Archive for the ‘NATURE in El Salvador’ Category

Eventful day – ATM card awol, road crew sequester, & the ZOO!   7 comments

It was Saturday morning, about 45 minutes before I was to be at the zoo.   Let me make sure I have money, before I go, I said to myself.   Checking wallet.  Money? Yes, check.   Debit card?   Hmmm.. last time I used it was ok, about a week ago and….Holy Crap where is that GD card?    300 left in cash and a about the same in an account here in E.S.  But half that’s to buy materials for finishing the roof, required now that it’s rainy season.  Continue searching, with more urgency and shortness of breath, because banks in the U.S. – at least mine – will NOT send an emergency replacement ATM card to a foreign country – found out all about this before moving here.   They send it to your current U.S. address, where [hopefully] a family member or dearest and most trusted friend will send the new one  to you in your foreign outpost.  In a concealed way like inside of a book, so no one in the mail system is ‘tempted’ to use it for you.  (Though I will say we’ve never had anything stolen from us in the mail here).

Then I remembered my “emergency ATM card trick”.  Before moving, I set up a 2nd checking account and put my mom’s name on it, god-forbid something were to happen.   The bank had sent an ATM card, so I stuck it in an envelope with a pile of official papers I brought with me, and ran into it a few weeks back while pulling out tax papers with my husband – “Oh look at that, it’s my emergency ATM card,” I said, “huh, I’d almost forgotten about that.”  So there I was this past Saturday, pulling out large manila envelopes, and dumping their contents in search of that “easter egg” of economic independence.    Later on, of course, I remembered I could wire money from there to here *, but its funny how one’s mind forgets about alternate solutions when the one you’re working on is stuck.

Found it!   Yes, thank gawd I’m a contingency planner.   Now to answer the question you may be asking:   Could I have relied solely on a Salvadoran income while here?   Yes, but life would have been very different.  I wouldn’t have worked helping Salvadorans at Habitat for Humanity, but in my field instead to help “myself.”   Glad I put together savings before coming here, because this extended visit was about family – my husband’s, and our attempts at making one, and experiencing El Salvador.   The weather and nature have been glorious here, but employment for my husband in construction, not as cheery as we expected – a crisis up North means a crisis here, too.  So, I give a big hat’s off to people who make it in El Salvador, especially those without good connections or a family who could afford to educate them past 9th grade when they grew up, because it’s not easy.

With the panic cleared up, I was rolling out the door, already late.   I make it all the way up the newly cement paved street they’ve been working on over a month now, and as my car reached the crest of the hill, I saw the infamous “tree branches in the road” to indicate an issue on the roadway.  Put the car in idle and walk up. 

There’s several men standing around a cement machine.  Half the road has already been paved, but the cement roller is perched on the completed, dried half anyway, so that both the done and about to be done sides are both un-drivable.

I start inquiring and discussing with the workmen what’s up with the road blockage, and can’t I get through before they pour.  “Oh, no hay PASO,” one says (there’s no way through).  Another one says “Isn’t there another exit [to the neighborhood]?”.   “No,” I say, “this is the only exit – didn’t anyone explain this to you?”   “No, the engineers didn’t.”  “Great,  &!% [Spanish expletive] engineers with their white shirts and always making more $ than everyone else,” I said.

They really have done a good job. This road was a mess before.

Looking at the road, I thought to myself, well this is DUMB.  Half the road is already paved and dry so why cant they arrange the equipment to let pp pass on the dry side while they work on the wet one (like they did in my in-laws neighborhood)? I dont say this, but keep insisting there’s no other entrance, and I HAVE to leave, and they HAVE to let me out now, especially since they didn’t pour yet.  Some pp ‘hear’ me and others ignore me, so I catch the attention of a couple of them and say “OK I’m gonna drive through, so make way for me.”

Meanwhile another person has driven up, on the other road that meets at this same corner and only exit out, and is beeping.  “See, like I said, I’m not the only one who has to leave.”   So, I managed to get through.  But ONLY because I was using “American Pushiness”.   The people who work the corner fruit stand were watching the drama, probably thinking I was being insistent, by the looks on their faces, because the typical Salvadoran (and I am NOT kidding) response to this would be, “Shucks, that’s the way it is, guess I’ll go back home and wait for the cement to dry.”

