A Different Outlook on Life

May 31, 2017

I had the opportunity to teach a Creative Writing class this past semester. I am proud of my students and will be sharing some of their personal essays over the next few days. Today I have posted a personal essay written by junior Tyler White:

A Different Outlook on Life

Stepping off of the plane in El Salvador was like walking into a new world. A different language, different climate, and an overall different way of life. Hearing other people talk about El Salvador didn’t prepare me for the actual trip. I was met with challenges that I’d never faced back in the United States. The water was different, the plumbing was different, even the streets were different.

As soon as we landed at the airport, I was met with a wave of heat and a wave of Spanish. The air conditioning in the airport was not enough to combat the 100 degree climate outside and suddenly, all of the airport announcements and signs were in Spanish. I quickly realized what it must be like coming to the United States from a different country. It took a leap of faith to place myself in a situation where I felt out of place. I only went through this for a week, but others spend months and sometimes years adjusting. If only for a brief time, I put myself in the shoes of a immigrant.

While in El Salvador, I spent a week in the small, rural town of Chalatenango, living with a host family. Despite the language barrier that I was faced with, I had the time of my life. I grew to love my host sisters and brothers, who were willing to do anything to make sure I wasn’t uncomfortable. However, my fun didn’t take away from my awareness of the vast difference between the way they lived and the way that I was used to living.

The home of my host family was unlike any place I’ve stayed before. It looked like a slightly sophisticated, small concrete hut. There was electricity, however, it was limited. They had a few light bulbs that they moved around, depending on where they needed the light. It was also the first house I have seen that doesn’t have a shower or bath with running water. My host family, among many others in their town, took “bucket showers,” which consisted of a very large bucket of water and a small empty bucket used to pour water on the body. This way of cleansing is something I have personally never experienced in the United States. These things were not as big of a shock to me as the outhouse. Their home did not include a bathroom, an amenity, that as an American, I’ve grown to expect.

The first couple of days I continually asked myself how every person I met was so happy and content with life, when they knew how advanced the world around them is today. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that having fewer “things” didn’t affect their outlook on life. I’ve found that in the United States, a lot of emphasis is placed on all of the “stuff” that a person has. Somehow, the majority of Americans don’t have the same happiness as the El Salvadorians that I met have, despite having more “things.” It was something that greatly confused me.

It wasn’t until the end of my trip when I realized that America may be technologically ahead of El Salvador, but the people of El Salvador have found the meaning of our lives on Earth. We as humans are not placed on Earth to see who can accumulate more things than the next person. What’s really important, or what should be, is the connections that we make with our family and friends.

The people that I interacted with in El Salvador aren’t sad because of their lack of materialistic things. It’s actually quite the opposite. Their outlook on life is something that I’m slowly, but surely, making an effort to implement into my life.

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