12 June 2010

The trip home

(San Sal airport)

I got up around 6. There was running water so I had a lovely hot shower. I finished packing and tidying the room Marcia and I had stayed in. We had breakfast and said our goodbyes then left for the airport around 8. Kathy had heard there was a bridge out around San Vincente and didn’t know if it had been repaired yet so she didn’t want to chance taking the usual route to the airport. We went another way that was slightly longer but was sure to go through.

We saw 4 dead dogs in the road on the way. I’ve always been amazed that we don’t see more roadkill considering that everything runs loose but in all the times I’ve been here, I’ve very rarely seen ANY roadkill. 4 times today seems kind of remarkable.

We followed a cane truck for a while that had several guys on top of the cane. They were horsing around and I was afraid one or more of them would fall off. One of them got off at a police stop then the truck turned off the highway shortly after that so we didn’t have to follow it anymore.

We got to the airport and said our goodbyes to Kathy and Joe. Almost as soon as we entered the airport, I started coughing. We noticed that all the staff were wearing face masks and wondered why. After we got our tickets, the agent told us we might want to wait outside for about 20 minutes since they were spraying pepper gas. Then he said no, his supervisor said we should go straight to the gates on the upper floors where the air would be better. I couldn’t stop coughing, I had SUCH a tickly in the back of my throat. But once we got through the security station and to the gate area, I was fine.

All bags get searched at the gate on entry. I went in; Marcia went walking. Our plane’s status is On Time. We should be on our way in about and hour or so.


I spent most of the flight knitting, since I had an aisle seat and there was no one next to me. There was a little old lady in the window seat and I greeted her when I sat down. She didn’t have a book or travel companion or anything so she must have been kind of bored. She would engage me in conversation periodically. Sra Maria is 78 years old. She’s on her way to Chicago to visit her children and grandchildren for 3 months. It’s her 8th trip there.

She started by asking me if I were a student. I told her no and a little about the project in Berlin. She lives in Ilopango but knew where Berlin is. She asked if the churches involved in the Berlin projects were Catholic or Evangelical. I said they were different…Presbyterian, mostly. She said she was Evangelical.

She also has a son in Guatemala that she goes to visit. I told her it’s great that she can travel like that. She said that she has some pain in her legs and it’s not always easy but Gracias a Dios she still gets around.

When they passed out the Customs and Immigration forms, she said something I wasn’t catching but eventually asked her if she wanted help filling them out. She said yes and handed me her passport and tickets. I put down the tray table between us and started filling out her forms. When it came to the questions that couldn’t be answered from the passport, I read them to her (and tried to explain them when she didn’t understand them) then recorded her answers. There was a spot at the bottom of one of the forms for her to sign and when I told her that, she said, “No puedo” (I can’t) which is when I understood what she’d been trying to tell me earlier…that she couldn’t read or write.
One of the forms was one I’d not seen before and I wasn’t sure what to do with some of the questions so I stopped a flight attendant to ask her. She said she’d been meaning to get back to Sra Maria to help her and thanked me greatly for stepping in to help. She took the form and Maria’s passport and then brought them back filled out. I handed everything back to her and told her everything was complete. She thanked me and tried to give me $3 for helping her. I wouldn’t accept it and told her I was happy to help.

Leaving the plane I wished her a good trip to Chicago and went up the jetway. There was a whole line of wheelchairs waiting and I assumed one was for her.

I had no problems through Customs and Immigration. There was a HUGE line at security but it ran like a well-oiled machine and it didn’t take as long as it looked like it was going to to get through. The rest of the trip home was completely uneventful

11 June 2010

Walk to San Lorenzo

Answering the age-old question...


I was up around 6:30 and ‘showered’ (no running water) then Marcia and I reviewed some of the books before breakfast. For the most part, they keep excellent records and everything fiscal is transparent.

I ate most of the breakfast…pancake, fried egg and half a roll. I couldn’t eat the beans.

At the end of the meal, Javier and Cristian showed up to watch Copa Mundial (World Cup) on the TV in the office. The picture isn’t the best but it’s good enough.

We left at 8:20 to walk to San Lorenzo, where Otilia lives. It takes her 45 minutes to walk…it took us almost an hour. But, we did stop to take pictures and such along the way. It’s a loooooong way up a very steep road.

When we got there, we rested a bit, met Otilia’s mother, daughter and grandson, then started the walk to where they go every day to get water. We started by continuing UP the mountain until we got to a deep ravine where we started a very steep, switch-backed trail down into the ravine.
Fatima, Otilia's mom, Otilia, Wiliam

At the bottom of the trail (but not the bottom of the ravine) we came to where water runs or seeps (depending on the season) from the rock face where it’s collected in pilas (cement tanks). People come here on a daily basis to bathe, wash clothes and collect the family water for cooking/drinking that they carry back up the ravine.

We walked back up the steep trail, but we did it without 40 pounds of water on either head or shoulder.

Back at Otilia’s house, we bought chips (like Doritos only they were Buenachos and promoted by Nacho Man). Otilia’s mother served us atol…a traditional drink made from corn flour cooked with water or milk and served warm. I kind of liked it. Kathy said it’s sometimes really thick, sometimes kind of disgusting, sometimes it’s really good. It all depends on who made it and how.

Otilia brought out her birds. Two of them are parakeet-like things that she got while I was here in September. At that time, they were tiny, mostly fealtherless and pretty ugly. Alicia fed them mashed watermelon from a spoon. Another bird looked like a type of dove and there was also a fledgling bird of some sort.

We got back to the Casa around 12:20. I bought 2 cans of pop. When I got to the top of the stairs, Miguel, Blanca and Cecilia were sitting in chairs obviously resting after the walk. I looked at the three of them then started to dance a little jig as if to say, “Hey, I’m not tired.” Everyone laughed.

We had another meeting with other members of the team. I put a new battery in my camera. We got ready to head to Alegría for supper.