Before making it to the zoo, I had to stop, and document this for the Americans back home.  Yes, I am one to stop and smell the roses, even if I’m ALREADY late, but this was worth it.   I asked Mom today how much gas is there now.  It’s $4.00 a gallon in South Florida.  So this should put things into perspective.   I was planning to get a cold drink at the Puma gas station anyway.  Then I see, what the heck, long lines of cars all the way into the street, lining up at the gas pumps.   There’s  a guy waving a flag on the grass directly beneath the price display, and they even have an MC making announcements, and, well it wouldn’t be El Salvador or Latin America without this – the sexy and curvaceous girls dancing around next to the MC.  So what’s all the HOOPLA for, right?   Gas has been at $4.65 and $4.60 all week, and “today” (Saturday) until 12:00 noon the Puma gas station was offering – get this – gas at $4.44 a gallon!   Yeah, isn’t that funny.  So I had to take pictures of this, I was laughing.  And thinking ‘Boy I cant WAIT to pay $4.00 a gallon back home again!”

And now we’re off to the zoo – finally!     BTW it’s only a dollar entrance.    I didn’t have to search the park for my friends, as they’d already gone to the parking lot for a fine lunch catered by Jennifer, with yummy sandwiches and macaroni.   I went in with them for their second “round”  which included the newly refurbished aviary.   It’s really nice, check it out if you get a chance.  Lots of loud macaws, various types of parrots in one area, and then as we rounded the corner there were peacocks.  They were great!   Though I have seen them a couple times before, I’ve  never heard their call yet.   The peacock was making a terrific honking sound while he displayed his nearly 7 foot feather span, and it was amazing.   The kids loved it, and us adults also noticed they are speaking in “Spanglish.”   Wow, it doesn’t take long for them to adapt  and incorporate words from both languages into one language in their own minds.   They also really liked it when the crocodile opened its mouth.  Is that to stay cool like a dog does or something?   And we even picked up a friend.  The other Gringas were a little nervous about her, but I figured she wasn’t tough to handle.   Just made sure my purse was always zipped and gave her a quarter later on that she asked for.   We think ‘mom’ works at the zoo gate.  I hope she gets to meet a lot of people while wandering the zoo, it beats being a market kid!    Oh, and we were celebrities while there.  While in the snake alley, a couple young girls approached us and asked if they could ‘interview’ us for a class exercise.  Sure, we said.  Next thing you know Dad’s whippin’ out the camera for his daughter and friend, and hey, we were stars!  Pictures below – please CLICK ON  A PIC to ENLARG-O!

fancy peacock

fancy feathers fanned - a 6 -7 foot span?!

orange parakeet - cool!

the kids loved scarey big mouth

We picked up a hitchhiker. She was OK, though, and only asked for a quarter. I think she liked listening to us talk English, too.

* On wiring money to El Salvador.  Do the paperwork for this well before moving to a foreign country, cuz it may take awhile.  I worked with my bank on this, and after several weeks and delays to authorize the paperwork (Homeland Surveillance), they asked me to do it again as someone screwed up.  It’s a not a last-minute ‘jiffy’ thing, so if you want access to your money get it straight before you leave so a lost ATM card doesn’t leave you relying on someone for a western union transfer.

Taquacines y Gallos / Possums and Roosters   Leave a comment

Last night, for the third night in a row, the possum walked all the way up the stairs, from the lawn 12 feet below, and up onto the patio, to trot right in front and past me just 5 feet away – he knows I was sitting there.  Very brazen of him, I thought.  “Hey, Dude” I said, standing up, so he trotted faster, and ran the length of the patio and into the neighbor’s yard, just like he’d done the two nights prior.  I wonder if he has a little “spot” in the garden where he sleeps every day.

Speaking of animals, one of the Gringa’s who went to the gring-union at the zoo this past weekend has inspired me to come out with it, since she’s going to start a chicken coup, after the landlord says yes:

“IF YOU DON’T HEAR ROOSTERS WHEN YOU WAKE UP, YOU’RE LIVING AROUND TOO MANY RICH PEOPLE!”

And the big news of the day was:    It rained, ALL DAY.  From mid-morning till mid-afternoon, and pouring for stretches.  We’ve had some rain here and there, those “occasional rains” they were talking about, but there was no mistaking this.  An all day rain session can mean only one thing around here:  Rainy Season in Los Planes de Renderos, El Salvador,  has officially begun.  Hooray!!!   Let the festivities begin.

