After sunset in El Salvador
In a few Central American countries we had been warned that we should always reach a hotel or hostel before dark. In San Miguel, it was clear this cautionary advice held true. We arrived within a few hours of sunset to a busy city with vendors on the streets. By seven o’clock, as the sun was dropping, the streets emptied, stores closed, and the hotel staff waited for guests to return for the night before shutting the doors to the parking area. This served as a reminder that places can change quickly and to remain aware of how people are acting around you.
After interacting with hundreds of people along the thousands of miles of roadway in South America and now Central America, body language had become a key component in reading a situation—especially when the language barrier came into play. In rural regions of Bolivia and Peru, people often looked at us with a sense of fear and uneasiness. In other places, folks would react with excitement and curiosity. Some would rather ignore us all together. In Central America, more often we would sense people having concern or fear for our safety. However, we can now say that we traveled through this entire region without feeling directly threatened by anyone.
Our next stop in El Salvador was a day and half spent in San Salvador with Noah’s uncle’s partner, Cecilia and her family. She had grown up in San Salvador and was excited to show us the city. This stop also served as a history lesson and reminder of the ill effects of U.S. involvement in many of the countries we had been traveling through. We heard first-hand experiences of living through the civil war during the 1980s and had time to ponder our country’s influence on the lives of so many.
We had contrasting hotel stays during our two nights in Guatemala—another reminder of the constant uncertainty of what our next 24 hours of travel might bring. The first night we happened upon a hotel and restaurant on a small secondary road we had been traveling. With beautiful gardens and clean rooms with fresh sheets, it was more akin to what you might expect in a countryside B&B back home, but for a fraction of the cost you would pay.
Our second night we found a roadside motel on the Pan American Highway with rooms available per hour or the night. The rooms each included a framed poster of a scantily dressed woman and too many mirrors on the ceiling and walls. For dinner we cooked outside our rooms in the parking lot, each eating a few ramen soup cups, adding an egg and chopped onion to each.
The next day we had about 140 kilometers before the border with Mexico. We woke and rolled out as the sun was just rising. At some point during the day we had a meal that resulted Noah and Eli spending 48 hours in a hotel after crossing into Mexico.
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