El Salvador Part III


We’re back in the pickup heading back to San Vincente and on to Nic’s place. On the way, while hanging off the back with his feet on the bumper and sending text messages, Nic explained the situation between him, Jeanine and Wendell. Wendell and Jeanine were in the process of splitting up, and both agreed to the divorce so there were good feelings all around. Nic and Wendell were still good friends. Nic had been worried that we might think he was having an affair with a married woman. Nic forgot we lived through the 70’s when it was shameful if you weren’t!

A seat became available as we talked but I was unaware of nothing but the strange things Nic was doing with his lips. They were pursed and seemed to be pointing. This turns out to be Salvadorans often do when you ask for directions. For example, if you pass their table and ask for the bathroom, they’d purse their lips in the direction of the toilet. The movement is so subtle that at first Nic thought they were just ignoring him.

I think we transferred to another bus in San Vincente and on to San Miguel where we got the bus to to Nic’s site, San Juan. San Juan must be the patron saint of ugly dusty villages. At least it would give him a following, as there are probably tons of these in el Sal. San Juan may be one of the most in need of something, anything at all, that isn’t ugly and dusty, and gotten to by means of an axle busting dirt road that crosses several creeks, dry now but flowing in the rainy season so sometimes you just can’t get through.

The chicken bus that serves this route is the ugliest one I’ve seen. Not a drop of chrome, the seats badly torn and the stuffing long since worn. The hour and a half ride is only $1.00, which under the circumstances explains the condition of the unit. There’s a sign that says, “We’ll be serving you until Jesus comes.” The buses en el Sal (as well as all of Central America) are full of Jesus things. Apparently there are some Jehovah’s witnesses around, as I saw some references to Jehovah. These are my favorite, because of the way Jehovah sounds in Spanish: “Hey ova.”

Chickens scurry, pigs snort, and a herd of cows walks in the middle of the road as we arrive, only grudgingly moving to the side. It’s a short walk past the town hall, a recently completed structure without windows, which is the case with most of the houses here. Several people were painting it as we walked past. Everyone stopped to greet Nic. The kids were especially fond to see him, but everyone greeted him with great warmth, a warmth that contrasted with the dust and trash and dreary concrete huts we passed.

Nic’s concrete house is located off the road. You have to pass through two yards. His landlord lives in one, just 30 feet away. Ramon is in his 40’s, married to his second wife Lucy, who is 19. She’s round faced and round everything else, both friendly and reserved simultaneously. They have a 5 or 6 year old named Marvin (pronounced ‘Mar- VEEN’). Marveen, Lucy and Ramon bath openly in the back yard. There are chickens running everywhere. There’s a pig behind Nic’s place. Nothing but dirt in the yard. It must be awful in the wet season, but even now the smell us unpleasant. My ‘guests’ don’t seem to like it much, but at least Nic and Ramon have flush toilets. Nic’s is permanently clogged, though it does eventually drain. Good, because although I feel better, my friendlies are not ready to leave quite yet.

Nic has a shower. There’s hot water for about 10 seconds because the pipes cross the hot roof. Since it’s about 80 degrees F, the cold water is tolerable. The gray concrete floors and walls don’t exactly make your bathing experience something to be savored, but at least you can get clean.

When he moved in Nic did some painting. There’s a cow with the saying, “La Vaca Sabe” beneath. If no one knows the answer here, they say, ‘the cow knows.’

Nic never has to cook when he’s in San Juan. People are always feeding him. Because he’s very slender he’s an object of concern. Salvadorans are rather plump by choice (can’t blame it on the automobile here!). The first night we are at Ramon’s. I think we had papusas, which are always served with ‘cortido,’ a vinegary coleslaw. They were good as papusas go but I am already sick of them and the ‘guests’ agree. They’re happy, I’m happy, they’re not, neither am I.

On Sunday we took the 6 am bus to San Miguel. Nic has to appear on the English teaching radio show. After Nic went off Peg and I had breakfast at ‘Comedor a la Vista.’ They Comedor offers freshly made papusas from their sidewalk grill but Peg and I took the guests inside. Me and my guests wanted more of the delicious stew. Their coffee is brewed but like everywhere we’ve been so far, they don’t have milk. It’s cremora instead, and this turned out to be the case everywhere. But breakfast for two costs a mere $4.00, a third or less of what you’d have to spend in the US, and it’s very good!

By the time Nic was done and we walked to the bus station, we found that the last bus for San Juan leaves at 10:30 on Sunday. This meant we’d have to walk home from the main road, an hour on the shorter of the two routes. Nic says if anyone comes along they’ll give you a ride. We walked the entire way without seeing anyone. Fortunately it was not too terribly hot, and only a few hills are steep. It actually felt good, although doing that walk once was enough on that barren, dusty route.

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