Libby’s Travel

New Year’s in Buenos Aires

Another 20 hour bus ride with alfajores, medialunes, bad movies … though much better, and plush seats, back in Bs As it was for warm weather and the anio neuvo.

Like Christmas, everything shuts down early, families and friends celebrate, fireworks are set off in all neighborhoods at midnight (or before in anticipation), and bars/restaurants open back up at 2 am.

Staying low key in San Telmo, had an asado (bbq) with roomies and friends before heading to the Plaza Durrego the main square in San Telmo for fireworks and champagne.  The locals all bought and shared beers and Fernet and CocaCola drinks as bands played in the streets, people laughing and dancing.  I too joined in the firework celebration, lighting off my only firework that almost hit the policia…. good thing I didn’t have to call home to get bailed out of prison.

It was fun to learn new traditions and celebrate the new year in Buenos Aires

Habits are hard to break

As I sat in my hotel room last night in the bathroom, I found myself looking around to find the waste basket to dispose of my used toilet paper. Wait! You mean I can actually flush it down the toilet? Amazing.

In Central America, the sewage system is so poor that anything you put in the toilet might easily cause backups – and surprises – in the drains.

So, everywhere there are signs that say ‘please place your tissue in the waste basket, do not flush down toilet’. For the past 6 weeks, I’ve been throwing my toilet paper away, usually into an over-filled bin. Surprisingly, it doesn’t seem as bad as it sounds, but I did get tired of (though, sadly, accustomed to) the not-so-fresh smell every time I walked into a bathroom.

It’s good to be back to old habits! Just don’t invite me over for a few weeks until I’m fully back in the habit. Or, just remove the trash can before I get there.

The price of a roll

I went to Super Selectos for some food around 1 pm and saw a case with great bread, not the airy flaky flavorless kind, but hearty bread. I asked how much. 3 cords per roll, great, I bought 3 for 9 cordobas.

I shared them with a friend who decided she would buy some also. Around 3 pm we went back for 3 more. Total price: 10.5 cords. Hmm, quite inflated after only 2 short hours.

The next morning, I went back for more. This time they were 4 cords a piece! Granted, a different person was working each time. I had to argue with each of them to get the original 3 cords price. Or was it the original? What would have been my starting point had I gone at 11 am?

The flaky pricing is typical of Nicaragua and some other Central American countries. Yesterday on the bus I got charged 5 cords more than anyone else. Why? The gringo/tourist price. Either way, I always have to negotiate my way out of a higher price here.

I generally just starting with saying ‘no, that’s too high’ then either give another price or attempt to walk away a few times. That does it, usually. Or I listen to the price the local was just charged then ask for the same or give exact change (this is key or they may not always give you money back). I’m just used to everyone trying to rip you off. It’s a big chicken fight (El Gallo mas Gallo) but once you agree on a price with someone, then you become best of friends and they are the nicest people. I just have to say I expected it from a street vendor or Taxista didn’t expect it out of a grocery store.

So if you want a cheap roll, I suggest going to Super Selectos around 9 am on Monday. ;)

Cold shower, I love you

Cold shower El Salvador

Have you ever thought the thing you’d dread would end up being something you’d love? I’m starting to REALLY look forward to cold showers. Yesterday for example I was on a ‘chicken bus’ for six hours from Leon to San Juan del Sur (both within Nicaragua). The bus was overpacked, with four people in my two person seat. Bags being passed around overhead, sun beating directly on our necks. By the end of it, my pants were soaked in sweat and my white shirt had a nice mix of sweat and dust from the road.

When I finally arrived, I threw my pack (and myself!) off the back of the bus and found a room in a house to rent for a few days, I could hardly wait for that cold shower.

Let me explain the circumstances. There was actually a real shower head versus a pipe coming from the wall and I didn’t need to leave my shoes on in the tiled floor versus a dirty cracked cement floor. It was heaven.

I tried a hot shower in El Salvador and I decided that I prefer cold showers, at least in this weather. I had become accustomed to it in a way I had never expected.  First of all, it’s refreshing and I’ve actually become accustomed to the little ‘shock’ that comes from the cold water hitting your skin. Second, the air is colder if you have a hot shower versus a cold shower. Plus, you don’t take as long and don’t end up wasting as much energy.

I was so used to showers just being an amenity, not a luxury. It reminds me just how accustomed I became to small luxuries in the United States, which really are luxuries pretty much everywhere else in the world. But after that bus ride, a cold shower was all I wanted. Talk about a paradigm shift.

What do you value more because of traveling? Are there any luxuries you take for granted sometimes?

The Value of Life

The Value of Life

A loud crrrrrrraaaaaaaaaacck as we were eating dinner last night in Papaya Lounge in El Tunco. Everyone jumped. What was THAT?

I thought it was a firecracker. Then a few others said it was a gunshot. Panic set in. The cops came running in through the door. They opened the door to fellow Wisconsonite James’ room only to find an El Salvadorean man wet and sandy and wearing only his underwear. A random drunk man who was apparently already being chased, fell through the roof as he was walking above, directly onto James’ bed, which fortunately for James, was empty.

They immediately grabbed him, forced him to the back of the hostel and smacked him in the head with what looked like a broom handle. Unconscious and bleeding down his back, they cuffed him after checking his pulse, and then literally dragged him down the rocky road, with his feet dangling.

Another man attempted to rape a young woman, but was caught, and was beaten nearly to death.

Life is cheap in other countries. We don’t realize how pampered we are in the US. A ‘civil’ society apparently means one that is allowed to sue over hot coffee. Not in Central America. Your life is your own, your liberty is – or may/may not be, your choice. If you mess up, you mess up. There is more freedom here with regards to how you choose to live your life – be it drugs, the way you drive, whatever – it’s up to you. If you don’t value your life and your decisions, nobody else will and you will pay for whatever your crime…. unless your family has enough money to get you out of trouble… but that’s another story.