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.
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!
* 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.