Category Archives: travel
[Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. Apologies that there is no English translation this week. If you have a question about something, ask me in comments and I'll try to answer you. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments!]
Fuimos a El Salvador en agosto, y claro que trajimos recuerdos!
Si no has visto los blog posts sobre recuerdos de otros años, chéquealos. Hay un montón de cosas chistosas que ya compartí anteriormente:
Okay! Los recuerdos de este viaje!
[Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. For the English translation, please scroll down. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments!]
Caminando en las calles de El Salvador, encontramos muchas cosas inesperadas. Por un lado, había hoyos tan grandes que pudieron comer totalmente a mi niño menor, (¡Ojo en una esquina cerca de Parque Libertad! Había un hoyo que se parecía a un pequeño Boquerón.)
Después de casi dar un paso en cosas asquerosas o peligrosas, formé el hábito de mirar por dónde caminaba. Un día cuándo fuimos caminando por el museo Tín Marín, yo estaba sorprendida por encontrarme a mis pies, unas estrellas como las que están en Hollywood.
Había sólo tres estrellas que estaban un poco descuidadas y sólo son para los atletas salvadoreños. Estaban en la acera en frente del Estadio de Mágico González.
Desde que regresamos a los Estados Unidos, han arreglado el estadio adentro. Ojalá que arreglan las estrellas, (aunque tienen cosas mil veces más importantes en que pueden usar el dinero ahorita.) También espero que un día deberian añadir estrellas para La Selecta de Playa.
Walking the streets of El Salvador, we came upon a lot of unexpected things. For one thing, there were holes big enough to completely eat up my little boy, (Look out on a corner near the Parque Libertad! There was a hole there that looked like a little version of the Boquerón.)
[The "Boquerón" is the nickname of San Salvador's volcano crater.]
After almost stepping in disgusting and dangerous things, I formed the habit of watching where I walked. One day when we were walking to the Tín Marín museum, I was surprised to find my feet standing on stars like the ones that are in Hollywood.
There were only three stars that were a little uncared for, and they’re only for Salvadoran athletes. They were on the sidewalk outside Estadio Mágico González.
Since we’ve returned to the United States, they fixed up the stadium inside. Hopefully they’ll fix the stars, (although they have things that are a thousand times more important that they could use the money for right now.) I also hope that some day they add stars for the football players of La Selecta de Playa.
This weekend I will be reporting from Blogalicious – a conference “aimed at celebrating the diversity of women of all ethnicities in social media.”
The conference is being held about 20 minutes from Washington, D.C. this year, so I knew I had to go. Despite its proximity, there are still expenses associated with going to a conference, so I’m thankful to the sponsors who stepped up to support Latinaish.com in attending Blogalicious 2011.
It’s especially awesome when those that offer to sponsor you are brands you’re proud to represent. Here’s a little bit about each of them.
• Chí Chí & Flaco – is “a modern t-shirt line savoring the flavor of Latino and Hispanic culture in the United States.” (If you have Cuban roots, you’ll especially want to check them out.)
• New Latina – is an online magazine, (which I’m very proud to contribute to), that celebrates and redefines Latina women while providing a supportive community.
• Kellogg’s – Ya sabes! You probably have a box of their cereal in the cabinet right now. I do, except it’s empty. (Why do the kids do that?)
And look what I discovered while grocery shopping this week – Bilingual cereal boxes!
When I saw the bilingual cereal boxes I was even happier that I agreed to the Kellogg’s sponsorship, but the truth is, Kellogg’s has had a long history with the Latino community.
I still remember when Carlos and I first married and he wanted me to buy “Cornfleis” at the grocery store. I had no clue what he was talking about until he put a box of “Corn Flakes” in our cart. I love that Carlos loves Corn Flakes because that used to be my grandfather’s favorite cereal. Seeing the classic box with the rooster on it in our cabinet gives me some good memories.
Of course, Carlos doesn’t eat it like my grandfather did. He heats up the milk in the bowl and eats it warm. (Is that a Latin American thing?)
