Friday, October 17, 2008

Lessons from El Salvador, Part I

Well, it didn't take long to accumulate my first set of lessons from El Salvador -- this place may be tiny, but it offers a lot to learn. :)

1. El Salvadorian border officials are infinitely more helpful and trustworthy than those found on the Guatemalan side.

2. US dollar bills are extremely boring and the coins insubstantial and lifeless after other Central American currency.

3. Not only is riding (standing) in the back of the pickup truck more fun than riding in the cab, it can also be a heck of a lot more comfortable, depending on the truck's shocks (or, more commonly, lack thereof). Just remember to keep your mouth closed at all times (and if you absolutely must sing, stand with your back to the direction of travel to avoid swallowing too many bugs).

4. Attempting to ride uphill on a steep, gravelly dirt road on a mountain bike that's un poco frenada -- in other words, is constantly braking because the front wheel is crooked and rubs against the brake pads -- is just as difficult as it sounds; i.e., practically impossible. (And that was the "good" bike!)

5. Mosquito bites last longer if you scratch them -- it's not worth it.

6. Always make sure you know exactly what the deal is before you agree.

7. Conversations that are difficult in English can be even more difficult in Spanish, but can sometimes be easier in a bizarre way -- if you don't know how to say things subtly, you have to just come straight out and bluntly say what you mean, which can be more effective in the end.

8. Despite Lesson 7... Attempting to explain to a Latin man that he needs to learn to respect women and their desires (or lack thereof), and that when a woman asys "no" it means "no", can be a fruitless and frustrating exercise -- but good practice, especially when you have to repeat yourself several times a day.

9. When your mind and your heart are somewhere other than where your body is, it's time to move on.

10. Never leave a country after visiting only one place -- not all of El Salvador is Tacuba (or any other town, for that matter).

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