Street Sounds of Soyapango

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation is below!

Como escritora, me baso en la memoria de los sonidos del ambiente para llevarme de vuelta a otro lugar y tiempo. Cuando trabajo en una de mis novelas que se lleva a cabo en El Salvador, cierro los ojos y recuerdo lo que he oído.

Puedo oír el tráfico, los carros al ralentí, los bocinazos de los carros, los autobuses que pasan, y el chirrido de los frenos cuando hacen sus paradas.

Puedo oír las campanas del paletero, la voz cantarina de la mujer que vende quesadillas temprano en la mañana, los loros que hablan en los árboles, y baten sus alas verdes.

Puedo oír un aguacatero ladrando, una mujer barriendo la acera, los niños placticando en su camino a la escuela, los murmullos de un borracho caminando por la calle.

Puedo oír la lluvia a media tarde comenzando a caer – las gotas de lluvia caen gordas y lentas al principio, pero después hay un aguacero ensordecedor que ahoga todos los otros sonidos.

— Tu turno! Piensa en un momento y lugar. ¿Qué sonidos oyes tú?—


As a writer, I rely on the memory of ambient sounds to take me back to a different place and time. When I work on one of my novels that takes place in El Salvador, I close my eyes and remember what I heard.

I can hear the traffic, cars idling, cars honking their horns, buses passing by, and the screech of their brakes when they make their stops.

I can hear the ringing bells of the man pushing his ice cream cart, the singsong voice of the woman selling quesadillas early in the morning, the parrots talking in the trees and flapping their green wings.

I can hear a stray dog barking, a woman sweeping the walk, children chatting on their way to school, the mumblings of a drunk walking down the street.

I can hear a mid-afternoon rain begin to fall, the fat rain drops slow at first, and then a deafening downpour that drowns out all other sounds.

—Your turn! Think of a time and place. What sounds do you hear?—

Colors of El Salvador

My friend, Zhu of Correr Es Mi Destino encouraged me to take part in this photography contest. Basically you share a photo that represents the colors blue, red, green, yellow and white. I decided to go through my photos from last year’s trip to El Salvador and see what I could find.


A sign on our way to Chalatenango to visit family.


This is my younger son eating a paleta while we wait for Carlos to finish paperwork at DUI Centro. In El Salvador, DUI doesn’t mean “Driving Under the Influence” – it means “Documento Único de Identidad” – it’s an ID card. Waiting at DUI Centro is kind of like waiting around the DMV, except family members aren’t allowed inside – possibly due to space limitations but the windows were tinted which made me think there might be other reasons. Also, before they give you your ID, you have to answer all kinds of questions, like whether you have tattoos. If they don’t believe you, they sometimes ask you to take off your shirt so they can check.

Anyhow, this paleta was really cheap – I can’t remember how much but I remember I bought a few paletas for my sons and our friends who had taken us to DUI Centro but it still didn’t add up to five dollars – and the smallest bill I had on me was a five dollar bill. The paleta man was very distraught and started asking random people if they had smaller bills so I could trade with them and so he could give me proper change. No one had change or at least no one wanted to get involved in the transaction. I told him it was no big deal and he could keep the change. Paleta man became even more distraught and when I refused extra popsicles, he ended up giving me tons of free napkins to make up for it.

Days later Carlos had a similar incident with a paleta man but this paleta man happily took the extra change, his eyes glistening with tears and said “God bless you” a half dozen times.


This is Cine Libertad which is an old cinema that closed down.


This is Teatro Nacional in San Salvador which is the oldest theater in Central America.


This is a “chucho aguacatero” (street dog) in San Salvador. He may have belonged to the owner of the food stall where he was hanging out or maybe he just found a good location for lunch.


Here’s a bonus – in this music video by Salvadoran group Pescozada, you can see many San Salvador landmarks, including two places you see in my photographs above. Can you spot them?

Also, if you have more time, I encourage you to watch the beautiful short film, Cinema Libertad.

Want to post your own color-themed photos? Check out the original Capture the Colour Contest to find out how to participate. (August 29th, 2012 deadline.)