Anyway, I’ll have more to share from Kellogg’s especially for la comunidad Latina later via Twitter and right here on Latinaish – so stay tuned! My last sponsor is:
• Latina Bloggers Connect – LBC connects brands with Latina bloggers and is another website I’m super proud to contribute to. At Blogalicious I will be part of the #SprintConnects LBC team. Along with Ana Flores, Dariela Cruz, Chantilly Patiño and Rachel Matos, I’ll be sharing photos, updates and tweets from the conference all weekend on Twitter, Facebook and Latina Bloggers Connect. There will be a contest and prizes for those attending Blogalicious – so be sure to check that out!
Excited to reconnect with mis hermanas blogueras and meet new amigas as well. Ojalá we’ll learn and have fun all at the same time. See you there!
Disclosure: All companies mentioned above have sponsored my attendance at the 2011 Blogalicious Conference. This is not a sponsored post or paid advertisement. This blog post conforms to WordPress.com Terms of Service. All opinions are my own.
[Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. For the English translation, please scroll down. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments!]
Cuándo fuimos a El Salvador y nos dimos cuenta que no podíamos quedarnos en la casa de la infancia de Carlos, decidimos que necesitábamos encontrar un hotel lo más pronto posible. Fuimos al Hotel Real Intercontinental, con la intención de quedarnos sólo una noche, pero terminamos quedandonos allí todo el viaje.
“No cualquier persona se hospedan en este hotel,” decía nuestro amigo Lalo, observando todo el lujo en el lobby.
Y tenia razón. Durante nuestra estancia habia un montón de reinas internacionales de belleza riendo arriba y abajo por los pasillos, (tanto para el placer de nuestro hijo adolescente y el hijo adolescente de Lalo.) También habia un equipo de fútbol – pensamos de Puerto Rico, pero no estabamos seguros. El portero entrenó en la piscina mientras los niños estaban nadando.
Este hotel era bellisimo, limpio, y los empleados bien amables. No era barato, pero para nosotros algo económico, porque ganamos un poco más cada día en los Estados Unidos que unos salvadoreños ganan en una semana. También hicimos un buen trato con buffet de desayuno incluido. Cada mañana esperabamos con mucha anticipación los tamales de elote, frutas frescas, pupusas hechas a la orden por una muchacha con su traje típico, chorizos de Cojutepeque, frijoles molidos, huevos revueltos, quesadilla y todos los pan dulces que puedes imaginar, taza tras taza de un café perfecto – Ay! Casi lloro recordandolo y queriendolo.
Después del desayuno siempre saliamos por el día, andando en varias aventuras. En las noches nos retirabamos, agotados y polvorientos, a nuestra habitación por bañar, descansar, mirar la tele, hablar de nuestro día y finalmente, por dormir.
Una noche mientras mirabamos la tele y preparando para acostarnos, olimos humo de cigarillo saliendo de la ventilación. Humo de cigarillo es uno de los olores que no soporto. Sin ser dramática, les juro que me da ganas de vomitar.
Yo sabía que en las habitaciónes era prohibido fumar y entonces hablé a recepción para preguntar si pueden hacer algo.
“Claro que sí, Señora López. Podemos llevarle un ambientador?”
Yo acepté aunque no sabía qué era un ambientador. Después de colgar el telefono pregunté a Carlos y tampoco sabía él. Asumimos que un ambientador era un tipo de maquina para filtrar y limpiar el aire.
Al final había un “tan tan” en nuestra puerta. Fui a la puerta y la abrí.
El muchacho uniformado con una sonrisa muy agradable en su rostro, me pidió permiso por entrar en nuestra habitación para atender el problema.
“He traído el ambientador,” dijo. Le dije que por favor pase adelante y le dí las gracias por venir a nuestra habitación tan noche, a lo que respondió, “Siempre estamos a la orden, Señora López.”