Alegría is a town further up the mountain and along the ridge. There’s a restaurant there where we traditionally take the Pastoral Team for supper on our last night. It was looking a little threatening as we were leaving with Ale driving and Kathy in the cab, the rest of us in the back.

Part way up the mountain, we drove into a cloud bank. Just about the time we hit the edge of Alegría, it started to rain. Then to pour. We all were crouched down in the back trying to use the cab to stop some of the rain. I had a rain jacket on and got my camera inside it. The only part of me that got really wet was my hair. I had my arms spread over Blanca and Idalia to try to help them stay a little dryer.

Once we got into the restaurant, it REALLY started to rain…it dumped buckets and was very windy. Leaving us to wonder if it would let up by the time we wanted to go back down the mountain.

The 10 of us had meals and hot drinks (since we were all wet and cold except for Ale and Kathy who’d been in the cab). The total bill was $65. I had pollo asada en cebollada (grilled chicken in an onion sauce) with rice and salad that was very tasty.

When it was time to go, it was still raining but not quite so hard. We talked about making 2 trips so that everyone could ride back in the cab but the Salvadorans said no…we’d all go back at once. Then insisted Marcia and I ride inside. I gave my jacket to Blanca. Marcia gave her’s to Cecilia, who in turn handed it to her brother Ale. Otilia and Idalia also rode inside with us.

Back at the Casa, we met with Otilia about the water filter project for about 2 hours. We reviewed the books and planned for the coming year.

I swapped pictures with Kathy and Marcia then went to bed.

10 June 2010

Market Day - Brisas del Sol


I slept in until 7. I really needed it. My insides are still not happy. Marcia had some Pepto with her and I took it. I didn’t eat a lot for breakfast.

After breakfast, we went to the market with Idalia so she could show Marcia where to get some items she needed.

Her church is going to fund ‘care packages’ for each family in her community and she was getting the items to show people what they were buying.

We stopped at Haydee’s pupuseria so I could get some of her hot cocoa to take back for Alicia.

At another store, I got a bag of powdered milk that I buy every time I’m there. I don’t know exactly how it’s different from the stuff I can get in the States but I know I can’t stand powdered milk from here but that stuff is great in oatmeal or coffee/chai so I buy some every time I’m there.

Then we went to the women’s cooperative that has the cool coconut shell earrings. We got a bunch of earrings and necklaces to sell and I bought a necklace for myself ($2).

I stopped at Tienda Rossy on the way back and got a couple cans of pop ($1).

We met with Otilia, Blanca and Cecilia on some Team concerns then walked to the Brisas del Sol (breezes of the sun) school. This community was mostly washed away in mud slides a couple years ago and relocated here. We helped them buy land for a school and then the parents and teachers with transportation help from the Alcaldía (mayor’s office) dismantled and moved the school from the old location to this location so that the children wouldn’t have to walk all the way back to the old location to go to school every day. Hopefully, in the next year, they’ll have a new school completed with an additional classroom, a bathroom and kitchen.

We went back to the Casa for lunch…uisquil (a squash-like vegetable) relleno, rice and salad. The Pepto helped…I was actually sort of hungry.

Our afternoon plans were to walk to Alejandria, the community where Blanca, Balmore, Cecilia and Jesus live. It’s about a 45 minute walk and it looks likely that we’ll get wet. I have a poncho but it’s one of the super-cheap ones…you’re lucky I you get a single use from it. Since we were a little late leaving Brisas del Sol, we were behind schedule. That in itself is not a problem but the later in the day it gets, the greater the chances of rain and that we’ll get wet on our walk.

We headed out about 1:30, no problems. We stopped partway down the mountain to pick pepitas…a pod thing with seeds in it that grows on trees. The seeds are surrounded by a white ‘fluff’ only the fluff isn’t dry. You open the pods, suck the fluff off and spit out the seeds. They were nice…lightly sweet.

Joe helping Cecilia pick pepitas

At Blanca and Balmore’s house, it started to sprinkle. They were afraid it would rain on us so Cecilia called the house to have Alejandro pick us up in the truck.

We went to Cecilia’s house and met her mother and 2 boys. At one point, the boys monkeyed up a tree to pick marrones ( a type of cashew that doesn’t have the nut growing at the bottom of it). They would pick them and throw them down to someone on the ground. Cecilia washed them with clean water and cut them up for us so we could try them. They had a taste and texture that was kind of like a cross between a pear and an apple.

Blanca said that there are 2 types of marrones…marron japones (Japanese cashew) and marron indio (Indian cashew). The Indio type is the one that makes the cashew nut we know.

Marrones indios

I filled my camera’s memory card around here so I don’t have many pictures after that and none of the fruit we ate.

We visited Jesus’ house. He wasn’t home as he was at work but we talked with his mother and aunt.

Then we continued down to the bottom of the ravine, crossed the stream and then started up the other side where Alejandro met us with the pickup.

When we got back to the Casa, I used Kathy’s computer to back up all the pictures from my camera’s memory card then delete them from my camera. Tomorrow, I’ll be able to take more pictures.

09 June 2010

Mayan ruins


I had an alarm set since we had to be up and on the road early today. I didn’t hear it go off, though, with earplugs in. Marcia woke me. There’s no running water today, which means we’ll probably have running water tomorrow and the day we leave for home. (I hope, I hope, I hope…)

We had breakfast at 6 and we are supposed to be on the road by 6:30. I glanced at the front page of yesterday’s paper…Brad Pitt is jealous of Johnny Depp. Hmmmmm…


We left the Casa at 6:45 and arrived at the Tazumal archeological site about 3 hours later. We walked through the museum, wandered the site, took some pictures and then did some souveniring when we left the site.
Our bus driver told us that yuca con chicharron is a local specialty and we should try it so we stopped at a street-side vendor and partook. We all got smalls…that was plenty for me, some had seconds. I was feeling a little “off”…

The woman preparing them got out a small, Styrofoam plate and lined it with a piece of banana leaf. Then she put a gob of mashed yuca root on it (the root of the yuca plant, it grows in long roots about as thick as my wrist), topped it with cotillo (a sort of slaw with shredded cabbage, carrots, onions, jalapenos in a vinegar base), a tomato-based cooked salsa (very slightly spicy), and some pieces of fried chicharron (pieces of pork fried crispy, like bacon, only the pieces are much thicker than bacon). They were $1 per plate. It was very good, you just have to keep brushing away the flies.

