May 28, 2007

I Have So Far Survived all Dangers, Yay Me

There are many dangers in El Salvador, and I feel like I brushed up against all of them this weekend. Everything, regardless of what is happening, always seems threatening in San Salvador. On Saturday morning, I was up at the crack of dawn in order to get to the school by 6 a.m. so that we could make a day trip to La Palma, an arty town in the highlands of Chalatenango. When I got on the bus, I noticed two things. First, the bus was standing, not moving. Second, there was a guy talking to the bus driver, and peering into the bus very intently. Great, I thought, here is where I get accosted. The guy peered in my direction for a moment, then paid the driver and got in. He moved down the aisle of the bus, and I could smell the alcohol he'd been drinking. He sat right behind me, and then started to chat up the young woman who was sitting on the other side and to the right. I breathed a small sigh of relief.

When I reached my stop, I got off and began to walk toward the school. A wizened, bent old woman was walking her little dog. Another large dog, loose, was interested in it and began to sniff at it. Then he saw another dog in the distance, and went to go investigate that. Now, I don't like loose dogs here. God knows what they have, rabies probably, and you don't want to get too close to them. So I wasn't thinking and was very much surprised when as I walked past this woman, keeping my eye on the loose dog off to the right, her little dog launched himself at my leg. With some effort she pulled him back, but as I walked I could feel that he had scratched me. Great, I thought. Rabies shots here I come. But I walked the few blocks to the school and looked. There were two slight scratches on the skin. Then Peter, a nurse, showed up and he said the skin wasn't broken so I was okay--no blood means that even if those were tooth marks on my leg, the rabies would not have entered my bloodstream.

After a very nice day in La Palma, we returned on a standing room only bus packed with people. When we reached San Salvador, me and two others got on a bus that would take us close to where we lived. At some point, the bus stopped and a bus monitor stationed at the stop was talking to the driver. I noticed a young guy hop the turnstile of the bus without paying. Nobody said anything. This wasn´t necessarily surprising, because vendors often hop the turnstile with the bus driver´s assent and sell candy or ask for donations to this or that Christian church. But this guy wasn´t selling anything. As he came back toward us I noticed the tattoo on his arm. Pascal, a Dutch woman with me who had done research on the gangs, said later that she noticed that he had tattoos on his face as well. Tattoos are a sure sign of gang membership. He sat behind us a couple of seats, and then got off a couple of stops later. Obviously he was just interested in transportation and nothing else, but it was unnerving.

When I got home, I immediately was bitten by three mosquitos -- carriers of the deadly Dengue fever. But nothing has happened to me yet, so I guess I´m okay.

They have told me to not anything off the street here, but can you blame me if yesterday, after suffering all these near misses, that I threw caution to the wind and ate a pickled mango with salt and salsa purchased from a street vendor? Nothing to report, my stomach is fine! How much longer can I flirt with danger? To reassure my wife, I really don't want to!


Blogger Mary B. said...

To have survived all those near misses with danger and then throw caution to the wind and eat a pickled mango...Mike, you maniac! (just kidding) ;) Despite it all, you sound like you are having the time of your life. :)

8:22 PM  

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