Monday, September 08, 2008

getting older in suchitoto

for the past three years it´s rained cats and dogs on my birthday. particularly awful was my birthday in 2006. it wasn´t that i was feeling down because it was my birthday and nobody cares about your birthday here, or that i was away from friends and family or anything like that. it was more the weather....this god-awful pouring down rain that was cold and depressing. i also remember that it was a wednesday and seriously, there could not be a more boring day to have your birthday than on a wednesday. so that wednesday, i sat in my tiny, dark cuarto at the hostal and huddled under my blankets, listening to the rain dump itself all over the place and wishing the night would be over as quickly as possible.

2007 was a bit of an improvement. and this year was a complete turnaround. this year´s birthday fell on a saturday and that was the best thing ever! antonio and i made plans to leave apaneca this year, since it is always raining like crazy here in september. it was not looking good though as i headed into san salvador on friday for a doctor´s appointment. rain poured down as i got off the bus and it followed me all the way to the doctor´s office. by the time i came out it had subsided a little, but damn that rain! antonio and i didn´t want to waste a weekend going to suchitoto if it was just going to rain the whole time, so antonio kept calling me and asking me what the weather was like in the capital. often times it´s raining when i leave apaneca to go somewhere and when the bus pulls into juayua or sonsonate or ahuachapan it´s clear skies as far as you can see. but taking the bus back up to apaneca, there are dark clouds hovering over the mountaintops and you can´t believe you just left those sunny skies behind.

anyway, we decided to just go for it. antonio met me in san salvador that friday night and the next day, my birthday, was sunny for the first time in three years! we hopped on the bus out of the capital and sat back watching the farmlands of cuscatlán pass us by. i went to suchitoto back in 2005 during training, but i didn´t have a camera (well, i had that crazy 35 mm behemoth that i had to buy after my digital camera got fried. i took a few photos with that thing, but the photos were developed so crappy......i don´t ever think i posted any of them. i think instead i posted pictures that other people had taken and given to me. anyway....). but this time, the camera was working, the sun was shining and everything seemed to go fine.

suchitoto was the old capital of el salvador before san salvador was crowned the new capital. people (well, tourist books and the like) like to say that suchitoto is what antigua, guatemala used to be before all the tourists came. i don´t know if that´s the case because i still haven´t visited antigua, nor do i know what it was like way back in the day before tourists started coming in. but i´ve been to suchitoto twice and it is a beautiful, old, colonial pueblo that has managed to keep it´s architecture, small-town feel and pueblo pride intact. it felt somehow appropriate to be spending a birthday here in this old town, as i am getting to that age.....i´ll be a relic myself before i know it.

antonio had never been to suchitoto so i suggested we go out on a boat on the lake. the lake is not was filled in about thirty years ago to provide electrical power to most of the country. the río lempa, the biggest river in el salvador, flows both in an out of the lake and there is a dam on the eastern edge of the lake which produces the energy.

antonio was not crazy about going out on the lake, mostly because he can´t swim and fears any kind of water activity. i was like ¨oh for crying out´s a damn boat with a guy steering it and everything!¨ after finding our hotel, we walked down the long road to the lake and approached the dock and another family was looking to go out as well, so we shared the boat and the fee. i´m glad i ¨forced¨ antonio to go out there because he ended up really enjoying it. antonio´s a really friendly person and always gets in these conversations with people and it was no different with the boat driver. this guy was telling us all about how the whole lake used to be a town before they filled it in and how some areas are over 100 meters deep. then he was telling us that during the war, he and other fisherman who worked on the lake, used to have to take both guerillas and the military across the lake in canoes.

the interesting thing was when i was out on the lake in 2005, we went, i think in october. the water at that time was way higher, and we couldn´t even see the grass or land part of most of the islands. the trees just looked like they were growing out of the water. this time when we went out by the isla de pájaros and the other islands, the water was clearly lower because we could actually see the land.

it did rain a bit, but nothing like it normally does in apaneca at this time. it was just a normal invierno shower that fell on us as we circled the islands and listened to the boat driver tell us about the animals and life back during the war. he mentioned how the birds have altered the catch the fisherman are able to haul in, because the birds are able to dive at great depths and are catching fish while they´re too young to reproduce. this leaves the number of fish that are able to reproduce at lower numbers, hence the low numbers of fish the fisherman are bringing in.

when the boat trip was over we were able to catch a microbus up to the pueblo and from there, we headed over to the church. when i visited in 2005, the church was undergoing renovations and had a bunch of scaffolding in front of it. but it was scaffolding-free this time around. it is a lovely colonial church and i couldn´t help but be jealous that the church was not under construction, unlike the church in apaneca which still isn´t finished. we meandered around town taking photos of the architecture. it´s such a nice pueblo, really laid back but with a life underneath that you know is there even if you can´t see or hear it all the time.

that night it was spinach pupusas for me...mmmmmm. we went back to the hotel to watch el salvador play haiti in the second round of the world cup qualifiers. el salvador won - 5 to 0! it was an all around great birthday for me. gracias, suchitoto!

antonio actually having a good time despite being out in the middle of the water

the nimph flor

some of the birds

a moro tree