When I was 12 years old, my parents hosted an exchange student from Norway named Lena. My mother was always fond of Lena, considering her to be the daughter she never had. So when my mom discovered that Lena had moved to El Salvador, the planning for a visit began.
I rendezvoused with my mom in Houston, Texas. We enjoyed a drink in the United lounge while waiting for our flight. My mother was bursting with excitement... partially because she hadn't seen me in some time , but mostly because she would soon reunite with Lena. And who could blame her; after raising three rambunctious boys (or four if you count my father), my mom deserved some quality female time with Lena.
When we walked out of the San Salvador airport, Lena was waiting for us. We hopped in her car and headed to her lovely home. She runs a beautiful bed and breakfast in San Salvador called Ximena's Guesthouse, but she insisted that we stay at her home with her family. Upon arrival, Lena had a surprise for us: Pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish made out of a thick, handmade corn tortilla filled with a blend of cheese, cooked pork meat, and refried beans. It was delicious.
We spent the first few days checking out the lush surroundings of the city. Everything was green and vibrant, pulsing with life. San Salvador is encased by a mountain range and a volcano, with the highest peak stretching to over 6000 feet. This makes for amazing views of the city, especially at sunset.
The rooms are buried amidst a field of tall coconut trees. A Salvadorian man scaled one of the trees, plucked several coconuts, and prepared them for us. We then sauntered across the long beach, coconuts in hand, looking for a quiet spot to relax. We sat in the sand with Lena and heard her fascinating tales of travel and adventure while gentle waves rolled onto the pristine beach. When we started to walk back to the house, I suddenly noticed another stunning feature of the area: a collection of colorful birds. As an avid animal lover, this was a wonderful bonus. I even saw a Pelican, one of my favorite birds!
Behind the beach is a large, well-preserved mangrove forest. The inner mangrove coastline is not only a haven for thousands of birds, lizards, and iguanas, but also to the fearsome crocodile! We hopped in a little boat and went deep into the mangrove to find one, Steve Irwin style (though we didn't plan to jump on top of one). I must admit, crocodiles are quite hard to spot. After cruising along the waters for nearly an hour, we finally found one. I decided to enter into a friendly staring war with the croc. I tried my best to refrain from blinking, but the croc outlasted me. Our rematch is scheduled for the spring of 2014.
As we made our way through the water, we kept an eye out for Chasca, the goddess of fishing, who sometimes appears in a white canoe to alert the locals of good fishing conditions. Chasca was once a beautiful princess who threw herself in the deep waters of La Barra after her dad had the love of her life murdered. Unfortunately, she didn't show up, but I hope to see her on my next journey to this lovely country.