Archive for November 2011

The Sugar Cane Train   10 comments

typical sugar cane truck, before cane-fill

It’s here again:  Sugar Cane season.   It’s always a gas to see trucks of all shapes and sizes brimming full of brown sugar cane sticks on highways and main ways everywhere.  The Cane, or Caña, as it’s called in Spanish is harvested from December – March, give or take a couple weeks on either end.  The harvest season lasts 4 months because plants mature at different rates, and also because there is so much caña you cannot harvest it all at once.

I want to share this post with you all because though I have witnessed trucks roaring past full of sugar cane since my first visit here years back, for the first time ever, this past weekend, I got to witness a MASSIVE loading zone where all the action starts.  There had to be about 30 tractor trailor trucks, all waiting in line, one after the other.  It was so impressive I made my husband stop the car so I could shoot it all.

First, I show you several trucks milling about on my left…it looks like a red truck party, doesn’t it?

This is a Sunday.  They’re all empty, waiting to get filled up with Cane.   We also noticed a group of 4 buses in one of the sugar cane fields.  We figure they must have bussed in people to work in the fields and they were hanging around for them to finish.  I don’t think they’re silly enough to put cane inside the buses.  So here is the train, below..

Still looking to my left, we see the beginning of the train about 6 trucks back...

Here's the one in front of where I'm standing....

Now we look to the right and see the long chain of tractor tailors waiting for the sweet stuff

The Sugar Cane Train keeps going.....

and going...


Some truckers make themselves at home while they wait. Two hammocks are strung up under this truck, I think it’s a clever setup.

…this picture could have been better, but I had to take it from inside the car, my husband started to drive away without me, no longer humoring the photo shoot

We drove off, the trucks and drivers of this sugar cane train riding off into the sunset behind us, and remarking to ourselves how many trucks there were, a lot of them double-carred.    And then, a full 4 minutes later….


Another “train” appears, with a good 15 more trucks!  I wondered if this was the same plantation owner or not:

Posted November 29, 2011 by El Salvador from the Inside in Living in El Salvador

We have BAD manners (Americans, that is)   12 comments

In comparison to Salvadorans, Americans have bad manners.  I’m not talking about the kind of manners you were forced to learn as a child, like table manners, sitting up straight, or more ‘structured’ kind of etiquette.

I’m talking about social niceties, or “treating people right” kind of manners.  There are things most Salvadorans simply do naturally and without thinking that have become less commonplace in American society.

1. Greeting people on the street.  Almost always, when walking past someone you will hear a Buenos Dias, or Buenas Tardes, or often “Adios” which is a polite way of greeting someone here who is a complete stranger when passing them.

2. Buen Provecho.  This means “good appetite”, and is said to a person eating by someone who sees them, usually when they enter or leave the room of the ‘eater’.  I noticed it at work when people walked up to or past the table, but I ALSO experienced complete strangers in restaurants greeting us with a “Buen Provecho.”   How nice!

3. When starting a business or other conversation where you must discuss getting something done, you must always “Add the Flowers “.  A colleague of mine and I were discussing this one day, that when starting a conversation, you must say hello, how are you, maybe ask about the family or a small question or comment that has nothing to do with the business at hand before getting into the ACTUAL reason why you are conversing.  Americans tend to be direct, and at times blunt.  So if you call a Salvadoran on the phone or start a conversation and go immediately into “business” it’s like throwing cold water over their head.  You must do the flower dance first, and then get into the serious stuff.

4.  Expressing Anger will almost always backfire on you.  Americans are accustomed to public displays of anger, even in the workplace.  It may be just an irritable comment but can easily elevate to a raised voice with insulting commentary or graduate to all-out yelling.  I rarely see this here.  Salvadorans tend to show their “nice face” in public and get taken aback when someone blows up publicly.   I’m sure there are exceptions, depending on personalities, but for the most part, it’s best to keep a lid on it and remember that yelling or becoming angry tends to startle people from El Salvador, and is not as easily forgiven as back home.

5.   There is always an extra plate of food.  If someone comes to a Salvadoran home unexpectedly and near mealtime, a plate of food is handed to them.  I don’t know how some poor people suddenly have extra food, but they may just make everyone’s plate a bit smaller to accommodate the extra person.