Another bird experience in El Salvador / Otra experiencia de parajos   2 comments

Another once-in-a-lifetime [bird] experience.  Only in El Salvador (or someplace tropical).   This one was great, it happened early last week.  I was leaving the office, a bit later than normal, and decided to wait a few minutes more for our security guard, Virgilio, to finish his shift at 6pm, and give him a ride.  While I waited for him to put on his “civvies”, I had a few minutes to notice our environment – the sun was almost setting, and the birds chirping like crazy – “deciding where they’re going to sleep tonight” is what another security guard in the neighborhood said as he was walking past.  “So that’s what all the chatter is about,”  I said.

Rose-Ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) Richmond Park, UK, naturalised population from cage birds that escaped into the wild. Photo by DAVID KJAER

 

I looked up to see where all the chirping was coming from, and wouldn’t you know it?  Right there in the tree in front of our office – a house in a fairly urban neighborhood off Boulevard [Bulevar] Los Proceres – was a group of 6 PARAKEETS.  All hanging out, getting ready for nighttime to come, before sunset.

WHERE in the WORLD do you get to see a group of 6 PARAKEETS, sitting in a TREE IN FRONT OF YOUR OFFICE?   People can say all they want about “El Salvador dangerous this“, and “Are you sure you want to live there, that“, but this BEATS THE PANTS off most of your office experiences, wouldn’t you say?

It’s bird time   6 comments

Yellow Oriole

Every day, in the hour before the sun sets, it turns into “bird time” in our yard in El Salvador.  At times I feel as though we are inside of a bird sanctuary.  We are blessed with a nice backyard, and wrap-around patio to boot, so have a good panorama of Salvadoran nature-side.  As I write a flurry of activity is taking place, from the Yellow-Backed Oriole, who don’t sit still long enough for me to shoot him, to the clarineras (sp?), making their various noises, along with some small yellow-green birds about half the size of your hand, jumping around, and Salvadoran style pigeons/palomas (they are much smaller than the big fat guys on city streets up north), flitting from tree to tree.

hard to get a shot of this guy

The elusive Torogoz even got into the action, gracefully flying to a perch very near our patio,  flying away again in time for me NOT to get a good picture of him.

Speaking of birds, on one of my last visits to Chalatenango, while walking around the neighborhood, a pack of loud, almost obnoxious birds were flying and singing in a high pitch above me, and as I looked up, I saw a pack of (wild) parakeets, a good 5 or 6, swoon over me and land high up in a tree just 15 feet ahead of me, where they continued their discussion, screeching and chirping along.  My husband and guys in the neighborhood know how to find their nests and snatch them when they are young, before they grow feathers, and then they become household pets.

The same day I saw the parakeets, at my suegro’s (in laws) house, someone pointed out an exotic looking bird high up in a tree across the street.  After a short moment, we realized they were Toucans!

They were of the more simple colored variety, black and white with an orange beak.   My suegra (mother in law) said this is very unusual in “these modern days” to see them where they live.  They were very high up in the trees, and we saw at least 2 of them darting around, if not 3.   As I finish writing this, the sun is almost setting, and the symphony of chirping has quieted down to an occasional chirp or peep.  The excited activity lasts for maybe 45 minutes, like a “Happy Hour” for the birds, and then its time to find a perch or return to the nest for the night.  Good Night, all.

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:

THEY INTERACT WITH THEM!

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.

Visitors   2 comments

It’s that time of year again…now that rainy season is in full swing, signs of life begin to emerge.   We inaugurate the  new “winter” season in El Salvador – which compares more to spring in temperate climates, with plants bursting green everywhere  – with a visit from some friends who emerged from the foliage.

I was literally sitting on the toilet the other day, when in marched Mr. Walking Stick, not in the least concerned I was already in the bathroom.   Unable to move, I was grateful to see him on the other side of the bathroom, heading for refuge behind the trash can.

A day later, shortly after blowing my hair out, I spied a strange object on the corner of the dresser mirror.

Was he there the whole time or did he just wiggle his way up there?

What's that on the mirror?

Hey, weren't you in the bathroom the other day?

