Archive for June 2012
If I was awe-struck at the plants and flowers in Los Planes, I am now just as amazed at the random vegetables growing AT our house here in Chalatenango.
These are plants that may have been seeded some years back by someone who wanted vegetables, or just randomly by someone eating a fruit or veggie and discarding the seeds. We didn’t deliberately plant these this year, and no one else did. I do remember pepinos were here last year, while my husband did construction, and passersby would grab them and bring them home.
String Beans from Black Bean seed in front of our house:
Basil growing right in front of the string beans:
Watermelon on the other side of the house:
Pipiane plant, veggie, and large veggies. These suckers are almost doubling in size every day. And so delicious, melt in your mouth like butter and no ‘old veggie’ aftertaste. Deee-licious.
And last but not least, lest we forget, the “Milpa,” or cornfield which my brother-in-law Yito had planted everywhere, including up to two feet from our house, the nut!
Bathroom in the bushes works perfect except when its raining or too dark to creep in the weeds. For those moments, we have a hand-held porta-potty. Weighs almost nothing!
We’ve been in the new house five weeks now as of Saturday. Pretty much all was ready and in place for living here. All the doors and windows were in, the water and electric were connected.
But a few odds and ends remained, mostly in the way of the sh*t, shower, and shave routine.
Jesus hadn’t built an outhouse yet, so we had to do our business in “el monte” (the bushes/grass).
I didn’t mind it, as we don’t have neighbors on one side, and lots of trees between us and our neighbors on the other side, and numerous spots to choose from.
The bathroom in the bushes was working as a fine go-between till we had the outhouse done, until…. One morning I heard loud cracking noises in the field next to us. The owners had decided to cut down various trees and brush to plant a “milpa” (cornfield), and Jesus’ Tio (uncle) was just a choppin’ away at that wood. When he was done several hours later, he left a new, giant clearing next to our backyard, giving a clear line-of-sight for anyone working the field to see us doing our “business”. NOW the outhouse became more urgent. We were doing all sorts of funny gymnastics out there, ducking behind bigger bushes we could find or going almost down to ones by the river (and hoping no one was coming to swim!) to do the daily duty.
So, my husband got started quickly. He built a cement slab, with a hole connected to four
inch PVC piping that runs down a small incline to the mini septic tank. Since it’s only
temporary, we decided on sheet metal attached to wood. Here is the finished product:
We are the proud owners of Jicaron’s only luxury, flushing outhouse.
The mini-septic tank my husband built (isn’t he clever?), sticking an upside down barrel into the ground. So much rock he couldn’t get it all the way in, but its our “2-3 month septic tank for 2 daily sh*tters” so it will hold up until we leave. If not, there’s always the bathroom-in-the-bushes.
I cannot shower with my clothes on, OK? Jesus will shower in front of the pila, wearing his underwear, which is the typical Salvadoran in the country style way to bathe, though he prefers to bathe in the river at the bottom of the hill. Women need to wear more, usually a tank top and a pair of shorts or skirt is the norm. People just wash themselves, and suds themselves up under their clothing to get the covered parts clean, and then rinse out like that, with clothes on, and it’s all perfectly normal, no one blinks. No shower stall, curtain, nothing. Because you’re all covered up anyway, you can even be talking with someone while you’re bathing. Personally, I prefer the full strip-down style, so I’ve adopted the corner behind the kitchen as my shower stall. It works well, and is close enough to the house to stay out of the view of anyone in the cornfield next door.
I started out with scrap pieces of Durock from construction, and last week Jesus cemented over the earth so I now have a real floor to shower on. Jesus claims that anyone in the pasture on the other side of the river like Romeo (the owner), can see me bathing. Well heck, his champa in the pasture (shed) is nearly two football fields away – from where I shower I barely see him, let alone any details on his person. Which means the same for him looking this way, right? “If he sees a tiny pink human figure in the distance, and guesses it’s me bathing, I hope it makes his day,” I told him.
My open-air bucket shower, sporting a durock cee-ment board floor. Husband gave me an upgrade, and cemented the ground a week ago.
The light green area in the middle is Romeo’s cow pasture (name is pronounced “Roh-may-oh” btw). I think it’s kinda far to see much. You be the judge.
