Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Living with fear

This is Elise. Mike has been doing such an excellent job of keeping the blog updated. He is amazing. Mike has also been doing a spectacular job of driving. Before I came to Central America I was worried about crime here. I am not really afraid of getting robbed anymore. I am too busy worrying about all the other hazards here. You have seen the post about the waves, the scariest ocean ever with a vicious undertow, very steep incline and tremendous shore break.  We wouldn't even let the girls get their feet wet. Then the ferry ride. In the pictures you can't see that the boat is made of wood and very insubstantial. I was plotting out what I would do if the boat started to tip the whole time. I refuse to take a shower with the  120 volt electrical wires exposed. Our place in Antigua didn't have a railing on the stairs or the second story balcony. The roads routinely leave me breathless.
So we drove through most of El Salvador yesterday and stopped at a supermarket for a few snacks. I was greeted at the door by a shotgun wielding security guard giving me the evil eye. At the gas station there were two heavily armed guards that both seemed to hover near us when I got out the car. Were they guarding us? Were they just curious about the gringos?  Did we look like we were going to rob them?  I don't think we look quite that ragged yet. The girls are learning to tell the difference between weapons. No Zoe that's not a machine gun, it's an AR15.
We are going to relax and recuperate from the long drive here at the beach for a couple of days. It's going to be a long journey when we leave for Nicaragua on Wednesday. We will have two borders to cross and almost 5 hours of driving. Not much we can do to make it shorter or easier. Then we have a week booked at a rental house in Granada. I am looking forward to a country that is considered safer.

I wish I could say I really liked Guatemala. I really wanted to like it. There are some beautiful sites and it has a lot history and culture. I had a good time at the Spanish school and got a kick out of seeing the Mayan women walk around the city in their native clothes. Ultimately though I found it to be a polluted, corrupt place. The corruption there has a direct impact on daily life. In Antigua, the mayor made off with 3 million dollars so the city has no money. So trash removal is expensive so people burn their trash. One morning I was doing dishes when I smelled smoke coming from the alley outside. Within a minute I was dizzy and nauseated from the smoke. What the hell were they burning?  We all got sick and had to go to the other side of the building to get some fresh air. We were in one of the plazas one morning when we encountered a pack of wild dogs. Really?! A pack of wild dogs, in the middle of the day, in a city. The mayor stole the money for animal control.  By the way, they have frequent outbreaks of rabies there too.
Am I having fun?  Yes!  Am I glad we are doing this?  Yes!  Is it really hard and scary sometimes? Yes!  I guess I just look at all the dangers as temporary things.  I try to be careful without letting the fear consume me. I keep looking ahead to the next destination and don't stay in any one place long.  We thought we would be doing mostly VRBO one week rentals but we quickly realized there are a lot of places that are only worth a day or two.  We are ending up scrambling around looking for hotels when we arrive in a new place.  Last night all three of the nice places in town were booked up and we didn't have reservations or a place to stay at nightfall.  We had to settle for a place that I didn't like.  For the fourth night in a row we have had rooms that aren't nice at all.  The girls have begged me to stay here a couple more nights so they can enjoy the beach and I have relented. The girls have been beyond patient and good through it all.  The grounds and setting is quite lovely even if the room isn't.  The staff here doesn't seem to understand my Spanish at all.  I have gotten this weird feeling in this country that they don't want to talk to me.  I know it sounds paranoid but that's the way I feel.  I was able to communicate basic things in Guatemala. I don't know what's going on here.

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