Yep - it's Mr. Walking Stick again

CLICK to enlarge Green visitor

Either coming as a voyeur or looking a makeover, I didn’t mind visits from Mr. Stick.

Returning home late evening this same day, what do I find on the pot we use to heat water every day, but a bright, green…

This visitor was a bit more intrusive.  Luckily I found it before my husband, as I have learned over the past year or more that Salvadorans are DEATHLY afraid of caterpillars.   Who knew?  And us Americans, we think they are soooooo cute.

Almost everyone I know from El Salvador says ‘eek’ when seeing a ‘gusano’ or even mentioning one.  On a walk with a friend the other day, we passed a small tree / bush that had been cut or fallen partially into the street.  She screamed, hopping over the branches, and dashing ahead. “Ewwww, gusanos!” she said.   I took a look.  In fact, there was a gathering.  And they were gorgeous, with bright colors like yellow, black and red.  Their fear is not irrational:  caterpillars here can give a smart sting, so they learn quick as children ‘Don’t Touch!’

Rain or Drought   Leave a comment

This photo called 'Dry Season' by Cordelia Mclellan, is a perfect depiction of how it looks in El Salvador during dry season - yellow, brown, dry and cracking except for a few trees and plants in between like the bougainvilleas. CLICK to see more photos by this photographer

The rain finally came.  We were off on a day trip to Citala, El Salvador, a town near the border of Honduras, when it happened.

The last time it rained anywhere near us was in the middle of November, a short storm, while we slept.  For 5 months now, it’s been ‘dry dry dry’.    Not a single drop of rain.

Moments before the shower the air was pregnant with moisture.  Thick and heavy, it felt like a giant had crouched down, breathing on us in the little tourist town.  The sky finally broken open and bled out is long awaited rain.   The bursting, breaking, cracking open, wonderful release was felt by everyone.  We walked in it, on our way back to the bus, at the end of our day trip, to return home.

From diary entry – April 3, 2010

Fluffy Tail insect looks just like a seed – with legs!   7 comments

Ok, I am an insect gweeb – who knew?   After years of yardless urban living in New England, now that I have a yard/garden, and in El Salvador to boot, I’ve become fascinated with “critters”.  I was sitting at the patio yesterday, and decided to check in on the chile plant.  We planted several types, in hopes of some seeds germinating – Chile Anaheim, Guaco, Chile de Arbol, Ciruela, and this one sprouted – we’re not sure which yet, but I’m thinking Anaheim.While examining the plant, I saw a seed clinging to the chile.   And then it moved.   Hey, that fluffy stuff is attached to… what??No, it’s not a seed, it’s… an insect!   With a fluffy butt.

( Click Pics to see LARGE images..)

After some research, it appears this little guy is a  Passion Vine Hopper Nymph.   I don’t think he’s a woolly aphid.

Multi-Colored aqua and yellow Leaf-hopper El Salvador   3 comments

Moments after I see a passion vine hopper nymph (curious insect with a fluffy white tail), on the same plant I spot a multi-colored leaf-hopper.   I’d seen small green leaf-hoppers in the past.   They have a funny v-shaped physique, with the bulk of their body at their head and shoulders, narrowing out smaller part towards their tail.  They hop off of you when you touch them.

So this leaf hopper was a “tropical colored” one.  And about 2-3 times larger than your typical small, green, northern north american leaf hopper, I’d say 3/4 of an inch long.

The pictures don’t do him as much justice as seeing him live in person.  The greyish-blue areas seen in the pictures were more of a blue-green aqua color, and you can see the yellow of course.  He also sported a reddish color, in the middle of his back, in between the two wings.   CLICK the pic to ENLARGE.    This guy is just g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s.

Large Spider – Tarantula’s cousin? ( El Salvador )   8 comments

This not-so-little friend was walking along the wall of the back patio one night, not long after I had first moved to El Salvador.  I called out to my husband, who immediately grabbed the broom.  In a dramatic moment, I saved Spidey’s life: “Run, Spider, Run!” I yelled.  He escaped just before the broom slammed the wall, and my husband cursed me.  My in-laws insisted this spider was dangerous; they said though it doesn’t have a venomous bite, the web it weaves can poison animals that walk into it, like horses and cattle.  I scoured the internet everywhere to identify ‘poisonous webs’ or ‘venomous webs’ but could not find a thing.  Old Salvadoran wives tale, I say.

