Sunday, May 27, 2012

San Salvador Volcano – An easy city escape to cool air, flowers, trees, and views!

  The San Salvador Volcano dominates the western side of the city.  We happen to have a striking view of it from our apartment that we are greeted with every morning.  In 1917, this volcano erupted and caused earthquakes, ruining parts of the city.  It is dormant now, though experts, and our neighbors, warn that if there were to be even a slight eruption it could be tragic for the city, and most especially, for the homes and communities located around its base.

That's smoke rising up from the fires in March.

A few days ago - so green!

  Since our arrival in January, we’ve watched the volcano go from brown to green.  We’ve seen raging fires, fireworks, and (just last night!) amazing lightning.  Recently, I managed to head up to the volcano’s park and restaurants nearby, an easy drive from Santa Tecla.  “El Boquerón” is a special park filled with flowers and birds.  I saw hummingbirds, orquids, poinsettias, hibiscus and ferns.  There’s a small interactive museum, and gentle trails to several look out points, where you can see the “big mouth” crater. 

  At the bottom of the crater messages and words are written with white stones by those who planned their day well and managed to arrange a guided hike to the bottom.  On my first visit it said “Te amo Maria” and on the second “Dorado Dragón” (Golden Dragon).  I couldn’t actually read “Golden Dragon” but was informed by a boy who claimed to have “ojos como águila” (eyes like an eagle). 

  Just outside the entrance are vendors selling fresh berries, vegetables, and plants.  Homemade quesadillas and empanadas may also be found. 

  On my first visit I had lunch at Café del Volcán, a restaurant down the road from El Boqueron.  The best part was sitting high up, surrounded by all kinds of trees, birds, and flowers.

  On my second visit I had lunch at Las Brumas, which is further down the hill (good to stop here if you’re hungry on the drive up to the park).

  A great city escape when you need some fresh mountain air, and flowers and trees to inspire.  On both of my visits, I left feeling refreshed and revived.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Playa la Puntilla and the thrill of being a traveler

  Because I love the beach, I’ve made it a habit to ask the people I meet here what their favorite beach is.  So far, Costa del Sol and El Espino have been the top two mentioned.  My husband and I decided to venture to Playa Costa del Sol on Sunday afternoon.  The hotel we chose ended up being further down along the coast, past Costa del Sol, called La Puntilla.  From San Salvador, it took us a little over an hour to get there.
  Hotel Pacific Paradise is simple and inviting.  When we arrived, Salvadoran families were gathered together at the pool, under the cabanas, and at the beach.  The staff was friendly, and the food, included with the stay, was just fine for the price and convenience.
  The beach was fantastic.  There were some large waves, but along the shore, they were small enough to get in the water.  We walked along the shore at sunset, passing a few families and tourists.  On Monday morning, most everyone had returned home.  We practically had the beach and cabanas to ourselves. 
  I remember that as we drove into the area of Costa del Sol, passing enclosed homes and estates on the right, and shacks and huts, food shops and stores on the left, I felt a little afraid.  The landscape is a touch desolate looking and we were entering into unknown territory.
  As we were leaving, I noted feeling relaxed and calm from being at the beach, laying in a hammock, and soothed by the heat that seemed to build by the minute.  The surroundings felt more familiar and I saw the landscape, not with fear, but with curiousity and joy.  Isn’t that what being a traveler is all about?  Diving into the unknown to see, to observe, to sit, to swim, and then return home to the known and the comfortable, but bring back with you the thrill and excitement of moving forward and seeking out, and the confidence gained from the experience of an adventure.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Quesadillas Salvadoreñas - A sweet and salty cake sprinkled with sesame seeds