I’m supposed to tag five people to participate, (although anyone is welcome to play along!) Here are the five I’m choosing mostly based on who I think will have some awesome photos, (although if any of you don’t have time, no problem!)

1. Carrie of Bilingual in the Boonies
2. Ana and/or Roxana of SpanglishBaby
3. Aisha of Aisha Iqbal
4. Dariela of Mami Talks
5. Susan of Medina Adventures

Torta Estilo Parque Hula Hula

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation is below!


For today’s Spanish Friday I made a video in Spanish of a special sandwich I made. Since the video is in Spanish, I’ll explain here in English. Last year when we went to Parque Hula Hula in San Salvador, we stopped by some unnamed food stall and had a torta for lunch. Carlos and I have been unable to forget that delicious torta so this was my attempt to re-create it. Here’s the video and the recipe.

Torta Salvadoreña – Estilo Parque Hula Hula (Hula Hula Sandwich)


bolillos or small French breads
mayonnaise (I prefer lime-flavored mayo)
shredded cabbage (boiled until tender and drained)
shredded sandwich steak
guacamol (recipe below)

#1. Cook meat in a frying pan. Add a little cooking oil if needed. Optional: Season with a little Worcestershire sauce & Goya Sazón Culantro y Achiote.

#2. Butter the bread and toast on both sides. Do this on a comal, griddle or frying pan.

#3. Spread mayonnaise on both open faces of the bread. Top with cooked sandwich steak.

#4. Top steak with shredded cabbage, then add ketchup, mustard and guacamol. Serve.

BONUS RECIPE (Fresh Guacamol for Sandwiches): To make guacamol, I put 1 avocado, a large spoonful of minced onion, a spoonful of mayonnaise, a few shakes of dried oregano, a pinch of salt and a good squeeze of fresh lime into a self-sealing plastic bag. Close the bag and massage the avocado until smooth and combined with other ingredients. Cut off the corner of the bag so the guacamol can be piped onto sandwiches.

Random El Salvador

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation is in italics!

Cuándo regresamos de El Salvador yo compartí con ustedes un montón de fotos que tomé mientras estábamos allí pero todavia tengo unas fotos interesantes que no encajan fácilmente en un tema. Hoy comparto esas fotos “random” con ustedes.

When we returned from El Salvador I shared a whole bunch of photos with all of you which I had taken while we were there. However, I still have some interesting photos that don’t fit easily into a category – Today I share those “random” photos with you.

Una Tía de Carlos tiene un van decorado con un imagen de los “Thundercats” – no sé por qué.

One of Carlos’s aunts has a van decorated with an image of the “Thundercats” – I don’t know why.

La próxima vez que se quejan de tener que lavar la ropa, mejor estar agradecidos por su lavadora y secadora. Esta es la forma de lavar la ropa en la casa de Carlos.

Next time you complain about needing to do laundry, be thankful for your washer and dryer. This is how you do laundry at Carlos’s house.

Camisas de la Selecta (equipo de fútbol) para toda la familia por venta en una tienda en Metrocentro.

La Selecta (soccer team) shirts for the whole family for sale in a store at Metrocentro.

Donas por venta en WalMart, San Salvador. (Fijaste que no están en una vitrina?)

Donuts for sale at WalMart, San Salvador. (Did you notice they’re not in a glass case?)

Pregunté por qué los árboles y postes de teléfono estaban pintados de blanco en la parte de abajo. Se me dijo que le da un aspecto limpio y simboliza la paz, (no sé si es verdad.)

I asked why trees and telephone poles were painted white on the bottom. I was told that it gives a clean look and symbolizes peace, (I don’t know if that’s true.)

CD’s, DVD’s, etc.

Chalet Teresita, Chalatenango

Estos jóvenes estaban usando pintura en aerosol en la pared en plena luz del día. Estaban destruyendo la propiedad o creando arte? No lo sabemos.

These young people were spray painting the wall in broad daylight. Were they destroying property or creating art? We don’t know.

¿Quién quiere agua de coco?

Who wants agua de coco?

