El Salvador: As Good as it Gets?


La-Hola-Betos-La-Libertad-22.jpgLa-Hola-Betos-La-Libertad-22.jpg

beto's la libertad, sunset, el salvadorI started to write this post several months ago in the fall, when we were bidding. I never hit publish because I was hesitant to talk about our bidding process while it was still underway. By the time we learned of our assignment, I had too many other things to say about Afghanistan that my words below wouldn’t really fit in.And so, because it’s time to start waxing nostalgic about El Salvador now that our time is winding down, because people always ask where we want go to, post-Afghanistan, given that we’ll have priority bidding, and because I literally didn’t do a damn thing all weekend (as in, did not leave my apartment from the time I got home Friday night until I left for work this morning) and have nothing else to write about, I share with you some thoughts about El Salvador as a post.volcano challenge, reto del volcán north face, santa ana volcano race, running in el salvador, izalcoAlthough I don’t have any other Foreign Service experience to which I can compare El Salvador, I can’t imagine it gets any better than this (for USAID families — I’m not talking about you, State families who have places like Paris and Vienna on your bid lists).In some ways USAID bidding is easier than it is for State, since our options are more limited by virtue of the number of USAID missions compared to U.S. embassies and consulates around the world. There are only so many developing countries.juyúa, ruta de las flores, el salvador photos, el salvador tourismThat leaves … not a ton of places. Certainly not a ton of places to which I would have imagined traveling, let alone living, before marrying Kail. El Salvador was one of these places.I know everyone has a special attachment to their first post. Everything is new — the country, Foreign Service life and, for us (and a lot of other FS couples), marriage. Even after removing my rose-colored, new-to-the-Foreign-Service glasses and trying to be objective, I still think El Salvador is pretty hard to beat as a post. Why?panama city, panama, casco viejo, panama city skyline1. Regional travel: Easy, affordable. In Central America, we have traveled to Copán (twice), Antigua (three times), Granada and Panama City. We have three more regional trips planned between now and our departure in June.2. The beach: Close by. I was going to put “warm weather” as one of the reasons, but Kail pointed out that we’ll most likely always live somewhere hot warm. We won’t, however, always live somewhere that is an hour away from having a coconut drink in hand at our luxury beach club.el salvador beach, joya del pacifico3. Cheap labor. That means affordable housekeeping, childcare (if applicable), mani/pedis, massages, dental care, diving classes, you name it.4. Employment opportunities for spouses. It’s a large mission, so EFM jobs at the embassy abound. It might not be the perfect job aligned with your professional background and interests (in fact, they are not filling my specific position after I leave), but if you want a job, chances are you can get one. In El Salvador, spouses can also work on the local economy. And even if paid local employment doesn’t work out, there are many volunteer opportunities through which you can contribute your time and skills (and also keep your resume fresh). I know this won’t always be the case everywhere.glasswing international, toms shoes, el salvador schools5. Creature comforts. We’re close to home (a roughly 4.5-hour direct flight to DC). We use U.S. currency here. You can find pretty much every commonplace food and product here (or order it online). There is a store that is identical to Costco, for Pete’s sake.Keep in mind that we are married without children, new to the Foreign Service and new to living abroad, period. So while some adventure-seekers might be looking to get as far away from the U.S. and Western-style comforts as possible, we relish in them.We’re also in this for two years. And actually, in the future, four years. “Roughing it” might seem appealing for a few weeks or a few months, but at some point you just want to stream Netflix movies over reliably fast Internet and enjoy some Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream. What — is that just me?This list also leaves out the obvious/things that can make or break one’s experience at a post — namely, the other people who are living there with you. El Salvador is a large mission and most people here are very nice and inclusive. I wouldn’t say that I’ve made a ton of lifelong best friends here, but overall in terms of getting along with people as colleagues and neighbors, it’s been a good experience.I should also add that as a people generally Salvadorans are very kind, welcoming and patient (particularly with our terrible Spanish). I know we won’t always live in parts of the world where the U.S. is viewed positively (or even neutrally), so it’s been a good first post, living somewhere that has a particularly close relationship with the United States.I’d be lying if I didn’t say that yes, we would like to return to Latin America after Afghanistan. Partly because it’s what we know, and partly because I think our Spanish would be awesome after an additional four-year tour. But I also know that, for USAID, Latin America is super-competitive and there just aren’t as many jobs. And that, much like El Salvador surprised me in ways I couldn’t have expected, there are a lot of other places in the world where we could live that would do the same.What do you love most about where you live?

Published by La Vie Overseas

I'm Natasha -- writer, runner and wife to a Foreign Service Officer with USAID. Current location: Frankfurt, Germany.

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