Monthly Archives: May 2016

Mi Colonia – My Neighborhood

Time to show you where I am staying. Our area is pretty good. It is common for small shops to share space with dwellings. There are a lot of security gates and such.

The first three shots show the Pupuseria Merliot across the street from where I live. They are a nice family trying to make a go of it in a place in which every street has a little restaurant selling pupusas (stuffed tortillas). They wonder why I don’t eat more pupusas.

Next is a shot of Taco Loco and I live in the casita to the left. Taco Loco does a great business. Between this and the pupuseria, I am never hungry. You can see a couple of the guys who work there. The next shot shows the side of the street where I live.

Next is El Comedor de la Ahijada de Marina. My landlady works here. You can get a nice lunch for a few dollars. There is more variety than the pupuseria.

After that, you can see a small convenience store. Unless they can afford security, small tiendas like this usually work through a grate of some sort. Finally are shots of out local pharmacy and bakery. Bakeries are almost as common as pupuserias here.

Welcome to the neighborhood!

Streets of San Salvador

After exiting the bus from Santa Tecla, where I am staying, to San Salvador, we walk up a narrow street lined with vendors. We can see the dome of the Catedral Metropolina de San Salvador in the distance. There is a sharp contrast between the beauty of the white dome and the grime of the calle. As we enter, Joaquin cautions me to be careful with my backpack and camera. Besides my backpack, I have with me just my small Lumix camera, a copy of my passport photo page, and a few dollars cash. This has become my usual routine.

The big Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid game is today and many of the vendors are selling team jerseys. At one point along the calle, we are inside where it is dark and cool, though the wares are mostly the same. People yell to us to buy their things. A man runs up to us holding three pair of athletic shoes he is trying to sell me. I wave him off politely; if nothing else, none are in my size. Does anyone in El Salvador sell a size 13 shoe?

We come out into the light and Joaquin is pointing at something on the ground and saying “This is the center of El Salvador!” There is a large circle in the middle of the street marked with an “X”, the points of the compass and “Km. 0”. Joaquin explains “This is the center of the country. Everything is measured from this point.” I want a photo but it is an active road. Joaquin helps me to time jumping into the road and getting the photo. I get it and we cross. There is another block of merchants. These are now in front of genuine brick and mortar shops.

Later, walking back to the bus, Joaquin needs to buy a computer keyboard for a student. We walk into a couple of stores. Finally, he finds what the girl needs, he pays and I stow it in my back pack. It turns out that he also needs flip-flops. We go into a zapateria and look around. They have many pairs of flip-flops but I can’t find any big enough. I ask the sales clerk “Tienen los chanklas en talla trece, por favor?” She smirks and shakes her head no. As we exit, a guy sitting on the curbs says something about “gringos” and “zapatos”. Nope, nada en talla 13.

A woman walks by with a goat on a rope. Is this her pet? Is it for sale? Is it for dinner? None of the above. She also carries some Styrofoam cups. Joaquin tells me “She will sell you a glass of very fresh milk.”

“No thanks, I prefer mine ice cold with a few Oreos.”

Note: Joaquin runs the local program in El Salvador. He has been my mentor and guide the past week; teaching me so much. I must introduce you all to him soon.

Catedral Metropolina de San Salvador

Joaquin and I took the bus into the center of San Salvador this morning to see the cathedral and a few other sites.


Yesterday, the school had a day of celebration for Ani (Annie), the woman who cares for our school. To say that she cares for the school is a bit of an understatement. She cleans it, goes around making sure things are neat and tidy and makes a big pot of coffee for the staff. She is kind of like a big mother figure for us all.

There are two sessions of the classes each day, morning and afternoon, with different students and teachers for each. Being there all day meant that I got to celebrate twice. Part of the celebration involved dancing.

With students and staff lining the courtyard, music suddenly plays and a group of six girls appear in long ruffled dresses to perform a traditional dance. As they spin and twirl their skirts, it creates a whirling motion. At the end, the vice principal comes out to dance. I like her. Typically, she moves around the school more like a model in high heels (zapatos con taco in Spanish). She dances and then calls Ani to dance.

The afternoon performance begins with a modern dance routine followed by a traditional dance routine. I am really hot and tired. I can only halfheartedly take photos. One of the older girls wants to try my camera. It is set for correctly for this light, so I let her use it cautioning her to take care with it. We finally get to the part in which one of the afternoon staff starts dancing with the girls. I wait for Ani to be asked to dance and am really only giving it half my attention; until I am the one pulled onto the dance floor. Not what I had planned. The girls are in hysterics. Somewhere in the back of my mind is the dance routine from Pulp Fiction. I reprise John Travolta’s moves and the girls start screaming. It was fun but honestly the movement and heat winded me.

Clicking the link below should show you the vice principle and Ani dancing with the girls.
Photo credit for the image of me to one of the students of the school. I did not get her name.


Some Observations on My First Week…

Boy in the Market

I was making some photos today after getting my haircut and this little guy just wandered into the frame. A happy accident. Perhaps one of his parents is shopping here. Or perhaps, one of his parents works in the market and he is spending the day there.

Some observations from my first week:

-Chiva means cool
-Provecho is what you say to tell a person to enjoy his or her meal
-Buenas is the preferred greeting for someone with whom you’re even a little familiar.
-Buenas dias is the greeting for meeting new people

It is really hot from 11:00-4:00 but then it cools down and the night air is lovely. But we close our windows and door about 8:00 t0 keep out the mosquitos

Mosquitos – Not as big an issue as I thought it would be.

Unless you are home or working out, men wear long pants and solid shoes. I’d prefer shorts and sandals but am trying to fit in.

