San Salvador was cool, in a very U.S.A. clone type way; every major U.S. American franchise-including Chilis, Wal-mart (I hate this corpation), Zara, Bennigans, Papa Johns, etc. While these brands are probably found in every Central American capital city, I was put off a bit by the “mini-malls” that look exactly like CityPlace or any other new shopping center in America.
The development and house that Carmen lived at looked like any other gated community that I have visited. El Salvador even uses American currency as their official currency. Everything I was doing, I could pretty much do at home. Carmen wanted me to stay another day, but I decided I wanted to visit Suchitoto. This town is away from the big city, safer and historic. Since watching the film “Innocent Voices,” I have been really interested in the civil war in El Salvador. The U.S. spent over a million dollars a day for years supporting the El Salvadorian army. Currently, with the massive influx of American franchises and businesses it is easy to see why the USA had such a vested interest in El Salvador. As I shed my Republican/Capitalist skin, I have been embracing my leftist and socialist side. I still really like George W….sue me. Suchitoto was a major stronghold for the FMLN, the guerilla forces who fought against the army during the civil war.
Noble intentions, right? Now for the part of the story that’s a short chapter in my “This is what you don’t do” book. Tuesday morning Carmen dropped me off at the bus station. I left my water bottle in her car, I am still upset about that. It was so perfect and my favorite color pink. Sadly, it was the wrong bus station, so I had to take another bus to the right station. So imagine me and my HUGE backpack and my smaller back on my stomach waiting at the bus stop along with all the other El Salvadorians going to work or whatever. As much as I like to show off my strength (see the million pictures of me picking up random people) carrying mi mochilla- which probably weighs at least 45 pds around with me is no fun and I think it marks me as a target. I might as well walk around with a fanny pack and Lonely Planet. This guy approaches me, David. He told me where to go, about how he used to live in the U.S., his divorce from his American wife and his job. Of course this ended with him giving me his number and telling me how he wants to take me out. David was pretty cute and under different circumstance he could have got it. In Guatemala, I rarely got approached by men. As I go further down south, this is changing-rapidly; this might have something to do with people getting darker and “curlier” hair.
I finally got to Suchitoto, with no place to stay. I had a vague idea about where I could possibly stay, the options were pretty limited. It was either really cheap ($7-15) or really expensive ($75-200) a night. I went with the cheap. Vista Al Lago. It got pretty decent reviews, but I should have thought about the source Lonely Planet. I think those books are written for an audience that is dirty and a bit punkish. Their idea of clean or unsafe is not exactly the same as mine. My room was basically a wooden box, with a fan and a bad light and no windows. The bathroom was outside, but was fairly clean. The owners were really nice and the view was good.
I spent the rest of the day exploring the town, mailing postcards and getting my tour set up for the next day. After this I went to this cyber café to plan my life or my next move. I wanted to leave El Salvador, for the capital city in Honduras. There was a theatre festival going and Thursday was the final day. Since I stayed in Guatemala an extra day I missed my chance to see a play in El Salvador. I basically had 2 options to get to Honduras.
- To leave directly after my horseback tour for the Honduras border using a series of “public” buses to make it to the border. Once in Honduras try to make it as close as possible to the capital before calling it a day. I researched places to stay at various place en route to the capital. The problem with this is no one could tell me how long it would take me to get the border.
- Go back to San Salvador after the horseback tour and try to catch the last “luxury” direct bus leaving for the Honduran capital. If I missed that bus I could stay another night with Carmen. Maybe go out dancing or something. Then take a direct bus from San Salvador to Honduras at 5am. I would still be able to catch the final performance of the festival.
While I was using the internet another woman came in. After I a while I decided to ask her eat with me. You know the whole hating to eat alone thing, plus I always need to practice my asking out skills. Her name was Kelly or something she was from England and was spending a year in Central America. We went to a bar that was owned by a man who parents were guerilla soldiers. The bar was covered with Che, FMLN, Socialist and leftist poster. He told us more about the war, which got me more excited about my tour the next day. It was pitch black as I walked back to my room. When I got to my room I started rethinking my decision to stay there. I Lysoled the sheets but was still not happy with cleanliness of them, so I slept in my sleeping bag. I didn’t want to shower or use the bathroom because I did not want to meet the animals that might be outside at night. I had to listen to my audiotape of Maya Angelou to fall asleep. I woke up at 5am, with the urgent need to use the bathroom. It wasn’t until 6 am that I had the courage to use the bathroom. It was cold in the morning and I did not have the desire to shower in the cold water outside. So I got dressed, packed and read until it was time to get picked up for the horseback riding tour. I figured I would eat later.
