Sunday, July 18, 2010

Busy, busy

Time is a-flyin'.  I can't believe we've almost been here for two months already.  Here's a little recap of life in the past 2 weeks.  After July 4th, I started back at work with a bang - meeting at 4am!  It was, in a word, horrible.  I wasn't the only one that was tired, though, so, at least I felt like I could commiserate with my coworkers.  That being said, I'm not doing that again.  The early morning set the tone for the rest of the week, unfortunately.  To make matters a tad bit worse, I must have touched some poison ivy while in the woods, because, I got a pretty wicked blister on my leg from it.  I would post a picture, but, it's a little too gross.  It was the size of a quarter in diameter and pretty tall - it's only now starting to disappear.

The week ended with a bang - toga party at the marine house for one of the marines who was leaving.  My famed truck sheets from my childhood hadn't arrived yet, so, I was forced to wear stylish-but-boring-with-high-thread-count white striped sheets.  I didn't win the toga contest, which, maybe was a blessing, since that meant that the pictures of me in a toga didn't make it into the embassy newsletter.  On Saturday, Sophie, a friend, and I went to Playa Sunzal.  The weather was great as we sipped beers and ate shrimp while watching surfers do their thing.  Then, at the end of our meal and right before we were planning on laying on the beach, the torrential rains came.  Oh well - such is life in El Salvador.  Beautiful days that fade into rain showers.  The beach is pretty close to San Salvador, though, so, 45 minutes later we were back in San Salvador.

This past week was a stark contrast.  Work was great, and we got all of our stuff and our curtains on Wednesday, the day before our first visitors were supposed to arrive.  We're now awash in stuff.  We brought almost everything with us - maybe we'd seen The Day After Tomorrow a few too many times, because if El Salvador ever has some days close to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, I'll be ready with my down jacket.  I pity the fools who aren't prepared.  Seriously, though, I have no idea how our stuff used to fit in our place in DC.

Our first visitors arrived in San Salvador on Friday!  One of them was supposed to get in on Thursday night, but, she missed her flight from Buenos Aires (it runs in her family).  Everything worked out, though, and yesterday we took a trip to, supposedly, one of the best pupusarias in the area and got some amazing pupusas.  10 pupusas, 3 bottles of water, and a beer for $7 - can't beat that.  After the pupusas, we lazed around before eating dinner and heading out to a friend's place for drinks and dancing.  The club was fun - a nice mix of American club music and hispanic club music.

Today, we dropped our friends off at Lago de Coatepeque - a gorgeous crater lake west of San Salvador.  It is really pretty - sorry I don't have pictures.  Their hostel has a dock on the water with hammock chairs and other great amenities.  It's also right next to a restaurant on the water which was full of Salvadorans enjoying their Sunday.  One interesting part of the restaurant was the 'pool', which was really a large rectangular hole in the dock where you could swim with a wooden floor.  Very interesting.  We had a great lunch there before renting Jetskis for 30 minutes.  Awesome.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

4th of July in El Imposible

The embassy had their 4th of July party last Friday. There were a lot of people there - Americans and Salvadorans. Sophie had to work the ID line at the North Gate for an hour and a half. She says it wasn't too bad - unlike some other (State) people, who had to work the VIP line. One of Sophie's coworkers got yelled at by a Salvadoran because the important Salvadoran in the car didn't want to show his ID and she didn't recognize him as a VIP. ¡Qué lástima! It was an interesting little party, complete with American companies who had business in El Salvador. The food was a big tented area with mostly American company food - I had some Papa John's pizza and a Nathan's hot dog, washing that down with Sam Adams. You'd never guess that we were in another country.

That is, of course, until we arrived in Tacuba the next day for our hike in El Imposible - one of the best national parks in the country. It's a 2.5 hour drive from here and is close to the ocean and Guatemala. We stayed at a hostel called Mama y Papas. The hostel was very nice - it had a courtyard area with ducks, parakeets, and even a baby armadillo. The food they made was also awesome, and relatively cheap. The other travelers there were also a fun bunch. We had an older couple from New Jersey who were in El Salvador to have dental work done (1/5 the cost of the States) and two Canadians on a 2 month vacation before going back to school.

The next day, we left the hostel with Manolo (the son of Mama and Papa) on our hike in El Imposible. We rode in the back of a pickup truck for about twenty minutes through some other small, mountain towns. It was a fun experience. We started the hike on the top of a ridge where we had a great view of the valley below and a distant volcano. We started by going down through some coffee fields for about an hour before arriving in the park. The coffee fields are pretty - the plants are very waxy and they are all arranged into square areas surrounded by sturdier trees. The sturdier trees act as a wind break so that the beans don't fall down before they can be picked.

