Monday, January 21, 2013

Dad In The Savior

Just in case any of you readers out there were unaware, my Dad is awesome. He decided that he wanted to make a second trip down here to El Salvador. This is, in terms of parents visiting their kids in El Salvador a minor miracle. I have heard stories of families that refuse to come down or change their plans at the last moment for a more tropical/ resort like option. Parents who have revamped their wills before making the trip. Or parents who come down, but cannot tough it out in our living situations and give up after one night. These stories are endless.

Host family and Dad in the corn fields
My family were troopers when then came down for a week last year, and my Dad was a rock star when he came down this year for ten days. He told me that he wanted to live the life I live down here in rural El Salvador. In order to really get a sense of that you need to spend consecutive nights in my site. He arrived the day after Christmas and we stayed in my site for six nights in a row. Folks that is a lot of time for people from the first world, but my Dad is a champ and did not complain once. In fact he embraced the life, taking bucket baths (or not depending on what the day dictated), visiting houses with me, helping organize my wacky stove project, reading an entire book, getting his hair cut and slicked back in town, visiting the my host family's corn fields playing with Bella, improving his Spanish skills and trying new foods (like armadillo).

The week kicked off when I surprised him the airport in San Salvador. I had told him that I would arrange for a taxi to pick him up and take him to a mall in San Sal, where I would be waiting with the car we had rented. Instead I had the car rental guy pick me up in San Sal and drop the car and I off at the airport. Surprise accomplished. We immediately took off for my community in northern Santa Ana, a department on the western side of the country. The next days were relaxed with a bit of work thrown in. I cannot express how helpful it was to have my Dad around ready to spring into action the moment I mentioned I needed to purchase and get materials delivered for my stove project. We ate with families in my community, and the food was good. No repeats of last years atol. Gracias a Dios.

Bella took to my Dad instantly, which was great since I had recently decided that I wanted to take Bella home with me at the end of my service. We figured out that the easiest course of action would probably be for Bella to go home with him, now. There is a lot of paperwork that needs to get done in order to send a pet internationally, and there are a lot of variables. You need to present her vaccination record, a clean bill of health from a vet and paperwork from the department of agriculture. (Did I mention that all of these papers are only good for 10 days?) Also you must have a kennel that is the correct size for the dog, a water bowl and something for her to lie on. The most unpredictable part of it all is the weather. If it is too hot or too cold in any of the locations that the dog will be (departure, layovers or arriving cities) on the day that the dog is supposed to fly, they can tell you then and there that you are out of luck and you must go home and try again another day.

Dad and I also spent our first New Years in El Salvador. Last year I went home for the holidays and missed it. This year I got to experience both Christmas and New Years here. New Years is very much like Christmas down here. The day is just like any other day, but the real celebration is at night (just like in the US). There were more firecrackers than any community should legally be aloud to have. We ate dinner over at Melida and Orlando's house, baked chicken, rice and coleslaw. Yum. Also because a couple days before Orlando had figured out that my Dad had never tried Armadillo, Orlando cooked some up special. Lucky Dad. Neither of us made it to midnight (I mean common it is almost 5 hours past my bedtime!), but that was ok. I did wake up to the sound of thousands of firecrackers going off at once when the clock hit midnight, and again around two am when there was a bolo in the street yelling for my host dad to come out. (I asked him about it the next day and he told me that he did eventually go out, but only to throw a bucket of water on the guy and tell him to go home.)  

Getting ready
After spending six consecutive nights in my site, Dad and I packed up the car and headed down to Ataco in the department of Ahauchapán. We spent the day wandering in and out of all of the artsy shops and having lunch at a little French restaurant. Ataco will always be one of my favorite places in El Salvador. They have great coffee and art. That coupled with the cool climate and laid back vibe is all anyone could ask for. The next morning we headed out to travel to the town of Suchitoto in the department of Cuscatlán. On our way through San Salvador, we stopped at the necessary places to make sure we had all of the paperwork necessary for Bella's rapidly approaching departure.

The afternoon we had in Suchitoto was beautiful. The town is known for its quaint town square, cobble stone roads and artisan shops. This is the town where I held my GAD camp back in September. We stayed in this awesome hotel called Los Almendros. We spent the afternoon shopping in town, swimming in the hotel's pool, reading and catching up on the internet. We ate at the hotel's restaurant and afterwards found a small revolutionary themed bar I had heard about. Pretty cool.

The next morning we left Suchitoto and headed back to my community for one last night. Bella was thrilled to see us as we drove up. We had one last dinner with my host family that night. They were dealing with the passing of one of their close friends due to a tragic construction accident, so the mood was heavy and nostalgic. But when I offered to take a rain check on the dinner so they could spend time with family, Melida told me that we were family and they wanted us there.

At the airport!
The last day we woke up early and packed up the car with all of my Dad's belongings, souvenirs and of course Bella and we traveled to the airport. Gracias a Dios there were no problems getting Bella checked in. So I said farewell to my Dad and my pup and I headed back to site. They did not have any issues going home, except that after being trapped in her kennel for hours upon hours, Bella decided to pee in the middle of the customs baggage claim. Don't worry Dad cleaned it up.

So now Bella is a spoiled American dog. She has been groomed at Petsmart. I mean how much more spoiled can you get? Also it could not have worked out better with my parents current dog CJ, they are best friends now.

All in all my Dad's trip was a huge success. Turns out he is the exception not the rule, but I already knew that.

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