Sunday, January 01, 2006

places i´ve visited

well, even though it’s only been a month, i’ve certainly been busy enough – which is surprising because that first week in my site, i felt like i was going to be bored out of my mind for quite some time. anyway, i’ve got a lot to tell you all about, but i don’t want to bore everyone, so i’ll just stick to the short versions of everything (we all know that this isn’t going to happen, because once i get started, i’m bound to go on for pages and pages and pages get the idea). so courtesy of tonito – or antonio – i’m still not sure which i’m supposed to call him – i’ve seen a lot of the area where i’m now living.

ATACO: i’ve visited ataco on several occasions and now the woman at the pupuseria just makes me two pupusas with cheese everytime she sees me walk up to the place. there’s not much more to say about the place – it’s just another pueblo, but i’ve gotten to know some people really well there....mostly friends of antonio’s. they are super funny and i feel at home sitting at the pupuseria with them just shooting the shit.

JUAYUA: juayua is this pueblo about 20 minutes southeast of apaneca. it’s tourist-friendly and has this awesome food fair every weekend where people set up and sell food from all around the country, as well as other countries. there are artesan shops and stands all over and you can get a really good deal on a machete with a case in the market there. the day i visited i had these awesome chicken sandwiches called panes rellanos which have every kind of sauce you can imagine on them. it sounds kind of gross, but it’s some of the best food i’ve had so far. you can see volcan santa ana (the one that erupted two months ago) and there was still a bit of smoke coming out of the top. juayua is also home to the catholic church of the “black jesus.” there’s one in guatemala that’s more popular and more visited by latin americans, but both sculptures were made by the same guy. so if you’re ever in latin america and you want to see the famous black jesus (christo negro) come to el salvador instead of guatemala because they’ll be way less tourists and they’re basically the same.

the church in juayua

volcan santa ana

LAGUNA VERDE: my hike up and down laguna verde was one crazy day. it’s one of the two lagunas located near apaneca. it was kind of a hard climb, but i’m certain that nothing will ever compare to the it didn’t seem that bad. there were times where i was like “again, why am i doing this?” it was a really pretty climb....there were houses all the way up, but it seemed like we were in a different world all together. a lot of the barrios seemed to be really poor, but the people were super nice, and seemed to be getting along just fine. when we got to the top of the cerro (where the laguna is located) we took a short sidecut to this place where you are walking on the peak of the cerro. there was literally no more than a foot on either side of the trail and it looked straight down – totally scary, but really cool. then we went back to the main trail and continued on to the laguna – which is basically a huge crater filled with water. once we arrived at the edge, the barrios ended, and we took this small road down to the water’s edge. it was super peaceful.....there’s only one small little gathering of a couple of houses on the other side of the laguna where something like eight people live. when we got down to the laguna we talked to some guy who was monitoring this pump system they had going on. i’m not sure what it was for. the guy was super friendly and we sat and talked to him for a while. then we started walking around the laguna. it was surrounded by coffee trees and these awesome, awesome flowers. tons that i had never seen before and i’ve already seen so many already in ahuachapan. so we just walked around to the other side by the houses and talked with a woman who told us the names of some of the flowers. then when we passed that area, we came upon a guy and his son and talked to them for a little bit. other than those few people, there wasn’t a single other person around. because there was nobody else there, it was really quiet...really peaceful. we walked down by the water and i took a bunch of pictures before we got back on the trail and finally ended up back where we had started.

me amongst the cafe trees surrounding laguna verde

a cafe tree with half its beans ready to cut

the laguna just before fog rolled in

one of the most amazing flowers here - fuscia

i don´t know the name of this flower yet......

on the way back to apaneca, we took this different route and ended up in this little caserio and we stopped at a tienda (FYI – there are “tiendas” all over the place here. i swear to god, i’m not kidding you – in a town of say, 100 houses, i bet 30 of them run some sort of a “tienda” out of their home. i put tienda in quotes because half the time, the home that calls itself a tienda, really has nada inside it. for example, one time, anna and i were somewhere and she needed a tigo card....tigo is one of the companies that sells phone cards for telemovil cell phones. most EVERY tienda has a tigo sign on the outside – advertising that they sell tigo cards. well, anyway, we go into this tienda that has a tigo sign, and ask if they have any tigo cards and the woman looks at us like we are out of our minds. she’s like “no, nooooo. no tiene tarjetas de tigo.” and just gives us this “what would ever make you think i have tigo cards here” look. i’m not basing this whole tienda thing on that one experience though – this kind of thing happens all the time.....whether its with tigo cards, gatorade, agua cristal, name it. the people in a house could have been selling tigo cards 2 years ago, and now they’re they’re only selling two things – pan dulce and coca-cola - but you better believe they’ve got that 2 year old tigo sign on the front of their house. sometimes you go to a tienda that you think is going to be bigger, but when you get up to the door, and ask for bottled water or coke or something, you realize that you’re in the person’s kitchen and they’re getting your stuff out of their own fridge.’s just so funny that so many people have these little tiendas all over the place....)

so we get to this tienda and tonito gets us some sodas and pan dulce. so we sat on the porch of this house/tienda for a while and all of a sudden the dogs of the house all start howling in unison. i was like “what the ----?” then they just stopped. and i’m confused and laughing and tonito’s just sitting there like it’s totally normal and i’m the one who’s crazy for thinking it’s a little weird. i’m telling you, the most bizarre things happen here at the most random times. so we move on and start walking again, and we come upon this other house and tonito goes up to the gate and he’s like “buenas dias! buenas dias!” like five times. i’m like “who lives here?” and he said his friend. so finally this woman comes to the gate and she’s super nice and tells us to come in and we go in and sit down and tonito tells her who i am and all that. then she calls one of her kids in for a second and says something to him, and then he leaves. so we’re sitting there talking about whatever, and after a while the one kid comes back with this humongous bottle of salva. salva is el salvador’s version of coca-cola. oh, and by the way, they don’t just sell 2-liters of, that’s not enough. they sell these gigantor plastic bottles of coke, salva, pepsi, fanta....i swear they are like 3 ½ liters at least. and it’s like .50 or something a bottle. anyway, the kid comes in with this and two pieces of pan dulce and the mom gives us each a piece of pan dulce and two cups of salva. let’s just say the amount of sugar i consumed that day was of unheard proportions.