Christmas Wishes for Hubby (renovation-headquarters.com)
We’re finishing the tail end of our extended stay in El Salvador full circle by returning to my husband’s neighborhood, right where we started, but this time living in our own house. Not the “Siamese-twinned” to my in-laws house we lived in for several months when we got here, which was too much joy for me to put into words. It feels like a whole new neighborhood to me, and my only regret is we didn’t fix up grandpa’s old house sooner! Since we moved into the house, my husband has been keeping himself entertained with an array of projects he works on nearly every day. And almost every one involves cement (pronounced as “see-ment,” southern American style, throughout the rest of this entry).
It started with the Pila (washing sink). As sweet as the albañil (mason/bricklayer) Efraim is, he couldn’t cut the mustard with the Pila. We found out mid-Pila job that he’d never even built one before. Odd, considering almost every family has one here. So my husband griped, we chuckled about it, and he fixed it himself. Neither of the two sink sides drained proper, so he added a pitch, which he calls a “desnivel” (uneven/un-level), as that didn’t make it into Efraim’s “learn how to make a Pila on-the-job” job. Then there was with the height of the Pila. My husband built the darn thing so high it was just right – for a six foot person – and since we’re both “bajitos”* (shorties), that wasn’t going to work. So he came up with a great solution to kill two birds with one sto- er, ce-ment bag, that is. Laid down a pile of cement in front of the pila after building up the ground a few inches with some dirt, so we both grew about 5 inches taller by the time the see-ment dried. Perfect!
Then there was the roof. Let’s just say my husband built it a bit, uhh – unconventional. He placed Durock on top of the very wood heavy beams he’d installed, and then taped them and put on a thin layer of cee-ment on top several months back. He admittedly forgot to seal with silicone – woops! My strong suggestions to make that cement layer thicker last year were brushed aside until rainy season this year when….oh, ya know…wet patches began appearing under the roof, on the IN-side of the house, which though my husband says were just “humedad” (humidity), my response was “Yeah, and how long before that ‘humedad’ becomes drip, drip, drip?” “I’ll FIX it he said, I’ve planned on doing that all along – no worries.”
Salvadorans have this amazing ability to NOT worry, that most Americans are either hard-wired or programmed to do. Sometimes its good. And sometimes it turns into — poor planning (or at times ‘no’ planning, and then scrambling to fix things last minute when the sky is falling). So, a few cement bags later, and the thin patches of our flat cement roof were thickened, and spaces where “charcos” or puddles, formed, were filled to avoid water sitting so long that it seeps in. My husband’s dream is to ultimately build a room on top of that “plajon” (cement sheet with rebar), and have a pretty sitting/patio area in front of it – he envisions a a palm-leaf roof over the patio area like the ones at beachside restaurants. I’ll supply the margaritas.
And lest we forget the very necessary “servicio” (outhouse). Cement got laid down for that, and a flushing toilet propped on top of a hole with a large PVC pipe connected to a mini-septic tank. It’s the fanciest outhouse in the neighborhood. I love it!
Then he got tired of us always dragging dirt onto the front patio area, so he mixed up some more cee-ment and laid down an L-shaped piece so we can walk mud-free from the front to the back of the house on one side of the “L”, and on the other side of the “L” is where I shower behind the kitchen. Before he laid down the big L, I was standing on a couple scrap pieces of Durock that I’d been using as my “floor”. It worked for awhile.
Oh, the “smooth cement finish” kitchen floor, another see-ment addition which means I can mop the kitchen floor, not just sweep it. The “Sala” which we use as our family room and sleeping room is getting “smoothed” piece by piece as of this week.
And the little walkway running from the front patio out into the yard – with a nice diamond pattern made by adding scrap terra cotta tile pieces we got from our old landlord, Don Jorge. I’ve never seen anything like this before in the tile world, but then I’m no expert. The tiles he installed in the garage in Los Planes are actually two tiles in one unit, which you snap apart, which leaves two or three ½ inch strips of extra terra cotta that gets wasted. Not sure what the point is, but there must be some smart efficiency about firing the terra cotta that way, or they wouldn’t do it, right? NOT that El Salvador and Latin America are famous for efficiency, but let’s drop them a compliment anyway.