I’ve seen yuca root grated and fried like onion strings but never boiled and mashed like this.

The total bill for 11 people with cold drinks and tip was $20.

(La Curva)

On the way back, we stopped at another archeological site…Joya de Cerén. This one has an active archeological dig going on. The village here was buried under volcanic ash around 400 – 500 AD. Now, you can walk around the top of the dig areas which are covered with roofs and see the layers of ash and dirt as well as the house construction and placement. Since the people living there at the time had little warning and basically just fled, there was an incredible amount of artifacts recovered in great condition. There wasn’t digging going on while we were there but you have a great overhead view of the sites.

Joya de Ceren archealogical site

The area between the dig sites is beautifully planted and landscaped. It’s like a botanical park. We saw several torogoz (the national bird of El Salvador)…it’s a cool bird with blue and green coloring and a distinctive tail that looks like 2 circles at the end of strings. When they take off and fly, they go fast. Luis (our driver) also pointed out cacao trees with pods nearly ripe (where cocoa beans come from…the pods grow from branches like most tree fruits but they also grow directly from the trunk, like Brussels sprouts) and the yuca plant that contributed to our lunch. I’d always assumed that yuca was the same thing as our yucca but they’re not even close.

Torogoz - national bird of El Salvador

Cacao tree with cocoa-bean fruits

As we were leaving, the women wanted to hit the restrooms before we hit the road but we discovered they were locked. We were talking about stopping at a gas station when Luis came back with an attendant to unlock them for us. As we were trouping back to the baños, I said to Cecilia, “Amigos en lugares altos, no?” (friends in high places). She agreed.

Joe was hungry and wanted to stop for lunch (I thought we already had eaten lunch…) so we stopped at a place called La Curva about half the way back to the Casa. Kathy says it’s a chain but she’s never eaten there.

Kind of a strange place… the menu said it can handle social events for up to 600 people. The tables all have white cloth tablecloths, the waiters have starched white shirts with black cravats and put your napkin in your lap for you. There are big-screen TVs all over. When they seat you, they bring you a cup of shrimp consumé.

The soccer match in progress was Argentina vs Germany and Marcia and I were commenting on how odd it looks to see players in short shorts. Everything these days is the knee-length baggy shorts that make guys look like they’re wearing skirts. Eventually we figured out that this was a replay of a ‘classic’ game from 1986 (the World Cup final). That would explain the unfashionable shorts…

I was still not feeling tip-top and didn’t want anything to eat but had 2 bottles of Coke Zero and sorbeta. Marcia got a cheeseburger and fries and it came with 2 ketchup packets. My sorbeta turned out to be a scoop of Neapolitan ice cream.

Bottom line, it’s a place with delusions of grandeur. The cheeseburger was ok but not worth the $7. Most of the menu items were expensive. We pretty much blew the budget there. Kathy said she wouldn’t be taking delegations there.

In the parking lot on the way back to the van, there was a mango tree with fruit hanging on it. The fruit hangs at the ends of ‘strings’.

Somewhere after the restaurant, traffic on the highway came to a stop. We couldn’t see why.
There was a bus a couple of cars ahead of us and in the stop-and-go traffic, a guy jumped off to take a leak by the side of the road. The traffic kept creeping on (he really had to go) and when he was done, he had to run to get back on his bus.

When we got a bit further on, we saw it was a police blockade. They do that sometimes to check IDs. They looked at Luis’ ID then returned it and waved us on.

Back at the Casa, Joe, Marcia and Kathy walked to La Nevería to get ice cream. They brought me back some mango. Major yum! It’s my favorite here and I always try to have it at least once.Water was running when got back. I took a shower and it felt wonderful! I was wiped and went to bed at 8:30.

Meeting with the Pastoral Team, Souvenir shopping


Apparently, it rained really hard during the night…twice. I slept through them both.
Running water today! I had a thorough, hot shower and it felt great!

Today is meetings day. If we finish early enough, we’ll go to San Sebastian and Ilobosco to do some more shopping. Joe has never been either place.

I’m having coffee this morning. Marcia has tea she’s offered to share but I decided to go native today. If I put enough sugar and milk in it, it’s tasty. Usually, I just don’t want the extra calories to make coffee palatable and I like tea plain so I just drink tea.

8:30-ish we started a Pastoral Team meeting with Blanca, Balmore, Miguel, Cecilia, Otilia, Kathy, Marcia, Joe and me. Pedro was there to translate. We met from 8:30-11 when we took a 5 minute break. It rained off and on during the meeting. At times it was raining so hard it was hard to hear across the table. This is a REALLY good day to be en casa and not out doing stuff!

We wrapped up the meeting around 12:30. We had lunch, reorganized a bit then headed out to Ilobosco and San Sebastian. Ilobosco is basically a pottery community, although they have shops that sell all the usual touristy stuff too. San Sebastian is where the weavers are.

In Ilobosco, I got some souvenir pens for the people at work covering for me this week. I looked for the water bottle carriers but couldn’t find any. We stopped at this fabulous pottery place that’s off the tourist shop block. They had the coolest pots and the prices were ridiculous. A huge vase shaped thing about 3 feet tall was selling for about $30. In the States it would be many times that. I got a bowl-shaped pot about the size of a large salad plate for $4. I loved the larger pots but had no way to get any home. We went out back to see the kiln where they fire the pots and a worker was putting glaze on to be fired.

