A weekend of firsts
So I experienced many firsts this past weekend….a Salvadoran birthday party, a quinciñera, a culto, and killing a live turkey with my bare hands. I’ll start with the turkey. Since I have come to accept that I will be eating chicken and/or turkey over the next 2 years, I told the family I eat with that I would like to see how they kill the animals and then prepare them for cooking. The way I look at it is, if I’m going to eat it, I want to see what the animal has to go through. I really didn’t mean that I wanted to do the killing, but that’s what ended up happening. In preparation for a birthday party on Saturday, the family told me they were going to kill 2 of their turkeys, as well as several chickens. They told me to show-up at 4 on Friday and they would teach me how to prepare a turkey. As soon as I arrived, the mother took out a large knife and started sharpening it, while her husband went in search of the camera. After tying the 2 live turkeys to a tree, she handed me the knife as though I knew what I was supposed to do. I was really nervous and everyone was laughing at me, and taking pictures…I felt like the afternoon entertainment. I ended-up grabbing the turkey by the head, slicing its neck with the knife, and then watching it go crazy as blood splattered all over the place. This may not be a big deal to most people, but it certainly was for me. I will NEVER kill another animal again. I felt horrible afterwards, and I felt even worse while de-feathering it…the worst part, however, was when I was given a bowl of turkey soup for dinner!!
Saturday was a busy day for me. It started by going to a birthday lunch for a 1 year old, at which I experienced many awkward moments. After the lunch I was sitting outside with about 5 women who were chatting. At one point one woman started asking another woman questions about me, rather than just asking me…maybe she thought I couldn’t speak Spanish. So, I just looked at her and answered the questions, which really seemed to take her by surprise. Being in social situations here can be fun, but they are also exhausting and frustrating at times. I feel as though I really have to be “on”, which requires me to think and speak in Spanish the entire time. I try to do that anyway, but sometimes it just gives me a big headache. I’m really getting tired of not always being able to clearly express myself during conversations, or simply just not knowing what to say…I have experienced a lot of what I consider to be awkward silences. I just keep telling myself that it can only get better with time!
So, after lunch I had about a ½ hour to go back to my room and relax before my counterpart picked me up to go to the quinciñera. A quinciñera is a big day for a muchacha here, as it is in most of Latin America…it is the day a girl turns 15 and usually there is a big party. I went to the quinciñera of the granddaughter of one of the park guards that I have become friendly with. The party consisted of all the guests lining up outside of the house to watch the girl, wearing a big pink dress (it was actually very pretty), slowly walk up the street accompanied by her grandfather. Once she entered the house, we all crammed into a very small room to watch her dance to the first song. Then we all had to walk up to her one by one, give her a hug and say congratulations, and then give her the gift we brought. It was a little strange because I had never met the girl before, or anyone else in her family besides her grandfather, but it was a lot of fun. We then all went into another room and took shifts eating dinner because there wasn’t enough room for everyone. The meal consisted of salad, tortillas, and some part of a cow. I was really surprised when someone came up to me and told me that they knew I couldn’t eat red meat, so they were going to give me chicken. Now I have never met any of these people before, but somehow they all know the eating preferences of the gringa in town. I can only imagine the kinds of things people are saying about me when I’m not around!!
I had to leave the quinciñera early because I had to make it back to the house where the birthday party was earlier in the day…I was going to experience my first culto. A culto is an Evangelical prayer session of some sort, and they actually take place every day of the week here in my pueblo. This was a special one in honor of the little boy’s birthday, and I would say about 200 people came. It lasted about 2 hours, and it consisted of a preacher screaming into the microphone yelling alleluia, praise Jesus, and a lot of other things. I completely respect their religion, but I felt very uncomfortable during the whole thing, and I was happy when I had to leave early to meet my counterpart.
The most exciting part of the week so far has been the 10.5 hour hike I did on Tuesday that has left me unable to completely bend my leg…my knee is so swollen. I went with 2 park guards and 2 park guides on a hike that was supposed to take us to 2 different caves in the park. We ended up getting kind of lost, so we only made it to one of the caves…La Cueva de Cal (lime). The cave was really pretty, and there were ferns hanging down all around the entrance to the cave….we could also see all the way to the ocean. I brought some snacks along for lunch, but I didn’t need them because, to my surprise, one of the park guides pulled chicken out of her backpack and proceeded to cook chicken on a stick and tortillas for all of us over a fire. Forget fruit, gorp, and water, down here people bring along whole chickens and a ton of soda!! The day was a lot of fun, and I think I climbed up and down at least 3 mountains, and most of the time there weren’t any trails. I felt kind of like a monkey because I was hanging on to trees for dear life at many points because the slope was so steep.
That’s enough of an update for now. I’m going to head over to the school to try and introduce myself to the Director and some of the teachers…the new school year starts on Monday. Oh, I almost forgot. I met a guy today who is from Sweden and is traveling the world by himself with only a backpack. He has been gone for 15 months and plans on traveling for another 1 1/2 years. He has mostly been traveling by bus and train, and he could hardly speak any Spanish...I gave him a small Latin American phrase book that I haven't really been using. Anyway, hopefully I will some day be able to do the same thing....I guess I'll have to come up with some money first!
Hope all is well, and thanks for all the packages and letters!!