Sunday, January 01, 2006

where i´m living

so let me tell you a little bit about the place i’m staying. it’s officially called “hostal rural las orchideas,” and i’ve had several people ask me if i have to stay with other people in the same room as me because i’m staying in a hostal. it’s somewhat confusing because of the name, but actually a lot of hotels or backpacker places in latin america are called hostals, when in fact, they might not actually be the same the places where you are in a room with 6 other people. the hostal i’m staying in has single or double rooms, but no six people rooms. In any event, right now i’m living at the hostal, but i have my own room and my own bathroom. in fact, where i stay isn’t even in the same general area as where people stay who are just passing through for a night or two. there is a woman who lives in a cuarto similar to mine, next to me. her name is elisa, and she works in a clinic in ataco and everyone calls her “doctor” but she’s really not a doctor. not sure why or what to make of that, but i just go along with it because there are so many things that don’t make sense in el salvador that it’s best just to go along with them!

anyway, here are some of the frustrating moments i’ve learned to deal with since living here.......

the electricity here goes out at least once every day for an hour or more which at times is annoying, but for the most part it’s not even really an inconvenience. i bought myself a couple of those virgin mary/jesus religious candles (which are everywhere, and you can get them for super cheap) and i’m good to go.

my cuarto happens to be situated on the end of the hostal, right next to the driveway, where roberto, nina teresita’s son, drives his gigantor metallic blue pickup truck through at least five times a day, each time, having to unlock and open the gate that doesn’t quite clear the ground, resulting in the loudest sound ever - metal on cobblestone.

roberto´s pickup

the loudest gate ever (my cuarto is just behind the wall on the left)

nina teresita has what i thought was some kind of weird parakeet/parrot bird that lives right here in the hostal and which squawks a lot of the time, particularly when there are people in the lobby trying to talk to each other, or when nina teresita is on the phone, or early in the morning. it was only recently that i found out that there are, in fact, two birds. don’t laugh, even though i know you is a parakeet, and one is a parrot. i know you all must think i am the stupidest person alive, but the parakeet was the only one i could see...the other cage – the one with the parrot – is seated lower and the parrot hangs upside down from the top of every time i looked in the other cage, i never saw any bird. and since i didn’t know there was a parrot also, and the squawks coming from what i thought was the parakeet’s cage were so loud, i thought there was NO way that the bird i could see was a friggin’ parakeet. i thought it had to be some kind of rare breed of ½ parakeet (because of it’s size) and ½ parrot (b/c of it’s loud squawk). duh.

the parakeet (that i thought was a parrot-parakeet)

the parrot that i couldn´t see

and if the whole bird fiasco isn’t enough, my cuarto is also right on the street where there is a small bus stop at the corner, where the #249 bus from sonsonate to ahuachapan (and back) goes by every day, every 15-20 minutes, from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., meaning i get to hear the cobredors for both buses either yelling “ahuachapan, ahuachapan, ahuachapan!!!” or “sonsonate, sonsonate, sonsonate!!!” (oh, and when the buses – or really, anything bigger than a bicycle - actually go by the hostal, the whole place shakes...and sometimes i’m fooled into thinking there is an earthquake.)

finally, probably the most annoying thing of all is this. i have some sort of gang of bugs (i’m convinced they are cockroaches) living somewhere in the vicinity of my cuarto that have a bedtime of about 5:00 a.m. the sound they make is similar to a cricket, but instead of a “chirp, chirp,” (which is annoying enough), it’s just one long-ass “chirrrrrrrp.” i know it sounds have cockroaches. my friend jen will be the first to agree with this. she had quite the cockroach problem back in the states a couple summers ago (not at all her was a gross neighbor problem). but you know, those cockroaches led to me getting lots and lots of margaritas (bought by jen) that summer, not only because jen was so stressed out by the nasty bugs, but also because i helped her go through and clean her stuff when she high-tailed it out of her apartment. i think we spent at least two nights a week for the entire month of july at mi pueblo in cleveland....which is also where i learned the victory song for brazil’s soccer team. so maybe her cockroaches were really a blessing in disguise. ANYWAY.....

cockroaches down here in el salvador aren’t really that gross. mostly because they are huge – like 2-3 inch diameter big. huge bugs don’t really bother me. most bugs don’t bother me. however, small cockroaches DO give me the creeps. the big, gigantic ones - no. when i worked at the natural history museum, we had some madagascar hissing cockroaches that were huge – and i loved them. and it’s not like down here you can avoid the whole cockroach thing’s not like only people who don’t clean their houses have cockroaches. everyone has them at one point or another. we had them in my house in molineros sometimes – not very often. but at my house there, the wall didn’t completely meet with the roof, so there really was no way of avoiding cockroaches or any other bug from coming into the house – which is why i had bats flying over the top of my mosquito net, as well as every other bug you can imagine. but i had the mosquito net, so it was all good. here, i don’t have my mosquito net up....mostly because i don’t really need it. it’s so much cooler here that most bugs (think mosquitoes and scorpions) really can’t live here. that’s not to say there aren’t some....but for the most part, i don’t need the mosquitero. and here in the hostal, the walls DO meet the roof, and i have a screen in my window so there’s really not a huge chance of FLYING bugs/insects getting in my room.