Yo esperaba que él vuelva a recuperar el ambientador del pasillo, pero él ya lo tenía en mano. “Con permiso”, se disculpó y empezó a rociar Febreze por toda la habitación.
El olor a humo desapareció y nos fuimos a dormir riendo de la nueva palabra que había aprendido. Como resultado, “ambientador” significa “room spray.”
When we went to El Salvador and we realized we could not stay in Carlos’s childhood home, we decided that we needed to find a hotel as soon as possible. We went to the Hotel Real Intercontinental, with the intention of staying only one night but we ended up staying there the whole trip.
“Not just anyone stays at this hotel,” said our friend Lalo, looking around the fancy lobby.
He was right. During our stay there were a bunch of international beauty queens laughing up and down the hallways, (much to the pleasure of our teenage son and the teenage son of Lalo.) There was also a football team – we think they were from Puerto Rico, but we’re not sure. The goalkeeper trained in the pool while the kids were swimming.
This hotel was beautiful, clean, and the employees were friendly. It was not cheap, but for us somewhat more affordable, keeping in mind that the income we make each day in the United States is more than some Salvadorans earn in a week. We also got a good deal with breakfast buffet included. Every morning we anticipated the tamales de elote, fresh fruits, pupusas made to order by a girl in traditional dress, chorizos de Cojutepeque, refried beans, scrambled eggs, quesadilla and all the sweet breads you can imagine, cup after cup of perfect coffee – Ay! I almost cry remembering and wanting it.
After breakfast we always went out for the day, going on various adventures. At night we retired to the room, tired and dusty, to bathe, rest, watch TV, talk about our day and finally, sleep.
One night while watching TV and getting ready for bed, I smelled cigarette smoke coming from the air conditioning vents. Cigarette smoke is one of the odors I can not stand. Without being dramatic, I swear that it makes me want to vomit.
I knew that smoking was prohibited in the rooms so I called down to reception to ask if they could do something.
“Of course, Mrs. Lopez. We can bring you an ambientador?” he offered in Spanish.
I agreed that we’d like one, but I didn’t know what an “ambientador” was. After hanging up the phone, I asked Carlos and he didn’t know either. We assumed that an “ambientador” was some type of machine to filter and clean the air.
Soon there was a knock at our door so I went to the door and opened it.
The young uniformed man with a smile on his face asked permission to enter our room to address the problem.
“I brought the ambientador,” he said in Spanish. I told him to please come inside and thanked him for coming to our room so late, to which he replied, “We are always at your service, Mrs. Lopez.”
I expected him to turn around and retrieve the “ambientador” from the hallway, but he already had it in hand. “Excuse me,” he apologized and began to spray Febreze around the room.
The smell of smoke disappeared and we went to bed laughing at the new word we had learned. As it turns out, “ambientador” means “room spray.”
“How was your trip?” various family members asked me the week we returned from El Salvador.
“Loved it,” I’d say, “I didn’t want to leave.”
“Really?” they would respond, “But, why?”
Clearly I had not answered as expected.
When people asked the “why” though – I began to fumble.
“I don’t know, I’m just happier there. I haven’t really processed all that yet,” I’d say, to blank stares as they waited. Surely there must be a reason!
“The colors are brighter there,” I’d offer, feeling foolish.
How can the colors be brighter there? Is that scientifically possible?
All I know is that here in my suburban neighborhood in the United States, my house and all the other 150 houses in the neighborhood, are some variation of the same color – white, cream, beige, eggshell. When I take a walk in our neighborhood, there’s nothing to see. It’s boring cookie-cutter house after another.
In El Salvador, houses are bubble gum pink, lemon yellow, parrot green, and sky blue. Even everyday objects there – laundry baskets, chairs, flowers, seem more colorful. It makes me happy. I walked literally miles on the streets, distracted by all there was to see, without growing tired.
I tried again to explain, “why” I hadn’t wanted to leave El Salvador, taking multiple verbal paths that went nowhere.
“I feel more inspired there” was another dead end.