The two things the children are most surprised about:
1. Not all people in the US have children
2. The size of my feet – I still have yet to find a pair of flip flops (chanklas) in my size to wear around the house. I forgot to pack mine.

If the only lawn you have is the 3 foot space between the sidewalk and the curb, it is possible cut the grass with a machete. It is actually more like shaving the grass.

Most common question from the school children: “Como se dice en Ingles?” aka How do you say this in English? This is then followed by whatever term they want translated. This exercise can go on for a long time. I think it is time to introduce them to my Spanish-English dictionary.

Of note: It is possible that in the time it takes you to turn away from the class to write the word “grandmother” on the whiteboard and turn back, total pandemonium can break out. Write fast.

-People from the US may know that we minted lots of one dollar coins that are never widely used in the US. Where are they? In El Salvador. The country is on the dollar and those coins are used everywhere.
-Coffee in a bakery is $0.35
-Coffee and a pastry is about $0.85
-A haircut and a wash after is $2.00
-A common meal at a local informal eatery costs between $2.50 and $5.00
-Yogurt and breakfast cereal cost about the same as at home in the US.

People are more alike than they are different.

Guest Photographer: Celeste

Celeste's Flower

Today we have a guest photographer, Celeste, a student at the Centro Escolar Margarita Durán.

I had my camera out and she asked if she could use it. For me, that’s a bit like loaning out my right lung. But Joaquin assured me that she had taken a photo class sponsored by the city. I handed over my camera and she made a first shot of this flower. It had potential. I showed her aperture priority, how to dial down the f-stop, and increase the zoom to blur the background. The result, I thought, was pretty good. And so I thank Celeste for her contribution.

First Day of School

Here are some first images of the school where I am teaching. They are like school girls everywhere. When they are on break, they are giddy and have a lot of energy. They play games and braid each other’s hair. They chase one another and then when the person being chased is caught the pursuer has not idea what to do, so they laugh and hug. And sometimes, there are photobombs involved.

P.S. Apologies if I have not been as attentive as usual to people liking my posts, especially new viewers. It is a rather intense schedule here.


On Sunday morning, Joaquin took me in the bus to Comasagua a small town in the hills, with a stop for pupusas along the way. I’m surprised we will stop for pupusas because they are everywhere in the city.

We ride in an old repurposed school bus out of the city and climb into the mountains. When we get off the bus for our breakfast, we have risen above the city and have an amazing view of the valley below. The hot humid air is replaced with clear crisp air, like in New Hampshire. We still have to climb a steep set of stairs to the restaurant, aptly named Nirvana.

We are seated on a terrace built on the mountainside and overlooking the valley and mountains further out. The tables are modern but made to look rustic. We sit right at the railing enjoying the view. There are lush gardens and hummingbirds flitter about.

Joaquin notices the rumble first and loudly says “earthquake” in both English and Spanish. Then I notice it. It is a low rumble; enough to make the coffee in my mug shake a bit but not spill. Suddenly, being on a terrace in the side of a mountain is not the best place to be. It passes after a few seconds and we enjoy our breakfast.

A pupusa is a stuffed tortilla cooked on a griddle and served with salsa and a vegetable mix on the side. The fillings can be just about anything. Most have a local cheese that is similar to mozzarella and something else also. Shredded pork or refried beans with the queso are common. They are served piping hot and must be eaten with care. Oh, and they are delicious.

After, we take the bus to Comasagua. It is a small village. Most of the homes and business are in buildings similar to the neighborhood where I am living. A few buildings withstood the 2001 earthquake and are built of lovely old brick with detailed doors and windows. There is a very small market and a few craft shops. The town is maybe five square blocks. It gives me a sense of small community life. After roaming the town, we board the bus back to Santa Tecla.

Note: Joaquin found a report that the earthquake measured 5.5 on the Richter scale and was centered not far off the coast.



This is Alfredo. He is a vendor selling belts in the park. On Saturday when I took photos there, he seemed to be trying to get my attention. I went over and asked if I could take his photo. He agreed and liked what he saw on the screen on the back of my camera. Later he came over and chatted with me. He speaks no English and I don’t understand everything he says but he likes talking with me. And I like talking with him. He does not try to sell me. And he told me he is there daily.

Sunday, I had this image printed and found him in the park to give it to him. He seemed pleased and proud to showed it to his two friends, also vendors. Now, I have three friends. The park is near the school and I can stop buy on my break to chat a bit. It is not deep conversation. They are curious about life in the US. I have enough language skills to ask about their families and such.

Welcome to Santa Tecla

I am alive and well and living here in Santa Tecla, El Salvador. I spent the weekend getting to know the city. There are traditional markets with individual stalls in which you can buy one type of item (clothes, fresh vegetables, fruits, etc) and a supermarket that rivals anything we have in the US. Walk down any street and you’ll find a pupuseria, making the national dish, pupusas; or perhaps a panaderia selling fresh baked goods. Often these are set up in the front of people’s homes. I’ve learnt how to get from the house where I am staying to the school in which I’ll teach and to the local markets. I’ve eaten way too many times in my neighborhood and need to branch out a little bit.

Today, I thought that I would show you a bit of one of the central plazas called Parque Daniel Hernandez. It is hot in Santa , and I decided to hang out here on Saturday afternoon to take advantage of the shade and cool breeze. A few hundred locals also showed up. Among the crowd were people selling food and clothing. An ice cream cone is $.35, but there is only Neapolitan flavor. You can buy belts, boxer shorts, shirts and socks.
Hanging out, I got to meet some of the locals. I’ll introduce you to one tomorrow.

FYI – My internet access is very spotty. If you comment and you don’t hear back from me right away, my apologies.