  I grew up eating quesadillas - tortillas with melted cheese.  The simplicity and quickness of them make for a great snack or last minute dinner.  Sometimes I add different kinds of vegetables like broccoli, spinach or mushrooms, sometimes whole or refried beans, and with a dash of Sriracha sauce or any kind of fresh salsa, voila!  These are “California-Mexican” style and will continue to be part of my repertoire in the kitchen.
  Salvadoreñan quesadillas are lovely little cakes, or one large round or rectangular loaf.  Imagine a slightly sweet salty cake, a bit like pound cake but not as rich and dense.  Sprinkled with sesame seeds, and filled with cheese you can’t quite detect, they are perfect as a mid-morning or afternoon snack enjoyed with tea or coffee.  There are lots of recipes out there but I’ve yet to experiment.  For now, I enjoy having one at least once a week.  I’m partial to San Martin bakery’s version, though I hope to venture out to other bakeries and markets soon.
  Yo crecí comiendo quesadillas – tortillas con queso.  La simplicidad y rapidez de ellas las hacen una merienda perfecta o una cena rápida.  A veces, yo añado diferentes tipos de vegetales como brócoli, espinaca, o champiñones, a veces frijoles, con un poco de salsa Sriracha o cualquier tipo de salsa fresca, ¡voilá!  Estas son estilo California-Mexicano y parte de mi repertorio en la cocina.
  Quesadillas Salvadoreñas son tortas especiales.  Imagina un pastel un poquito salado y dulce.  Con semillas de ajonjolí y relleno de queso con un sabor delicado, son perfectas para una merienda en la mañana o la tarde con café o té.  Hay muchas recetas pero todavía no he experimentado.  Por ahora, yo disfruto una por lo menos cada semana.  Me gusta la versión de San Martín, pero tengo ganas de irme a otras panaderías y mercados pronto.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Worker's Day, Exhibit at MARTE, and Day of the Cross - Día del Trabajo, Selección Promérica, y Día de la Cruz

Highlights from this week…
May 1 – Worker’s Day Día del Trabajo
I didn’t get to see the march, but I read about it in El Faro, a terrific online Salvadoreñan newspaper.  Their feature mentions that this year’s march was more calm than previous years, though the demands continue to be the same (better worker wages and benefits).  I especially enjoyed seeing that a feminist group called “Las Mélidas” did a performance highlighting the importance of women’s sexual and reproductive rights.  No tuve la oportunidad de ver los miles de personas marchando el martes para celebrar el Día del Trabajo, pero ví las fotos en  Menciona que la marcha fue más tranquila que en años anteriores.  Me gustó ver especialmente que un grupo de mujeres feministas, Las Mélidas, hizo una presentación destacando los derechos sexuales y reproductivos de las mujeres. 

May 2 – Exhibit “Selección Promérica” at MARTE
A fun visit to the museum to see the works of 19 artists from El Salvador submitted with the hope of having their pieces chosen for the upcoming Central American Biennial in Panama.  I was struck by the complexity and intensity of this multimedia piece by Eduardo Lytton, one of the six selected to be featured in Panama.  La exhibición de 19 artistas salvadoreñas por la bienal centroamericana de artes visuales, la cual estará en Panamá este año.  Me gustó esta pieza multimedia por Eduardo Lytton, una de las seis seleccionadas para Panamá.

May 3 – Day of the Cross Día de la Cruz
Lovely and colorful!  Schools, churches, businesses, and homes in El Salvador participate by creating an altar with a special wooden cross draped with colorful paper and branches of fruit. Originally celebrated by the indigenous people and later merged with Catholicism, this day marks the beginning of the rainy season by giving thanks with generous offerings of fruit.  Mercado Merliot was busy the day before selling all kinds of fruit on branches.  I bought mangos and tangerines and made my own small altar at home.  They say it always rains on this day, and, it did!  Sadly I didn’t take any photos of my own, but I’ve borrowed a few here to give you an idea. ¡Que bonito y lleno de color! Escuelas, iglesias, negocios, y hogares  en El Salvador participan haciendo un altar con una cruz especial, papel chino, y ramas de fruta.  Originalmente celebrado por la gente indígena, y después, mezclado con catolicismo, este día marca el comienzo de la temporada de lluvias, dando gracias con mucha fruta.  Mercado Merliot estaba muy movido el día anterior, vendiendo fruta y papel chino.  Compré mango y mandarinas e hice un altar pequeño en mi hogar.  Ellos dicen que siempre hay lluvia este día, y por arte de magia, había.  Aquí están algunas fotos para darles una idea de este día muy especial.