From the moment I set off for my first solo trip to El Salvador, I knew this was going to be a challenge. The first time was an exploratory adventure. Internet doesn’t work? That’s okay, I’ll get to introduce myself to the person who fixes it! Food is unhealthy? That’s okay, I’m trying brand new cuisines! My phone doesn’t work? That’s okay, my managers phone works so he can set up all the transportation!
This trip. Oh this trip. El Salvador has destroyed me (to quote Lorna). The ability to work productively from a third world country has just worn me down. Turns out it is hard to get from Point A to Point B when your phone can’t make calls or send texts. Turns out it is hard to get work done when your wifi remains steadfast in it’s inability to connect to the network. Turns out it is hard to work when you literally do not speak the same language as everyone else.
Luckily, I only had to work for 2 days before the weekend arrived.
Lorna and I start off the weekend with dinner at my favorite establishment, Citron. Basically, the theme of the restaurant is “everything, including savory dishes, have a touch of sweetness”. Obviously, this is my favorite restaurant in the world. #sweettooth
After a few back and forth dialogues with the waiter (and a few sneaky glances at my Google Translate app), I find out the night’s special is tuna “as big as a chicken”, not to be confused with an actual chicken. I then begin the slow process of translating the menu. 10 minutes later, I suddenly remember the last time I was at Citron, I spoke English and read an English menu. I call the waiter over, and ask if he has a menu in English to which he responds “Claro que si!” #WHYDIDNTHEGIVEMETHATSOONER. I was kind of excited he thought I knew enough Spanish to warrant a Spanish menu, so I continue to speak to him in Spanglish for the rest of the evening. Essentially, I kept repeating “Uno mas mojito” and practiced saying “Can I get this to-go?” 8 times with my translation app before performing live with the waiter. I got the food to go and the night was a grand success.
After dinner, we head to the beach where Lorna and my romantic weekend begins. We party hard (well, the discotecha directly above our hotel room parties hard. Lorna and I go to bed at 10pm), and wake up early to enjoy the Salvadorian sun.
Our days consists of Lorna ignoring me for her much more entertaining book (which I initially stole while she was sleeping only to disappointedly discover I already read), me getting a sunburn, eating delicious ceviche, catching my first wave to shore on a boogie board, getting yelled at by some locals for swimming too far out (Los siento, no hablo Espanol actually applied!), and making our driver nervous by walking too far outside the fish market and pier.
We end the day playing 3 rounds of cards and me apologetically declaring “It’s late, I really need to get to sleep” at 9:30pm. 7:30pm PT. 10am India time. #jetlagged4life
The previous day our driver, Yamil, had asked us what our plans were for the weekend. We declared Sunday we were going to Santa Ana volcano at 1pm, with friends. He immediately looked concerned, and tried to talk us into going to San Salvador volcano in the morning, which is safer. We decide San Salvador volcano is a great idea, and we’ll do both volcanoes! Not exactly what Yamil had in mind and Sunday morning a new driver came to pick us up because Yamil “had to take care of other matters”. Lez be real, Yamil was scared of what kind of trouble Lorna and I were going to get ourselves into.
However, I had made a friend over breakfast who told me about Tamanique Waterfalls. He showed me a picture of him precariously perched over a ledge, paralyzed with fear after jumping off a cliff and getting stuck on the treacherous climb back up. Upon hearing the story, I decide Lorna and I must go there. We tell Jimmy, our new driver, our plans and immediately head to Tamanique. Once we arrive, we get hooked up with 2 tour guides (an 8 and 12 year old boy. No joke) and begin the trek to the falls.
I then have a terrifying moment where I must decide whether or not to jump off the 20 foot cliff into unknown waters. Of course, I must do it because I decided long before I arrived at the cliff that I must jump. I’d rather regret something I did do then something I didn’t.
After conquering our fears, we begin the hike back to the car. Jimmy, the driver, falls very far behind and I get very annoyed at having to wait. 30 minutes later, we find Jimmy and he tells us a heartbreaking story about how he used to be in a wheelchair and it’s a miracle he can even walk. My first thought is “Oh no, good for you!”, followed closely by my second thought of “Still, you should have warned us you were going to make us wait so I could have downloaded some work and been efficient while I waited”.
After cliff jumping, we head to a local restaurant where I accidentally order “frozen chicken” instead of “grilled chicken” (what a difference one letter makes!), and the waitress looks at me with a very confused expression. Classic.
We then meet up with some of the lovely agents we work with, who showed us around the Santa Ana volcano. And by showed us around the Santa Ana volcano, I mean we walked in a few circles, took a few group photos, and then did what we really came to El Salvador for: to eat pupusas.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and the weekend quickly closes with a few beers and shot of something weird. I fear the next day’s productivity and efficiency problems but as Lorna says whenever she sees my impatience creep up, “We’ll get there”.