Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Downtown As Promised.


I love the patterns and colors of the merchants' stalls as they display their wares. Shirts, underwear,  potatoes, tomatoes, dried fish and are all proudly and colorfully displayed. Sadly, you cannot hear them, because they are quite energetic in their exhortations to purchase. Luckily you can't smell them because, well, never mind...

From Pawtucket to Bangkok, street markets have been a vital destination for me. They all have the common elements of color and texture, sun and shadow, sounds and smells. But each has its own unique personality.

The Hope Street Organic Market in Pawtucket, RI is a distinctly yuppie place.
Outside the Spice Market in Istanbul is a raucous, aggressive Turkish place.
Ulus street market (also Istanbul) is a little quieter and more workaday.
Chatachuk Market in Bangkok is filled with riotous colors, intriguing artifacts and asian treasures, and lots of quiet, respectful shoppers and merchants.
Aleppo souk, sadly, is gone now.
The Sunday market in Nice, France,  was the first market I truly loved. Rich with produce, flowers, treasures and treats, I've never been able to buy any of the 5' x 7' vintage travel posters.

Downtown San Salvador is my most recent market. Blocks and blocks of downtown, surrounding the central square and government building are given over to selling all forms of necessities. Clothing, hardware, vegetables, medical herbs, books, watch repair, appliances and chicken feet are all available.

This is the Men's and Women's Clothing Department:


There is more downtown than the street markets. This is the Iglesia de Rosario, a significant architectural landmark of modern architecture designed by sculptor Ruben Martinez in the late 1960's.


When I was teaching Third Grade at Bancroft School, in Worcester, Massachusetts, we usually did a unit on keeping a journal. Not so much a diary, which is personal, but a record of events in their lives. Our models were the journals kept by the New England farmers that we studied as part of our Central Subject. When kids were stuck with what to write about, I would remind them that those old farmers often wrote about what was most important to them, the weather. So, look out the window and write about what you see! In New England, if you don't like the weather, wait a minute. (Mark Twain?)

Here in El Salvador, the weather has a different pattern. First, it's summery all the time; second, it rains half the year, and is dry the other half. There are transition periods in between the two seasons, of course, when it might rain on any given day, or maybe not.   We are in that shift now, headed for rainy days after Easter (Semana Santa, the whole week is a celebration).  In addition, locals all have some weather lore about November being windy or April being extra hot; those patterns are still a mystery to me. But no one expected what happened last night and what has continued all day.

As I was going to bed I noticed that it was getting a little breezy. The cats were getting a little skittish about all the noises outside, and an unstopped door nearly chopped off a tail. When I was finally settled in to bed, another voice joined the chorus. A large metal gate in the backyard had not been secured, so of course it added an unpredictable base note as it whacked against the frame. Cursing whoever had left it open (not me), I got dressed and padded downstairs to lock it. When I opened the front door, I was greeted with a sharp blast of, dare I say it, cool air! As the winds had risen, the temperature had dropped.

Since it had been in the mid 90's at the pool when we went for a swim after school, this coolishness
was a pleasant surprise! We were in no danger of frostbite, though; it was probably between 60 to 65.
With the gate secured, I went back to bed, but noticed that the trees were raging wildly as the wind continued. With all of the background noises, it was not  a restful night of sleep. In the morning, which was a very early one, since we wake up in time to hear Emily's radio program on WHPK (5AM), a flashing clock indicated that we had lost power for at least a few minutes. I guess I did get some sleep, because I never noticed that the overhead fan had stopped.

The real surprise came when we headed down to school. The air was clear and shining with light. The sun was warm, but the lack of humidity was refreshing. The wind had moderated a bit, but gusts were frequent and strong. Throughout the day, the wind has continued, it's been warm, but the humidity has not returned. The locals are all scratching their heads. This is Autumn weather, not Spring. I missed October in New England, so I'll take whatever Fall I can get!!

I've had some adventures in downtown San Salvador, and many photos are ready to post.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Avocado Country

Raise your hand if you have ever poked three toothpicks into the pit of an avocado
and suspended it over a glass of water. Then, after weeks on a sunny windowsill, watched as a white root grew into the water, and a slender shoot stretched up towards the sun. If you were lucky, a few leaves would open up at the top and a network of roots would fill the glass. If you weren’t lucky… well, never mind.

