Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Eventful day – ATM card awol, road crew sequester, & the ZOO!   6 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.

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.

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).

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.

Parakeets! (Pericos)   Leave a comment

My brother-in-law Gito brought back 3 baby parakeets to the house around mid-day.  He took them from their nest, which looks more like a mud-igloo if you’ve every seen it.   Many houses in El Salvador in the country and some in the city have a parakeet (called a “perico” in Spanish) as a pet.

Pericos are funny looking when born.  They have no feathers, and look bald, naked and a bit ugly.   When their feathers do come in at first they are grey, and later, green ones come in.

Parakeets in El Salvador live in nests which they rob from the insect world.  They take over the nest of the comején.which is a type of termite.  My husband says they call the nest a “tarchinohl”  (not sure of spelling and for the life of me I cannot find this Spanish word anywhere, so it’s either Nahuatl and we can’t spell it right or some local Indian word, but definitely where my husband is from that’s the phonetic name for the nest).

My niece and mother-in-law feed them with corn meal mixed with water.

 

 

In a bucket with a peat-moss type flooring, with a towel on top mimics the warmth of the nest.

 

 


born bald and naked their heads look the funniest

 

 

See green feathers sprouting. Younger parakeet still so young he looks naked.

 

 

Here Carmen feeds him corn meal with water

 

picture of comejenParakeets in El Salvador take over termite nests to use as homes. Photo from JardinBotanicoMoyobamba.com

 

"hey, who stole my clothes!". Click for PBS page: Odyssey

 

 

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