I wanted to go to “La Nueva” (Nueva Concepción) on Sunday, but we decided it was best to wait till today when the Ferreteria/hardware store would be open. Just like in the days before Home Depot, the local hardwares are all closed on Sunday. So off we went, Monday morning. On our way to La Nueva we passed numerous men with their “fumigacion” gear on. It’s a big plastic jug that “agricultors” wear like a backpack, to spray insecticide and kill weeds and growth. The first rains started steadily this week, so the “siembra,” or planting season has begun.
At the market we picked up $1 worth of ‘berro’ and four large cucumbers for 50 cents. Berro, or what I think may be called “Cress” in English (a photo here looks like it) is a leafy vegetable used in “panes con pollo” here (chicken sandwiches).
Like parsley but with a more delicate leaf and flavor. Then we were off for the beans and other veggies. We circled the market and finally found our beans, and the cacahuetes (peanuts) my mother-in-law uses with her choco-bananas. I was looking for those other veggies and spent extra time looking for a vendor I wanted to buy from. A couple years back at this same market a Baptist woman overcharged me a lot, according to my family, for some cilantro I bought. As we walked through, there was a whole stretch and side of the market where every woman had the white Baptist habit on her head, asking us what we wanted to buy. I blew past them all, wasn’t going to buy from any of them today, and joked with Carmen that this was the “Baptist Market.” I bought the remaining veggies from an old woman who was wedged between Baptist women, and happy with my purchase. I might give them a chance some other time to prove they won’t overcharge me to help pay for the diezmo (10% tithe), but today was not the day.
Onto the supermarket, and nothing noteworthy happened except they make you check all your bags, including the tiniest purse you may be wearing, that’s always irked me about this particular Baratillo. Baratillo means “good deals,” because barato means cheap. So we shopped at “Good Deals”, I found the flyswatter, and Carmen found the umbrella she wanted, so they got a good review.
Now onto the HSBC local bank branch to pay the light bill. This bill you don’t pay online because there’s a $9.10 subsidy most people receive on their electric bill which subsidizes the price of propane gas we use for cooking. We were delighted with the short line at the bank. While we were there, I was able to notice more differences in country versus city people, and saw two women, both older, wearing the standard “delantal” over their dresses while waiting in line. The delantal replaces a purse for them, and with two, three or more pockets, they can place their change and bills how they like ‘em and they don’t have to tote an extra bag around while they do their selling or daily work. My mother in law wears one from the moment she gets up until she undresses each night – it’s as vital for her as her underwear. Then a woman came into the bank holidng a baby and nursing simultaneously while waiting in line. Women here don’t use baby carriage much and can practically stand on their heads while nursing, it’s like nothing for them. A friendly man a few paces in line offred to give up his sport for her but she said no, I’m getting a rest here in line from the heat. That was very nice of him. We got to the counter and I pull out the bill. “We can accept payment but we don’t’ give the subsidy here.” I giggled and said, “well that explains why there’s almost no line!” So off to the next bank we went.
Lucky for us a bank that pays out the subsidy was right across the street. Good ‘ole ACACYPAC. My being easily tickled by the smallest and silliest of things, I kept cracking up about the name, my niece and I giggling and joking together. Try and say A-CA-CY-PAC five times in a row as fast as you can without saying CACA – hard, isn’t it?* In el banco de caca, we took a number and had a good honest wait to pay our bill and get the subsidy. While there, we noticed the same old woman wearing her delantal from the bank we just came from – looks like the same thing happened to her. She goes to the counter, pays her bill, then has to sign to confirm she got the subsidy. The clerk pulled out the ink pad, she stuck her finger in it, and signed with her thumbprint. Many people here, especially older people, have to sign documents with their thumbs. They’re analfabeto/illiterate. Illiteracy is getting stamped out here slowly, and as a country El Salvador now has a literacy rate of about 87% but there are still people who miss the reading boat to this day. Back in March on election day, one of my husband’s friends, “Chevo” wouldn’t go to the voting booths out of shame, because he didn’t want to sign with his thumb. Id’ say he’s all of 25 years old. His mom was a single mother when he grew up, they lived rather remotely, and she didn’t make him go to school. Back at the bank again – our number came up – we paid the bill, got our $9.10 in subsidy, and we were off again.
“Can you run by the agro and get some abono?,” my husband asked in a quick phone call. Yep. Back to the same agroferreteria (agro-hardware), and we pick up the stuff, which is fertilizer, and is called “formula,” of all things. Makes sense, no? We got just a small bag, an “arroba,” which is a 25 pounder, for Yito, my cuñado (brother-in-law) to use on the small patch of land in the front of our house where he is growing a milpa (corn-field). The alcaldias (municipalities) of every town in El Salvador are part of a system that provides farmers/agricultores with one sack of maize and one sack of abono (fertilizer). Here is a photo and link to the APOPA website showing men picking up their abono.
That was it. Over three hours later, and our errands story perfectly framed full circle by starting and finishing at the same store, we left Nueva Concepción to return to our rural caserio called “Jicaron”, affectionately nicknamed “Jicaron City” by a number of us here. With our car loaded to the gills with a Quintal (100 pounds) of concentrado/chix feed, two 40+ pound bags of cement, 4 small square cinder blocks, the abono, and a load of groceries, I cruised at grandma speed of 40 mph maximum to give myself ample time to dodge and avert the many 3 and 4 inch deep potholes (“huecos”) already present in just the first two weeks of rainy season. We passed a new set of men with fumigacion gear on their backs, walking and on bikes, and found our way back home.
* I learned, just today, the correct pronunciation of our funny-named bank, on the radio. To my disappointment, it’s very safe: “ah-kah-see-pahk”. We’ll still poke fun of it though.