I don’t know why I thought a 5hr tour on a horse was a good idea. 5 hrs on anything is too much let alone a horse. Saddles were either not designed for women or designed to be a torture device for women. As good as I am at riding and I am pretty darn good, I think I prefer to be ridden. The tour was informative, I liked my guide. My horse, Katrina was slow as molasses and prefer to eat grass rather than walk. We were riding through the jungle. At some points there was no path in my opinion, just trees and branches with the desire to harm me. Of course Katrina did not make it any easier, I swear she was trying to get me hurt. I got scratched by branches and Katrina ran my knee into a tree…I bled. After 3 hrs I was uncomfortable on the horse that I pretty much tuned everything out. I was also thinking about a possible scar that could be forming on my sexy legs. When we finally made it back, I was sore.
Still had not made a decision on what I was going to do next. After returning to town and getting my stuff I decided to make a run for the border. I knew I wouldn’t make the bus in San Salvador and I did not want to ask Carmen to wake up at 4am to take me the bus station. I left at 2pm took 2 buses and made it to the border at 5:30pm. I spent most of this time waiting for the busses to come. It should have taken me no more than 2 hrs if I didn’t have to wait on buses so much.
When I got to the area before the border, this kid took me on his bicycle contraption through immigration and border security for a $1. I then took a cab to the bus station in the town. I knew that there was a “direct” bus to Tegus that left there at midnight and since all the buses to other towns had stopped for the day I decided this was my best option. Now this is where stupidity takes over. I decided this was smarter than staying in a hotel and leaving early the next morning. I could just stay at the bus station! Think about how pretty I am, I cannot possible be smart as well. I brought my ticket from this older toothless fellow name Luis. Then went to find food, at this point its 6:30pm and I have not eaten since 8pm the day before. The food I got was disgusting and greasy and nasty. I went back to the bus station. I thought the restaurant in the hotel next to/ attached to the ticket office was the waiting area. It was not. The waiting area was this semi covered area between the restaurant and the ticket office. In the back was a hotel, which seemed more like apartments and the front faced the street. This is where I was going to spend the next few hours. Then Luis came over started talking to me, about how nice and pretty I was. And where the “morenas” lived in Honduras and how much he likes morenas. He asked if I had a boyfriend. I told him yes. I learned to say yes to this question after a man repeatedly told me “Me gusta tu” as I waited for a bus earlier, followed by an invitation to his house. He told me it didn’t matter if I had a boyfriend when I was abroad. Luis was a little more touchy feely then I am comfortable with. This is when I started to think about the intelligence of my decision to stay at a bus station all night. At some point Luis goes back to the office. This other comes around and starts talking to me. He says he is going to clean one of the busses outside. I try to lay down on the chairs as I listen to music. He comes back shirtless and asks me if I wanted to sleep on the bus with him. “No, gracias. Estoy bien.” I tell him. I am starting to feel real vulnerable. I won’t say I forget that I am a girl sometimes, because I don’t. I always feel like a girl. However, I often forget how the world views my femaleness, particularly men. Just because I feel/ think I look asexual, does not stop others from sexualizing me. Many men worldwide have the tendency to believe that women are here solely for their pleasure. After all God did make Eve for Adam right? This tendency to see women as here for them sometimes makes men believe they can do whatever they want with us. Scary thought. Especially when one is alone in foreign country being approached by men who language and customs one is not familiar with. I am always reminded that a Black woman can not be raped.
