Monday, December 29, 2008

Five Reasons to Love El Salvador

1: Black sand beaches. Thanks to all the volcanic activity off the pacific coast of Central America, many of El Salvador’s beaches are made of black, basaltic sand. They are hot. They are sexy. They are beautiful.

2: Pupusas. A traditional cuisine of El Salvador, a pupusa is a thick, stuffed tortilla. The dough is either corn- or rice-based, and the stuffing is anything from beans, to vegetables, to meats, to a local edible flower. These things are made-to-order and are served piping hot, and subsequently smothered in a sort of coleslaw, and a tomato-based sauce. You eat them without utensils, so learning how much sauce you can pile on a pupusa before it loses its structural integrity takes time. The best part: they’re dirt cheap – in most places they cost between a quarter and fifty cents (depending on how touristy your location is). Getting three of them is a solid meal. Pupusas are often served by cute, and borderline predatory El Salvadoran girls.

3: US Dollars. El Salvador uses US Dollars as its currency, yeah that’s right, good’ole greenbacks. After nearly a month of using Pesos and Quetzales, using dollars is a relief. There’s no mental math required to determine whether you’re getting a good deal or you’re getting ripped off; your money is the same, only you can buy more with it. So I got that goin’ for me. Which is nice.

4: Sexually forward women. Unlike in Mexico or Guatemala, in El Salvador, the women chase you! They look you right in the eyes, they smile coy little smiles, they wave, and then – mother of all mercies – they blow kisses?!?! I have no clue how to appropriately respond to this type of attention; thus far, awkward shifty movements and sporadic eye contact, followed by total avoidance seems to work ok. [note: I only know this because I’ve been chased in El Salvador, not because I’ve done much chasing elsewhere].

5: Smiles. Seen on just about every face we’ve encountered since we left Guatemala. I suppose we’ve seen them on just about every face since we left Mexico too. Actually come to think of it, the last frown we saw was in the United States, so I guess smiles aren’t indicative of El Salvador at all, but they’re still extremely welcome nonetheless. Smiles on the faces of people we’ve asked for help. Smiles from people we don’t know, but treat us like we’re family. Smiles so big on the faces of children, you can’t imagine them otherwise.