My buddy Max came up from Costa Rica to hang. He got here about 1 am Tue morning, just in time to commemorate St. Patty's day at the local Irish Pub. No Guinness or green beer, but there was Jameson whiskey. Tuesday we did the market tour. We started out in the center, checking out the venders and street market. It's a great introduction to the contrast that is El Salvador. The center; dirty, gritty, vibrant, loud. The unofficial economy of El Salvador. Tons and tons of people selling pretty much anything imaginable from make-shift kiosks of ply-wood and black plastic tarps. Then we go to La Gran Via, the other extreme. Dozens of people wandering around an air conditioned multi-complex flashing name brands like LaCost, Tommy Hilfiger, Ferrari, Nine West, (Yep.... I said "Ferrari," there is actually a Ferrari dealership.) Who buys these name brands you might ask? Well, the answer is simple, very, very few people. The word on the street is that the interest is not necessarily in selling goods, but in the appearance of selling goods. You know wink, wink, nudge, nudge, get your money "cleaned" here. Anyway, it is a great place to sit and sip a $5 coffee while gazing out of the shiny mall at the tin shacks and naked, hungry children living in the median of the highway. That’s El Salvador.
Max being the most chelito, machito, whitey, white, white kid was, let’s say, “noticed.” I don’t by any means blend. I am what I like to call a “Ten paces Gringa,” meaning that to anyone within ten paces of me, it’s pretty obvious that I am a gringa. Max, well, I think Max can be tagged from space. There was some staring. We were on the bus headed to the beach and the kid sitting next to Max had the following conversation with his dad:
“Dad, what is that?”
“He’s a North American. He’s going to the beach”
“Can it swim.”
“Yes, he can swim.”
“Does it come from the sea?”
“No, he comes from a far away country.”
“But, Dad… what is it?”
On Friday, Good Friday that is, we went to the center to see the alfombras. Alfombras are the Holy Week tradition wherein people make amazing, elaborate drawings in salt in the streets. Then later, a procession comes through and blesses each of the alfombras and the drawings become trampled. They are a very beautiful, but a very temporary art. We walked around, checked stuff out, went into a super cool cathedral. It looks like a run down, abandoned bus station from the outside, but the inside is an amazing stained glass kaleidoscope. Then we grabbed Churros, a cup of coffee, sat on the Metropolitan Cathedral steps and people watched. This experience will from here on out be referred to as “best cafecito ever.” So yes, it was a good Friday.
So Max caught the bus back to Ticolandia this morning at 3 am. Overall, it was a very good, very chill week. I feel rejuvenated and I think I can make it through the next two weeks of work.