Finally – “Here in the United States, everyone keeps to themselves. They stay locked in their houses. In El Salvador everyone goes out. Strangers talk to each other, and everyone has a story to tell.”
One of my family members spoke up, “But why would you like being in a place that is more social when you’re anti-social? You always say how shy you are.”
“But I’m not anti-social in El Salvador! I’m not shy when I speak Spanish!” I countered immediately. More blank stares.
Someone changed the topic of conversation, faces turned away from me and I was left to wonder if I was crazy.
Since that day of failing to express myself, failing to communicate, failing to connect with my own family in my native language, I have thought about the “why” a lot. Now, I wondered, not just “Why am I happier in El Salvador” but “Why am I not shy when I speak Spanish?” … None of it made any logical sense.
And then I found an article on PsychologyToday.com called, “Language: My Spanish Side.”
“Bilingual people display differing personality traits depending on which language they are speaking, researchers have found. Psychologists at the University of Texas, Austin, asked bilingual Mexican-Americans a set of questions designed to assess personality, such as “Are you talkative?” and “Do you tend to be disorganized?” Many participants changed their answers when questioners switched from Spanish to English or vice versa.”
After I read that article I nearly cried with joy. I’m not crazy! I’m just bilingual!
Other recommended reading: Articles by François Grosjean, Ph.D – a Professor of psycholinguistics and the author of “Bilingual: Life and Reality.”
[Today is Spanish Friday, so this post is in Spanish. For an English translation, scroll down. If you participated in Spanish Friday, please leave your link in comments.]
Sólo en años recentes aprendí a pronunciar “Tijuana” correctamente. A oidos de hispanohablantes, los gringos a veces la pronuncian como es alguien en su famila… “Tía Juana.”
Fui una vez a Tijuana – era mi primera vez en salir de los Estados Unidos – y la unica vez que yo ponia pies en México, lindo y querido.
Yo era joven – no más que 10 años. Mis abuelos estaban viviendo en San Diego y cuando fuimos a visitarlos, dijeron un día, en vez de nuestras frecuentes visitas a lugares como Disneyland y Sea World, por qué no vamos a México?
Unos años más tarde, me puse a pensar que es injusto que fuimos a México sin pasaporte, sin planes, sin miedo, sin ahorrar dinero por pagar un coyote, sin ninguna vergüenza.
Yo era una niña, un poco molesta porque no pasé el día con Mickey Mouse, mientras yo estaba rodeada de niños más joven que yo, vendiendo chicle para poder sobrevivir.
Only in recent years did I learn to pronounce “Tijuana” correctly. To the ears of native Spanish speakers, gringos sometimes pronounce it as if it is someone in their family… “Tía Juana.”
I went one time to Tijuana – it was my first time leaving the United States – and the only time I set foot in Mexico, lindo y querido.
I was young – no more than 10 years old. My grandparents were living in San Diego and when we went to visit them, they said one day, instead of our frequent visits to places like Disneyland and Sea World, why don’t we go to Mexico?
Some years later, I began to think about the injustice of it – that we went to Mexico without a passport, without plans, without fear, without saving money to pay a smuggler, without shame.
I was a girl, a girl who was a little annoyed because I didn’t get to spend the day with Mickey Mouse. Meanwhile, I was surrounded by kids even younger than myself, selling chewing gum to survive.
Before we left for El Salvador I made a list of all the things I wanted to do and showed it to Carlos.
Mayan ruins? Yep.
Eat pupusas? Of course.
Go to the movie theater? … What? Why??
Because I hadn’t been to a movie theater in El Salvador, that’s why… and so we went although Carlos tried to convince me it was exactly the same as the theaters in the U.S., I knew that it wouldn’t be. It’s never exactly the same in El Salvador. Never. Ever.
Besides, our friends were on August break with nothing to do and we could take them with us. Because of the cost, they rarely go to the movie theater, so it was special to them.