Este era el pasajero en frente de nosotros en la fila mientras esperábamos abordar nuestro vuelo de regreso. Una familia en los Estados Unidos iba a comer Pollo Campero por la cena. (Tenga en cuenta que la bolsa tiene una foto de la catedral antes de que fuera destruido unos meses más tarde.)

This was the passenger in front of us in line while we waited to board our flight home. A family in the United States is going to eat Pollo Campero for dinner. (Note that the bag has a photo of the cathedral before it was destroyed a few months later.)

El colibrí

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation in italics!

En la escuela mi hijo menor tuvo que escribir una historia. Aquí es lo qué escribió, (lo voy a traducir abajo.)

In school my younger son had to write a story. Here is what he wrote.

La traducción:

Otro viaje que fuimos era a El Salvador. Cuándo estuvimos allá, vimos muchas cosas nuevas. Mi papá pagó para que pudiéramos entrar en el hotel. Cuándo recibimos la llave, fuimos a nuestra habitación. El siguiente día cuándo fuimos caminando al mall, me fije algo en las flores – ¡era un colibrí! Fue la primera vez que vi un colibrí. Cuándo vi a El Salvador, me sentí como que hubiera nacido allá.

Image source: AnnCam

El cuento que escribió mi hijo me recordó esta cita tan hermosa (traducción abajo.)

The story that my son wrote reminded me of this beautiful quote.

“Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. Hummingbirds open our eyes to the wonder of the world and inspire us to open our hearts to loved ones and friends. Like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and to savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.” – Papyrus

“Las leyendas dicen que los colibríes flotan libremente del tiempo, llevando nuestras esperanzas para el amor, la alegría y celebración. Colibríes abren nuestros ojos a la maravilla del mundo y nos inspiran a abrir el corazón a nuestros seres queridos y amigos. Al igual que un colibrí, aspiramos a flotar y disfrutar de cada momento que pasa, abrazar todo lo que la vida tiene para ofrecer, y por celebrar la alegría todos los días. La delicada gracia del colibrí nos recuerda que la vida es rica, la belleza está en todas partes, cada conexión personal tiene sentido y que la risa es la creación más dulce de la vida.” – Papyrus

Going to Miami? 10 Tips

tips going to miami

This past week I got two E-mails from two different people asking me advice on traveling to Miami. The thing is, I’ve only been to Miami twice and as much as I loved immersing myself in the culture of the 305, I wouldn’t exactly consider myself an expert. That being said, I did manage to think up 10 tips with a little help from my friends. So, are you going to Miami? Not sure what to expect? Here are 10 things you should know.

#1. Perfect Bodies

As Miami-native Pitbull says, “Ella es una bombona y su cuerpo, dos siliconas” and “Body is all great, 26 24 28, body parts fake.” That isn’t to say all or even most people in Miami have had plastic surgery to look the way they do – maybe they were born lucky, maybe they’ve worked hard for it, but whether it’s natural or not, the psychological result is the same: Being surrounded by so many perfect-looking people who appear to have walked straight out of a music video can make one feel just a little insecure.

Even the mannequin? Image source: Martin Allen

My only advice for you on this one is to be prepared for it, accept it, and try to look your best without comparing yourself to everyone else. Why spend your trip moping that you can’t bounce quarters off your ass? Serious waste of time which could be spent simply enjoying the eye candy.

#2. Cuban Culture & Español

Being in some parts of Miami is kind of like taking a trip to Latin America without ever leaving the country. Experience Cuban food, music and more – soak it up. If you don’t speak Spanish, be prepared to be in the minority. If you do speak Spanish, you might feel like you’ve died and gone to Heaven. The casual Spanglish thrown around here, the way people assume and expect you to speak it, is something pretty special.

#3. Bright Colors

Image source: Jules Gervais

From the natural bright blue of the ocean and the sky to architecture and fashion – bright colors are everywhere.

#4. City & Beach

Miami has everything from gorgeous tropical beaches to sky scrapers.

Image source: Marc Averette

#5. Humid & Sunny with a Chance of Rain

The weather is gorgeous but at times you will experience some hair-do destroying humidity. Veronica of Cid Style File says to make sure you bring your anti-frizz products – you’ll need them. (And don’t forget the sunscreen.)

