This is the first time Pamela and I have had blocks of time alone in El Salvador without a translator by our side. This morning Pamela wanted pupusas for breakfast, so she went up to the maid who speaks no English.
Pamela: "I want pupusas!"
Rosa: "¿Quiere dos pupusas?"
Pamela: "Yes! Dos!"
I did not have to do a thing! When we are out and about, I read signs and words we see to Pamela to let her practice her Spanish. She remembers what she has learned from our informal Spanish program at home and occasionally uses words when she speaks.
I am faring pretty well also. My first solo was at customs. The clerk spoke no English. I answered his questions, even the tough one about why I was born in Japan. I said in broken Spanish, "Mi padre es in la marina" ("My father is in the Navy"). When I was paying for the $10 tourist card, I told him that my husband was Salvadoran, "Mi esposo es Salvadoreño." He wanted to clarify that Steve was Pamela's father and, after a little back and forth, he understood that Pamela is also technically Salvadoran. I only had to buy a tourist card for myself because she is a citizen by birth.
While I do not understand everything, I am getting along much better than I did on previous trips. I think our Spanish homeschooling program is helping me to build the ear for Spanish that has been so lacking in years past. Here I am finding opportunities to practice between communicating with the maid, waiters and waitresses, and store clerks.
Today, I met with a friend from Steve's childhood. When he was a wee little boy, there were five girls who lived across the fence. Their parents were naturally protective of them and very strict about their friends. He knew of them, but never really met them. Through the miracle of Facebook, Steve connected with them through mutual friends and we have been Facebook friends with two of them ever since. Today, I finally got to meet Elena in real life. We have a lot in common: two children, one of whom is special needs. She speaks English very well for she lived in Illinois for a few years. We met at Julie's apartment and then went to a new gourmet burger restaurant, GBC for Gourmet Burger Company.
One thing people from the United States may find disconcerting is the number of armed guards carrying around rifles. The first time I visited was before the end of the Civil War in 1990 and it was quite a shock to see so many people in uniform openly carrying weapons. Today, high crime and gangs requires great caution and protection. Elena did not park close enough to the adjacent car in the teeny tiny parking lot that had cars packed like sardines. The guard in pictured here got too close to the car for comfort and Pamela exclaimed, "Don't shoot! Put that away!" She was only mildly worried thankfully and did not have a meltdown.
Even though Elena and I had never met, we have enough in common that we had a delightful conversation and a very good meal. We have been keeping in touch on Facebook for quite some time, but being able to talk face-to-face enabled us to learn more about one another's families, insights as mothers of special needs children, our childhood, and our stories. Her sister had recommended this restaurant and, except for the loud music, everything was well done. I had never eaten a burger with black olives and mushrooms . . . esta muy deliciosa. They cleverly wrapped Pamela's in lettuce, and, of course, she added her usual glop on top.
Today was especially clear so I wanted to share pictures I took of the skyline with volcanoes far off in the distance. I adjusted the contrast and lighting to bring them out even more. El Salvador is a land of volcanoes, responsible for the many earthquakes, that erupt only occasionally. The most interesting story I have is about Izalco, which was once known as the Lighthouse of the Pacific. It emerged in 1770 A.D. and erupted constantly for two hundred years. On one trip Steve's parents took us to the practically abandoned Hotel de la Montaña (Hotel of the Mountain) in Cerro Verde (Green Hill). Businessmen believed that people would find it worth the travel just to stay in a hotel with a spectacular view of Izalco, so they built a hotel. Unfortunately, the paint was hardly dry before Izalco went silent in the mid-1960s. After they were sure Izalco was at peace, Steve and his siblings climbed up some of the ashy spots of Izalco and slid down it for fun, just as I slid down dirt hills near Bremerton, Washington on cardboard boxes and plastic swimming pools.
In case you doubted me, the picture shows the pothole being repaired yesterday. El Salvador has two seasons: the rainy season and the road repair season. During the former season, potholes and sinkholes develop but only the worst of the worst get repaired in the latter season. As I type, winds from the north are whistling through the house and causing the shades to clang against the window, bringing dust into the apartment and kicking up my allergies. The windy season is the transition between the rainy season and the dry season.
Our last stop for today was for coffee and pastries at a Guatemalan restaurant chain called San Martin. The alluring smell of freshly baked bread swept me back to my days in Germany as a teen going with my grandmother to buy bread at the bakery. How could it be Guatemalan? Patty explained that many Germans have settled there and have brought their foods with them. The restaurant is inside a mall, so, while we were there for an hour talking over coffee, Patty had her car washed and vacuumed.