In San Sebastian, I bought 2 more scarves…same price as the market in San Salvador.
On the way out of the weavers shop, there was a goat tied up on the sidewalk. I said, “Oh, I like goats.” To which Joe said, “Those are goats?” We spent the rest of the trip pointing out the goats and cows and horses to him. Poor guy…

Kathy had some quesadilla – straight from the oven. It was so warm I could hardly hold it at first but it was very, very tasty and Kathy, Marcia and I shared a slab of it in the pickup cab.

Quesadillas in El Salvador are not what I think of as quesadillas. It has nothing to do with melted cheese between two tortillas. It’s more like a cheese bread that’s about ¾ of an inch thick with a cream cheese layer baked in the middle. Yummy!

On the way home, we passed some cows grazing in the ditch and Kathy said, “Those cows are so fat! I’ve never seen such fat cows here.” I leaned over and said, “The word you need here is ‘pregnant’.”

It rained a bit on the way back. I was in the cab at this point. On the way up I was in the bed of the pickup. Marcia and I started standing up, facing forward but when we got out on the highway it was just too much wind to stand there so we sat down with our backs to the cab. Apparently, I’ve never really done that before because I didn’t know it makes me carsick. Once I realized I was starting to get woozy, I faced forward and looked at the road coming through the windows of the cab. The majority decision was that I should be in the cab on the way back.Good thing we got home when we did…it’s been raining ever since we got back. Not hard…but steadily.

07 June 2010

San Francisco & El Corozol

(Casa Pastoral, Berlin)

I woke up around 6 and no one else was up yet. I went back to bed and shortly heard the Casa door open with the arrival of Cecilia, coffee making, sweeping, etc. I got up, ‘showered’ (no running water today) and sat down with my trip journal.

I discovered after we arrived at the Casa yesterday that I’d left my water bottle at Los Pinos in San Salvador. So now I’m drinking a bottle of Pepsi Lite so that I can have a bottle to use for water the rest of the trip.

Ceci is making us pancakes and beans for breakfast. The bread lady came so we have bakery-fresh bread, too. The bread doesn’t come in loaves for slicing like in the US. They’re sort of lozenge-shaped rolls, pointy on the ends and puffy in the middle, a little longer than my hand.

I spent some time perusing yesterday’s paper that was still sitting out on the table. The back page is a full-page ad for an ice cream place called Jungle Snow (yes, in English). The ad shows a picture of a plate with 4 balls of watermelon and 2 scoops of ice cream drizzled with chocolate. There are 4 small points of fresh watermelon with their tips dipped in chocolate. Each of the points has a smaller melon ball with it. It looks like the ice cream balls at the center of the plate are sitting in a pool of chocolate. I think maybe the larger watermelon balls are actually ice cream or sorbet. Although, I can’t really tell. I have had frozen watermelon here. They’ll take a chunk of the red part, put a stick in it and freeze it. Then you eat it like a popsicle only it never melts and drips down your hand. Anyway, the pictured confection is called “Watermelon Snow” (again, in English) and sells for $2.99.

The paper is La Prensa Grafica - Edición Dominical. Their tag line is “Noticias de Verdad”, 60-cents. There are about 3 major newspapers in the country. La Prensa and El Diario de Hoy are the 2 that the Casa tends to buy…and in fact are the only papers I’ve seen sold in town this trip. The other one is El Heraldo. It’s a fairly far-left publication and not so popular in the rural areas.

Idalia arrived and brought a flower sprig from a tree she passed on her way. They call it gemelitas (little twins). It has very glossy green leaves surrounding white flowers and an incredible scent like jasmine or frangipani or something. The sprig looks like a small wedding bouquet.

(San Francisco)

We met with the directive at the church. When I was last here in September (2009), they’d just completed the church and we helped paint it. Then they had a huge celebration to dedicate the completion of the project and the bishop came to say mass. It was a Very Big Deal for the community.

We talked about some of the projects they’ve completed during our partnership…solar panels, fertilizer, the church, student scholarships, water tank for the school, the multi-canton youth group gathering, etc. We talked about current projects…the water filters and retaining wall mostly. There has been no work on the wall for 15 days so people can tend their farms. Work is expected to begin again on Thursday and completion should be in the next 3 weeks. There were papers taped up to the wall with work teams listed. 4 people per day will work in a rotation schedule so that no one person or group has to do a majority of the work.

For future projects, they’d like to buy some land to build a community center/clinic/soccer field area. The land they’re looking at has been for sale for several years but they haven’t approached the owner yet. In September, they’ll start getting power to the community. Power lines have gone right by their community for years but until now, they’ve not been able to tap into them.

I took some pictures of the retaining wall…also a dung beetle I saw on the way that was rolling its big ball of dung. I’d never seen one in person and it was an incredibly brilliant green.

We went to Miguel’s house to see the water tank project. I was at Miguel and Estella’s wedding back in 2004 when I was staying in El Sal for 5 weeks to teach English. They now have 3 kids. The oldest was off at school but the other 2 were at home. Joe had a great time playing with Joselito, the youngest.

We went back to the Casa for lunch (chicken, rice, veggies) then headed out to El Corazol to meet with their directiva.

(El Corazol)

El Corazol is about 12 miles from the Casa. It took us an hour and a half to get there.
On the way there, we passed a huge tree of a type I’d seen before and always love. Whenever I see one, I get itchy hands/feet to climb it. The branches grow in intertwined into layers a few feet apart. If ever there was a tree made for climbing, this is it! I finally found out the name of the tree…amate. Someday, I am going to climb one of them…

This is Marcia’s sister community so I didn’t pay strict attention to the meeting…I didn’t have anything to add. I looked at the puppies running around…probably 4 or 5 of them a couple months old.

At some point during the meeting, a praying mantis started to crawl up Joe’s leg. He took pictures of it while he and Otilia played with it. At one point I got up to go take some pictures of it but Otilia brought it to me. I took some pictures of it on Jesus’ hand and mine until it dashed up my arm and crawled to the top of my head. They’re really fast when they want to be.


