Monday, December 31, 2007

Last post of 2007

I have survived a US Christmas. As many of you may or may not know, I am in the States for the holiday season. The trip was a precursor to a work trip that was to be in Toronto Canada, but that ended up being canceled, and is now, a home for the holidays visit. It is great to see friends and family, but I admit that the US holiday season madness is more than a little over-whelming. That's all I'm gonna say about that besides my traditional Christmas "Bah-Humbug."

I spent the first week and a half doing the shuffle on the Western Slope of Colorado. I gotta say... it is COLD! I have definitely turned into a class A light-weight when it comes to cold. In Salvador, if it dips below 70 I start putting clothes on. Needless to say, it is significantly below 70. That and a distinct lack of (public) transportation feels very confining. Lots of time indoors. I do get to see snow though. That is good. There is really no point in being cold if I am not going to at least see some snow. We are going to go snow-shoeing this week so I am looking forward to that.

I have made pupusas for the fam and they have gone over well. Not too bad for a gringa if I do say so myself, although it helps that there is no previous pupusa experience for comparison. So I can say with confidence, that they were the best pupusas they have ever eaten. :)

I am headed back to Salvador on Saturday. It has been a good trip. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with friends and fam although there are too many that I have missed this time around. For those of you on the "missed list" I apologize and assure you that it is not a reflection of your importance to me, but the fault of the age old adage that there is just never enough time in one lifetime. Hope you all have the Happiest of New Years.

See you in 2008!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Birds of Flight

Anyone flying out of El Salvador will immediately notice one very Salvadoran tradition. No... it's not the multiple security check points and body cavity search. Each departing flight out of El Salvador smells like chicken. Not just any chicken, Pollo Campero. Campero is a fried chicken chain that is actually Guatamalan but is practically a sacred ritual in El Salvador. Salvadorans swear that the best chicken is Campero chicken and only in El Salvador. Tico Campero does not stack up. It is rumored that even in Guatamala, the chicken is not as good as it is in El Salvador. There are even a couple of restaurants in the US, in LA and DC where there are large populations of Salvadorans, but they still don't compare to authentic Salvadoran Campero chicken. So.... whenever Salvadorans fly, so does Pollo Campero. At least a dozen people on every plane are transporting boxes of chicken to their salivating relations on the US side giving Salvadoran flights a truly unique flavor.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Living on the edge...

Two big developments in Kelley’s transportation world.

First of all, I got to drive!!!!! I had my first sola excursion on Salvadoran Highways last Thursday when I went to a meeting in the Southeastern part of San Salvador. I went in the SHARE vehicle all by my lonesome. Things went much smoother than expected thanks to Google maps and satellite imagery. I went straight there and realized that I over-compensated for traffic as I was a full hour early for my meeting. So, I did a little more exploring. I had forgotten how much I like to drive. It is even more fun here since the traffic laws are much like the pirate code… more like “suggestions” than “laws.”

On Saturday, I had to go to another meeting which required taking a new bus. Well, it was a mini-bus to be exact. Mini-buses are interesting because, although you can’t tell by looking, they can accommodate just about as many people as is recommended for a regular-sized bus. This is accomplished by implementing a physics-defying mechanism commonly known as “the clown-car technique” in which large numbers of people are magically stuffed into small spaces. The best mini-buses brandish shark-fins and black lighting while pumping loud music and require two operating personnel. One, the driver, whose job it is to drive as fast as possible occasionally slowing just enough for passengers to scamper on and off. The second is an ayudante or “helper” that collects fairs, calls out the stops and whose legs fly out perpendicular to the bus on highway curves.

I arrived at my meeting without problems. On the way back, the mini-bus was a little crowded, which means that I was left standing in the doorway with the ayudante. I've gotta say that as I watched the asphalt blur by just inches from my toes, I was kinda psyched. I felt all the rebelliousness that comes with violating traffic laws and safety bulletins. I was living life on the edge…. of a mini-bus. Then we took the on-ramp at mach-ten and the centrifugal force bent my body backwards into a perfect C-curve with my fingers white-knuckling the handrail on the ceiling and my toe-nails scraping through my shoes desperately trying to maintain contact with the steps. At the next stop, when a man chivalrously offered to trade spaces with me, there was absolutely no feminist indignationn as I squickly moved into the inner sanctuary of the clown car.

In another tale, of what is looking to be a theme, I didn’t have water Sunday morning. As I have previously mentioned, I don’t always have running water, but I generally do in the mornings. Not having water Sunday morning was major inconvenience in that I had been planning to do some laundry. (In a quick aside, my washer had been down with a clogged pump. Apparently the previous owners had been using the tub and agitator to mix cement.) Normally, when you don’t have consistent running water you either install a cistern, which is basically a big tank that stores water and pumps it into your house so that you don’t notice that you don’t have constantly running water, or you fill barrels and pilas (deep cement sinks) with water and dip from them. The house doesn’t have a cistern and they are difficult and expensive to install. We haven’t gotten around to buying barrels yet. I have a pila, but took for granted that I would have water Sunday morning and didn’t fill it. So I was really without water. No cleaning of the house; bummer. No cleaning of myself? Well, after having done a hearty 40+ minute run; intolerable. I eventually ended up locking all the doors and taking a bucket bath in my laundry room with the little water that was left in the pila. Time to buy a barrel.