First we had to decide which movie to see. I was very insistent that we see Harry Potter. We had already seen it in the United States and I thought that since the boys had seen it in English, it would be good for them to see it in Spanish. Carlos wasn’t crazy about seeing it again, and our friends hadn’t seen a single Harry Potter movie, so they would have been lost.
“He’s so cute, isn’t he?” Carlos’s friend’s wife said to me in Spanish, sighing at a movie poster for Captain America.
I crinkled my nose. “Eh, I don’t really like blonds,” I said.
“I think he’s so handsome,” she said, “I’d love to see that movie.”
That’s when I noticed our friend’s teenage son was wearing a Captain America hat. Clearly they knew which movie they wanted to see.
“Okay,” I sighed in defeat, “We’ll see Captain America.”
We went through the line and when we finally reached the cashier we had to decide whether we wanted to see the movie dubbed or with subtitles, (we chose dubbed.) Then before we could pay for our tickets we were told to pick our seats.
Huh? Pick our seats? Yeah, we’ll do that when we get in there with our popcorn and stuff.
No, you have to pick your seats now.
Our friend’s teenage son showed us the computer screen right there in front of us, where we had to pick our seats as if we were going on an airplane.
Assigned seats at the movie theater! “I told you it would be different!” I said to Carlos with glee.
The concession stand had all the usual items you’d expect but also some odd things, like chocolate cake. The ticket and concession prices were outrageous by Salvadoran standards, (just like in the United States), but comfortable for us.
Unlike the concession stands in the United States which leave you to juggle all your snacks on your own, in El Salvador they give you a very handy tray.
We found our seats and were shocked at what a beautiful, modern theater it was. These seats were hands down the most comfortable seats I had ever sat in at a movie theater. The cushions were thick and the seats reclined. The theater itself seemed brand new and really clean… Keep in mind, this theater is at Metrocentro, the “poor people mall” as I heard it called.
While we were sitting there waiting for the movie to begin, a young guy came up the aisle stairs and called out to his friend before going to the concession stand. “Qué quieres? Soda? Dulces?… Paloma?”
The guy started laughing and I did, too, although the joke was rather inappropriate to make with kids around. Luckily my kids didn’t get it. (In El Salvador, “Paloma” is slang for “penis” … and “Palomitas de maiz” means popcorn, of course. So, what he said was “What do you want? Soda? Candy?… penis/popcorn.”)
The movie, (“Capitán América”) – actually turned out to be pretty good. The audience in El Salvador tends to be more vocal than audiences in the United States. An onscreen kiss or a pretty woman entering a scene elicited a lot of appreciative hisses from the men. (In American culture, a “hiss” is considered a sound of disapproval but Salvadorans have hisses of approval, don’t ask me how, they just do.)
Then after the movie, our friends found it peculiar that we carried our own trash out to the trashcans, (nobody else did.)
All in all, a fun experience, and the best part was that the boys understood everything that happened with no need for translation.
Things have been hectic at casa López. The niños are back to school and both have music lessons twice a week. Carlos, besides his full time work, is also back to school in the evenings. As for me, you may have noticed, I haven’t been blogging as much – and believe me, it isn’t because I don’t want to. I have been so busy with various freelance projects that I haven’t had time. I just want you all to know that even though I haven’t responded in comments or gotten to visit all your Spanish Friday posts yet – that I love that you continue to come here and read and talk to me. Your support and friendship means more than I can say.
Okay, before this gets more mushy than necessary, I will share some random photos from El Salvador to make up for the drastic decrease in posts. Listos? … Here we go.
This is the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador. It looks kind of like a really nice residential building. Where is the American flag? How would I find this place in an emergency?
I saw these weird trees at Metrocentro in the plaza outside Mister Donut. Anyone know what they are?
The trees have these long strands that hang down in bunches and they drop purple-ish berries of some sort. I asked the teenage son of Carlos’ friend what they are, thinking that as a native he would know. “I don’t know,” he said in Spanish, “but they stain your shoes.” … And so, until someone tells me otherwise, those are Manchazapatos trees.
