December 13, 2006

A Country Without Turistas

The plane to San Salvador is decorated with holly and the duty free shops are giving out shots of rum. It´s thirteen days til Christmas. Almost no one deboards in El Salvador, I spot no guidebooks and only one passenger with skin freckled enough to double-check. Am I the only one? I admit I am here because I have to be but there is that underlying curiosity: what´s this place about?

The immigration official is frowning. ¨Tourism,¨ I say. After delving into my date of birth and profession he asks again, ¨What´s your reason for being here?¨

¨Tourism,¨I repeat. Is it that hard to believe?

He gives me 60 days grudgingly (the limit is 90). I mention, ¨Is the limit 90 days? Because you gave me 60.¨

¨Yes,¨he says, ¨it depends on the case.¨ I´ve barely landed and become a case. Interesting.

The customs guy was another story. After briefly glancing at my passport he slips in my name, ¨Tienes unos ojos muy lindos, Carolina.¨ Then he translates it for me. That´s what I like, as a former English teacher, a bilingual come-on.

¨Thankyou,¨ I say politely, still afraid someone will revoke my tourist card.

How long am I here for? ¿Tan poco? I have to press the button on the baggage traffic light, the traveller´s Wheel of Fortune.


¨Ah, te vas Carolina!¨ This is my welcome. He lets me go, out of the airport (clammy and swarmed at dusk by parrots) and into San Salvador.


Travelburro said...

Oh man, how I wish I were strolling out of airport doors into tropical heat... Cuidate, Carolina!

Nia said...

Hard to believe there's anywhere left that isn't flooded with Lonely Planet groupies! Oh, wait . . . ;)

No kidding, travelburro! It's up to Carolyn to keep us feeling warm as well as adventurous!

Ron Mader said...

Beautiful essay. When your book comes out, let us know and we will give it the proper announcement on