Visiting El Salvador?

Visiting El Salvador?

Information for guests (we suggest reading this before your arrival):

For your well-being, we suggest the following safety suggestions:

1) We don’t recommend night-time walking by yourself unless you are very acquainted with the area and know the area to be safe. It’s probably wise to check with someone who knows the area before walking unaccompanied in the daytime.

2) Money is most easily stolen from back pants pockets and from shoulder bags with straps. It is most likely to be stolen in crowded buses or bus stops or other very crowded places or, on the other hand, very isolated areas. It is not impossible to have glasses or watches stolen, so be alert. People who appear uncertain of where they are going or what they are doing are at particular risk of being targeted for theft.

3) Vehicles are not safe places to store personal valuables. In the recent past a laptop computer and a video camera were stolen from locked vehicles in ‘safe’ areas. (Places guarded by armed guards.)

4) Food and beverage safety: we’d really like you to enjoy your stay here and one of the best ways to do that is to avoid getting sick! In the US one is accustomed to think of most food and beverages as being safe unless otherwise specified. The opposite is true here: all food and beverages should be considered unsafe unless they are found in the following list. As a general rule, heat kills germs and cold preserves them. Frozen items such as ice made from impure water are NOT safe!!

FLUIDS:   a) Bottled drinks: this includes bottled water, juices, and sodas. It does NOT include water or juices packaged in plastic bags, although some of those may be safe (neither you nor I know which of those were properly processed, so don’t risk it!) The pop and ice served at restaurants uses un-bottled water, so ask for a can or bottle of water/pop.

b) Water specifically filtered by U-V lights at the homes of missionaries

c) Boiling hot drinks (if the coffee is steaming, it’s probably OK; otherwise don’t drink it)

d) Most people use water to brush their teeth. Use purified water only, even for this task, unless you have a particular desire to experience the bad effects of impure water.

FOODS:   Avoid fresh fruits and vegetables unless you have personally soaked them in iodine water (or completely trust the person who is serving you them!) Restaurant meats should be very well cooked; some very difficult-to-eradicate parasites lurk in pink meat. It’s not enough to pull fresh vegetables from sandwiches; they’ve probably already contaminated the rest of the sandwich. Otherwise, the following foods are probably safe:

a) Any food that is so hot that it’s hard to eat immediately. Don’t eat lukewarm or kept-warm foods

b) Most breads and baked goods, unless they contain puddings or cream fillings/frostings.

El Salvador is a wonderful place to live and to visit and we think that Salvadorans are generally among the gentlest, friendliest people in the world. Hopefully, following these precautions will help you also have the best time possible here.

ACCOMMODATIONS–If you are considering a visit to the clinic, you may be wondering about the accommodations.  There is a guest house on the clinic property, opposite a small apartment for part of the missionary staff.  It has a moderate-sized room with a bunk bed, and a hide-a-bed couch, also multiple cabinets that provide additional storage for the clinic and missionaries. Linens and towels are provided.  It has a separate room with a shower and an indoor toilet.  Use of the outhouse is now optional,  unless there is a temporary water shorage.  Use of the outhouse can also provide you with a first hand view of some of the wildlife of the area, mostly of the arthropod variety.    Take some quiet time in the yard to observe the different varieties of birds that inhabit the area. If you are interested in birds, try to find a copy of Petersen’s Birds of Central and South America before you come so that you can identify them.  Also note the variety of tropical plant life and trees.  These are difficult to identify, but are worth observing.  The night sounds are unique as well, and may include the swelling waves of sound as roosters in various locations throughout the country greet each other.   The guest house has a metal roof–this allows continued awareness of whatever may be falling from the trees or sky.   Please note that in the dry season water can be scarce.  Please try to be moderate in your use.  Laundry and cleaning–The main room  also contains a sink. The sink can be used for hand washing, dishwashing, and clothes.  It also contains a small refrigerator and some stove burners.  A small washer and outdoor clotheslines are available should you need to do laundry.

Plan to make arrangements for your own meals.

HOSPITALITY ‘HEADS UP’:   The primary calling of the missions staff at the clinic is medical work, and the closely related task of sharing God’s love through this means.

The secondary calling is church and community ministry.

Hospitality is  a tertiary calling of the clinic missionary staff, and you will see this reflected in their use of time and energy.  This means that your visit will be more enjoyable if you come anticipating the need to flex around the local schedule. You will probably be cooking most or all of your own meals and the best way to be sure to see the clinic staff is to plan to join them in their clinic, community, and church activities.