#6. Expensive

Depending on where you’re visiting from, prices – particularly in South Beach, might be a little shocking. If you’re the type to buy items at your destination rather than try to fit them in your luggage, you may want to reconsider this time.

#7. Party Atmosphere

Maybe it was because both times I went to Miami I was there to attend special events, but I can’t help but think a “party atmosphere” permeates Miami year round. Get some sleep before you arrive – you’re going to need it.

#8. Rudeness

Okay, now I didn’t personally experience this to any extreme where I would say Miami is any more rude than some other places I’ve visited, but apparently the city does have a reputation. Readers of Travel + Leisure magazine apparently voted Miami the 2nd rudest city in the nation, but you can decide for yourself.

#9. Celebrities

Miami is second in something else – celebrities. I imagine only Los Angeles has a larger movie star population, although New York might be a bit of competition. Don’t believe me? A few famous faces that make their home in Miami include Gloria Estefan, Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, and Pitbull, among others. While some celebs don’t live in Miami, many keep vacation homes there or just come to party.

Be prepared for celebrity sightings wherever you go – especially Spanish-speaking celebrities. Telemundo studios is in Miami and they’ve been known to shoot on location.

#10. Fashion

Ah, the topic you’ve been waiting for. What do you wear in Miami? I’m not a fashionista so all I can tell you is, when in doubt, use fresh, clean colors. Show some skin but be classy not trashy. Here is what some of my friends have to say.

Miami style? This chick's got it.
Image source: Alejandro Amador

“Fun dresses that are lightweight and make you look put together. Dresses that can transition from day to night with the change of shoes and accessories and that can be layered with a lightweight sweater or denim jacket for the air-conditioned indoors. Don’t forget sunblock and a killer pair of shades.” –

“Colorful. Tropical. Skin. Sexy shoes. Perfume. Lipstick. And a Smile.” – Carrie /

“You can wear nice jeans and a sexy top too. Miami is tropical. Or just all black.” –

“Something colorful or flashy with a simple, but very clean look. People in Miami know how to dress.” – Chantilly /

Bonus Tip? Have fun! Miami awaits!

I know a word in Spanish!

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Image source: Robert Francis

Parados en la linea por reentrar a los Estados Unidos después de nuestra visita a El Salvador, una pareja gringa empezó a placticar con nosotros. Era una día largo y sentí rendida. Sólo quería recoger mi equipaje, ir por la casa, y dormirme pero esa pareja gringa estaban super felices, super despiertos, y super habladores. Por unos minutos nos contaron sobre su visita a Ecuador, y luego, empezaron a preguntarnos sobre nuestro viaje.

“¿Y son tus hijos?” me preguntó la mujer en inglés, indicando los niños.

“Sí, son nuestros hijos,” respondí.

“¿Y hablan español?” preguntó la mujer.

“Sí, son bilingües,” dije.

“¡Qué bien!” dijo ella, “Yo hablo un poco de español. Conozco las palabras más importantes, como ‘cerveza’,” me dijo, riendo.

“¡Yo conozco una palabra en español!” dijo mi hijo menor. “¡Borracho!”

La mujer me miraba con expectación pero no lo traduje.

Agradecidamente, eso fue el final de nuestra conversación.


Standing in line to reenter the U.S. after our visit to El Salvador, a gringa couple started chatting with us. It was a long day and I felt exhausted. I just wanted to retrieve my luggage, go home, and go to sleep but that gringa couple was super happy, super awake and super talkative. For a few minutes they told us about their visit to Ecuador, and then they began to ask about our trip.

“Are those your children?” the woman asked me in English, indicating the boys.

“Yes, these are our kids,” I answered.

“Do they speak Spanish?” she asked.

“Yes, they’re bilingual,” I said.

“That’s great!” she said, “I speak a little Spanish. I know the most important words, like cerveza, [beer],” she said, laughing.

“I know a word in Spanish!” said my youngest son. “Borracho!” [drunk!]

The woman looked at me expectantly but I didn’t translate.

Thankfully, that was the end of our conversation.