A Trip to El Salvador and More
After the class with Julio, I went to visit my friend Judy in La Esperanza. Here we are sitting in her simple living room. I was on the way to a town called Jesus de Otoro a little distance from there for a Fourth of July party. A bunch of Peace Corps Volunteers were getting together at a volunteer's house. His name was Tom, and as you can see he and his Honduran girlfriend were hosting it. There were quite a few people there, including an older PCV named Audrey. I had visited her at her home a few times, as she lived in the next largest city over called Siguatepeque. We had talked about how it would be nice to travel to El Salvador. I thought it would be good to travel with someone, but Osmar and Dilcy couldn't go, neither could Judy. She was definitely a safe person to be with, and we could go where we wanted, when we got there. We decided that the safest way to get there was to fly from Teguc, because all the frontier roads were said to have bandits on them. I wonder if this would be different now, since all the roads have been recently paved.
It was time for Audrey and me to leave for Teguc, and then we were off to San Salvador by plane. We found a nice hotel in San Salvador, called La Casa Grande. It was simple, but had a pretty garden with potted plants and palm trees. The first day, we walked around the area of our hotel, and I remember being struck by the colorfulness of the buildings. Right away, I thought that it seemed like my pretty town, which was right on the El Salvadorian border. It all made sense to me, because the rest of Honduras was quite colorless. We walked up on a hill, and looked down over the countryside and the city. Everything seemed richer and nicer than Guatemala or Honduras. I thought that if there had been no war in the 70's and 80's, it might have been on a par with Costa Rica. The people were very businesslike. There were shopping centers with escalators, and it was cleaner than Teguc or Guatemala City. There was only one skyscraper, though, and it had windows that were shot out from wartime.
The next day, we took a bus to La Libertad, a coastal town, which was a bit dirtier, and very hot! We walked on the beach, ate lobster, and enjoyed the environment. On the third day, I took a solo trip to Santa Ana, a town with the beautiful Sacred Heart Cathedral, a nice square, and market. After this, it was time to go home. Overall, I was much more impressed with El Salvador than Guatemala or Honduras. It was much more colorful, successful, and modern.
During this time, the World Cup 1994 was in the US, and everyone was asking me if I was sorry that I wasn't watching it from there. I admitted that I probably would never have watched it, if I were in the US, since we didn't follow the world's sport of soccer hardly at all, then. I enjoyed watching and following the scores. Finally, in the middle of July, Brazil won the championship. After the game some of the guys in town, including Jimmy, who was living at the Del Cids, invited me to celebrate victory in the Americas by drinking beers in the bar up at the top of the hill. I needed an escort back to my room, and Jimmy was more than happy to take me back. Once he arrived, he parked himself in the hammock, expecting something. Needless to say, I kicked him out quickly!
Every Wednesday for at least six months, I had been visiting my little friend Maria. I would buy white flour, and we would make flour tortillas in her kitchen with her older sister. A few times she came over to my house, and we tried to make them, but it was too hard for us. Instead of making them by hand, we would press the dough into a plate to make it flat. Then, her sister would make the tortillas prettier, and put them on the wood stove for us. We would eat them with beans, and the cuajada cheese that she brought for me. It was a fun tradition, and we would always laugh together, while we worked making them. I've gotten back into contact with Maria, and she's become a teacher with five children of her own. Some of them are older than mine! When I came home, I tried to make flour tortillas a few times, but each time they turned out worse. I finally gave up about fifteen years ago!
At the end of July, some other Peace Corps Volunteers and I were going to have an exhibition booth on soil conservation with some of our farmers. It was going to be in La Esperanza during the three days of the Potato Festival. I had invited two farmers, Filipe and Aquilino, who were enthusiastic about explaining the new practices.
I invited them on an ill-fated trip to see how the volunteers in Gracias, Lempira presented it. Gracias is far from Concepcion, and we had to start at 3:30am and met a group of others at La Esperanza, arriving at 6am. Felipe didn't show up, which was lucky for him! From there, the whole group took a truck to Gracias arriving at 10. When we got there, the truck had a flat tire that needed to be fixed! We spent four hours looking at the unmemorable booth, and waiting for the truck to be fixed. At least Aquilino enjoyed exploring a little. Then, we were off at 2pm, and dropped everyone off on the way to Yamaranguila, adding two extra hours of travel. We arrived at 7:30. An hour later, it was starting to rain, and a car finally came along and picked us up. We got to La Esperanza, checked into two rooms at a motel, and went to sleep directly. The next morning, we left after breakfast, and I told Aquilino that I expected nothing from him after this debacle. Sure enough, he said it would be very hard for him to participate, and so I was out a farmer.
At this time, I wrote a two letters that made it seem like I was ready to go home. One I wrote to my mother, telling her how we hardly had any electricity, and even Judy didn't have electricity much in La Esperanza. I was excited, because she was getting a phone, but we could only make calls when there was electricity. I also talked about how I was very disappointed with how difficult it had been to get things done, and how everything was turning out to be crazy and unpredictable. It made it interesting, though, and I referred to the fact that it might still be interesting with these people after I got home! The other letter I wrote to my friend, Tiffany. She had told me about her boyfriend, and how serious they were. I told her that I realized I put a serious romantic life on hold for two and half years,but I was glad to have stuck it out the whole time, and that it had been a real learning experience.
A few days later, I went back to Plan Verde, and Nato, who was scheduled to go on the trip to Zamorano, was sick. He said it would be better if someone else went. Aquilino had always wanted to go on the trip to Teguc, and now with Nato sick, he could go. He was so happy that he forgave me for the horrible day in Gracias, and prepared to go on the four day trip with the others. I was also able to get Juana to go to La Esperanza and work the booth, as she had plans to visit her sister in another city called Santa Barbara. Everyone got what they wanted, and we were all very excited for the future. My horrible luck suddenly changed to perfection!