No matter how long I live here, I still can’t get over what a paradise it is. First, being in El Salvador, almost every day is a sunny day. On top of that, where I live is “fresco” as they call it, which means cooler temperatures, so it gets warm, but not steaming hot like other parts of the country below us.
The whole office is off for three weeks, so I’ve had a chance to re-connect with Los Planes, the house and its garden, and neighborhood, so I’ll share some of the sights on walks nearby with you. We start at the top of a street near the entrance, and walk downward. There’s no shortage of views here. Here’s a man carry a “tambo” of gas on his shoulder. If he were a woman, he’d be carrying it right on his head, like this woman in the picture below walking with her son. My husband says men can’t balance things on their head like women can. Our extra padding on the legs and behind gives us a lower center of gravity, so there may be some truth to it, however, I’m now convinced. I think men don’t even try the head balancing, because it would look “womanly”. Gotta carry stuff on your shoulder. It’s manly, and besides, looks like you’re working harder.
Throughout the neighborhood one can see banana trees in various places, like this house here. That works out nicely for the residents around this time of year, because people make lots of tamales for family on the 24th and the 31st. Tamales in El Salvador are wrapped with banana leaves, unlike the Mexican kind which are typically wrapped in softened corn husks. The house below has “ojas de guerta,” banana leaves, softening in the sun on the roof. This picture was taken a couple days before the 31st, so they were getting the leaves ready for tamales to serve to family and likely visitors coming to ring in the New Year.
Shortly after, I walked by this “terreno”, a little patch of land in my ‘hood. Its been up for sale, heaven knows how long, with the same sign saying “se vende terreno” up since I moved here. Dont’ see any “no trespassing” signs in sight, so what the heck, I decide to sneak in through the fence and check it out…
It’s a houseless piece of land, which starts up at street level, and has “some” room, perhaps, for a house, if you dug into the hill and/or dumped some fill in to make room for a foundation. Then it soon drops off in an angle downward towards a ravine. It has winding trails that lead into and around the ravine, with tropical shrubs lining the walkway. There’s a rusted out abandoned water tank near street level, with a few orange trees close to it, and peppered throughout the terrain are pacaya plants, everywhere. Salvadorans eat pacaya flowers just as they are sprouting (this one here is too mature) – they dip them in eggs and fry them.
As I walk downward, I’m wondering, “How far does this land go?” I spot a barbed wire fence marking the territory on one side, the fence moves downward. As I walk downward with it, I see the fence move somewhere past a dried creek bed below. From the looks of the angled land going upward, this same creek has slowly been drinking the mud of the earth above it, the hill eroding over time, with small dried water trails and crevices everywhere underfoot, evidencing this fact.
I walk out of the creek bed, and upward, into a type of clearing, with flatter land, marked by a fence ahead of me, and recognize what I see. Except now I’m seeing it from the other side. Months back during one of my walks in the neighborhood, I met a neighbor, who introduced herself as Patty. While talking, she had mentioned, “oh yes, there’s someone who owns ALL THIS back there” – gesturing towards this same clearing. And here I am now, lurking around, an invisible trespasser, feeling shame that she or another neighbor might see me, so I quickly do a 180 and walk back towards the dry creek….
To my left is a trail that I passed on my way to the clearing. I take it and move leftward. Shortly after I find myself in a type of underpass, created by the branches of a large veranera above me, and a cut out piece of land like a wall, meeting the trail I walk on. Dried purple flowers discarded from the veranera have carpeted the underpass, its entrance and exit. Here is it, I’ll show you, a little magic carpet ride..
I walk away from the veranera tree and back upwards again, struggling to keep my footing as the earth gets steep again. I make a note of the foot traffic above, trying to keep myself down low, aware of my trespassing status, as all the neighbors here know each other, and make note of anyone who’s not “from” here or not “where” they should be. I creep up the side of the hill, and run into this crazy spikey green fruit, growing right out of the tree trunks of a few different trees here. It reminds me of the “morro” tree, whose fruit also grows, bizarrely, not from the side or end of a branch, but literally smack dab off the trunk of the tree (the morro fruit is orgeat, the main ingredient used to make Salvadoran horchata with).
Here they are, the strange spikey green fruit in pictures – I don’t yet know it’s name yet, but I’m almost sure it’s NOT stinky durian, as those are super spikey. When I find out what it is, I’ll let you all know. CLICK to enlarge.
Here’s one more shot of the neighborhood before I finished my walk. Guerta / Guineo trees and mountain vistas.