Friday, July 1, 2011
Families, real and host
At the ruins
I had my first visitors from the states last week, my dad and his girlfriend stayed with me for ten days and had just about the most ideal vacation possible in El Salvador. Here is the breakdown of what we did.
Monday, June 13- arrived at airport. They met some trouble as they had no destination address to tell the immigration desk. Apparently “some village somewhere” is not good enough, but rather than have two angry Americans on their hands, the officials had to let them through. Then we ran into some difficulty renting the car, as they tried to charge us more than we had reserved it for. After some good old American ranting and raving we got a good price and a larger car. Luckily we had air-conditioning since the airport is in one of the hottest areas I have ever been in. After stopping at a roadside coconut stand and then making a few wrong turns, we headed for the beach. We arrived at playa El Tunco (pig beach), the touristy surf-bum beach town. We checked into the hotel and immediately downed some beers and got a chance to relax and catch up. Later I introduced my dad to some local flavor in a hot sauce I call “green napalm”. I think he’s off hot sauce for a while.
Tuesday June 14- Left the beach after an uncomfortable night with no A/C. Spotted what we decided was a ring-tailed lemur (maybe) darting across the road. Went grocery shopping at the mall in the city of Sonsonate. Finally got up in the mountains and out of the heat to my town of Apaneca, where we bought some local gourmet coffee and headed to my village, Laguna Verde. Got them moved into the local guesthouse. (I am really lucky to have this place nearby. It is a full house with 4 bedrooms and a kitchen and everything you need. It is well landscaped with flowers and such, and sits on the lip of a huge crater with awesome views overlooking Ahuachapan city and into Guatemala. It is ridiculously cheap for what it is, only $10 per person.)
Wednesday June 15- Decided to lay low for the day, played some cards in the gorgeous setting of the guesthouse. Walked down to the Laguna, checked out the coffee fields and local flowers. Did a general community tour and introduced them to my host family.
Thursday June 16- I had read about a mega-resort on the beach about two hours away, so we decided to spend a night in luxury. (All you can eat and drink. Case closed.) We headed down there and decide to kill some time exploring a small fishing village that was nearby. It turned out to be a Salvadoran tourist beach with restaurants right on the age of the surf zone. We drank some beers and were serenaded by a mariachi band, which pleased my dad to no end. Then we headed to the resort. This place was ridiculous. It had an endless amount of pools, a saltwater pool that stuck out into the ocean and was covered during high tide, beach chairs everywhere and all the beer and mixed drinks you could handle. Paradise. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly that night, and headed back to the guesthouse the next day.
Friday June 17- We got back from the resort late in the afternoon… I can’t really remember what we did…
Saturday June 18- We started off with a tour of a local coffee processing plant, where they wash, shell, ferment, dry, de-husk, sort, roast and grind coffee that is picked in nearby fields. I think my guests really enjoyed it, and I liked the opportunity to show off my Spanish skills translating what the tour guide said. They picked up some local gourmet and a burlap coffee sack to hang on the wall. We then explored the town of Ataco, an artsy tourist area for picking up souvenirs and seeing art. Next we went to Juyjua (Why-you-uh), where they have a food festival every weekend. We ate some incredible pork ribs, saw some antiques, bought some Mayan artifacts (legal??? Maybe.) and visited a reptile zoo.
Sunday June 19- I wanted to exposed m visitors more to my host family, since they are who I am closest to here in my village. This was tough to do since they had about 5 common words in which to communicate. So we extended an invitation to join us in exploring some local Native American ruins. The two girlfriends of two of the brothers decided to go with us, Soyla age 14 and Rosa, age 22. It is hard to explain how great having a car here is, as a daylong bus adventure turns into a climate controlled joy-ride that takes a third of the time and stress. So we arrived at the ruins and got to check out the large structure that has been excavated. (Search for Tazumal ruins, el Salvador if you are curious) We also checked out some sort of native ceremony that was going on, but we soon left since it felt inappropriate to gawk. They was also a museum to explore, with some amazing pottery and sculptures that had been excavated from the site.
Monday June 20- We had a relaxing day, spent mostly around the guesthouse. We also visited the local hot springs, which a located near the country’s geothermal power plant. After having to walk the last bit because the road deteriorated, we enjoyed a nice soak in the hot pool.
Tuesday June 21-Headed to the big city, San Salvador. First we stopped off for lunch at a restaurant overlooking Lago Coatepeque, a large crater lake that is amazingly beautiful. There we ate the national dish, papusas, which are beans, cheese and meat or vegetables inside a fried tortilla shell. The city proved quite a driving challenge for my dad, but he did a great job. (I had to explain the two main rules of Salvadoran driving: DON’T PANIC and the signs and rules arenot laws, only suggestions.) We parked the car at the hotel and took a cab to the modern art museum, which proved interesting but a bit abstract for the likes of my dad I.
Wednesday June 22- Drove up to the San Salvador volcano, which tours above the city. It has a huge crater from when it last erupted in 1912 or so. At the bottom of the crater is a perfectly formed dirt mini-crater, it is really an amazing sight. We also saw some excellent views of the sprawling city. On our way to the into the city we hit an open manhole in the middle of an intersection, which miraculously did not break any part of the car. This confirmed that driving in San Salvador is at best extremely stressful and at worst borderline-suicidal. Next we went to the national archeology museum, which had exhibits of the history of the country, with exhibits of the all the major crops that have been farmed here of particular interest. Next we went to a tourist market to get some souvenirs, including a hammock, shirts, and aprons.
Thursday June 23- Time to say goodbye. Back to the airport and back to normal life for me.
It was great to finally share this place and my life here with loved ones, it makes me feel less alone since someone knows what I am doing and where I am. I had fun traveling around and being an interpreter and translator too. I don’t feel sad since they left, since they had a great time and the whole trip seemed just about perfect.
I hope this story serves as bait to get some more people to come down here and visit me. There is a lot of fun stuff to do, it is fairly cheap, and you will have your own personal tour guide and translator, not to mention a connection to a beautiful rural community. This is a rare travel opportunity for everyone, so think about buying that ticket; I promise we’ll have a blast.
P.S. I am still looking for donations for the girls camp, if you’ve been financially blessed lately share the love and change the lives of some young girls. Shoot me an email if you are interested.