I think Mr. Cement is proud of his recent productions, and I’m proud of him. It’s a perfect segue from his traditional job as a plasterer. But now he wants to take it it to a whole different level. The other day I said I want to buy weights to follow the Denise Austin “toner” video better. It just doesn’t feel right going through the motions with no weights. Unlike most people trying to adjust their weight, I have the “opposite” problem: age appears to evaporate me, so I’m hoping to build up and firm up. My husband says “Why don’t you just EAT MORE?” But he’s decided to help me, and ….drumroll please….Mr. Ce-ment is going to make me – WEIGHTS – out of cee-ment. Ha ha ha ha ha! I’m going to humor him, but I’ll keep Walmart as my backup plan.
* Bajitos – shorties. Which my 5 foot 7 husband disagrees with constantly. He thinks he’s ‘tall’ because he’s the tallest of the seven brothers in his family. Too funny.
In El Salvador, it’s important to remember a blanket assumption that applies to most deliveries and service visits to your home:
There is always someone at home
This means that garbage trucks come by without any regular schedule, and the water turns on at an hour that may not coincide with your non-working hours. Bills get dropped off at your home literally three days before you are supposed to pay them. Things are scheduled for a specific day, but not necessarily a specific hour, but that’s because someone will be home, right?
Companies delivering appliances or furniture come by “whenever”. I’ll never forget how aggravated I was when our refrigerator needed servicing. It was a brand new fridge we had just bought at a “Comercial” in Chalatenago, but it was not cooling at all. They were to come by “tomorrow” but they never made it. “Oh, there was an issue, and they couldn’t make it,” they said when we asked what happened. “Someone will be there tomorrow morning.” When morning became afternoon, I called the store where we’d bought it, and they said that “Primero Dios” they’ll make it, which means, “God Willing.” “Primero Dios?” I said, all huffy and uptight (I was a newly-moved here expat gringa), “This has nothing to do with God,” I said. “Get them over here, my food is ruining!” The fridge fix-it crew did finally make it later that afternoon.
I’ve calmed down considerably since then, but at that moment I was so annoyed with them behaving like I had all day to wait around for them. But it goes back to that greater assumption people make that either you don’t work, live in a house with many people – at least one of whom is not be working, or you have a “muchacha” who can let them in (muchacha is the Spanish word for girl, but here in El Salvador, it’s used to mean a maid).
Fortunately, when I was working full time, no major emergencies or deliveries were required. My husband’s schedule was more flexible so he could be home if a landlord or housing related issue came up. We figured it out. It’s all part of re-adjusting to a different mode of life in Latin America, which has a good side to it:
Agárrelo el suave
Take it easy, man. Don’t get so uptight, because as annoying as it is to hear someone say they won’t make it until tomorrow, it’s just as annoying to deal with an ants-in-the-pants person with high expectations bitching to the high heavens about it being put off until tomorrow. But guess what? For most people, tomorrow ALWAYS comes. Agárrelo el suave is a nice change in attitude compared to the typical American response, which is to fret and stamp feet at the slightest inconvenience one must endure that cannot be resolved within moments. It’s annoying for Salvadorans (and Latin Americans in general) to be around Americans when they are in that state. When you learn to separate wants from needs, and luxuries from necessities, there are a less appointments and requirements, and you can begin to take it easy, and relax.
I think companies often give rural customers the shaft at times. I say this comparing our experience getting an install done with the same company, but at two different locations. But I also have a friend who lives in Merliot, which is in the metro San Salvador area, and said she tried for months to get them to send her bill to her new address after she had moved and had notified them of this change of address before she changed homes.
Service in the Country versus Service in the city, or is it just Tigo? When our cable and internet were installed in Los Planes, Tigo came the day they said they would. It was smooth and they showed up the day they promised. When we moved back to the country in 2012, they NEVER came. Ok, I exaggerate. It took us almost four weeks after the date of their scheduled installation to actually perform the install. We made three different appointments during that time, and Tigo never showed up to any of them.