Date spotted:  November 2, 2009.  Species:  unknown.  Visit the Wonderful World of Insects in El Salvador Photo Gallery.   UPDATE:  according to one of our readers, this is known locally as a “horse spider.”  It appears to be a type of tarantula.

Hairy like a Tarantula, but not quite

Look how big this spider is

This spider is as big as hand!

What in Tarnation? (strange insects in El Salvador) – Dobsonfly!   2 comments

Just one more discovery in the world of strange insects in El Salvador.  It was resting on the wall of our bedroom and apparently had died a quiet death.  Since it was so darn big, I decided to document it with my niece Carmen, taking out the tape measure to illustrate.  Nearly 3 inches long without antennae.    Date spotted:  January 13, 2010.  Species:  unknown.   Visit the Wonderful World of Insects in El Salvador Photo Gallery.

Update:  It’s a Dobsonfly.  Special thanks to Kathy Mahler for her comment informing us who this insect is.  Based on photos, he appears to be a male.  And we were living near a river at that time, natural habitat for him.

strange insects in El Salvador 1 strange insects in El Salvador 2

Multi Horned Spiders – El Salvador   3 comments

Two multi-horned spiders, red and white.   Seen in Los Planes de Renderos, El Salvador, October 9, 2010.  Looks like “Spinybacked Orbweaver (Gasteracantha cancriformis)”  per photos on BugGuide.net.

See more at the Wonderful World of Insects in El Salvador Photo Gallery.

( CLICK to enlarge )

Butterfly – Orange and Big   Leave a comment

Large orange and brown butterfly with white spot on each wing.   Los Planes de Renderos, El Salvador, September 24, 2010.

See more at the Wonderful World of Insects in El Salvador Photo Gallery.

large orange and brown butterfly with white spot on each wing

Walking Stick ( of Phasmatodea or Phasmida family )   Leave a comment

It all started on the patio in September 2010 during rainy season,  Los Planes de Renderos, El Salvador.    My friend was visiting when I noticed something on the floor.

“Gee what is that?” I said to her.  “Wow, es un gran animal!” she said (it’s a big ‘animal’).    Holey Toledo, he IS big!   Look at the size of this guy.  That paper is over 6″ wide, so I estimate this walking stick insect is about 5 inches long, not including antennae.

walking stick, about 5 inches long. walking stick insect el salvador

An internet search yielded many photos resembling this walking stick in numerous geographical locations, from smaller versions in the continental U.S. to ones 6-8″ long in Puerto Rico, and sticks in Peru and Madagascar.    They belong to a family of insects called Phasmids, known for camouflage capabilities. This is the 3rd major insect I have seen with camouflage capabilities in El Salvador, the other two are a leaf-backed grasshopper called an “Esperanza” in Spanish, and a leaf-backed Praying Mantis.   Fascinating stuff.

The Day the Music Died   2 comments

It occurred to me a couple days ago, when I was suddenly aware of dead silence.  Ah, that’s what it is, I thought – the Cicadas have stopped singing.  Initially only morning and later afternoon, but as time went on they sang all day long, deafening at times.

They sing throughout El Salvador for about 6 weeks, wane out, and if any are left by rainy season, the soggy stamps them out.

A peculiar experience during Cicada season happens when you drive past an area where many are singing.  Something to do with the speed or movement of the car alters their sound so from inside the car it sounds like airplanes landing.

He may be Poor, but…he’s got the coolest birds and plants around   6 comments

sabas humble home of corrugated metalMy neighbor Sabas may be poor, but he’s got the coolest flower and fauna around.

Here are his digs, a humble house of corrugated metal.  He sells firewood for a living, a scarce commodity in this area.   But don’t feel sorry for him – he doesn’t want your sympathy.   He’s happy have his good health to collect firewood, and he is OLD!   (Seventy-something.  A lot of very old people are seen working throughout El Salvador, but the good news is they’re in much better health than Westerners their age).

Most afternoons you’ll see Sabas stroll down main street with a caretilla (cart) filled with the day’s wood findings, while gleeful upper-class Salvadoran tourists skip along the other side, deciding which bar to thrown down a couple of beers at and enjoy the view on the “Mirador” side of the mountain*.

palm seed pods

Thanks to Hermano Juancito I was able to find this plant’s name: heliconia rostrata.   For amateur botanists, check out National Botanical Tropical Garden.