6.   On that note, receiving unexpected visitors is taken well here.  This may come from the fact that many Salvadorans have larger families or live with extended family, so they are accustomed to having more people around, and in their “personal space.”   So it’s not such a big deal when someone drops by without notice.  We were talking about this the other day at the lunch table at work.  A woman was mentioning the reaction her Canadian Sister-in law had when suddenly a bunch of family members who were visiting from our of town stopped by, and oops, it was almost dinner.   Her reaction, which she expressed out loud was, “I cant feed everyone here!”  A Salvadoran, on the other hand, might be upset, but would probably NEVER express it, and start rummaging through the kitchen or run out to get something quick to serve her new guests.

7.  Kids are welcome and loved, basically EVERYWHERE.   This isn’t necessarily manners, but more of a cultural custom.    I’ve had time to observe how people from El Salvador behave with children.  Here’s something innovative for us to learn:


In America, when visiting someone’s home or bumping into a couple with children on the street, you often see the adults talking the kids sort of melting into the background, or the parent doing most of the interacting with the children.  I too, have been guilty of talking with just adults myself.

I remember this ‘melt into the background’ phenomenon when visiting a friend in the states last November.   There was a group of us, and a small toddler all in the same room.  While most of the adults talked, the little boy play and his mother checked in on him, but for the most part, he was kind of playing along by himself with some toys and things near him, while we talked amongst ourselves.  In El Salvador, everyone in the group would be taking turns playing with him, or picking him up, etc.

Here, even when a complete stranger has just met a child, they talk directly with them, engaging them with questions about their family or what they like, and overall,  having a much more participatory interaction.  Kids are very much a PART of life and the social settings here.

There are more differences and customs beyond these, but I’ll stop here for now and I invite commentary by readers to add more.

Strange Fruit: Spikey and Red, the Mamon Japones   1 comment

Mamon Japones - Rambutan

There are words you learn in a second language you literally do not know the name for in your own because you never encountered that “thing” in your mother tongue.

I thought it was a lychee, but apparently its a close relative called a Rambutan.

Mamon ( Mamones – plural ) is the Salvadoran word for a tropical fruit I never ate or remember seeing back home.   The ones I’m eating now are golfball size, and I’ve never seen them any bigger than that.  Lisa Dang’s post shows Rambutan’s a lot bigger, though.

The skin of this exotic fruit comes off by breaking it with your finger or using a knife if its stubborn. I think they are not quite ripe if the skin is tough; the flavor is more sour on those whose skin breaks easier.  The flesh is a white cream color, and it tastes both sweet and sour.   This pic from last year in October shows them at 5  cents a piece, and yesterday I got 20 in the market downtown for 50 cents, a full year later.

Prices of fruits and vegetables vary in the market, as well as for maize and beans, depending on if they are in/out of season and how well the crop turned out, so they can down just as soon as up. Funny thing, I’ve never seen a Supermarket drop the prices of fruits or grains.  Hmmm….

Courtesty of Wikipedia - click for page / link

Another Mamon fruit worth mentioning is the Mamon Verde (Mamones verdes) .  In El Salvador, the word Mamon is used for two different fruits – the Mamon Japones [Japonese style Rambutin] depicted above, and here on the left, which is the Mamon verde (green) [ known to us as a  Spanish lime, or mamoncillo].


This Mamon has a smooth shiny green skin, and its flesh is a peachy color instead of whitish with the red spiky one.  The green Mamon is quite sour and makes you pucker up.   I have been walking in the country with people and we picked and ate them, but was never lucky enough to pick the spiky cousin in the wild before.

Help Spread the Word on Storm 12E!!!   Leave a comment

Please pass on this broadcast about the flooding storm 12E has caused.

Photo courtesy of

Click SHARE this at the bottom of this post, or copy/paste and email it to your friends.  However you can spread the word, we are grateful.

A massive 10 day storm caused devastating flooding and mudslides in El Salvador and Central America in October 2011.  Tropical Depression 12E dumped 5 feet of rain in some areas.

Amazingly, we saw almost no coverage in North American press.

PICTURES:    La Prensa Gráfica – Photos of the Flood Damage

  • More rainfall than Hurricane Mitch (1998). Exceeds levels in past 50 years
  • 35 people killed (105+ total in Central America)
  • 55,000 evacuated to shelters and > 300,000 people affected
  • 20,000 homes flooded.  40% or more of crops lost
  • 10% of El Salvador flooded.  Over 10,000 wells contaminated.


HOW CAN YOU HELP?   Organizations with solid reputation




gringainelsalvador and concerned U.S. citizens in El Salvador


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