Joe went across the street to Tienda Rossy and came back with an ice cream bar. It looked really good so Marcia and I went and got some goodies too. I got a dreamsicle sort of thing and a beer for Kathy. Marcia got a beer too. The ice cream really hit the spot!

Pablo (interpreter) left. He said he only lives about 5 blocks away.

We had pupusas and banana chips for supper.Kathy was planning to play the inflatable bug prank on Cecilia but I went to bed at 8:30 and I didn’t witness the results.

06 June 2010

San Salvador

(Los Pinos)

We arrived here at the guest house about 9:30 last night. We moved into our rooms then gathered downstairs to decompress before bed. It took me a bit to get to sleep but then I slept pretty soundly for the rest of the night. I got up a little after 7, showered and then enjoyed the veranda until breakfast time.

Part of the time I spent watching a ceiling lizard stalking a moth in the corner of the house. They’re called salemandres (or something like that) there. They make me think of geckoes except that they’re very blah tan. They live up in the corners and crannies of ceiling spaces and make a clicking noise. Most often, you don’t see them, just hear them.

This one was hanging around over a floor lamp that had attracted a moth. As the moth would flit around it would swivel to follow it. Then, when it landed, the lizard darted closer and then slowly began working its way toward the moth. When it got just a couple inches from the moth, it darted forward and caught it. The moth flapped a bit and then fell to the floor. I don’t know if it struggled its way out of the lizard’s mouth or if the lizard decided it didn’t want moth for breakfast after all.
After breakfast and before our driver arrived, we walked to SuperSelectos (a supermarket). I bought 3 bottles of wine and some strange Tang packets…’barley cinnamon’ being one. Who would even think of something like that?!?

Joe got a carton of cigarettes that were less than half the price of the same in the United States.


Alfredo picked us up at the guest house and we went to an Office Depot to pick up some office supplies for the water filter project. Then we went to the artisan market to shop for crafts to sell at the various fests we have a presence at.

Apparently, the power was out, at least at the market…I don’t know how wide-spread other than that. All the booths were dark and it was hard to see things on the interior. A number of times there was something that I thought looked interesting but when I took it out into the light decided it only looked good in the dark.

I got an embroidered shirt, a couple of scarves, 2 rings and 2 magnet bracelets ($27 total). One of the rings was to be my “Salvadoran wedding ring” since I always leave my wedding ring at home when I travel. Usually, I wear a different ring but I’d forgotten to grab one so I got a coconut shell ring to wear for the week.

While we were having lunch at the market, a group of 15-20 high school kids from North Carolina joined us. They were doing mission work in the Costa del Sol area.

At a gas station stop, I took my usual ‘price of gas’ picture. It’s about 75-cents higher that what it was when I left the U.S.

We spent way longer at the market than we had scheduled. Kathy called the Casa to let them know we’d be later. Then we stopped at a vivero on the way to Berlin to pick up a couple of planters as a gift for the Team.

Our vehicle was absolutely stuffed. Kathy had one of the planters on the floor in front of her with her feet in it. Joe held the other on his lap.

We arrived at the Casa, unloaded the bags and purchases, paid Alfredo, chilled.

We had a meeting with the Pastoral Team and then gave them the planters.

(after supper)

We had spaghetti with broccoli for supper. I asked Blanca and Cecilia if they wanted some wine. They said yes so I asked red or white. They wanted red so I opened one of the reds I bought in San Salvador. It was a type I’d never heard of…Carmenere, a Chilean wine. It’s sort of Shiraz-like but with less peppery overtones and a bit more tannin. It was quite nice.

While we were finishing supper, the power went out. With the lights out, it’s REALLY dark. We lit some candles and a few minutes later the power came back on.

I worked some more on the bootie pattern.

It’s only 8:30 but I think we’re all ready for bed. Joe stayed up all night before we left so he’s about dead on his feet. It’s been a long day and it’s already been dark for 2 hours. Being so close to the equator, the day length just doesn’t change much over the course of the year there.

05 June 2010

Journey to San Salvador

(Denver airport)

I woke up around 5 when the dog came into the bedroom and let all the hallway light in. I hadn’t planned to get up until 5:20 or so but I wasn’t going to get back to sleep so I got up and showered and dressed.

About that time, Alan got back from taking the boys to the shuttle spot for the Dam to Dam run. It was raining and the boys had over an hour to stand in the rain before the 7 a.m. start time.

I ate a couple mangos and some crackers and read the paper before we went to the airport.

We ran into Dwight at the ticket counter. He was part of a group headed to Alaska for a cruise/tour.
Alan walked me to the security entrance, we said our goodbyes and parted.

I went to the gate and pulled out my book for the trip, “Shadow of the Wind.” It’s something I picked up at the last booksale without knowing anything about it. It just sounded interesting.

I read all the way to Denver and I was hooked almost immediately. It’s a very engaging book written in a very lyrical style. The original was written in Spanish and this translation still has the feel of how the Spanish-speaking people I know put words together.

In Denver, we landed around 9 local time (10 by my watch). We landed at gate B88 and my next flight was out of B16. That was one loooooong walk, but it didn’t really matter as I had 2 hours to do it in.

I strolled along looking for a pretzel to tide me over. I finally found an Auntie Annie’s but there was a long line, including a family with a number of small, tired children. I decided to hit the bathroom first and come back later. When I got back, there was still a line, it was just made up of different people. I got in line anyway and then saw they wanted $3.50 for a pretzel. I decided to try something else. I ended up at a Pizza Hut Express where I could walk in, grab a box of bread sticks, pay and walk out in a minute or so only $2 lighter.

I went to my gate and called Alan to see how the race went. Eric’s time was good and Alan saw him finish. Then it took them over an hour to catch up with Ryan. They’re all tired and hungry now.

