. What the hell was I, an uninformed gringo, doing in a urine-reeking internet café in some random town in El Salvador with a man I barely knew, trying to give him advice on something that I knew absolutely nothing about?! (My words not his). Or rather, why the hell had Carlos thought that I might be of better use to him than his clearly more capable brother in law?
Whatever the answers to these questions are, Iīm glad I made the phonecall regardless, because afterwards Carlos insisted on giving me a quick stop tour of his hometown; granted, the majority of it consisted solely of him pointing out every single hotel and giving me a quote of its cheapest room, but it also included a visit to the homes of his family. First on the list was the house of his mother in law, who was the proud owner of what was quite possibly the saggiest pair of breasts Iīve ever seen (not that I was looking). I have no idea if he had prewarned her of my appearance - if not it must have seemed a bit random - but she and her daughters were very hospitable during my brief stay. I also enjoyed the company of the cutest little girl, who kept on touching my knee and then running away giggling when I looked at her.
(* Reading that back I canīt help but feel that the last two sentences are implying some sort of sexual innuendo which, considering the opposite extremes in age of the females present, would just be wrong. If no one else had detected this possible innuendo then I must just have a sick mind... either way letīs move on*)
The next stop was the house of Carlos himself, where I got to meet his wife and two little kids
. Their home was a very humble affair - one room with two hammocks that acted as a living room and bedroom for Carlos, and another room with a bed in it that acted as a kitchen and a bedroom for the wife and kids; the bathroom was a little shack in the garden. But whatever wealth they were lacking in terms of possessions was more than made up for by the love and happiness that they shared as a family. Carlos had told me before that his kids meant everything to him, and that every little thing he did was done with the purpose of trying to give them the best life possible. And his kids were very cute - his permanently-smiling nine year old son was the perfect host, constantly whispering to his Dad things like "Offer him some water to drink", and "Ask him if he wants to watch TV". His three year old daughter was (understandably) more shy at first, but by the time I left was flying around the room in song and dance, and proudly showing me both her colouring book drawings and photos of their family holiday in Canada. To be honest my time spent with Carlos and his family was pretty touching, and only served to give further evidence to the warm and welcoming nature of the Salvadoran people.
Having said our goodbyes, in what is fairly embarrassing for a twenty three year old single man, I went to go and see Sex in the City - the Movie. So what did I think? Well, having been eagerly anticipating it ever since it was originally announced, as well as reading the latest IMDB rumours on a daily basis, I didnīt think that it would be able to live up to my overly-inflated expectations
. But quite frankly, it blew then away. That was a joke by the way. I knew it would live up to them. That was a joke too. But anyway it was actually quite enjoyable in fairness, apart from the laughably dramatic nature of the main characters, especially Carrie. In fact, I have another minor quibble with the movie, and indeed the series - why is it always Miranda who gets the most explicit sex scenes? Whilst Sarah Jessica-Parker isnīt the most beautiful of women, she does have a certain sexiness about her, and yet at most we are allowed to see a long-range shot of her ripping the clothes of whatever man she has recently managed to dig her talons into before the camera pans away. And despite her relatively advanced age, Samantha is still quite attractive in my book, but the closest she comes to nudity involves strategically placed parcels of rice. Admittedly Charlotte, who I think is the best looking of the quartet, does get a couple of sex scenes thrown her way, but they are somewhat ruined for me due to the fat, bald Jew that tends to be found writhing around on top of her. But Miranda? Miranda the cold, pasty, strange haired, abnormally long necked wench with the untrimmed pubic hair? Well it goes without saying that we are treated to a full frontal shot of her moaning in ecstasy, whilst that strange little hairy man can be spotted thrusting away in the background. Thanks a lot.
Anyway, after the movie I headed back to the hotel / restaurant that I was staying at to get a bite to eat
. Now let me make it clear that I am used to being stared at over here - any gringo will be - but that meal was without a doubt the most uncomfortable of my life, as the seventeen year old waitress who was serving me literally spent the entire fifteen minutes or so perched on the edge of the bar, with her face less than a foot away from mine, refusing to release eye contact. Iīve never eaten tacos so fast. Following this one-sided staring contest I was invited to play some pool with three locals, who pretty much looked to me like prototypical Salvadoran gang members. Luckily they turned out to be pretty nice guys, despite the fact that two of them were absolutely hammered. I think this is best exhibited by the fact that one of them would point at their more sober friend and proclaim, in a drunken Spanglish slur, "My amigo - he is gaaaay", at which point the other one would absolutely wet himself laughing. This was followed by a congratulatory high five, and the whole process would then be repeated later. Good times.