This is probably the only Mexican restaurant I saw in El Salvador. I never did get to eat at this place, but the sign made me smile.
My younger son stopped short on a pasarela and pointed. “Take a picture! Look! That’s our name!” It’s no use explaining that “López” is the “Smith” of Latin America, so I took a photo. Then Carlos started with the lies. “That crane belongs to me. That’s my construction company,” he said, completely straight-faced.
“Nuh-uh, Daddy! Tell the truth!” our son said, with a hand on his hip.
“It’s true!” Carlos said, pretending to be indignant. “My company built this whole mall!”
Carlos always makes things like that up, so it’s no wonder the kids have turned into good liars too. A few weeks ago my younger son said a kid at school asked him if he was related to George Lopez.
“What did you say?” I asked.
He smirked. “I said, ‘yeah, he’s my uncle. Uncle George.’”
SIGH. Anyway… moving on.
Ruuuuuuuuuun!!! … There’s a pasarela right there, but these young people decided to risk their lives instead. This photo makes a good writing prompt though. There’s a story here, (feel free to make one up in comments!) … Also, not to make light of something serious, but the trio kind of remind me of that immigration sign along highways near the border here in the U.S.
Want more photos of Salvadorans living dangerously? Sure.
This guy is riding his bicycle while holding onto a bus. We followed behind for quite awhile and at one point the bus went so fast that the bicycle wheels started to wobble and the guy looked like he almost lost control for a second. I’m pretty sure my heart skipped a beat when that happened. We had already seen one dead body along the side of the road, (the police were covering it up), and I really didn’t want to watch someone die to top things off.
While riding in the backseat of Carlos’s friend’s car one day, we pulled up behind these guys in the back of a truck. I wanted to take a photo but one of the guys was staring right at me. I voiced my frustration out loud and Carlos’s friend said, “Take his photo! He doesn’t care, he likes it!” … he took my camera and snapped the photo, and it looks like the guy even smiled for us. Maybe he did like it.
Lastly, up close and personal with El Salvador’s “chuchos aguacateros” – (street dogs.)
Each evening in El Salvador, I would hook my camera up to the computer and upload the photos from the day, just in case my camera got stolen. (That way I’d lose the camera, but not the photos.) Well, when that dog nose photo popped up on the screen, the boys and I laughed until we cried and until our sides hurt. Carlos was confused as to what was so funny, which made it even worse. I never thought this accidental canine close-up would be full of such happy memories.
Here are photos of some of the random fun things we did in El Salvador.
First on the list was to make a visit to Golfito Park at La Gran Vía, because we received a special invitation from the owner, Carolina who is the sister of my friend (and jefa!) – Ana of SpanglishBaby.
Golfito Park is a miniature golf course for children and has other attractions as well, including a zip-line, bumper boats, moon bounce, and more.
Our younger son had a lot of fun and Carolina was super amable. We had a nice chat and she gave us a lot of ideas of other things we should check out. She even walked us over to Viva Espresso.
Why would we go to Viva Espresso? Because Viva Espresso is home to the best barista in the world – Alejandro Mendez. (That’s not just my opinion! He holds the title!) I was looking forward to meeting him but unfortunately he was on tour.
After we said goodbye to Carolina, we walked around the area and came upon the “bungees” which are a common sight in the shopping centers of El Salvador. The first time we saw these trampoline/bungee cord contraptions, the boys watched a little kid flying into the air, screaming at the top of his lungs, and swore they would never go on one.
Every time we walked by a bungee they stared though, and I could tell they were both trying to work up the courage.
“Get in line,” I said.
“What?! No way!” they said.
I told Carlos to go pay and shoved the boys into line. They continued to protest and attempted to leave the line several times.
“We already paid. Don’t waste money,” I said.
They watched the kids in front of them take their turns, the line got shorter. They begged me and then when they saw it was getting them no where, stared at me in silence, hoping I’d change my mind at the last minute.
Carlos whispered to me, “Are you sure about this?”
