Okay, so it is true, my Spanish is improving bit by bit. However, just as often as I feel “accomplished” I am reminded how much yet have to learn! Last week I learned that I am the only person in my agency who didn’t know how much I was I was talking about sex! The expression I have been using for “I am hot” (in terms of temperature) actually means “I am hot and ready for sex!” Also, the expression I have been using for “I like that person” actually means “I like” that person (have a strong physical attraction). Apparently I can use that expression for “Mark Harmon” (actor on NCIS) because my attraction really is physical. Apparently everyone giggles after I leave the room about me saying “I like” my colleagues at the office, both male and female!
I have shared a lot with you about a lot of the challenges here. There are many serious issues that the Salvadoreños/as face. There have been lots of adjustments for me and sometimes it has been difficult. All of that is true, but today I thought I would share with you my top 10 list of things I really like about living in El Salvador.
10. The scenery - It is incredibly beautiful here. Just about everywhere you look there are lush green trees and tropical flowers. There are green mountains and volcanoes everywhere. So even in my house in San Salvador I can walk out the front door and be looking at a beautiful green mountain. At the moment corn is growing just about everywhere including up the sides of the volcanoes. I am enjoying that corn growing season is the same as at home! I have shared pictures of the beaches. They are pristine and gorgeous. The landscapes are magnificent.
9. Pop Culture – The Spanish salsa music is fun, upbeat and full of energy. At the same time 80’s music in English is very popular here. Rarely a day goes by without me hearing Bryan Adams singing the theme from Robin Hood. Early Madonna and Cyndi Lauper are also very popular. At first it struck me as very odd that the only English I heard was music. Now it just makes me smile that knowing all the words to ‘80’s songs makes me cool here, while it makes me a geek at home! I also have to mention Coldplay -- their music is very popular here.
Wednesday night at 8pm is my favourite TV program “Quien Quiere Ser Millonario?” Who Wants to be a Millionaire – El Salvador edition. On a good night, there will be a bunch of my housemates around and we will discuss and fight over the right answers. We actually make a good team as I am pretty good with world geography and North American/European culture and history. My housemates know the Central and South American history and culture. A few weeks ago one of the big money questions was “What is the nationality of Justin Bieber?” My housemates all knew the answer!!!
8. The sun, the sky, the moon and the stars - I love the bright sunshine and brilliant blue skies. I don’t mind the temperature (most of the time). In fact I am thrilled that my toes are warm. They were always cold in Canada. At night when the sky is clear the moon and stars are magnificent. In Guacotecti (where I live during the week) there is very little light pollution and so the skies are alive with sparkling jewels. It is a very special experience to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and to open my bedroom door and look up at the stars on the way to the toilet.
7. Being more “green” – While I have never felt very “environmental,” I have to say I enjoy the thought that when there is no electricity in the morning, the only way that impacts our lives is that we can’t iron. There is no hot water, the stove is propane, it is bright so we don’t need light and so it is not a big deal. We also make a lot less garbage. 6 of us usually make 2-3 grocery store bags of garbage per week. This includes one bag of used toilet paper. In general, I use a lot less water and a lot less electricity. I walk or take a bus. Occasionally I ride in a pick-up but there is almost always at least 4 or 5 of us in the vehicle. However, I am not completely virtuous, my “pepsi light” cans and bottles are going to the dump in Guaco because there is not a recycling program.
6. Teaching English – I have to say this is one of the things that I do every week that makes me happy. I feel useful and I have good interaction with people. For the past few weeks I have started teaching a small class for children in my local village. Last week they taught me a song in English…how cool is that!!!
5. The Simplicity – My life went from living at a breakneck speed, particularly in December when I was getting ready to leave, to living a much slower, simpler life. In the morning I can chose from 2-3 pairs of clean pants and 2-3 clean tops. On my way to the office my “to do” list usually has 2-3 items on it. Not like the several dozen items I used to in Canada. Sometimes during the week I get to go to “Super Selectos” the grocery store in Sensuntepeque (the closest city). We shop for supplies once every 1-2 weeks. It depends on how many people have actually stayed at the house and how long it takes to the eat food there. Otherwise, my weekday after work errand is to buy a diet Pepsi and more time on my phone at a very small store in my village. That is generally the sum of my after work activities plus my once a week English class with the children. As a result, my head is much quieter. I can’t remember ever being this quiet in my head.
4. Plantains – I am in love with plantains! Raw, baked, fried, deep fried, turned into the empenadas…I love them any way they come. They are my favourite food in El Salvador. Does anyone know, can I buy plantains in Canada? Do the Caribbean or Latin American stores sell them????
3. Spanish – I live my life in Spanish…how cool is that! Yes it is true, this fact also causes me frustration, but on a good day, I think this is really an accomplishment. I am at a point of communicative competence – my grammar and sentence structure are still rough, but people get the basic ideas I am trying to convey and usually they can make me understand their point. It is far from a “real conversation” but is a lot higher level than I had a few months ago.
2. The resistance to mining- I am thrilled that people here are not letting Canadian Companies walk all over them. The whole situation saddens me on many levels, but I am inspired by all that people are doing to protect their environment, their land, their health and their water. They are saying that not everything in this world is for sale.
1. My community – I feel very fortunate to be able to spend a bit of life accompanying this amazing group of people. My ADES family is very special. They have been very kind to me, but also they have challenged me and inspired me in numerous ways. Heather (who spent a year at ADES about 5 years ago) told me that the people from ADES continue to be very special to her. I can understand how this time with these people is both unforgettable and life changing.
While all of this is true, I am still missing all of you (of course). Only 9 more sleeps until my Canadian vacation!