The following day it was time to head north towards a little town called Perquin, close to the Honduran border. I was greeted in the morning by a beautiful blue sky, whose lack of any clouds at all meant that it was even hotter than the previous few days (something that I hadnīt even thought possible). But three hours on a bus later, I arrived in Perquin in the midst of a tropical rainstorm - itīs incredible how quickly the weather can change from one extreme to the other here
. After waiting for the rain to die down a bit, I managed to hitch a ride to the nearby "Hotel Lenka" - a beautiful log-cabin like affair, situated amongst the nearby mountains and cloudforests. Itīs funny how my hotel-finding technique has changed recently - at the beginning of my trip I would find whatever was the cheapest place listed in my Lonely Planet guide, and ask for the cheapest accommodation available - whether it was a single room, dormitory bunk bed, or hammock. Now I look for the most expensive place listed in my Lonely Planet guide, and ask if there are rooms with a double bed, en-suite bathroom, hot water and cable TV. Whatīs more is that I feel quite disgusted if the answer to any of these questions is no. Some backpacker eh?
Anyway, the main reason for staying in Perquin seems to be to use it as a base for daytrips to the surrounding area, and so the following day I headed to a little town called El Mozote. To explain what the town is all about, I should probably give a (very) brief description of the Civil War that took place in El Salvador between 1980 and 1992 (with some help from Wikipedia).
It basically came about when "reform-minded groups [who had] emerged to challenge the alliance of the right-wing military and the landowning oligarchy" in the 60s decided that they had no other means of creating change, other than "militant demonstrations and terrorism"
. The core of the rebel group FMLN was made up of poor campesinos (peasants / farmers), who had had enough of repression, poverty and lack of political freedom - all directly attributable (at least in their eyes) to the corrupt right wing government. When the US-backed-and-funded army realised that the guerillas were far too efficient a fighting force to be defeated via traditional combat, they began instead to focus on the extermination of the entire population of any guerilla-held territory - taking the water away from the fish as it were. El Mozote was one such territory, where, in 1982, the army murdered every single man, woman and child who resided there - all of them unarmed civilians. Of course the army denied that any such massacre ever took place, and whilst photos of the corpses appeared in high profile US newspapers (courtesy of two American journalists), the Salvadoran officers claimed that they represented merely a handful of unintentional casualties caused by a firefight with the guerillas. The US government sent over a team to (supposedly) get to the bottom of what really happened but, having never actually visited the town in question, sent a report back claiming that there was not sufficient evidence to suggest that the reported massacre had taken place.
"Luckily" there was one survivor from the massacre - a middle aged woman who, somehow managing to crawl away unnoticed during the carnage, described (in much more detail) how the soldiers separated the men, women and children from each other, before raping (when "necessary") and murdering each and every one of them. Her story was proven to be true when, in 1993, a group pf Argentinian archaeologists excavated the sight where the supposed massacre took place. Their most shocking discovery occurred when they dug up the old church, and found 146 skeletons - 140 of which were deemed to belong to children under the age of 12
. The survivor told how soldiers had thrown up babies in the air and skewered them on their bayonets, and even how one used his bayonet to "extract" a living foetus from a pregnant woman, before smashing it against a rock as she lay there dying. What makes these stories even more shocking in some ways is that this was all being funded by US taxpayers. Itīs hard to understand how these kind of actions were deemed by the US government to be "vital for the safety and security of US citizens", but then what do I know, Iīm not the US president.
Anyway, it was a 13km walk from Perquin to El Mozote, and in light of my recent chocolate-based piggery, I decided to walk it. I was joined for a part of my stroll by a horn-tooting ice cream salesman from Nicaragua, from whom I struggled to decipher a single word of dialogue. Iīve noticed that most people in El Salvador donīt seem to bother pronouncing any īsī when they speak, so that "ya vamos a llegar" (weīre about to arrive) becomes "ya vamo a llegar". But this guy, possibly due to the lack of any substantial amount of teeth, didnīt seem to pronounce any consonants at all, so that "ya vamos a llegar" would become "a ao a ea". Despite this I did manage to discover that he didnīt like Catholics, for the reason that evolved from "I donīt know" to "they donīt practice what they preach" to "theyīre all drunks". I think.
I also encountered dozens of schoolchildren as I neared El Mozote, who politely answered every single one of my hellos and how-are-yous with "hola!" and "bien!"
