Sunday, July 27, 2008

Day: 140

Mileage: 190

Total Mileage: 6,988

Money SPent: 7-25: $27, 7-26: $11

Jesus and his nephew, extremely nice people.

The fantastic four: Manny, Fransisco, Oscar and Johnny! These were some cool kids.

Using the shoulder to dry crops. Not much fun for a cyclist!

I am about 30 kilometers from the border with Honduras and looking forward to making the transition. El Salvador is a place of strong contrasts to say the least. The individual people are very friendly and nice, but the overall feel of the place is offputting. I can't really put my finger on it but it is the sensation that there are sharks in the water, that you are not totally safe. It very well could be my imagination, or it could be the ridiculous multitude of heavily armed people I see. On top of that, all of the locals I talk to encourage me to leave as it is not safe here and that crime is a huge problem.

I have met a lot of incredible people here though, that have been very welcoming, but from those same people I have also learned some terrible history lessons about this country.

For one, the people here are much more European looking than in the other Latin American countries I have been too, and the reason is that the government has murdered, repressed and driven out the indigenous peoples for hundreds of years. It is terrible, but a fact of life there. Also, during the recent civil war, government soldiers formed death squads that roamed the villages thought to hold guerilla fighters and murdered entire towns, torturing men, and taking children to be sold into slavery or kept by the soldiers. These stories just curl your toes, and they happened in the last 20 or so years.

However, all of the people I have met have been very friendly. I had one man who owned a gas station I stopped at ask to have his photo taken with me and offered to let me come and stay at his beach ranch. I need to make it to Costa Rica in the next week and a half though, so I politely refused.

Another man I met at a restaurant I stopped to eat at, bought me some sweat bread and coffee when I told him what I was doing. He was very nice and asked me to come back to El Salvador one day to visit him again and he gave me his number in case I needed anything. One thing that he said that blew my mind however, was that Santa Ana, the last town I had been in with all of the gunshots, was a very tranquil and calm place! Wow, if he says that about Santa Ana, what is his town like? Are there shoot outs in the street on the way to work?

One group of people that I met provided for a pretty eye opening and saddening experience. While riding through the countryside, a group of 4 boys ranging from 14 to 8 came running out of the bushes after me. I pulled over to see what they wanted and as they came close to me I noticed they were pretty dirty looking. Only two of them had shoes, and the shoes they had were old dress shoes that were much too large for them. Neither of the boys had socks either. Only three of them had shirts, all too big for them. One of the kids didn't even have any pants, just a big shirt that went down to his knees. They all, were very much in need of a bath as well.
Essentially, they looked very much like street kids living out in the country, which I am 99% sure was the case.

They were really nice though and had a million questions for me about my bike and the trailer (kids love the trailer). When I told that my trailer held my stuff, they thought it was really cool, but when I mentioned it had food in it, they perked up like I had mentioned Christmas. The two little guys asked me if they could have some food, and so I gave them each an apple, the two older kids tried to act like they didn't want one, but they were staring at the little guys' apples with hungry eyes, so I tossed them each one as well. They all tore into those apples like it was there job, it was sad. So we all sat and talked for a while and then they found some berries that had fallen off of a tree into the gutter. They gobbled these up too and gave me some which was really nice of them. I honestly didn't want to eat them but I didn't want to hurt their feeling so I did. Eventually I had to go, so I said goodbye and started to ride off and the kids all ran behind me taking turns pushing the trailer. It was nice because I was going up a really steep hill! I felt like I was about 12 years old because we were all yelling ariba! and vamanos! and laughing our butts off the entire way up the hill. Those kids were strong!

It is just a really sad situation that these little kids have no one but each other to try and survive and that there is not much of an infrastructure to take care of them. I wish there was more I could have done, at least given them some more food but I was out. I wish them the best and hope things turn out well for them.

At any rate, I need to head for the border, I hope all is well back home.


Anonymous said...

Incredible stories from El Salvador Reece. Good to hear that you're still okay down there.

Rich Chen

Doug said...

Stay safe Bud, wishing you the best!

Lisa in Louisiana said...

thanks, Reece, now I got to go fix my makeup. booohoooo so sad about those country street kids and how hungry they were. :(

Reecius said...

yeah, el salvador was something else, no doubt. can´t say i want to come back to be honest.

it is tough to think about what those kids most go through on a daily basis, life is just flat out unfair to a lot of people.

Evanapolis said...

Wow...that made me cry. =(