So, by now, your attention would have wandered to more dynamic activities, especially since the growth rate of a windowsill avocado in North America would have it producing an avocado right around the time you would be applying for Medicare. Your mom probably got tired of cleaning around it, and when she “forgot” to water it, declared the project finished as she gathered up the dead leaves and threw the whole mess into the trash.

Once, I actually took it to the next level, and put the roots into dirt, sadly watching as all the leaves fell off (water roots don’t do well in dirt, I learned later). The spindly stem stretched for the light, though, putting up a growth spurt that tried to get it closer to the sun. Some leaves might have appeared, but by now the season was shifting, and the shortening New England days simply did not have hours of the light the tropical avocado needed to grow.

My situation has changed now; I live in avocado country, where avocado trees grow in fields and backyards, along streets or in parks, but seldom on windowsills. I also have an abundance of avocado pits because Salvadoran guacamole is excellent (made with hard boiled eggs, and not a lot else). Thinking how an avocado seed might get started if it just fell from a tree, I decided to just bury it into the dirt and see what happened. The combination of hot sun and warm moist earth worked its magic and about two weeks, the seed had cracked open and a shoot emerged, soon to be crowned with a few tiny leaves.


Eventually it was about 18 inches tall with a nice crown of big leaves. The location was not ideal, however, and I decided to move it out of the herb garden and put it in a pot. Guess what? After the transplant, all the leaves fell off, and it grew up another foot with a few leaves on top. Clearly, avocados do not take kindly to being moved around!

So I devised another plan: I’d plant an avocado grove in a shallow pot by just burying a bunch of pits in the dirt. In about 25 years of bonsai pruning, I might have something!

I’m going to print out this link for inspiration:

Also go here to learn an interesting tidbit of avocado lore:

Apparently, the avocado should be extinct! I guess it didn’t get the memo. The creature that ate avocados (presumably whole) and then deposited them around the landscape is extinct, though. (gomphothere — elephant-like creatures that lived during the Miocene and Pliocene, between 12 million and 1.6 million years ago) 

The bottom line (no pun intended) for avocado propagation is to make it think it’s in a pile of poop, making sure it’s in a sunny spot where you want a tree, and then just leave it alone. In New England? Well, sorry. Just get your avocates at el Mercado.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Wow! I'm goin' for the three-peet! tres posts in tres dias.

There is a presidential election here on Sunday. Here is a quote and a link to a better analysis than I could possibly give you. (I am reminded of the warning I got in Lebanon: If you think you understand Lebanese politics, they probably weren't explained to you correctly. Same here!

From Tim's El Salvador Blog

The second round of El Salvador's presidential election will be next Sunday, March 9.   The second round includes the two highest finishers from the first round voting -- Salvador Sánchez Cerén of the  FMLN on the left and Norman Quijano of ARENA on the right.   The winner of this fifth post civil war election will take office on June 1.

You can also read this:

But you have to read the comments to be reminded of Elliot Abrams' ugly reputation in Central America.

Meanwhile, life goes on! I did some shopping and made some friends at the local Mercado Merliot. 

And there's a place to eat Right Next Door!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Blogging twice in two days!! I think I'm finally getting the idea! The other thing is that my technology has finally settled down to work reliably, and everything is all in one place. The photos I am posting today are from trips that we took a few weeks ago, during the dark times when my laptop was misbehaving (and I thought I had lost some of these)

We have visited the little town of Panchimalco twice. The first was on he occasion of the opening of an art center founded by Miguel Angel Ramirez, and we went with Ken & Diane Templeton (and Emperatriz, of course!) Miguel Angel has developed a program of art education for the children and young people of the village, and on Saturday mornings or vacations, it is not unusual to see groups of kids with sketchpads exploring the scenic environment that he has created around his studio. This day was for speeches not sketches, though.

The second visit was with Diane, who was hoping to commission a special portrait of her (soon to be) granddaughter, Emperatriz (Em for short)(I like that!). So here was more time and open space to roam the studio area and the town. Of course there were colorful doors and windows, and a few people too!

Work in progress

Shrine to Msgr Oscar Romero, a martyr of the revolution 

This painting, by one of the young artists' atelier, is about 8 feet high and at least 15 feet wide

The church in Panchimalco

This tree was probably here before the village

The Guys Under the Tree

A Nahuatl cultural historian

and bird caller

And happy salesman!

The Tree

an artist
Carol and artist (his work is in the background)

an artist

Street scene (well, I had to take this!)

Miguel Angel Ramirez

From under The Tree. It was quite a day!