I told him I was. I knew that they would regret it if they left El Salvador without trying it. I knew that it would give them courage later in life – that they’d be able to look back on this and remember how brave they had been… I knew I was forcing them for their own good, and hoped that I wasn’t scarring them for life.
Finally it was their turn. The boys each obediently climbed onto the trampolines. Our younger son told the man strapping him in, “No muy alto. No me gusta.” The man nodded, but I went over and repeated that he wasn’t to spin him or do any of the extra tricks with him since it was his first time.
As for my older son – when he climbed up on the trampoline, the attendants rubbed their chins and then had a quick whispered chat before bringing over more bungee cords due to his size. As they added reinforcements my teenager shot me a look which meant he was very unhappy with me.
Once they were strapped in and got to jumping though, smiles crept onto their faces.
Our younger son became so delirious with joy that he began to laugh maniacally. People walking in the plaza stopped to watch and pointed at the funny kid laughing his head off on the bungee. His laughter was infectious. Everyone in the area was smiling. A man noted that it was my child making all the noise since I was snapping photos. “Está bien feliz, vá?” he said – (He’s really happy, isn’t he?) – I agreed that he was and breathed a sigh of relief that my boys hadn’t been traumatized.
Another new thing the boys got to try was a Salvadoran playground. You wouldn’t expect a playground to be different but when we went to Parque Balboa in Planes de Renderos, our younger son climbed some stairs and then said, “Hey! Where’s the slide?”
Carlos had to demonstrate how to use this “slide.”
The swings were different too, but he didn’t need help figuring them out at least.
While in El Salvador we also got to hold a Tío’s parrot.
And we watched a pick-up fútbol game in Parque Cuscatlán. It was nice to see young people playing instead of walking around the malls.
I also liked that a girl was playing on one of the teams.
We also went swimming.
While we were in El Salvador we often saw women carrying things on their heads. Our sons were totally fascinated with how the women did this – particularly when the load looked large, heavy or precarious.
So, anyone who saw my son walking to the pool and carrying his towel like this, my apologies. He was just practicing.
I’m not used to riding buses – not in El Salvador and not even here in the United States. I don’t understand anything about them – how to know where they’re going, how much to pay, how to get on and off, the proper etiquette when one’s body is pressed up against a stranger in quite intimate ways. Do you share a smile at the awkwardness or avoid eye contact? Do I simply pretend my ass isn’t up against some random guy’s crotch and my breasts aren’t in the face of a little old lady seated next to me?
One bus we rode in San Salvador at night felt more like a discoteca than public transportation. It was dark inside with neon purple running lights along the floor and ceiling. The driver blasted Pitbull’s version of Guantanamera and a cool breeze from open windows kissed the hair plastered to our foreheads with sweat. The bus careened down the street and around corners without slowing – forcing us to lean into strangers as if we were dance partners perfectly in sync.
And sometimes, the excitement of riding buses in El Salvador began before even getting on board. I once stepped onto the bus, grabbing hold of the turnstile to pull myself up the stairs that are always too tall for my short legs.
“¡No, mamá!” the bus driver said, startling me as he grabbed the turnstile in a firm grip. The other passengers, most of whom had been gazing out the windows with boredom, now turned to look at the obvious tourist – me.
The bus driver then explained that the turnstile went twice around and so he’s obliged to charge me double. I knew it wasn’t true. I had grabbed onto it but not pushed or pulled it. I started to argue, but Carlos shook his head and paid – a quarter for himself – but two quarters for me, so we could go sit down. People were staring after all.
Our friend boards the bus behind us with our 9 year old son. He lifts our son high into the air and into his arms. While our son is small for his age, he’s obviously not a toddler. His big untied sneakers dangle from his bony boy legs. Our friend goes through the turnstile with our son over his shoulder like a sack of beans and smiles at the driver as he does so. Two for the price of one. The driver narrows his eyes but says nothing. He accepts that he’s been outsmarted. The bus pulls away from the curb and we laugh as we hold on for dear life.