Does it get any better than this?   A Torogoz, the national bird of El Salvador, hangs out in his backyard every day.

Photo by Ruben Quinonez. Visit http://www.quinonezphotography.com

* El Mirador is one of two major tourist stops in Los Planes de Renderos (San Salvador), El Salvador.  This viewpoint is GORGEOUS both day and night.

The other hot spot is the Puerta del Diablo (Devil’s Gate) on the other side of the mountaintop, also with fantastic views.  The area is popular with young couples for ‘romantic jaunts’ but also with families on weekends, who like to enjoy the cooler climate, drink Atol de Elote (sweet corn drink), and eat Riguas and Tortas (pancake-like treats made out of cornmeal).

Have you ever seen the Rain?   2 comments

The song “Have you ever seen the Rain” by CCR rings in my head as I write this.   Most of you reading this probably come from a temperate climate where rain or snow falls year-round, albeit heavy at certain times in spring or winter.

To illustrate what it’s like here in El Salvador, which is essentially “black or white” in terms of rainfall (6 months on, 6 months off), I quote from a diary entry written this time a year ago.

It hasn’t rained here, literally one drop, in months (last rain was an evening in November), and though the river is much lower, there’s still enough to swim in, bathe in, or wash clothes, so we are lucky.  Our river is the Metayate river, and at least two upstream water sources flow into it.  Further up the road, in Agua Caliente, only one source feeds their ‘river’ which has now dwindled into a trickling brook, algae forming in shallow pockets everywhere.

Because the water in our river is moving so slowly, a strange juxtaposition of temperatures within create odd sensations.   While swimming, in one moment you are moving through a layer of very warm water within the top 2 feet, but moving below this or towards the periphery, one encounters a sudden ‘cold flash’.   The water has cooled at night by a large drop in temperature, and as the current is not moving enough new water, nor swiftly enough, those patches stay cool even after mid-day. – Saturday, March 13, 2010

For someone not accustomed to living in a country with a “rainy season” or a “dry season,” not seeing a drop of water fall from the sky for months on end feels most peculiar.

Hummingbird Sits Still / El colibrí se queda quieto   Leave a comment

I looked at our “Lima” orange tree today to see the tiniest of birds hidden amongst the branches.  ‘What is that little bird?’  I wondered until I got closer and saw it’s our little hummingbird.  He comes by daily, usually morning or late afternoon, always flitting along so quickly by the time I grab the camera he’s sucked the sap out of the flowers and whizzed away to the next tree.  But today…

he sat quietly, completely still, and if not for his long little snout, I would not have recognized him.

Song of the Cicada (Chicharra, Cigarra – El Salvador)   2 comments

Cicadas* are singing in Los Planes de Renderos.  Depending in which ‘microclimate’ you live, you can hear these or other ‘singing bugs’ certain times of the year.   They were singing when we returned from Chalatenango a few days ago, and have continued their evening and morning song since.

Photo by Claudia Zelayandia on Flickr.

* commonly called “Chicharra” or “Cigarra” in El Salvador

Poor little Tacuazin   1 comment

For months now I’ve heard the name “Tacuazin” (tah-kwah-seen) mentioned plenty of times, but never saw one.  I figured it was a weasel from the way it was described, but alas, it’s simply an opossum.  And apparently, El Salvador is full of so many they are considered a pest or a nuisance, much like raccoons back home.

Photo by Rafael Menjivar Ochoa

I alerted my husband and ran back to the kitchen with him.  Here, he says, and hands me the “Corba,” a type of machete.  My face turned into a question mark.   I found the little guy behind the fridge and tried to “shush” him out the kitchen, while my husband yelled from behind “kill him!” in Spanish.  “Nooooo!”  I replied.  The tacuazin started making its way out of the kitchen, but not fast enough.  My husband grabbed the broom and I screamed “Don’t kill him!”   BAM!   I let out a yelp and dashed to other side of the patio.

I’ll never forget the look of agony on the poor little guy’s face; his mouth wide open in a silent scream, and he was looking right at me.   Oh gawd!   He looked something like this before the matanza (massacre), only much smaller:

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