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Published: August 27th 2013
The view from a window in the house where we stayed. I was told there are six other volcanoes in El Salvador besides this one.
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I hardly know where to begin, as I attempt to sum up what has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I went to El Salvador to meet Funnyclown's family having almost no knowledge about El Salvador at all, other than that it is a dangerous place to travel. We were to be with his uncle, who visits the US yearly, and whom he is very close to. We would be staying at the home of Funnyclown's cousin, her husband, and their daughter, in San Salvador, the capital city. Funnyclown's Uncle, who normally lives in a home with other relatives, would be staying there at his daughter's house with us while we were visiting, in order to be able to spend as much time as possible with us. I really didn't know what to expect, but I was very happy and excited, especially after having spoke to his family on the phone. They sounded very happy as well, especially because this would be only be Funnyclown's second visit to El Salvador. He had not been to see his mother's side of the family since he was
five years old.
When we arrived on the plane, the airport was almost empty. It was about 11pm and all the the shops we closed down behind large, metal doors. It was the first airport I remember going to that had nothing open late at night. We had to fill out paperwork in customs because they didn't have any forms available in our plane, and they had no chained up pens or extras to go around. Someone gave us one though so we were cool, but I never would have thought that customs in an airport wouldn't provide you a pen. Long story short, if you go to El Salvador, bring a pen.
The first thing I noticed about El Salvador was the warm, balmy weather I had been craving. Finally, I could be outside at night without having to wear a sweater! Funnyclown's family was very happy to see us, and we drove to San Salvador, then up into the hills on a steep, dusty road. As soon as we reached the crest of the hill in front of the house, a spectacular view of city lights lay before us. We were on a hill in a
rural area, but we were surrounded by the city. We were told that this area is called El Penon, which means the cliff. It was one of the most unique and beautiful views I have ever seen. In the morning, a massive volcano was visible from the window.
In the morning, we wanted to check out the town but we had no ride because Funnyclown's family was at work, except his uncle , whom he calls Tio (which means Uncle in Spanish) who doesn't drive. We walked down the steep hill together, Tio leading the way, without the aid of a cane. I was very impressed by his agility at age 88, and his willingness to travel to town with us. When we reached the bottom of the hill, a bus was pulling up. We hurried on and crammed ourselves onto the crowded bus. The ride downtown was just a few minutes, then we were walking past a plaza lined with street vendors selling everything from Bananas to Bathing Suits. The streets were bustling with activity for blocks, then it would get quiet suddenly and a sign would appear in Spanish which warned that this was a quiet zone,
The top of Puerta Del Diablo
and that a cathedral was located on the block.
No matter what day of the week it is, in San Salvador the cathedrals are open to visitors. I found San Salvador to be a place where worship is part of every day life. Not only do many of the citizens attend church on Sundays, they also go to cathedrals to pray or go to confession as part of their weekly or even daily routine. This is not only true for Catholics, like Tio, but other religions as well. For example, in the Penon area, right next door to the house where we were staying, the neighbors had converted their garage into a small chapel. An evangelist church meets there several afternoons a week and has music and sermons for several hours while the church members sing, prayed, and mingle with one another on the roadside. Despite the difference in religion, Tio would go out on the front porch to listen to the sermons and the music during our stay. Children of the members would play outside during the sermon and some of them would come and talk to us.
The children in El Salvador seem to be very
bright and studious. School is extremely important in this culture, second only to religion. "If you don't finish high school, the only job you can get here is sweeping the floor," says Tio. The young children in El Salvador attend school in the morning and early afternoon, while the older children go to school in the late afternoon to evening. It seems as if this is because the older children have a lot of household responsibilities while their parents are at work. Many working young adults go to college part time. Funnyclown's niece, who is in her early 20's, expects to be in school for the next six years, while she continues to work.
Hard work is very prized in El Salvador, and the children begin working young. Funnyclown's young sobrina, (which means niece in Spanish) is 15 years old and running the family business, which is a small convenience store just down the road from the house we were staying in. Her mother and grandmother help, of course, but the young girl runs the front end of the store when she is not in school. The other children help their mother run a cleaning business on the side,
and I was immediately impressed by their work ethic.
I have many, many more things to say about El Salvador, but sadly, I have neglected my blog without posting it. I decided that I am going to publish it RIGHT NOW and I will add things to it later on. I hope you all enjoy what I've got so far...
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