We hiked for another 4 hours through thick jungle-ish forest, seeing eagles, turkeys, other birds, and insects along the way. The guide cut a 'mangrove of the mountains' fruit in half and used it to put flower imprints on everyone's shirt sleeve. The design looked similar to the Lotus paddling company's logo. The trail was pretty overgrown - we had a person in the front knocking stuff down with his machete. It was great.

After 5 hours of hiking, we arrived at a huge waterfall that had a big pool at the bottom. We all went for a swim with some muchacos that arrived there at the same time. The pool had a lot of large logs in it, so, we had a grand time paddling around on the logs, trying to stay upright. The temperature was perfect, the weather was beautiful - it was paradise.

Then came the hike out. The hike out only took 2 hours. The first hour was straight up the side of the mountain. I was pretty glad that it wasn't raining because that would have been pretty scary. It was good, though. The guide didn't hike too fast and stopped a lot. Eventually we reached a dirt road and walked on that for 30-45 minutes before arriving at the truck. It was a great trip, although I probably could have done without feeling saddle sore from sitting on the side of the truck bed! Dinner that night was also delicious.

The Canadian couple was going to the beach the next day, so, we decided to give them a ride there. We took the Ruta de las Flores to the beach, which took about 2.5 hours. Along the way, we bought a sweet hammock chair and got a little lost in Sonsonate. We got to El Zonte, a small village on the coast, and dropped off the Canadians at El Dorado, a Québécois owned surf hostel. The waves were huge, but the beach was beautiful - even though there was little sand there - mostly rocks.

It was a great holiday weekend that, unfortunately, ended when I had to wake up at 4am to lead sprint planning for my development team. Haven't quite recovered from that yet!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Independence Celebrations!

This week started out with a lot of rain. Very hard and very strong for the beginning of the week. But, now, it's gorgeous, if not a little hot. When I say hot, though, I don't mean DC hot. I hear Tennessee and DC have been having hot days, and that must suck. In El Salvador, 90 degrees is a hot day. It's normally between 75-85. Today it's 90. It's the perfect day to sit by our pool. Ok -- enough of that.

Does anyone know when Canada Day is? Well, if you must know, it's on July 1st. I will never forget this because we went to a Canadian Embassy Canada Day celebration at an art museum... a day early. We didn't know many people going, so, we got to the museum and didn't see the car of the person who we knew that was going. So, we did what any aspiring diplomat would do... we decided to drive around for 10-15 minutes until they got there. After said time, we sent a text to our friend asking when the party was and then entered the museum. We were directed to a theatre, where a French movie with Spanish subtitles was being shown. Odd, but, Québécois speak French, so, what the hell. After we sat down, we got a text from our friend saying it was at 7... the next day. ¡Qué lástima! So, we went last night. It was fun. The museum had a lot of Inuit art on display. We then had dinner at a restaurant attached to different art museum. ¡Qué rico!

Tonight is the US embassy Independence Day party -- should be a good time. Voy a chupar mucha cerveza y voy a emborracharme. Not really, but, it's fun to use slang, isn't it? I'm looking forward to it.

We're going to be spending this Independence Day weekend going to El Imposible National Park, where we're going to frolic in the woods and play under some waterfalls. This is our first solo trip out of San Salvador, so, we're really looking forward to it. We have some visitors coming soon, so, we need to get out there and find out what else there is to do outside of the city!


Soccer! Last weekend, we watched the US lose to Ghana. At the time, I think I was definitely wrapped up in the US advancing, but, as time goes on, really, we didn't deserve to go on. I will say it is the first time I've ever watched anything in a TGI Fridays -- who knew that I'd be watching the US play in the world cup in a TGI Friday's in San Salvador? It was still a fun game to watch, and all the other games have been fun to watch. The games today were especially entertaining. Brasil's spectacular self-destruction and man was Ghana robbed! I've never seen a game where a team was poised to score TWO goals in the last seconds of time. Poor Ghana. Oh well -- they'll be back in 4 years with an even better team.

Many people have asked if people are soccer crazy here. I'm sure they are, but, I haven't seen anything that is different from, say, people excited for the super bowl. At the mall, there are tons of people with Brasil or Argentina jerseys on. No one here cheered for Honduras -- there's a history of disputes between the two countries, including a war that was sparked (not caused) by a world cup qualifying game. Everyone is interested in what's going on though, so, it's fun to be in the know. I'm really looking forward to the Argentina/Germany game tomorrow (if I can watch it)!