By: Tim Notier
Our time in El Salvador and Honduras was short and brief, but we were able to absorb a taste of what it had to offer. Honestly, these two countries were on our “worry" list. Marisa had spent the last two years before our trip as an ESL (English as a second language) teacher, and many of her students were refugees from these countries. We have always tried to avoid the rhetoric that Mexico and (enter “dangerous" country here) is not safe, especially when it comes from people who have only heard about place, and who have never actually been. But, hearing first-hand accounts of how life can be in these countries from children who have witnessed unimaginable horrors, shines a light of actual perspective.
Some of Marisa's old students asked her, “Why would you go to the country I fled?"
These kids’ lives have been put through so much terror and abuse that they made a long journey to escape the inhumanity of their homeland, and hoped for a better future in... Arkansas(?). Marisa was able to bond with them, and play an important role in their lives when they sometimes had no family in the States to turn to for support or attention, and she took their stories to heart.
- On a lighter note, fun fact: Salvador means “Savior" and is a popular last name in many romance languages. My old direct boss's name was David Salvatori (Italian) and his boss, the VP of sales, was Doug Lord. I was the “acting" manager, I say acting, because that was precisely what I was doing. I had eleven employees under my management, and I would constantly remind them that we work for D. Lord and D. Savior, and that one day, one of the twelve of us would betray them. (Spoiler alert, it was me!) My employees respected my dark humor the day I told them I had put in my two-week notice.
Back to El Salvador: Our first attraction on our list were the ruins of Tazumal, a Mayan archeological site. Marisa and I like our ruins, so we knew we would be visiting them even if they were not as grand as some of the structures we have seen in our travels so far. The site was not large, and only took ten minutes to completely navigate, and sadly it represented more of a concrete shell that was poured over the original structure, but it was a nice visit none-the-less.
After our Mayan visit, we spent the next couple days pretty low-key. We climbed the spiral staircase of a church tower to view the city of Santa Ana with a most spectacular view. Santa Ana is a Spanish colonial city that still holds much of its former charm. Former charm is the key phrase, as it's quite run-down now, and currently feels more like a post-apocalyptic version of Antigua, Guatemala which has had lots of tourist money flowing into its restoration. From Santa Ana, we zipped through the rest of El Salvador fairly quickly.
One of the things we thoroughly enjoyed about the country was that the food was great (pupusas!) and cheap ($4 steaks). Plus El Salvador uses US dollars as their currency, which made life easy for us.
While in the capital, San Salvador, we stayed in a cheap hotel and were treated like kings. If you used your imagination, you could see how grand the small hotel was in its heyday, but that was far in the past. Out of the twelve or so rooms they had available, we were their only guests for the two days we spent relaxing in the pool.
You could see that this was a country trying to find its place in the modern world. We by no means rode very far into the back roads, and we did not visit any beaches or volcanoes (what El Salvador is famous for). So though we cannot give a proper full report on the country as a whole, it was pleasant, and a mandatory pass through destination.
Honduras had a similar vibe, and because we skimmed through the southern Pacific tip, our stay there was extremely short and uneventful. We heard incredible things about Honduras, especially about the northern coastline and Mayan ruins, but at the time we were there, road blocks and protests were reported across the country due to the contested elections. So we skipped the distant sights and spent only two days rushing through Honduras to get to Nicaragua.
It's strange because in Guatemala the locals would warn us about El Salvador, we would inevitably survive, then be warned by the El Salvadorans about Honduras. This chain of “warnings" started way back in the United States, and has not stopped as of yet. The reality of it all is unfortunately tainted by people’s fears and lack of actual experience in any given place. But we would continue fearlessly, mostly because there was no other option, and sometimes with a little fear.
Honduras translates to “depths" and sadly, we did not ride into the honduras of Honduras. We kept to the main roads and made our way to the boarder of Nicaragua in a speedy fashion. The promise of a safer environment, nature, and sloths was calling me to enter and explore.
Both El Salvador and Honduras were not as scary as we assumed, and as an afterthought, I am slightly upset that we did not explore more into some of their offerings.
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