(Houston airport)

I got off the plane in Houston and Marcia was sitting there waiting. We’re apparently going to El Sal on the plane I got to Houston on.

I got a mocha at Starbucks and shocked both Marcia and Joe with my foray into “the dark side” since they both know me as tea-drinker and general coffee-disliker. But hey, since Alan has been making me mochas, I confess I’ve more than once strayed into coffee-land. Granted, mocha is ‘beginner coffee’ but it’s coffee all the same.

I knitted a bootie and got the pattern written down.

While we were standing in line to board, a man said “Bienvenidos a centro America.” to Marcia and me. He then asked if we were sisters and we started talking about where we were going and doing and such. He saw the Dupont tag on my bag and said he was an agronomist with responsibility for central America and headed to Guatemala. He’s flying into El Salvador because the Guatemala airport is closed due to volcanic activity there. His name is Wilfredo and when we started talking agribusiness, we switched to English because I just don’t know those words in Spanish. His English is very good.

We shook hands when he got to his row on the plane and I continued on back to mine.

He came back to my row several times during the flight to give me his business card, ask if we had someone meeting us at the airport, etc. He also said he’d be back through the Berlin area on Sunday and wondered if he could meet up with us there. I told him we were leaving on Saturday.

That would have been interesting…there is a agro supplier in Mercedes Umaña that we stayed with the first time I went to El Salvador (almost 10 years ago…) so I know there is ‘agribusiness’ in the area but I don’t know much about it.

19 March 2010

The Dream

This is the dream I had the night I woke Alan up yelling. Apropos of not much, if you’re curious about that sort of thing, here ‘tis.

It was similar to a Twilight Zone episode Alan and I saw in the last year or so. It was one that starred William Shatner as a man just recovering from a nervous breakdown. He’s flying in a heavy rain storm on a long flight and has a window seat.

All’s well until he looks out the window and sees a hairy creature on the wing…basically man-shaped but hairy all over, like a small Wookie. He sees it several times and calls it to the attention of flight attendants and his wife but, of course, by the time they look, it’s gone. Eventually, they lose patience with him so he quits mentioning it but then he sees it opening the engine compartments and pulling out wires and suchlike. By then, he’s frantic…he’s afraid the plane will crash but no one will listen to him, again, about the thing on the wing.

In my dream, William Shatner was also worried about a creature. He, I, and a number of other people were at some sort of estate with a large building(s) in a clearing surrounded by trees. There was a bonfire over by the tree line in one corner which is where we were. William was warning us all about the creature and how we had to prepare…we needed bright and flashing lights. I took him all the lights I had…my camping headlamp, a penlight and a couple of flashing things I had designed for joggers. He said, no, those weren’t bright enough, we needed BRIGHT lights. I went to the house to see what else I could find. The door was all panels of beveled glass and the wall around it was all beveled glass panels as well. The door was locked so I rang the doorbell. As I did that, I looked to the right and saw 3 of the creatures at the tree line. They were smaller and thinner than the one on Twilight Zone and I paid no attention to the 2 on the left. The one on the right was The One we had to be concerned about. I turned to yell at it the way I used to do with farm dogs as a kid if I’d be walking or riding a bike past the place and they came charging out. I tried to yell, “Go away! You go away!” but my mouth wouldn’t work right and it came out sounding like gibberish.

That’s when Alan woke me up.

License Plates

I started to notice license plates shortly after we got there in a couple of respects.

One was the places that they were from. I saw plates from almost every state east of the Mississippi river. The most remote were from Texas and Michigan.

I also saw a number of Canadian plates from Ontario and one from Brunswick.

The most surprising plate was from Romania. It was on the front of a car parked in our hotel lot. I walked around to the back to see if it had a Romania plate there, too. It didn’t…standard Florida issue.

Speaking of Florida issue…I have no idea how many plate designs Florida has but I saw a bunch with animals: puma, marlin, sea turtle, barracuda, tropical reef fish, dolphin, and manatee. Standard issue must be oranges. There were also some sports team pennants in team colors, one with stick figure kids in bright colors and one solid pale green plate with dark green numbers. That's at least 12...

Romanian license plate on car in the parking lot.

Homeward Bound

I did not sleep well. Dunno why.

We were up and on the road by 6:45am. We decided to go to the airport a different way, via I-275 and it was a lot better. We returned the car to the rental lot and dropped the keys in a box at the counter.

We ended up being there the recommended 2 hours before departure. We spent most of it standing in the security screening line. Everything else when smoothly and fairly rapidly but the screening took forever. When we got to the gate, they started pre-boarding a few minutes later.
We got on the plane and arrived home by noon central time. It was a completely uneventful flight…just like they’re supposed to be.

Disc Golf and Kite Flying

We really slept in…9:20.

Looking out on the beach, there is almost no one out there. A few joggers…that’s all. It’s overcast but the palm trees are hardly moving. No wind!! Perfect day for disc golf.
I showered, we had some bran cereal then headed to the Village Inn for coffee/tea and eggs benedict. Once outside the room, we could see that it had rained. Probably explains the lack of wind…

The Village Inn was a bit of a disappointment. Alan said the coffee was really bad. My eggs benedict was only fair. But then, I’m rather spoiled by Alan’s egg benedict. It was busy and the service was so-so. However, our waiter was helpful in trying to find out where Maximo Park is…our disc golf destination for the day. If he’s right, it’s really close…just across the Pinellas Bayway bridge.

We went back to the room to get sunglasses, hat, water bottle then struck out. We just happened to have exact change for the toll bridge. Once we got across the bridge, though, we were clueless. We stopped at a convenience store to ask directions and they seemed simple and clear enough.

