Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Continuing On

It's hard to believe we've already been here for 4 weeks! Crazy! So far, so good. Work is going well for me, and Sophie has been able to go on a lot of site visits. She was supposed to go on a helicopter ride last weekend, but, there were too many people for the helicopter, so, alas, she had to settle for scuba diving again. ¡Qué lástima! We finally got our car last Thursday and it's been pretty nice to be able to drive around. On Saturday, we went to the lake again and discovered that our camera was lost/stolen. We accidentally left a bag at the lake the week before and we got the bag back, but, no camera. No pictures were lost, but, sucks... We returned to the same spot from the previous weekend, but this time we saw a ton of little catfish -- very cool. We got to do a nitrox dive, which means you have more oxygen than normal air in order to stave off the bends. The tanks were only at 25% oxygen, though (normal air is 21%). If we were really doing a nitrox dive, it'd be up around 36% oxygen. Oh well.

On Sunday, we drove up to El Boquerón, which is the crater for the San Salvador volcano, which is really close to our house. Getting there should have been easy, but, we managed to find our way onto a half-finished divided highway which abrubtly ended without warning. So, not only did we have to drive the wrong way down the highway (which no one was on), but, we also found a good place to go running, if you like nice big roads with absolutely no traffic. El Boquerón is very pretty -- they've planted a ton of gorgeous plants at the top of the crater and you have some great vistas into the crater itself. We grabbed a bite to eat at a random, out of the way restaurant that was situated on the edge of the crater. We contemplated hiking down the 1600 vertical feet to the bottom of the crater, but, we'll save that for another day. On our way back into town, Sophie bought a few more plants for our place and then we ate at a great restaurant with a nice view of the city.

This week has been pretty busy, or, at least, it has felt busy. I don't know how many of you watched the US v. Algeria world cup game but good god, it was awesome. I was glad that my neighbors didn't knock on my door after my piercing scream after we scored the goal to break the deadlock 2 minutes into stoppage time! Wow! Can't wait for the game on Saturday!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Santa Ana Volcano & Diving

Last weekend, we went hiking starting at Cerro Verde heading up the to the summit of Santa Ana. We went with our social sponsors and a friend they had met from the Peace Corps. We were aiming to get there at 11, because that's when the guides with escorts leave, but, along the way, we had the sidewall of the tire of their Rav4 blowout. What is it with us and road trips in Rav4s? We changed the tire and put on the partially deflated spare tire. We got to the mountain at around 11:15 and were able to find some guides (the police :) ). We started out the hike going through the woods in a mist of a cloud. Once we left the forest, it started to clear up a little bit. At some point, we got above treeline and were surrounded by small shrubs and crazy cacti. We had a great view of el Volcán Izalco, which is a very new volcano that sprang up over the course of 200 years ending in 1958. (We'll hike that later). The top of the Santa Ana volcano was pretty cool -- very moon-ish, probaby due to the sulphuric smell of the place -- I dunno. There was a lot of fog, so, we were unable to look into the caldera of the volcano, but, apparently there is a lake up there as well. Our hike down seemed pretty quick. It was a gorgeous day going through lots of different climates -- very cool. In all, the hike took around 4 hours. On our ride back to El Salvador, we saw a lot of road bikers riding along the Pan American highway between San Salvador and Santa Ana. We'll have to try that soon.

When we got back to San Salvador, we went to a 30th birthday party for some new friends from the Embassy. The embassy life is kind of like college, if you want it to be. Plenty of great reasons to grab a few beers. We played some rounds of Thumper and flip cup before retiring for the night early, due to diving.

We caught a ride to Lago de Ilopango for another day of diving at 6:40am. Yikes! The weather wasn't quite as nice as our first day diving, but, the dive site was pretty sweet. Our dives were around an island in the middle of a lake that barely sticks out above the water and has a cross on top of it (and another at 25'). We saw more fish this time and more crabs. This was our deep dive for the advanced certification -- 100'! Unfortunately, neither Sophie nor I got narced. Overall, the diving was pretty good - the ocean still has more stuff to see, but, getting out and going underwater is pretty fun.

Work this week has been pretty good. I can't complain. Soccer every Monday is pretty nice. Last night we got pupusas with some of Sophie's Salvadoran coworkers -- que rico!

Pictures from the past few weeks!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Working from Home

Working from home is going surprisingly well. It's a little quiet with no one here, of course. Yesterday I forgot to eat until 3pm in the afternoon. It's pretty easy for me to get absorbed in what I'm doing and just not think about getting up. It's pretty terrible, really. It's definitely nice working with a bunch of great people who I have gotten to be good friends with over the past year and a half.

One thing that sucks about working from home, though, is that you never leave work. I have this terrible habit of just getting into something and spending way more time on it than necessary because I get into it. In DC, at some point Sophie would call, wondering where I was and I'd head on out. However, here, work is 15' away. Kinda scary.

Last night we went to a pretty awesome restaurant in Zona Rosa. Ceviche and ceviche-ish fish sticks for appetizers, tuna for Sophie and some delicious fish for me. Our friends had ox tail - not sure if that was a good choice or not - I didn't try any. The place reminded me of dinners out in DC with Chu and Beth - the feeling that what you're eating is probably nicer than you should be eating. haha.

The weekend is almost upon us. We'll be hiking up the highest volcano in El Salvador on Saturday before heading to a party. On Sunday, we're planning on diving in Lake Ilopango again. Fun stuff!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Diving in a Crater Lake

Sophie and I signed up for an advanced open water class with one of the marines. Our first day of diving (and probably all of our days...) was in Lake Ilopango - a lake formed in the 5th century by a massive explosion. The lake is big and beautiful. We dove around an island in the lake, which was fun, but, not the greatest amount of marine diversity. Next time, I think we're going to go to a dive site that has some vents in it -- so, you can feel the hot water. Should be pretty awesome.

Much to my chagrin, I got thoroughly burned, even though I had put on sunscreen -- but only once. On the way back, the van we were in had it's transmission go out, so, we got lucky and hitched a ride with the divemaster back to our place.

Once we got back, we sat by our pool and read before heading to the embassy luau party. Rough day in San Salvador!


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Estoy aprendiendo español

So, I've been taking language classes this week. 4 hours of class in the morning and then a private tutor in the afternoon. I've only done it for 2 days and I am completely exhausted. I did pseudo-well on the placement test, due in large part to me knowing how to conjugate, so, they put me in the advanced class. Yikes. They put me in an easier class today, so I am happy to not be scratching my head for hours as they go over the many tenses of the subjunctive mood with a bit of conditional thrown in for good measure. The school in the morning is pretty interesting -- they put a high value on learning about Salvadoran history and politics, which makes learning Spanish more interesting. It's not like high school where we read about el corregidor while my teacher tried to teach us how to say 'aquella' by holding a fake shotgun and cocking it while saying "I kay ya". Oh Señor McCall, how I miss thee.

All the pain of high school Spanish is coming back to me as I'm reminded that this stuff is hard! I just wrote a story about the future where I had to make sure that I used a sprinkling of present subjunctive where necessary. Let me know if you want to read this gem :) I may improve on my Spanish while here, but I am getting used to the fact that I will most likely still be a bumbling idiot after our tour -- although I'll be able to bumble more effectively.