. It actually got a bit freaky after a while, as they all said the words perfectly in sync - it was like theyīd been brainwashed. On the very last stretch of my journey I spotted three of the kids marching up behind me as fast as their little legs could carry them and, following a brief race (that I won - get in!) they showed me to the first memorial in the town centre. As I stood reading the list of the names of the citizens who had died on that fateful day, a local lad came over and asked if I would like a brief tour of the town. I didnīt, and I told the little shit to fuck off. No just kidding - my new guide went by the name of Eduardo, and was just sixteen years old. He said that all of his family had been killed during the massacre, but that his parents had been lucky enough to be out of town on the day that the army arrived. Of course he could have been lying, but I didnīt think it was the time or place to be cynical about such things. He first showed me to the site of the Argentinian led excavation, where a new church had been built to honour all the children who had died there; Iīll let the pictures do the talking. Although I have to mention that, upon reading the list of all the names and ages of the victims, I discovered that the youngest had been TWO DAYS OLD. What gets to me most when hearing about these kinds of atrocities is that humans can actually bring themselves to carry out such actions on so large a scale. Of course there is always going to be the odd psychopath who takes pleasure in things of a sick and twisted nature, and there will (probably) always be wars in which thousands of soldiers will kill thousands of other soldiers, but how could there have been so many "normal" people who were willing to murder innocent victims in such a disgusting, cold blooded manner?
Anyway, in what turned out to be a very brief tour, Eduardo then showed me to the still-standing building where the unfortunate women had met their fate
. Although the whole experience didnīt have as much of an effect on me as one would think it might, this was probably due to the fact that Iīd already read a book that described the whole sordid affair in some detail, coupled with the fact that it is simply too hard to take in the idea that, twenty five years ago, hundreds of children and women were being mutilated and murdered on the very spot that you are standing. Either way Iīm definitely glad I made the trip.
So, not wanting to end this entry on such a sad note, I shall now recount a tale that re-appeared in my memory for the first time in quite a while as I was walking back to Perquin. It took place way back in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, and despite being quite embarassing, is also quite amusing. On the night in question a group of us had gone to our local haunt, and I was carrying out my usual "Iīm too sober to dance but itīs too loud to talk" behaviour - namely standing on the outskirts of the dancefloor, nodding my head in time with the music, and perving at all the attractive women on show. However, one of these women caught my eye for a couple of seconds and, making a mental reference to "Donīt Be a Loser: How to Make Beautiful Women Think Youīre Really Cool and Hot", I looked away for a couple of seconds before catching her eye again and smiling. To my delight, and indeed surprise, she smiled back and beckoned me over towards her
. Remembering Chapter 13 - "How to Play Hard to Get" - I shook my head and gestured for her to come over to me instead. She rolled her eyes playfully and began to saunter towards me, at which point I, presumably due to excitement, began to walk towards her so that we would meet in the middle of the dancefloor. But just as I was about to open my mouth and deliver my killer opening line, she walked straight past me without so much as a glance in my direction. To this day I still donīt understand what happened - she canīt have been looking at someone over my shoulder the whole time, like in some teen comedy - her behaviour and expressions had been far too in sync with mine. Had I wandered under a particularly strong light and revealed some facial blemish that was deemed unacceptable to her standards? Or had I forgotten to do up my flies after my last trip to the toilets, and carelessly allowed an untrimmed testicle to release itself into the cold, pale moonlight? Either way I suddenly found myself marching towards the centre of the dancefloor with no particular goal in mind, and - filled with a sense of panic whose magnitude was far greater than the severity of the situation deserved - I inexplicably began to start dancing in a way that I have never danced before, and that was not unlike that of Carlton from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air". Thankfully after a couple of seconds I came to my senses and, regaining my composure, headed to the bar with my tale between my legs.
Right, Iīm being kicked out of the internet café.
To be continued.....
I really do wish I could come up with more original titles. Anyway, where was I? Well after finishing up my last blog entry, I made a phonecall to Carlos, the Salvadoran gentleman that Iīd met on the bus. Although it was a somewhat awkward affair, mainly due to my imperfect Spanish coupled with a crappy reception, we managed to arrange a meeting at the local mall later that day. Upon my arrival I spotted his beaming face in no time and, after a donut and cup of horchata (local cinnamon-based beverage), we headed off to an internet café to see if we (I) could shed any light on his Canadian VISA situation. I mentioned last time that I was feeling a bit guilty / embarrassed about suggesting that I might be able to help him, and this feeling was worsened tenfold when I was put on the phone to his brother in law. Having suggested a couple of things that I thought could be the issue, I discovered that this man had been a Canadian citizen for over twenty years, had already successfully hired dozens of Latin Americans for his company in Canada, was fairly certain of what Carlosī problem was (the previous revoke of his US Visa), and had a team of lawyers working on the case