Saturday, May 16, 2009

4/14/09 San Cristobal, El Salvador

Sitting in a cell-like 8x10 room in a Salvadoran family’s home on the El Salvador/Guatemala border. Rain beating down hard on the tin roof, and I’m definitely getting bitten by mosquitos. Should start this entry from yesterday, when I was still in Antigua and when I climbed up Volcan Pacaya which is probably the coolest thing I’ve gotten to do on this trip so far. Got up at the hostal and had breakfast and the day begins well when I actually convinced Nancy to go out with me when I return El Salvador and Honduras. I decide to go with a group for once and not take the bike out to the volcano myself. I figure I should do this with a guide who will keep me out of the lava and stuff like that. I book a shuttle for 7 bucks round trip and leave my bag in a locker. This information becomes relevant later. After an hour and a half ride through alternating sunshine and thunderstorms we arrive at the base of the volcano. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking here, but suffice it to say, it was pretty cool seeing flowing lava for the first time, and getting close enough to it to roast marshmallows (we really did this). On the way up the volcano I struck up conversation with a pretty, athletic Norwegian girl named Marta. I happened to have been where she went to school in Oslo for a few days a couple of years ago so between talking about far away and farmiliar places and the fact that she just graduated law school, we had plenty to talk about. We hit it off well enough to meet up for dinner later after the hike. We met up in the Central Park and she looked great. Had a late dinner of massive tuna fish sandwiches, fries, beer and coffee at a restaurant called Kafka and the conversation continued to flow. She is working with an NGO which is helping the women of Guatemala fight for basic human rights at the moment and will be in Guatemala for another month. I walked her back home and we made plans to meet after I returned from Honduras. Neither of us had a pen, paper, cellphone or any way to make sure we stay in contact so we just promised to meet up at the same spot on Monday at 8:00pm. I know she thinks I may not show up but I’m gonna be there for sure. Walk home feeling pretty good after a great day and stop back off to get my backpack where I left it earlier. It was 11 at night and I woke the guy there up but he assured me it was ok. When I looked at my change after I left from when I gave him 5 quetzals for the rental, I realized he took 20. I heard him mention something about 20 earlier but I thought he needed change, not that he arbitrarily decided to quadruple his locker rental fee. He only overcharged me 2 bucks but it’s the principal and frankly I’m pretty tired of paying “gringo tax” on stuff. I decided to be more on top of things like this and to stop by the hostal to talk to the guy on my way to catch the bus to El Salvador. So I wake up, tell Nancy I’ll see her when I get back (damn she looks good!) and head to the bus terminal. But first I stop by the hostal where I got jipped last night. I talk to a guy there who is pretty cool and remembers me from he day before. He says the owner is a cheap bastard and he doesn’t like him at all and gets in touch with him for me. Over the phone, the hostal owner says he doesn’t remember anything from last night. The guy working there relays me the message and says I can wait an hour for him to get back or come back in 5 days when I return from Honduras. For 2 bucks. I’ve got a bus to catch and I don’t have time for this shit, and I don’t want to deal with this when I get back or at any other time. So I do something really out of character. I go over to the guy’s shelf of movies, grab a couple, and call it even in my mind. Kind of childish and petty, but fuck that guy. At the bus terminal I grab a chicken bus to Guatemala City 15 miles away. It takes an hour and a half. Then I catch a bus to the border. It’s about 80 miles away and between all the stops and the bus breaking down and me having to catch the next one, the trip takes 5 HOURS. Not only that, I’m also overcharged again, 2 bucks. I gotta stop getting nickled and dimed man! I reach the El Salvador border where you don’t even have to stamp your passport in and out but I do it anyway because I think the stamps are cool. On the Salvadoran side I get a long lecture from a lady in scrubs and a mask about pig flu and whether I have it and what to do if I feel sick. I walk into El Salvador at 7 at night and realize I can’t catch a bus until the morning 50 miles away to San Salvador. So I’m resigned to staying in this beat up and shady border town until the morning. For the first time on this trip, I’m definitely the only foreigner in sight. I’m feeling like I should have just paid a little extra and taken a luxury bus and been in San Salvador in 4 hours. Instead I’m stuck here and get a room at a family’s house for 5 bucks (it’s easily the worst place I’ve stayed, see pics) and get a meal for 2 bucks which makes me feel a little ill. The official money of El Salvador is not colones anymore, it’s the American dollar which is cool, cause I don’t have to do any mental conversions to find out how much I’m really spending. So now I’m finishing writing this and am about to take a shower. There is no shower here though, but there is a raging thunderstorm going on and a major leak in the hallway roof. Welcome to El Salvador!

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