It all started when my husband went to the Tigo office to notify them we were moving about a week before, and requested a relocation of service. They scheduled our move of service for two days after we moved in. No show. Phone calls, promises on the part of Tigo that they’ll “come by tomorrow,” etc. So we went into the city and waited for an hour at the Tigo office in the mall to speak with a rep. They said we needed to show another bill that comes to the house – say a utility bill – to confirm the physical address. We did not have one with us. And why btw did they not ask for this when my husband went the first time? My husband then went to another office a few days later where they said he didn’t need another utility bill. They explained that the rep he spoke with before we moved didn’t put in our ‘relocation of service’ request. The very first time my husband went to Tigo, he asked to do two things at once: a relocation request, and change the package we use. Maybe two things at once was too much for them to handle. The new rep, on this third office visit said someone would be calling us ‘tomorrow’ to schedule our install. Have you noticed the pattern here with tomorrow yet?
Well, no one came and we repeated calling until they finally did come. My husband initially, with his “gets along with everyone attitude”, and then later, me, using my verbal “mano dura” tactics. They were to come by on a Saturday, and we never heard anything. But mid-Sunday afternoon, they called to alert us they were coming; they were in Guazapa and would be by in an hour or so. We were actually over 30 minutes from home and rushed back, and a half hour after we got home they came along. They ran all the new cable lines from the street to the house, and all the hardware to get us connected, right as a storm was brewing.
The never-ending suspense and commotion to get our cable and internet install done, put together with it finally happening on the verge of a storm was so fitting considering it had been almost a month since their initial ‘promised’ date. All of our efforts, frustration, and sweat all led up to this ultimate moment where the sky was about to burst upon the two Tigo technicians. The lines were connected, and we checked the TV and opened up the Google search page on the computer. I was so delighted, I didn’t bother to do a > 5 minute verification test. Well, two days later we determined the modem was dropping the line every 1.5 minutes, so there we were again – back on the phone with Tigo! They did come to replace the modem within 1 or 2 days which isn’t bad considering their previous track record.
Was this a case of poor service in the country or just poor service in general by Tigo, the cell and cable company we love to hate? I think it was a little bit of both. If we were living close to the city and had a house with an actual street name and street number, they’d probably have performed the installation a lot sooner. I think companies tend to blow off people in the country a lot more than people who live in the city (I’ll bet even the neighborhood in the city can make a difference, too), and companies probably do this because it costs more to service country customers, between more gas to fill the truck and employees getting lost looking for the house.
For those of you learning Spanish, I am placing the original version of this post, with notes on corrections my husband helped me with here so you can learn from some of my errors.
Algunas de Uds. Ya sepan para donde voy con “preservante”. Un error muy común con gringos, quizás, que no han aprendido cien por ciento del español.
Por mi parte, he tenido varios errores aprendiendo
la el idioma español, y les comparto algunos con Uds. Hoy. Suerte que ya había tenido dos anos de practicar el español antes que mudar hasta El Salvador, y eso me ha ayudado mucho. Pobrecit@s Que no aprenden antes que llegar a su nuevo hogar latino. Pues, les voy a contar mis errores famosos.
Un día íbamos en el carro cerca de San Salvador y pregunté a mi esposo, “Y donde vamos a ir ahorita?” Vamos a ver Los Planes, decía mi esposo. “Bien,”
lo le dije, dejándolo “pensar” algunos momentos en donde íbamos. Pocos momentos después lo le pregunte de nuevo “Y donde vamos a ir, Jesús?” “Sos [vos eres] SORDA! Ya te dije, que vamos a Los Planes de Renderos.” “Oh…” le dije. “Ahora, SI te entiendo.”
1. Even though idioma ends with an “a” it is masculine.
2. All over this post I was using the wrong pronoun to refer to my husband, “him”. You must use “Le” to refer to a person – man/woman when using this pronoun.
