Since the visit from the trainees it's been nothing but fun and games around here. The parade we put on to honor the environment kicked off Chapeltique's first of two separate fiestas patronales, or week long celebrations to honor the town's patron saints. I had a great dal more fun this time around than I did at our fiestas last December, probably because I know more people now and I have less pena in general. I was asked to help judge the competition to determine the town's queen of the 'fiestas julias', which is rather ironic seeing as I, one of the judges, view the event as facetious at best, while the rest of the population here sees it roughly equivalent in importance to the general presidential election. The mayor actually pulled me aside beforehand to tell me which girl had to win. This I still have trouble believing. As it turned out, I voted for the most gregarious girl, the one who answered her 'what would you do for the youth of Chapeltique' question with the most thought. Sadly, everyoe else voted for the girl with the perkiest boobs, so my queen lost. My one small satisfaction from the night - at least the mayor's girl didn't win.
After our fiestas finished San Salvador's fiestas agostinas began a week later. School was let out for a week, public businesses closed down and the capital was filled with fair-esque events and heavy crowds. This coincided with my friend Biz's arrival to El Salvador. Biz can read this and perhaps testify otherwise, but I think after this trip he has quite a well-rounded view of the country. We started off by visiting a few of my good PC friends in Perquin, a touristy town i the north that also happened to be holding their fiesta del invierno, or annual winter festival. Fiestas in Perquin have a less manufactured feel to them - events held are politically inspired, and many of the main attractions are centered around historically significant events from the war. We mingled among countless Salvadoras and foreigners sporting Che Guevara tshirts and red star caps, watched traditional folk dances and experienced part of the mass march from Perquin to the small town of El Mozote, where the army massacred all but 2 of the 1,000 inhabitants in 1981. We also swam in one of Perquin's grand rivers, ate more tortas and tacos than I can count, and hiked up to a friend's site at the very tip of the country; going from Dave's cabin to his host family's house 200 m away is the difference from being in El Salvador and Honduras. We then spent four days in my site and finished his trip up at the beach and the capital.
I feel pretty safe saying that Biz got to see quite a bit of both the good and the not so good that characterizes this country in his ten days here. The typical food was great; the subsequent intestinal infection was not. His first dip in the Pacific Ocean could not be marred by our getting rained off the beach on our second day at the coast. Nothing could hide the unpleasantness of the feeling of unsafety in the capital, the relentless bugs or the tightly packed, lengthy and loud bus rides. At the same time, hopefully nothing could ruin the freeing sensation of traveling in the bed of a pick-up at full speed with the greatest possible view of the passing countryside, the peacefulness of hicking back and taking it easy in a hammock, or being tossed and turned in the waves in ocean water that is more tepid than bath water. I would be hardpressed to forget playing catch or eating pizza with some of my favorite community members, playing card games by candlelight in the cabin Dave built on the border of Honduras, or joking around at happy hour in the Intercontinental Hotel in San Salvador ($1.25 for two Pilseners and endless nachos Biz, don't forget it). It was a trip full of myriad emotions and experiences and I'm honored to have shared those ten days with my good friend. Thank you Biz - having you here was a pleasure and it meant the world to me.
One of the very last things I ever thought I'd encounter in El Salvador was downright war. Sure, I knew about the civil war of the 70's and 80's and the current gang warfare, but I didn't think those things would directly affect me, and they haven't thus far. Instead, I have inadvertantly foud myself a different type of armed conflict altogether. It involves me vs. My Host Family's Animals. They attack from all sides, furtively in the night and blatantly during the day. You've already read about the turkey - there's no strategy or stealth at play there, he just goes after anyone anywhere with any chance he gets. A few weeks ago he took a sneaker to the chest when I was on my way out for a run, and I suspect I may have pissed him off more than usual because he's rallied the other animals against me. The mosquitos are attacking in greater, stronger droves than usual. The geese have begun waiting for me to leave for the day, then sneaking up onto my patio and pooping huge, messy terds directly under my hammock. A scorpion bit me while I was sleeping either through or inside my mosquito net, and just a few nights ago a tarantula infiltrated my room and scurried under the fridge. I've sprayed Raid until I fear for my brain cell count but I still haven't found the thing. I'm losing sleep, subjecting myself to my own sort of Agent Orange through constant sprays of low dose posion in a small, confined space, walking to and from my house to my host family's house with a broom raised as a weapon to ward off the turkey, and I'm developing an eye twitch. I've also barricated the open entrance to my patio with lounge chairs and a marker board to stymie the efforts of the geese, so I literally look like a prisoner in my own home. Give me a helmet and some paper to write to my sweetheart and I coul be in a trench, fighting the good fight. Woman against beast, civilized vs. wild, clean patio vs. pooped on premisis. I'm not sure how much longer I can hold out, as I'm out of ideas and reinforcements and they seem to be actively recruiting. If that tarantula gets me I'm done for. My one and only wish is that if I'm going down, the turkey comes with me, he started this whole mess. Pray for me, pray for peace against perturbed foul and irascible insects. Perhaps more than anything, pray for my sanity.
Caught up in all the action here means I missed some critical things at home - Lisa turning 25 and Sarah's bridal shower. I wish I could have been there with you girls to proudly wear my fidora and pay hommage to the Godfather theme. I can't wait to be home for the wedding next month - mainly, of course, for the food and my right to make a speech of whatever content I deem appropriate as the maid of honor. Be seeing you all soon.... take care until then!