bone in my body and things just flow so much more naturally in conversation than in text boxes.

Understanding my position here has been really important and has come up in various ways throughout this experience. "Tourist", to me, has really specific connotations that I don't entirely identify with but I don't entirely dismiss, either. A tourist remains in a comfort bubble of home. I have met people here who refuse to walk the streets in San Salvador because it is too dangerous. I have met people who refuse to take the bus. People who eat mostly or only fast food because it's familiar. People who refuse to break past their culturally defined standards simply because they don't need to. This does not mean that I am not a tourist, at least in part. I mean, I 'm on a 90 day tourist visa for the love of god. Both my roommates are Canadian so I speak English in my house. I dress like a tourist (NO, neither hats nor Bermuda shorts are involved).  

But I have settled into my life here, even if it's temporary. I have friends and routines and a job (kind of) and a house and a landlord. My suitcase is in a storage room. The woman who sells bread and tamales on my street knows to come by our house and she knows what we like. I am on a first-name basis with the women who run the tiendas around our house. I have places that I frequent and recognize the people who are always there, the bartenders, the artisans who sell jewelry outside. There is a familiarity and comfort here that would not exist if I were entirely a tourist. When do you stop being a tourist, anyway? After the 90 day visa expires? I mean, if I were to stay in San Salvador for 47 years, would I still be a tourist, somehow? There can be a difference between being not-Salvadoran in El Salvador and being a tourist.

I have no problem embracing the elements of "tourist" that mark my experience. But I am also reluctant to come entirely to terms with the prospect of having been a tourist these three months because somehow, it cheapens the life I've built here.