the cockroach thing is another deal altogether. they are attracted to water and bathrooms and those kinds of things – and in molineros all that stuff was outside....none of it in the actual living space. but here, they climb up the drains and there is a space between my door and the floor, so it’s possible they could get in that way too. the other night i went into the bathroom and saw a nice, big, fat cockroach on the sink....and at first i was amazed at its size, and then realized i should probably off him. so i big deal....went back to sleep just fine. although, that brings me to another story. have you seen that movie “brokedown palace” where the one girl is sleeping one night and a cockroach crawls in her ear and she gets all sick?? well, before i saw that movie, i had heard of that happening, but i always thought it was an urban legend kind of thing. and i just thought they put that in that movie because it took place in thailand and it made the thai jail look even worse than it was already supposed to be. well, there is a girl here, who is a volunteer now, who told us this story about how she was staying at the estancia in san salvador earlier this year, and this very exact thing happened to her. she went to irma, our medical officer, and told her she could feel something moving around in her friggin’ head, near her ear, and it took like two or three examinations to actually find it and get it out. WTF????? so i suppose i should lose my lackadaisical attitude toward the big cockroaches, but whatever.

that is, if these ARE cockroaches. i only realized this problem about a week or so into my stay. what drives me insane is the frigging chirping sound. it doesn’t matter if they’re cockroaches or any other bug......their chirping is like a leaky faucet and it drives me absolutely nuts. i tried listening to my music, but i eventually have to take off my headphones. so that doesn’t work. the first week here, i think i was so tired, that i didn’t even realize it was going on. that, and i was still going to bed at 8:00, before they actually start up. but i started to go to bed a little later because i’m on my own schedule (unlike at my house in molineros...i went to bed when everyone else did and that happened to be about 2 hours after it got dark). here i can go to bed whenever i want, and lately i’ve been reading or whatever until about 9:00 or so. well, by that time the chirping has already begun, and i can focus on nothing else. a couple weeks ago, i was up the entire night, with a flashlight, trying to catch the damn things in action. the thing is, i couldn’t tell if the sounds were coming from the inside or the outside of my cuarto. the walls are made of adobe, so they are nothing close to being sound-proof. so i’d lay there and wonder “is it it inside? wait, that definitely came from inside. then again, maybe they’re just inside the walls. ok, goddamnit, where are you????” and then i’m trying to figure out why these bug sounds never bothered me in molineros. first, i think it’s because i went to bed earlier, and second, there were so many other animal noises (roosters, cows, pigs, fighting dogs), the bugs could never get their volume up high enough to escape being drowned out. here i only hear roosters and the occasional cow that sounds like it wandered down the wrong street.

so that night i had my flashlight next to me and every time i heard a noise, i’d shine the light in the general direction. and i’d get nothing. i searched every crevice of my room and could not find these assholes. meanwhile, they continue chirping and calling each other. they are probably also laughing their little bug-laugh – that’s really just a much louder chirp. anyway, ‘round about 5:00 a.m., i realized they had stopped. it was quite the feeling of happiness and i imagined them not as the asshole cockroaches that had pissed me off all night (and every night since). in my mind they suddenly became these eric carle bugs that have cute faces and babies and missions they’re on and now they were closing their eyes and going to sleep all day (although, i don’t think eric carle has ever written a book about a cockroach......worms, caterpillars, crickets, cockroaches). i laid there trying to go to sleep and get at least 2 hours in, and the first ahuachapan-sonsonate bus went by and i’m not kidding you, i was thinking “noooooooo, the cockroaches are going to wake up!!!”

and then i realized that i am, in fact, a crazy person. seriously,’s not my fault! i’ve since come up with a solution as to how to drown out the sound and it’s sleeping with a blanket over my head. yeah.....nice solution, huh? but i can sleep, which is all that really matters anyway. eventually, i realized that they are in the roof. i have that type of ceiling with the panels, and i’m convinced that they live right above those panels. i DO NOT want to know what else is up there. there have been a couple of nights where i was laying there and could actually hear something running around up there. what, i don’t know....but i have several ideas.....mice, rats, cat, birds.....whatever it is, it’s something. seriously, if any of those panels fell down, i’d have a circus of critters crawling everywhere, i just know it. so i just hide under my covers and pretend i don’t hear anything.

so if any of you can find me a pair of earplugs that would be fantastic. i don’t have the slightest idea of where to look for earplugs in a country like this. i have enough trouble asking for things that people here have actually heard of, let alone something that doesn’t even have a spanish translation (that’s right, i already looked it up).

but what i’m really saying is this: despite all of the above things, I LOVE IT HERE!! i have hot water (when the electricity is on), i have an awesome courtyard where there are the most interesting and colorful birds i’ve ever seen, as well as lemon, lime and orange trees, there is a pupuseria ON THE PREMISES, and occasionally gringos stay at the hostal, so i get some gringo time in. finally, i’m living and working in in the most awesome area of the country!!!!!! coffee forests as far as the eye can see, clean air, cool site absolutely rocks!!!!!!! it’s easy to point out all the faults, but it’s hard to capture the awesome moments and write them down. they by far outweigh the stupid idiosyncrasies that i’ll get used to in a matter of weeks. everyone is nice and friendly and i’ve had no trouble with anything major. so i’m happy here and no amount of cockroaches or loud noises or no electricity is going to make me unhappy!

the back porch behind my cuarto - that´s my hamaca!!

the lobby area of the hostal