14 February 2023

Knowledge of language is overrated when it comes to having a good conversation

Long, long time back, I worked with a gentleman called Mauricio Flores. I was in Atlanta. He was in El Salvador. Later he moved to Portugal. You may remember him from a post in 2019 November whenI met him while on a vacation with the family in Azores islands and then Lisbon.

He found out that I was in homeland this week. Got an immediate message that his brother was going to drop a local alcohol for my bar!

When I came back to the hotel, his brother and sister in law – Erick and Blanqui – were waiting for me in the lobby.

Now, my Spanish is nothing to write casa about. (Yes, it gets that bad when I sprinkle in one or two words Spanish words I know in an otherwise clear English sentence). And Erick and Blanqui confessed that their English was the same.

Yet we spend one and a half hours together. Over some loud laughs and a great chat. But mostly getting thrilled every time we made a break thru in communicating successfully our message or question. Often resorting to Google for translation, I was able to put the story together of their lives, their siblings, their daughters – Adriana and Daniela, their aspirations, their trips to the US and other countries.

The bar staff who got curious with all the laugh and chat going on often would have fun watching us struggle to find the right word. And then once in a while, they would get so impatient and excited, that they would blurt out the word for us!!!

Blanqui’s sister lives in Knoxville. I will get in touch with her when I get back to the USA. They were excited to realize that I live in Atlanta. Blanqui brought out many pictures from Georgia Aquarium and Coca Cola Factory on her phone from their trips to the USA!!

Like I said, we spent one and a half hours together without realizing that we had absolutely no idea how to construct a full sentence in each other’s language!! It was that good a meeting.

Thank you Mauricio for your gift and most importantly introducing me to two great people!!

14 February 2023

Our sixth and final stop – Ahuachapan

Went to the thermal springs – Termales de Santa Teresa. Fairly typical of volcanic countries. I remember seeing these calderas in Azores islands and Costa Rica. For some reason, saw one of these up in the mountains in Jordan too!

Interestingly, here they have the mud to plaster over your body like we saw in Jordan by the Dead Sea. But unlike the Dead Sea, here they have black mud for your body and white mud for your face!!

I had not come prepared. Else, I would have loved to relax in these thermal springs after the hike yesterday and all the walking today!

14 February 2023

Meet my new friend Gustavo

We went to a coffee plantation near Ataco town. There, this young gentleman Gustavo – all of 26 – gave me a tour of the coffee factory and painstakingly explained how coffee is made step by step.

At the end, we sat down to have a cup of coffee and went thru his life history. Grew up with his mother and brother. This, I have found to be fairly common in Latin American countries. Parents separate after having kids and the kids stay with the mother.

I asked him how much studies he had done. It seems he did finish high school but no more. This is another recurring theme I am finding with folks here.

His mom worked in the coffee factory. He joined at the age of 14 to help with money while going to school. And then his brother joined too. The three live as a joint family and live off the earnings from the coffee factory.

We promised to keep in touch in the future.

14 February 2023

Can you guess the manufacturer?

While having lunch with Gabriel in Ataco, I noticed this small car by the street side. He let me know that these cars are often used as taxis in small towns.

“You know, this is an Indian car,” he said.

I was very surprised.

“Is it a Nano?”, I asked. But then, a Nano is a two door car I thought.

Got down from the restaurant and checked out the car brand.

Got a shock of my life. It is a Bajaj!!!

All my friends from India, have you seen anything like this from Bajaj in India ever? Or for that matter, have you ever seen any Bajaj car in India ever?

14 February 2023

Fourth stop – Apaneca

The Albania Cafe, to be precise. In USA, we would call this an amusement park. One interesting activity I found was biking on ropes. The tire basically has flanges (like a railway car wheel) that keeps you on the rope and then a hanging wire that the bike is tied to ensuring no fall. I am sure riding it over vast spans of air with the tree line hundreds of feet below it is exhilarating. And incredibly fearful for me.

14 February 2023

Unique sight in Juayua

There were these sisters (from the church) literally yelling at the top of their voices on the loudspeakers. From the tone of their voices, they seemed to be sternly commanding one and sundry to atone their sins. When I asked Gabriel, he said – “No way – they are gently saying prayers for all the city people”.

Go figure!

14 February 2023

Third stop: Juayua

I do not think I am still pronouncing the name of the place correctly. Formed nearly half a millennium ago, this is atypical of the various colonial towns I have seen so far. The kids were just getting out of school and size wise, it seemed bigger than the previous two I went to.