Adopted Family and Home Sweet Pacific
CIUDAD ARCE & LA LIBERTAD, EL SALVADOR: July 22-26
Leah: Hooray for our first land border crossing! Despite waiting for an hour on the Interamerican Highway for road construction to cease, enjoying half of Titanic in dubbed Spanish on the bus (the bootleg version ended right after they hit the iceberg—helpful) and the fact that I damn near had a fit and thought we’d end up in jail when we didn’t receive an entry stamp to El Salvador (we later learned that when traveling among the C4 countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua you don’t always receive a stamp), we arrived in Ciudad Arce in one piece and no worse for wear. We chose this as our first stop because one of Niki’s (the friend we met in Xela, Guatemala) roommates, Ever, happens to be from El Salvador and graciously connected us with his family, who still live in his childhood home of Ciudad Arce, a delightful location close to the major city of Santa Ana.
Ever’s sister and brother-in-law picked us up on the highway where the bus let us off and brought us to his parent’s house where we’d be staying. It was the obvious nucleus of their street, partly due to the small tienda his mom runs, selling things like milk, soap, toothbrushes and frozen goodies, and partly due to fact that all the inhabitants are related to Ever’s family—cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, grandkids….everyone on the block was related. We met his amazing parents, Marco and Julia, settled in to the spare bedroom, enjoyed some conversation and Tour de France viewing with his dad and then set off to explore the neighborhood. I quickly noticed the signs for “chocobananos” everywhere and $0.30 later we were each happily noshing on monstrous frozen chocolate covered bananas, a treat that became a daily ritual.
We also climbed two of the nearby volcanoes-Cerro Verde and Santa Ana, which kicked our butts and entailed hiking with two armed police and a guide, due to the problems with attacks they had years ago—definitely a first to look over your shoulder and see two (very nice) but aggressive looking cops in full uniform with guns trailing behind. Santa Ana last erupted in 2005 and at the top (after a murderous climb where only the thought of chocobananos kept me moving) we were able to see the toxic green sulfuric crater lake, as well as Lago Coatepeque in the distance, the Pacific Ocean and all the cities in between. We also checked out the San Andres ruins, enjoyed a delicious meal at the town’s new market, taught Ever’s youngest nephew how to play the card games “War” and “Go Fish” and attended an evangelical church service with his sister, Ana Maria, where we received a few shout-outs and were offered 2 additional homestays in town by members of the church. Loved, loved, loved it all. And his mom’s food…can I go off on that again? Mouth-watering, plentiful and definitely augmented my curves, but SO worth it! Her pupusas alone (corn dough filled with beans, cheese, fried in a griddle and served with a tomato sauce) brought out the Pavlov’s dog in me-she even let me film her making them. Another delicacy was a type of thick crepe-like pancake she made with banana mash, sugar, milk and flour for breakfast one day--Ever later told us they're his favorite!Steve: Two of the people that I miss most (among others of course) are my grandparents. Most people know that my grandparents had a large hand in my upbringing and they are the patriarch and matriarch of the family that my mom and I are the closest to. Needless to say, staying with Ever’s family was in a small way a surrogate for my grandparents back at home. Yes we went from the modern lap of luxury in Guatemala to a tiny home in El Salvador with bucket showers and geckos on the walls (a good thing seeing as how they do a great job of catching bugs), but I didn’t grow up with excess either. Having a caring Latino presence did wonders for my soul (I feel like there’s quite a few similarities between El Salvadorean and Mexican households). Sitting and watching a futbol game with Marco and being spoiled with meals and goodies from Julia were akin to hanging out with my grandpa and watching baseball (nothing compares to watching my Angels of course) and getting fed wholesome, homemade meals by my grandma. No one can replace them, but it did help my heartache just a little bit less. Every time somebody came by after store hours, Marco would yell across the house "Abuelita!"...you've gotta love that.
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