Sponsored child in Guatemala
Jun 30 2014

7 things I learned about El Salvador

Sponsored children in Guatemala.

Sponsored children have fun on a swing set at their school playground in El Salvador.

On Unbound’s first blogger trip, our social media coordinator, Victoria Brown, not only met with sponsored families but was also immersed in the Salvadoran culture. Read more to find out some of the things Victoria learned on her visit.

By Victoria Brown, social media coordinator for Unbound

While visiting El Salvador for Unbound’s first blogger trip, I noticed many similarities to the U.S., but I also saw quite a few unique things about the country and Latin America in general.

Unbound began working in El Salvador in 1989. This small country is wedged between Honduras and Guatemala in Central America. El Salvador is roughly the size of Massachusetts. It’s about a three-and-a-half hour flight from Atlanta to San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. Unbound employs 81 staff members and works with more than 12,000 children, youth and elderly people in El Salvador.

I met several Unbound families and heard their incredible stories, but, for this post, I want to share with you some of the interesting things I noticed while I was in El Salvador. These things may be specific to certain areas of the country, but nevertheless, here’s a glimpse into what you might see in in this amazing place.

Sponsored children in Guatemala.

Sponsored children have fun on a swing set at their school playground in El Salvador.

1. There are two shifts of classes in schools

Classes are Monday through Friday, but because schools can’t accommodate the number of enrolled students, they split each day into two shifts. One shift of students comes in the morning from 7 a.m. to noon and the other shift attends from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It’s about half the time students in the U.S. are in class. So if you see children outside or in their homes on a weekday morning, chances are they are either not in school or go to class in the afternoon.

Sponsored children in Guatemala.

Sponsored friends in El Salvador play a game of “pull the onion.”

2. The bottom halves of trees and utility poles are painted white

I’ve heard several reasons why tree trunks are painted. It’s become a custom in many Latin American cultures. They paint tree trunks white to keep ants off of the leaves. The paint reflects the sun’s rays and raises the temperature enough to discourage ants and other bugs from climbing. Others say it gives a clean look and symbolizes peace.

Sponsored child in Guatemala

Marcos, a sponsored child, waves goodbye as he heads back to his community on a bus.

3. El Salvador uses old U.S. school buses for transportation

El Salvador has an extensive public bus service, which uses mostly repurposed school buses from the U.S. Individuals or companies buy outdated school buses in the U.S. and bring them down to be purchased by the local public transportation companies. Some of those buses are used for parts and others are used to transport people.

The buses shuttle people around the big cities and in smaller communities. The exterior of the buses are usually painted in a wide variety of colors.

US currency

4. El Salvador and Ecuador are the only Latin American countries that use the U.S. dollar exclusively

The fact that El Salvador uses the U.S. dollar made traveling a bit easier for me, since I didn’t have to exchange foreign currency on the trip. Also, U.S. dollar bills in El Salvador and Ecuador are often exchanged for U.S. dollar coins. If you buy anything and need change, you’ll likely be given dollar coins instead of dollar bills.

Soda aisle in Guatemalan store

5. Stores sell 2.5-liter soda bottles

Pop, soda or coke. No matter what you call it, you won’t find the beverage in 2-liter bottles, but instead, 2.5 or 3-liter bottles. Another interesting note is that $1 can purchase three liters of soda, but it won’t buy three liters of water! A 3-liter bottle of water in El Salvador runs about $1.65. As a result, some statistics say the average Salvadoran drinks 45 liters of soda each year.

6. You should not flush toilet paper down the toilet

The plumbing system is not strong enough to handle toilet paper. Toilet paper is instead left in a trash receptacle in the restroom.

7. Fast food delivery

In San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, fast food restaurants offered delivery services via small cylinder motor bikes. I spotted delivery bikes from Pollo Campero (similar to KFC), Wendy’s, Pizza Hut and McDonald’s. Bread is also delivered by bike.

Henry Flores, director for the Unbound communication center in El Salvador, contributed information to this report.

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4 thoughts on “7 things I learned about El Salvador”

  1. What a fun post, Victoria! The dollar coins thing intrigued me. I didn’t catch the “repurposed American buses” part while we were on the trip so I appreciate this recap!! The unrefrigerated eggs were interesting … maybe I need to do a similar post! :-)

    1. Glad you enjoyed this post, Paula! Yes, I’d love to see a similar post on your blog. I’d like to read about other unique things that I didn’t catch..like the unrefrigerated eggs.

  2. Thanks Victoria for “7 things I learned from El Salvador’s post,”
    It’s awesome!
    What I’ve known about the bottom white part of the trees, is that people used it indeed, to keep the ants away. The interesting part is that in many places they use some powder like “plaster or lime”, it calls “cal” (instead of painting), that does not damage the tree trunk but keeps away ants.
    Thanks and keep the great job!

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