I started thinking about my L.P. who always has a huge knife with her. Whenever we are hiking or going to see a play, she reminds me she has it in case someone acts up. She took ot her huge blade as I was paying for parking at ASU, I kept telling her she was scaring the white people. If I am going somewhere alone, she asks me if I want her knife. I always make fun of her knife. Suddenly, carrying a knife seemed pretty darn smart. I go back in the room where my bag was being kept and slyly found my knife and put it in my pocket. I was ready to cut somebody if anyone tried me! Luis left at 9:30. They shut off most of the lights and closed the area that led to the street. I was secure in the sense that no one could come off the streets and get me, but unsecure in the sense that I was pretty much locked in. I waited from 7-12:30 am for the bus to come. Once the bus came it was already pretty packed and not the cleanest vehicle. This was supposed to be a direct bus. Their definition of direct was very different than mine. It was supposed to take 9hrs. It took 12 hrs. We were always stopping either to let people off/get people or for the police to search the bus. I would wake up randomly to 4 police men on the bus. It was hot and nasty. Most people would use the side of the road for bathrooms. The places we stopped with bathrooms were disgusting. I longed for the mini-America of El Salvador and Carmen’s 3/2 cookie cutter home. There were always people coming on the bus trying to sell us random food and drinks. I am sorry, but I am not buying fruit or tamales off people who carry them on their head all day. At one place we stopped there was a black guy selling stuff. He immediately started telling me about how he used to live in the states but his baby mama got him deported for child support. He then went on to tell me about how God told him he needed a woman like me in his life…um ok.
I finally got to Tegus around 1pm. I had not showered since Monday night. If cleanliness is next to godliness, I was kicking it with the devil fa sho. No food since the crap I ate the night before. I got to hotel. Took a hot shower! Hot! I haven’t had a steamy hot shower since I been here. Put on a nice clean dress. Felt so fresh and so clean. Back to being next to godliness. Then went directly to a Pizza Hut which I have been craving since I had some in Guatemala City, my first in years. I went back to my room and slept. You know in a bed. Not next to somebody in hot dirty bus.
Once I got up I headed to the National Theatre of Honduras “Teatro Nacional Manuel Bonilla” for the final performance of the festival. I have been dying to see a live performance here. I kind of enjoy theatre, just a bit. I have only spent the majority of my short life being involved in some aspect of it. I was not concern about not really speaking Spanish because good acting (and bad acting) conquers language barriers. Also the name of the festival was “Encuentro Centroamericano de Mimo,” it focused on mime performance-which made the language difference mismo. The only issue I had was with the last piece that was very language heavy, angry and very confusing. The show started late, so I spent that time writing a very confusing and abstract letter to my parents about “life”. I am still writing letters, even out here. I have sent about 14 letters and 5 postcards. Take a wild guess who has gotten 3 letters and 1 postcard from me so far. Anyway the show was good. The theatre was old, historic and beautiful. People brought their children, Me encanta familias en teatros. I wish I had my camera, I took some shots with the Blackberry though.
Apparently people are told not to use flash photography in theatres in Central America. So was it worth it? Being on a bus for half a day, not eating or showering for hours upon hours… I am reminded of the lyrics to one of the songs in A Chorus Line “I won’t forget, I can’t regret what I did for love.”
Lessons learned. I am sure there are more but this is all I could think of now…
- As down as I am with the people. I refuse to take transportation “common” people can afford to take on destinations more than 5 hours away. My republican side takes over and I can’t be chilling all dirty. If I took the “luxury” bus that was 2.5x as much I would I have arrived at the same time and they serve meals on there!
- I am woman. That makes me vulnerable to the sexual advances of men. I will keep my blade close. As I typed this its clip to inside of my jeans. Very easy access.
- Don’t try and “spend” a night in a bus station.
I am done with Tegus. I arrived in Tela Friday. It’s on the Carribbean side of Honduras. I am ready to chill at the beach. Sunday I am going snorkeling. I won’t lie, I am kind of excited to see some dark skin people with nappy hair like me. I like think that a lot of my life and what I do channels Zora Neale Hurston. The whole father being a pastor, growing up in Flordia and being brilliant…she sounds just like me! Zora did a lot of anthropological work in Haiti (check) and Honduras (check)- she was one of the first to do work all over the diaspora on African people. Once again I will try to find out more about the Garifuna and other African descended people in Central America, it didn’t go so well in Guatemala. I am staying with Gaby and her boyfriend. Who is Gaby? Well according to her profile she is building Tela’s first mini-golf park…
The biggest shout out to the Creator, God, Allah, Jesus the Christ, Oshun, Shango, Saint Peter, etc. for keeping me safe. It ain’t nothin’ but the blood, grace and mercy that keeps me safe.