However, we’ve been having issues with street signs some times. Sometimes the signs at intersection give you the block # of the street you’re on and sometimes it’s the cross street.
The directions we got from the store were good but we misread the street signs and ended up on the Sunshine Skyway ($1 toll) headed south. We went until we could turn around, turned around and paid the toll to cross back north. We stopped at the rest area/fishing pier at the north end and discovered that we could have turned around there and at least avoided the second toll. Oh well.
We got back to the intersection where we misread the signs originally and followed them correctly this time. We found Maximo Park and followed the interior signs to the disc golf course.

We found the first tee and started throwing. It’s a gorgeous course and park! We couldn’t find the 5th tee and stopped some guys with disc bags to ask them. They said there wasn’t a 5th tee and hole anymore. Or 8th. They had been built on Indian burial sites and removed. To make up for the missing holes, you play “6b” which tees off a painted spot on the sidewalk toward another hole. I forget the make-up for hole 8 but it was something similar. You end up getting 18 holes but unless you just ‘know’ how it works, you’d never figure it out. If we hadn’t run into the course regulars, we might still be looking for the 5th tee…

We managed to find most of the rest of the holes…we skipped 10-12 and never did find 18. Alan went into the water hazard on 17 (twice) and I hit it on my putt. But it was a lovely, sunny 71 degrees. THIS is the Florida we came for!

We went back across the Bayway to the Cuban place for lunch. Alan got coffee and proclaimed it most excellent.

We took half my sandwich back to the room for later, picked up my kite, Alan texted Eric, then we hit the beach to fly. We found an open spot south of our hotel’s beach and set up. I bought this kite the last time we were in Florida (about 2 ½ years ago). The kite I’d taken with me that time had been my trusty flier for a dozen or so years but it popped a seam on that trip. I took it to a kite shop in Clearwater but they said it wasn’t repairable. I bought this kite then, but this was the first time I’d actually flown it.

The sky had scattered clouds and the wind had picked up a bit. It was fabulous flying with pure, clean wind coming off the Gulf. Alan said the only thing missing was some kid to wander up the beach and say, “Wow…can I try that??”

Enter George.

Alan was flying, I’d gone out to launch for him when George came up to Alan. Alan got him started and I just stayed out at the launch end. After a few crashes, George was off to the races. We guessed him to be in the 12-14 years range. Kids that age are just fearless. He was doing amazingly well after just a few minutes.

I didn’t talk to him, I’d stayed out to launch the crashes, but I could see the huge grin on his face and have taught enough people to fly to know how it was going. At one point Alan came out to where I was to ask what a kite like this one costs ‘cause George was asking all kinds of questions.

A little while later, George’s dad came along. He declined to give it ago but watched a while before the 2 of them walked off the beach. I’m sure the dad will be hearing a LOT about kites in the near future. George told Alan with enthusiastic sincerity that flying the kite was the most fun he’d had ALL week.

Alan and I flew a little while longer then packed it in. It was completely overcast by then and the wind had picked up some more. It was looking stormy off to the southwest again.

While George was flying, he and Alan couldn’t see this but I noticed a plume of black smoke. It looked like a ship was on fire…there was a thick black trail from out on the Gulf toward shore. No idea what happened.

There were a number of parasailers out over the water. It looked like fun but getting wet then going way up in the cold wind just wasn’t what I wanted to do right then.

There was also a Hitchcockian scene a couple of times. At one point, several young women were walking onto the beach from the hotel where we were flying and they got mobbed by a flock of seagulls. We thought it was really odd until it happened again to another group of people. The only thing I could think of was that there was a garbage can where they were walking. If the birds were congregating there and the people came through, I could see where agitation and chaos would ensue. But it really did look like something out of The Birds.

On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at a beach bar to listen to a musician singing and playing guitar. He had a nice voice and did old 70s stuff like America and Beatles tunes. The bar had those outdoor, propane-powered heaters. We sat under one to listen and it was wonderful.

As we were entering our own hotel area, Alan suddenly stopped in his tracks and said, “I know those people.” then backed up to make sure. He confirmed and we went into the beach bar where they were seated to say, “Hi.” Turns out it’s another family from the Waukee school district. They have 2 boys that are the same age as Alan’s and are all on the track team together. Alan also knew the boys from when he coached soccer. Anyway, they had just arrived in St Pete Beach and their food arrived as we were chatting so we didn’t stay long and left them to their meal.

We chilled in the room a bit then started our evening planning. We had leftovers from 3 meals in our fridge that it was ‘now or never’ on, but we needed a microwave to reheat them. We stopped at the registration desk to ask if there were any around that we could use. The one woman said, “No.” as the other said, “Sure!” She directed us to the employee break room and we went to find it. We did and went out looking for a bottle of wine, having finished the one we bought Monday.

There’s a liquor store almost directly across the street from our resort so we walked over. As we were perusing the wine selections and discussing the options, a woman at the end of the aisle said, “Be careful…buy that one and someone may tell you to ‘go fly a kite.’” She was one of the people on the beach while we were flying earlier and made a ‘go fly a kite’ comment then, too. Then, on the way out of the store, we ran into the Waukee family again. Small world!

We walked back to the room, gathered up our food and headed for the break room. We had seafood alfredo from Alan’s supper Monday night, half of my Cuban sandwich from lunch and 2 pieces of triple-berry pie from our ‘free pie Wednesday’ visit to the Village Inn for breakfast.

In the break room, we nuked the main courses and were discussing the fact that neither of us found any cups in the place. We’d decided to just swig from the bottle (classy, eh?) when an employee standing in the room watching TV pulled out his cell phone and called somewhere to request ‘two clean drinking glasses to the break room.” He hung up, told us glasses would be there momentarily, wished us good evening and left. Sure enough, a few minutes later another employee walked in with 2 glasses and handed them to us. What service!

We ate and talked and sipped then decided to head back to the room.

It had rained while we ate and was chilly. We decided a moonlight walk on the beach probably wasn’t a good idea. We did, however, admire the sliver of a waning moon hanging out over the Gulf from the relative protection of our balcony.

