Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Weekend at the Beach

As you have likely gathered, things have been intense here the past few weeks.  Thankfully things have settled down a bit although we are all still exercising more caution in terms of personal safety.  This weekend I had the opportunity to go the beach with people from work.  It was a lot of the same people who I went away with a few weekends ago and I had a great time. 

However, before I get to the beach, I want to share with you about a great thing that happened yesterday.  For a few weeks my boss Gilma has been insisting that I was going to do a presentation on  Stages of Change and Motivational Interviewing (two concepts that I use a lot in my work in Canada).  I have doubted my ability to communicate the concepts with enough depth and clarity to be helpful.  Every time I raised these concerns to Gilma she shrugged off my concerns. Despite my doubts, yesterday was the day for my presentation to my team and two members of another team.  There were a few times when I had to stop so that someone could translate “my Spanish” into actual “Spanish”, but in general people understood what I was trying to say.  They asked questions and seemed really interested in the ideas.  I’m actually feeling a bit proud of myself.

It is true that after five months here my Spanish is definitely better.  I have a higher level of communicative competence and more people are also getting used to the weird way I speak.  There is still a lot that I don't understand, but if it is important people can usually rephrase it in a way so that I can understand.  "My people" are figuring out my vocabulary and using it more often.  I have also come to accept that I am not going to be anywhere near to fluent anytime soon.  This has been a big adjustment in my head and it took some time.  Clearly my expectations were too high and I needed to let go of a goal that was not realistic.  Enough of this and back to the beach.

The Beach -- I was told that Vinicio (one of my weekday roommates) had arranged a "Ranchito" for us. A Ranchito is like a cottage at the beach, although they are really small (or sometimes huge) compounds.  Our Ranchito had a small building with two bedrooms (one for the guys, one for the gals) and bathroom in between.  There was another building with a kitchen, a large outdoor dining room, two pools (cement holding ponds with about 2-3 feet of water), three outdoor showers, 4 hammocks and a couple of other buildings we didn't use.  It was on the non-beach side of the road closest to the beach.
The Ranchito - The building on the back left is the bedrooms, the building in the middle is the kitchen and the dining room is on the right.  In front is one of the small pools.

We arrived a little after midnight on Friday night.  There had been several delays in getting there and it was several hours from Guacotecti where the office is.  Vinicio's Abuela (Grandmother) has the "Ranchito" next door so when we arrived we needed to go and meet her.  What an amazing women she is!  She came out wearing a nightgown and an apron.    At her Ranchito there are lots of palm trees and so there is always a supply of coconuts.  Vinicio picked up a machete and started hacking the top off of coconuts.  He handed a coconut to each person drank the "milk" from inside and then handed the coconut back to Vinicio, who very capably cut the coconuts in half so that we could eat the "meat" inside.  I was not very adept at scooping out the coconut and so Vinicio kindly came over and in about 10 seconds scooped it all out for me! It was after one before we went to sleep.

Morning came and everyone got up at 5am!!! I was bit shocked by this, but like I do here, I follow the crowd.  I was barely out of my sleeping bag when I realized that everyone was leaving for the beach.  I quickly put on a pair of shorts and grabbed my flip flops and was on my way too.  The beach at sunrise was worth getting up to see.  It was deserted and beautiful beyond words.  Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera. 

The day was full of activity...although I did manage to find a bit of time to have a quick siesta in a hammock.  While I truly thought I had not actually fallen asleep, the photos someone took with my camera would suggest otherwise!  We also went out and about and visited another beach.  As some of you know I always buy a "best beaches in the world" calendar for my office at work.  I like to look at the pictures during the blizzards of January.  I had to pinch myself because I was on a beach that easily could have been a part of one of my calendars.  This is not one of the most popular beaches and so there weren't very many people.  It was all such a wonderful experience.  

An incredible beach

The Group - Jaime, Digna, Nora, Vinicio, Jonathan and me.
Finally I have found a place where at 5'3" I am "average height"!

We then went to a lovely restaurant for lunch.  I found it interesting that many of the restaurants have swimming pools (much more like what I think of as a pool than the pools at the Ranchita).  At our restaurant, we opted to eat upstairs and have a fabulous view of the ocean, rather than poolside.  On my way out I noticed that it was mostly kids in the pool and parents sitting around eating and drinking beer.  Then it dawned on me, this is the ocean side version of McDonald's playland!!!

Lunch was a very relaxed and casual meal.  We ate, drank beer and chatted.  At one point people commented on what a perfect combination been and seafood soup is.  I commented that in Canada we generally think beer goes with pizza.  My friends here were horrified, they could not imagine anything so horrible!  I can’t comment on the pairing of beer with creamy seafood soup, complete with a whole lobster and huge shrimp, as beer does not do well in my stomach anytime.  However, the seafood soup was delicious. 

The day was packed with activities.  After much sun and surf people were tired and so the day ended a bit earlier than the day before.  I slept in the morning deciding to forgo a shower for a few more moments of sleep.  I was the last one out of my bed at 5:45am!  We packed up, said goodbye to “Abuela” and then were on our way.  The group decided to take the scenic route back to San Salvador.  We travelled along the coast through La Libertad.  This area is known for great beaches and surfing.  We stopped at a few lookouts and took pictures.  We ate breakfast at a beautiful beach, watching people surf.  The waves weren’t huge, but it was my first time to see surfing in person.  What a great weekend!

View from one of the lookouts.

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