Friday, January 1, 2010

El Salvador

So we headed off for El Salvador the day after christmas. Christmas in Antigua was pretty interesting, at midnight on New Years Eve the entire country goes out in the streets and lights off as many firecrackers as they can physically get their hands on and then everyone goes out in the street and hugs everyone they see. I did my fair share of kneeling hugs and received a wicked headbutt in the process. We ate tamales and exchanged gifts with our family, no one really seemed to understand the jokes that i was trying to convey with my gifts which i guess i shouldnt have been surprised at. It was a fun christmas but as i returned home from calling my family the mood was a little more somber in our house and I was told that the father of our homestay mom had passed away. She was really broken up and on top of losing her father she was going to have to travel 6 hours to get to her home in the middle of the night on christmas, just an awful awful thing to happen. Saying goodbye was already sad enough but it was just that little bit sadder with this hanging over everyones heads.

We headed off for El Salvador at 4 in the morning with a little bit of an awkward feeling in the air but arrived in our new country after a surprisingly quick and easy bus trip.

Our hostel was one of the nicest places that i have ever stayed period. It is run by a borderline alcoholic named Javier who is a painter who doesnt paint, a man who loves his fiestas and a man who believes America is a terrible place because we have school shootings every other day. During our stay we had a few political conversations with an Australian hippy named Zen, Javier and then two remarkably interesting and well informed Danish people. Not sure what makes that remarkable maybe it was just the juxtaposition at the table where Zen and Javier liked to come off as supereducated and well informed people but really appeared to just generalize and oversimplify very complex subjects like global politics and religion and the danish couple would break out facts and figures and used that silly little thing called reason. Long story short America is a terrible terrible place with too many guns, fat people, and we need to vote more, so work on that will you.

While we stayed in Santa Ana we took two day trips one to volcan santa ana and another to the lake(i dont remember the name). The volcano was about as anticlimactic as a volcano could be. We climbed up to the top, not a particularly challenging climb(im an expert on challenging volcano climbs and not afraid to brag about it suckers) and when we reached the top the wind was ridiculous. It was treadmill wind where you try to walk but you are stuck in place. I may or may not have fallen down while trying to gracefully sit and losing my footing on some loose rocks. All in all i got a ton of sand and dirt in my mouth and eyes and never was allowed to get to the top of the volcano. The lake was actually pretty nice and we had the capability to swim in it which was different from Atitlan in Guatemala.

The beach, specifically Playa Tunco, was our main reason for heading to El Salvador in the first place and after our brief stay in Santa Ana we caught a series of buses and stood in the back of one pickup at 80mph and arrived at our destination.

Let me preface all of this beach talk with a little background. I am not nor have I ever been a big fan of the beach. I burn to ridiculous life threatening degrees, I cant swim, i sweat to a disgusting degree, Im not that comfortable taking off my shirt in public and im easily annoyed by sand.Ive only been once in the last 5 years and only really enjoyed it because i was with a fantastic person who loves the beach so much you are almost compelled to like it by peer pressure. So one good beach moment in 5 years and now i was headed to a beach for 4 days, doesnt seem like the smartest plan of all time but i said at the beginning of this trip that i would try new things so there you have it.

Well to my surprise i have actually enjoyed the beach. I had some fantasy about surfing but i think that was just a dream based on too many viewings of point break, airborne and riding giants. The second i got in the ocean i realized that i was terrified of it. I mean completely frightened of the water, im not arbitrarily scared of sharks the way some people are(dont get me wrong if there is a shark in the water im not going to go pet him, well maybe if i had one of those sick shark suits) just really petrified of drowning. The second i got in the ocean i realized my dream of surfing was just not going to happen, i dont even like diving under waves and i make a full bodied protective contortion when a wave is too big and comes near me. So surfing not my thing. I mean i am not even joking when i tell you that i am pretty darn proud of myself for going out as deep as i went out. There are times i realize that i am just a little boy and its generally when i realize how proud i get of myself for extremely minor life accomplishments.

Andy on the other hand decided to ride the waves and though he had limited success you have to admire his gusto. Thats one big thing i keep learning more and more about andy, he really is a pretty fearless person when it comes to trying new things. He may do do it all in his own way but he is very willing to try things out of his comfort zone(though not trivia damn it) and you have to admire that. Lindsey as well is quite the adventurer and pretty fearless in general especially when it comes to travel, where i am admittedly a wimp. I know that i would not have experienced half of what i have if not for the two of them and i appreciate them letting me tag along, though im sure they are just about done with me at this point in the trip.

New years was not dramatically different than any other new years i have been to except that it was 80 degrees and there was an impressive impromptu dance contest that involved some serious flips including one off a 15 foot set of speakers. Other than that they lit off firecrackers and everyone drank and either walked on the beach or danced in the open air bars.

There are a couple of things that i have learned from my short time here in el salvador. One would be that el salvadorans are an incredibly nice people in general, sure there are aholes but for the most part they go out of their way to help you. I learned this on the buses where they went out of their way to help me with directions or with my gigantic backpack and on the streets where they would yell anything they knew in english at us, including at one point a very direct i love you from a guy on a bike. The other thing ive learned is that i can enjoy the beach so in the future as long as i am prepared with plenty of incredibly strong sunscreen i am up for trips to the beach.

Well take care everyone i hope you all had a great new years and are busy working on your first new years resolutions. In a day or two we are off for nicaragua and ill write again when something else happens.

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