Part 9 of El Salvador Trip Journal
We went to bed really early last night. I woke up at 6:30, had a cold shower and sat by the hotel pool to watch the birds and see the sun rise. The bus’ll be here at 9, so we’re just waiting by the parking lot now.
I’m so glad we came to the beach – it’s a great way to finish off the week. The water seems saltier than in San Francisco – it’s so terribly salty. I couldn’t go in the water for more than 20 minutes. But the waves here are nowhere near as powerful as in San Fran. What is powerful is the undertow. I’ve never felt anything like it in my life; it pulled me under once or twice. After swimming and sitting on the beach for a while, we went to the hotel room that we had rented for the day – 2 minutes from the beach – and got our money and changed into some dry clothes. Along the beach there are a few restaurants that all have pretty much the same food. We stopped at one of them for lunch. Most of us had a whole fish – eyes, tail and all – that had been fried, rice, tortillas, avocado, and a tomato-onion salad. I had all that, minus the fish. It was absolutely delicious – I’m definitely not getting tired of the ever-present corn flour tortillas. Surprisingly, we’ve only had beans once on the trip. That must be a Mexican thing rather than a Salvadoran one.
As we were finishing our meal, a lady came to our table with a basket on her head. Inside were all sorts of homemade candies. We all bought lots because they were so unique and interesting – sugared coconut, candied anise, caramelized jam mixed with milk, roasted cashews… she made our day because there isn’t really any shopping here aside from the restaurants. A man came by a little while later with wooden bracelets for sale. I bought a few for myself and for gifts to other people.
Now we’re back on the beach – there isn’t a cloud in the sky. The ocean is in front of me, with palm trees and mountains behind me. El Salvador is a beautiful country. To get here, eduardo drove us along a tiny, winding road through the mountains for about an hour. Maybe it’s just because I’m used to February in Waterloo, but there’s so much green here!
Vendors, like the ones that came to our table at lunch, are walking or riding bicycle-carts up and down the beach, selling snow cones, ice cream, bracelets, dried fish, candies, chicken, sandals, water, and I’m sure lots of other things as well. I’m having a great time; it’s so good that Dennis could be our team leader. He’s a great translator, and he’s lived here for many years during his volunteer career. This trip has worked out so well! It’s hard to believe that we’ll be in an airport 24 hours from now.
Our time is almost done here in El Salvador. I think I’ll take this time to list off some of the unique things I’ve noticed about this wonderful country.
- There really aren’t any speed limits.
- There really aren’t any lines on the road either.
- The number of passengers in a vehicle is limited only by the size of the pickup truck’s bed.
- You don’t flush toilet paper. You put it in a wastebasket beside the toilet when you’re done with it.
- They eat a lot of corn flour tortillas.
- If you’re a foreigner walking down the street, every car that passes will whistle or shout at you.
- Politics is everywhere: on the radio, on telephone poles, on painted rocks in the middle of nowhere…
- Cellphones are a lot more common than landlines. In fact, the only landlines I saw were in the hotel, and they didn’t even work.
- We’re wusses – the masons didn’t wear gloves or steel toes. Half the time, the hired helpers didn’t even wear shoes.
- Garbage disposal is all over the street.
- Razor wire, chain link, walls topped with broken glass, and barred windows are commonplace.
- The bus stop is wherever you can jump on it.
- Coke is the favourite soft drink – they pour it into plastic sandwich bags, tie a knot, and poke a straw through it to drink the pop.
Just got an amazing massage from Julian. the list continues:
- The national food of El Salvador should be chicken.
- All popular music as the same beat.
- There are no postal codes.
- “Si”, “no”, “gracias”, and “bueno” can get you pretty far.
- Bucket hats are a preferred alternative to sunscreen.
- Refrigerators are rare.
- You can cut open a coconut with a machete.
- There’s not a culture of saving here – most people spend all they have.
- If you don’t take in the bucket for your well at night, someone might steal it.
- Shoes are optional.
- Don’t expect hot water. You won’t need it.
- Don’t expect running water all the time.
- There are lots of volcanoes and thousands of mini-tremors every day.
- Armed security guards, police, and the military are everywhere.