anyway, so we are still sitting there talking and then the mom has to go do something, so tonito and i are just sitting in this room while the kids (she has three kids – two boys; one girl) – are running around and chasing each other. we were there about ½ hour and then she asks us if we want to eat lunch there. so we said yeah and so i tried to help her make tortillas – i’ve “tried” to make tortillas on several occasions....they always end up being the entertainment of the day. they’re always lopsided, too small, too big, you name it. but i think salvadoran women generally like it when you try to make tortillas or pupusas or anything really with them. so i did that and i asked the mom what the kids’ names were and she said the girl was abigail, one of the boys was kevyn and the other was – get this – elvis!!! she kept saying “like elvis presley!” and it was just totally cracking me up. anyway – tonito and i ate, alone, in some random room in the house while the mom was doing laundry and housework. it’s really awkward eating at other people’s houses because they are all about the service. like if you eat a meal at someone else’s house, you eat all alone at a table while everyone does other stuff, or they watch you because you are a guest. so most of the time we were there, i’m not kidding you, tonito and i were alone while the kids were playing and the mom was doing other stuff. i kept thinking we should go because she obviously had a lot to do. but i have to remember that i’m not in the states sometimes. here it is totally normal to show up at someone’s house, unexpectedly, and just sit around their house...regardless of what they are doing. people expect you to just stop on by. and they expect you to eat at their house. hell, by the end of the visit, tonito’s friend kept saying that if i ever needed a place to sleep, i could always stay the night!

me ¨making¨ tortillas

the family we visited on the way down from laguna verde - that´s elvis on the far right!!

anyway, after something like two hours of being there, we left and continued down the same road which kept going down and down and down and down. and i thought that there was no possible way we had climbed up that far when we had gone to the laguna. but we were on a different path, so i figured that maybe it hadn’t seemed that high because we had taken more of a switchback path the first time. the road we were on the way down was more direct. but sure enough, we got to one area and i see that the road we’re on is now going uphill. i’m like – “seriously????” i was really tired, and friggin’ full because of all the salva and the lunch and pan dulce (twice). so we get about halfway up and this pickup truck comes by and the dudes are like “need a ride?” hell yes we needed a ride. we hopped in the back and rode a ways. then the pickup truck stopped to give a ride to these three old, old women who were carrying wood on their heads up the hill that i was complaining about climbing with only a backpack. pickups, by the way, are one of the greatest inventions ever. sometimes it’s better than the bus for short distances because you can just hop in the back of some guy’s pickup who is going to the same place you are and it doesn’t cost anything. they usually come by bus stops or desvios and will wave their hand and say where they’re going. it’s probably not the safest thing ever, but neither are buses. and i would never do the pickup thing unless i was with someone else OR there were women (particularly old women) getting in the pickup too, or there were women already in the pickup. i resisted doing the whole pickup thing at first. but one time, on my way back from my site visit, i was at the desvio #51 on the pan-american highway and needed to get to molineros. there were no buses coming – and i knew the one i needed wasn’t going to come until 5:30 and it was 2:30. so a pickup came by that was going to vera paz and i hopped in and in 10 mins. i was in molineros. in any event, tonito and i rode into apaneca and i returned to my cuarto to soak my friggin’ feet. and that was my trip to laguna verde.

TAZUMAL and SANTA ANA: tazumal is one of the mayan archaeological sites here in el salvador. it’s nothing compared to the sites in guatemala, but it’s really impressive nevertheless. and again, like all things el salvador, there were relatively few people visiting the day i went. it’s weird because walking up the road to where it’s located, you would never expect an archaeological site to be situated right there. you pass a cemetery, some houses and next thing you now, you see the big pyramid from behind some trees. and at the entrance, there’s no huge sign telling you where you’re at. there’s simply some words tacked up on the wall that say, i’m not kidding you, “sitio archaeologico.” isn’t that funny? they have a nice little museum at the entrance which has tons of diagrams and explanations of what and where everything is, as well as some artifacts recovered from the site. they had this really cool incense burner with a puma’s “hand” sculpted onto it and i was trying to explain the significance of the incense burning to antonio, because i’ve studied a lot about this in my anthropology classes, but trying to explain something like that, in spanish...or at least MY spanish, is just a lost cause. so i gave up and moved on to the ruins themselves. most of the top of the pyramid was closed for excavation or for preservation – not sure which – but that was ok. the stone looked to be made out of volcanic rock, which makes sense given that the entire area here is surrounded by one volcano or another. in fact, on the way to tazumal, i could see volcan guatemala from the bus. then there’s volcan santa ana, volcan izalco and volcan chinga all within relatively close proximity. it’s just so hard to imagine that at one time the only thing here was this site, no other structures. and some of the trees surrounding the site were most certainly there at the time that the mayans were walking around the area, going to and from their homes and doing their daily tasks.

the sign welcoming people to tazumal

a photograph of an aerial view of tazumal in the small museum

the incense holder with the puma ¨hand¨

so that’s just a little bit (well, a lot) about the places i’ve visited so far in my area. oh, i also got to hike el imposible, but that was during my christmas....and i’ll write about that later.