The place I stayed was perfect, it was beautiful, there were hardly any foreigners, and there were lots of waves. When I was stuck in the city it was exactly where I envisioned myself being, where I thought I would be most happy. However, such beauty it seems, is better shared, and I quickly realized that I wanted others there to share it with me. I can only share so much through my lonesome writing. Thus, despite the perfect setting, the last week has been all but perfect, and the only times I really felt completely comfortable and at peace was when I was in the ocean surfing, which was certainly quite often. That being said, I´ve been surfing some incredible waves every day, and the last week has afforded me with some of the best rides I´ve ever had. Unfortunately, my board has taken a turn for the worse. It was an old board to begin with, but the last month of traveling without a board bag surely didn´t help, and after only a few sessions it began to leak and developed what the locals here call "el cancer". At that point, alone and a little lost in my head, I decided to cut my losses short, sell the board, and head back inland for awhile to figure things out. So off I went on a chicken bus ride with another lone traveler who I met in El Zonte to the heart of the country, San Salvador.
Quickly I realized that San Salvador was not a place I wanted to stay for long. I read in a guide book that San Salvador is not as dangerous as people make it out to be - as long as you don´t walk anywhere after dark. I thought that there were lots of guns in Guatemala, but here they are even more prevalent. At least in Guatemala the guys with guns had uniforms, in San Salvador there are guys standing outside of stores in flip flops and Nike t-shirts toting shotguns, with hand guns stuffed in their jeans. Of course, as expected, the pollution here was shocking as well, but I came to notice something about El Salvador while driving into the city. It seems that there is an extreme polarization between the opulent and the destitute, not only economically like the rest of Latin America, but visually. You will be driving through slums where garbage is burning and half dead dogs are limping around and then separted by a fence, and of course armed men, you will be in a pleasant palmtree-lined neighborhood where the grass is green and luxury stores and American restaurants abound. And of course, these are the neighborhoods that the guidebook recommends to stay. Personally, a mere glimpse of the "good" life that probably 5% of the country lives is enough for me, I´ll wait until I´m back in North America to experience that again.
There were several things I needed to get done in San Salvador, and this meant making my way around the city. One of the most daunting things for a traveler in a big city where you don´t speak the language I think, is to try and take public transportation. The temptation to just hop in a taxi and be taken directly to your destination is strong, but it is cetainly not very thrilling. I chose to try and take some buses instead. The first time I just walked to the street that I needed to be on and then got on the first bus heading in my desired direction - this is not advisable. I ended up in the suburbs somewhere in some neighborhood that I probaby shouldn´t have been in. After, when I began to feel a little more confident with my Spanish I began to simply ask people what bus I needed to take. Occasionally they would send me the wrong way, but it all worked out in the end.
Since I´ve begun travelling, time and time again my negative expectations have been shot down. I´ve found that positive reviews from fellow travellers tend to usually be true, and that warnings and negative reviews tend to be unfounded. It seems that the more warnings I get about places being dangerous, the more the people in those places tend to be warmer and kinder. The people that I´ve met here in El Salvador have been so helpful and kind, so much so that it is the first place that I´ve felt comfortable hitchiking, which seems to be quite easy here.
My plan was to take a bus to Honduras to do some scuba diving for awhile, but then I got an unexpected email from a friend I met in Guatemala saying she wanted to come and surf in El Salvador. And so it was that I made my way back to the coast.
Now I am here in a village called El Sunzal surfing again and feeling much better about things.
Tommorow I´m going to pick up a board from a local in El Zonte, and I think I will be staying here in El Salvador for sometime. Hopefully, I will get to know more intimately both the ocean that I surf and the kind hearted people that make this country so inviting.