The guest house has a kitchenette for your use.    The missionaries will be happy to help you figure out the logistics of shopping for food and other needed items.

Local village cooks will make the most authentic Salvadoran foods you could wish for, served with wide smiles, sold for unbelievable prices.  The missionaries will  be glad to help arrange for experiences of local eating.   These eating establishments provide you with a good introduction to the local foods and culture.  They may afford additional entertainment not generally available in a North American restaurant, including herds of cows, etc., wandering by outside.  Do not leave without trying pupusas, the “national fast food of El Salvador.”   A pupusa is a stuffed tortilla containing a variety of fillings, including bean, bean and potato, and cheese.   They are delicious and almost addictive, though not low-fat.

Do not forget to use the iodine rinse provided in the cabinet above the sink on your fresh fruits and vegetables!! (See previous warnings above)  This is very important for your health!  The intestinal parasites that can attack your system are not very pleasant, and we would like to spare personal experience with them..

Trash–Forgive the lack of trash service in El Resbaladero and try to not contribute to the problem of littering.  A burn-hole is available for your use at the clinic.

Activities–Please plan on observing the functioning of the clinic.  Patient care and local community/church commitment requires a large portion of the staff’s energies, so forgive them if they are not the world’s most attentive hosts.    If you have some specific experience that you would like your visit to include, please mention it in advance.  The missionary staff will do their best to make sure your experiences in El Resbaladero are beneficial for you.  El Resbaladero, however, does not major on tourism, so come prepared to enjoy life as experienced by local, rural Salvadorans.  They will be delighted to share their lives with you.

Dressing appropriately for local society and the mission: –Because you have come as guests of Amish Mennonite Aid, it is important that you observe certain minimum standards of dress, although you are not required to dress like the Amish.  Women and girls are requested to wear long, loose skirts or dresses.  Dresses/tops should have sleeves, and should not have low necklines.    Men’s shirts should have sleeves.  Long pants for men are recommended.   “Everyday” clothing tends be quite dressy compared the usual North American casual wear.

If you visit the church–The El Resbaladero Mennonite Church is part of the heart of the ministry of the clinic.  If your schedule permits, you may want to avail yourself of the opportunity to attend one (or more) of the services.  If you do so, knowing what to expect may make your visit  more comfortable.  The church house is completely unadorned.  The men and the women sit on opposite sides of the building.  The church uses only a cappella music, generally in the form of congregational singing.  The church service and dress will probably feel fairly formal to many North Americans.   Amish Mennonites do not wear jewelry.  The RVA 1960 translation of the Spanish Bible is used, in case you would like to bring one so you can follow along with the    Scripture reading.  Services are in Spanish. On occasion, someone can provide translation into English for key points of the sermon.

Making arrangements–Please arrange your visit at least 2 months in advance.  Please offer several options of dates when you can come.  There are times when the guest house is occupied by others as well as times when the mission schedule is too busy to accommodate guests.

Controlling the schedule is an important part in maintaining the health of the mission staff.  In dealing with the overwhelming needs at the clinic and in the church and community, burnout is an ever-present threat, and on occasion, a reality, making it necessary to restrict hospitality ministries.  While your visit to El Salvador may be a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience for you, having North American guests has at times been a daily or weekly event for the missionaries.  Please be sensitive to their needs.

Suggested donations–Your hosts will not mention donations, since you are their guests.  However, hospitality involves using mission moneys, which might also be used for providing for local Salvadoran needs.  Thus, a donation for the work of the clinic or for the expenses of the missions staff in hosting you would not be inappropriate.  The guest house does not have a budget or a staff, so the laundry and cleaning after your visit will take someone’s time and efforts away from their regularly assigned tasks.   The missionary staff work as volunteers, receiving only a small personal allowance plus room and board.

MEDICAL PRECAUTIONS–We DO recommend the Hepatitis A vaccine, especially if you hope to enjoy local, rural foods.

Malaria prophylaxis is not required.  Dengue still exists in the country, so preparing with a can of insect repellant is a good idea.

As a matter of routine precaution, check to make sure your tetanus vaccinations are current.

Asthmatics and persons with seasonal allergies are likely to suffer during most months of the year.  Come prepared with your routine medications.

TRANSPORTATION–the missionaries that work at the clinic do not have a vehicle, so plan on walking a lot, and riding public transportation.  Getting from place to place is part of the adventure of living here!

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The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed... Luke 4:17