2014 Stanford Delegation

2014 Stanford Delegation
Stanford Delegation in the UCA Chapel

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Conversation with a Tour Guide

By Shawn Shizhi Wang

On Saturday afternoon, while the rest of the class was probably already in the US, I visited Maya San Andres site. The site was interesting, but the talk with my tour guide during the trip was more interesting. So I will leave the reader to Wikipedia about Maya, and detail some of my conversation with my tour guide.
My tour guide is none other than the son of the lady who owns the house we lived in. As we were in the rural area most of the time, it was great to learn about the urban perspective that he represents. As you might have guessed, he speaks English.

To give us a little sense of the economic condition in San Salvador, he is the CTO of a car chain and earns 50k a year with perks such as free car and gas. He is one of only 8 CISCO certified network engineers in El Salvador, thanks to his relatively affluent family who could pay almost $40,000 for the certification course. His family is probably considered affluent in El Salvador, but by no means does he feel that it is extraordinary. He talked about a classmate who ended up being a CEO for some multinational company in South Africa and paid the bill for everyone else to attend their class reunion.
 As to life and aspiration of future generations, this representative of the city is also very different from the rural areas. Unlike many in the rural area, he only has one daughter. His daughter goes to a French school, which cost $500 a month. He says he wants his daughter to learn good French, as all the teachers in the school are native French. His daughter is studying ballet, and wants to immigrate to France – he stayed in Miami before and thinks it is too hectic a place. 
What is more interesting is his perspective, which is very different from those in the rural area.
He speaks highly of the family of the car chain he works for. He tells me the rags-to-riches story of the founder of the car chain. The founder never went to school and was illiterate. Neither did he have money. He started by selling underwear in rural areas, and then car parts. He made some fortune during the war by repairing broken cars and then selling them. At that time, there was a ban on the importation of cars to El Salvador and thus cars were in demand. Little by little, he expanded his car business and now the car chain has branches in many other Central America countries.
When I told him our experience in Bajo Lampa, he also offered an interesting new perspective. He thinks that people in those regions are sometime too stuck in their own way of life. “My dad used to tell me that life is hard. Yes, it is hard,” he says.
It was only a few extra hours in the afternoon, but I appreciate the experience as it offers me a holistic picture of El Salvador.

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