Un día hace mas que un año, una amiga mía decía “Jenny, porque no nos vamos al ‘Jardín’ – no está tan lejos de aquí.” “Bueno,”
la le dije, “Vamos otro día.” Y el día que fuimos a visitar el “Jardín” pensé yo que encontraremos un gran parque con flores y plantas, árboles y pájaros, de todo que se esperan en un lugar así. Anduvimos en el carro con ella y su hija, y llegamos por un lugar, y me decía – “Aquí estamos.” Mirando por todos lados, a ella y en el lugar, yo no decía nada, pero pensé, este esto es muy estraño extraño , pero quizás paramos aquí a visitar su amiga primero. Una hora después, durante la visita, aprendí que el nombre del cantón donde visitamos se llama “El Jardín!”
La Annona Buena
Cada ano, durante su temporada, puede ver gente al a la orilla de la calle vendiendo annonas. Y también andan vendiendo en las colonias. Pues, así vinieron algunas mujeres con annonas tan grandes y buenas a nuestra puerta. “Mi amor,” decía a mi esposo, “Quieres una enana?,”
Lo Le pregunte a mi esposo. “Que?” me dijo. “Una enana,” me repetí. El se paró, y vio a las mujeres a la puerta. “Ah, están vendiendo annonas!” “Si, como te pregunté. Quieres uno?” Y ligero entendí muy bien el error. Sorprendente Me sorprendió que, las vendedoras no se reirán se rieron .
1. Le pregunté, no “lo” in front of pregunté
2. “Me sorprendió que las vendedoras” sounds better than “sorprendente, las vendedoras”
3. I wanted to say “they did not laugh” but used the future tense of reir accidentally, with “se reirán” – it should be “se rieron” for they laughed, past (preterite) tense.
Lluvias muy fuertes
Hace casi siete anos, yo trabajaba con un carpintero en Boston. Como el no habló muy bien el inglés, hablabamos mucho en el español. Él se llama José, y me enseñó tanto – muchas palabras, especialmente de construcción, como “martillo,” “clavo”, “tornillo”, “cierra,” y mas. Era invierno, y muchas veces mirábamos por afuera y veíamos el cielo muy gris y lleno de nubes. “Guau,”
lo le decía a él, “vamos a tener una tortuga!” Éso nos pasó varias veces, y siempre yo le decía el lo mismo. Un día, mi esposo, quien fue novio mió en aquellos días, me visitó, y le conté el lo mismo, mirando tras la ventana. “Viene una tortuga!” lo le decía. “Tortuga? No, Jenny, es una T-o-r-m-e-n-t-a.” Quizás José tenia pena decirme la verdad. O sea que él disfrutaba tanto el error que no quería quizo pararme corregirme de decir la palabra “tortuga” cuando vi los nubes grises.
lo le decía a él – same error as with above. Use “le” and not “lo” or “la” when referring to the 3rd person in front of a verb for he or she or him or her.
2. Lo mismo. It’s better to say “lo” to mean ‘the same” on this occasion than “el mismo”. If another word comes after ‘mismo’ than using ‘el’ in front of it makes more sense, like: “el mismo hombre vino a la casa” – the same man came to the house. Lo mismo is a common Spanish expression.
quería quizo pararme corregirme
Quizo is better than quería but my husband could not explain well the reason why. Corregirme (correct me) made more sense than pararme de decir. (stop me from saying)
que lo más se excita que mas te excita [ this is a better expression to use ]
Estuvimos en la cocina el otro día, hablando de una comida que me gusta hacer
a veces, se llama “Hummus.” Pensando si es mejor hacerlo con garbanzos hervido y o comprad as/os en lata, [le] dije a mi esposo, “Creo que el hummus se dura se durará mas con los garbanzos en lata, porque tiene preservativos.” “Si?”, me decía, riéndose. “ooh, muuuchos preservativos.” “Pues, Jenny, la palabra es ‘preservante.’ Recuerdas que quiere decir preservativo, no?” “Ahhhh, si, se me olvida,” yo le decía, riendo también. Es bueno no confundir entre las dos cosas.
1. que me gusta hacer
a veces, [ forgot the ‘que’ which was needed, and ‘a veces’ was also not needed, or doesn’t sound right. I wanted to say “which I like to make sometimes.” But it doesn’t sound right how I was directly translating it.
se dura se durará [ here the future tense is better to say ‘it will last’ instead of present tense which would mean ‘it lasts’ ]