Alan read, I journaled and we planned (we had to get quite stern with ourselves…) that we would go to bed at a reasonable hour and not sleep in the next day. The time changed the day before we arrived so we didn’t have time to adjust to it then, we lost another hour when we got to Florida and the sleeping in was going to make Friday morning’s departure time come really early.

On one of our forays out and about, we saw a Lamborghini in the parking lot. Neither Alan nor I are really “car people” but how often do you actually see a Lamborghini in person? We were looking at it and a couple other people stopped by to look at it when we hear, ‘Hey! Get away from my car!” coming from a 5th floor balcony. We looked up and it was a group of college guys laughing their heads off. Still, you gotta wonder why someone who drives a $350,000 car would be staying at the same hotel as us…

Alan warming up before we hit the course.

Alan sinking a putt.
Alan contemplating how to get to the 6th tee.
What an awful lie! That's my disc in the foreground and, of course, the hole is on the faaaaaaar side of the bridge.
Alan flying the kite on the beach.

George's dad, Alan and George (flying).

The Lam...

18 March 2010

MOSIing Along

We had breakfast at the hotel today. Alan had coffee and proclaimed it good. I had tea. While we sipped, Alan read the local paper and I did the puzzles. The Tampa Tribune daily paper has at least 3 crossword puzzles, 2 cryptograms, a Jumble-like thing and a Sudoku. You think people there spend a lot of time doing what we were doing?

I was just getting ready to start the 3rd crossword when I suddenly started to feel nauseous. I sat for a minute to see if it would pass and when it was clear it wouldn’t I went to find a bathroom. No idea what that was all about but I right as rain afterward and for the rest of the trip.

We went back to the room, had cereal then stopped by the concierge desk to ask about the Museum of Science and Industry that I’d read about on the ‘net. She told us it’s in Tampa, which is why I couldn’t find anything in the St Petersburg phone book. We headed out and arrived there about 50 minutes later.

The big deal at the MOSI was a DaVinci exhibit. It was fabulous. We spent almost all of our time there in that one exhibit. Looking at his inventions, it’s no wonder a lot of them didn’t actually work…had he ever tried to build them…but the ideas he had were innovative. His emergency temporary bridge was genius. There were also several short films about various parts of his life…painting The Last Supper, his relationship with his patrons, examples of his experiments and codices, etc. What a man and life!

We briefly looked at some of the other exhibits but they weren’t anywhere near as interesting.
On our way back to St Pete Beach, we stopped for mochas at a mall and decided not to stop at The Pier in St Petersburg or the disc golf course.

We chilled in the room briefly then went for one last walk on the beach before heading out to meet with Alan’s nephew and family. The beach was still very windy but it was partly sunny so it wasn’t completely bone-chilling. The interesting thing about the walk was the string of these little fish-egg looking things. Maybe they were eggs…maybe they were plant parts. I have no idea but there were probably millions of them in an almost unbroken line at the high-water mark on shore.

Egg things on the beach.

16 March 2010

Honeymoon Island Park

Well, mostly dead. Apparently, at one point I started yelling in my sleep. Alan put a hand on me to calm me, I woke up and he asked if I were ok. I said it was just a dream and went back to sleep almost immediately.

In the morning, I asked him what I’d been doing before he asked if I were ok and he said, “Screaming.” In the dream, I’d been yelling at some sort of creature, “Go away! You go away!” but in the dream, my mouth wouldn’t work properly and I sounded like Frankenstein’s monster right after animation…inarticulate. Alan said that’s exactly what I sounded like when I woke him. Weird. I don’t think I’ve ever yelled in my sleep before.

We got up, I showered and we walked to the Village Inn for coffee/tea. We had a coffee maker in our room, which would work for Alan, but I had no way to make tea. (If you’re thinking, “Duh…use the coffee maker.” you are obviously not a tea drinker…)

We picked up the paper outside our door and took it with us. We sat and sipped and read for a while then shuffled off back to the hotel room. Alan left a message with his nephew to arrange a time for us to get together. We headed out for Honeymoon Island. We wanted to look for the tiny little crabs we’d seen the last time, look for shells and generally beachify ourselves.

We got there a little before noon, paid our $8 park fee and headed into the park. We stopped at the main beach and walked over the dunes (via the approved, raised walkway) to the shore.

The beach here is powdered white sand and there numerous wooden benches backing up to the dunes. We walked along the packed part of the sand looking for interesting ‘stuff.’ We found lots of sponges left out of the water by the receeding tide, lots of broken shell parts and piles of sea weed.
We walked around the bend of the shoreline and the wind was cut a bit by the dunes. The breakers got a little smaller and it was a little more pleasant.

We found the spot where we think we found the crabs but it was all under water. The tide was a lot higher than the last time. We walked back to the car and decided to eat lunch at the café there, kill some time to let the tide go out a little more, then head back to crab hunting.

We had the Cuban sandwich special (tasty!) on the deck of the café bldg. Then drove to the other end of the island to see what’s there.

We took a nature trail through various ecosystems on a spit of land. We saw several osprey nests and ospreys and Alan got some fantastic footage of an osprey on its nest then taking wing from it.
We spent over an hour walking along the trails. We sat down once so Alan could text his kids and we stopped several times to admire ospreys or read the plaques. Mostly we walked.

We got back to the park/playground area where we left the car and headed back to the other end of the island to crab hunt.This time we put on beach shoes so we could wade through shallow water if needs be.

We crossed the dunes and headed down (up?) the beach, same as before. The water hadn’t dropped a lot but we did find more shells and ‘stuff’ along the water’s edge.

The biggest excitement was when I saw a fin arcing through the water off shore. My first thought was, “Shark!” but no…it was dolphins. Alan and I stood and watched them until we couldn’t see them any more.

We continued on and found the crabby spot. The water was still pretty high. We saw hundreds…maybe thousands… of the little holes with their piles of sand balls outside the entrance but didn’t see a single little crab.

We gave up, returned to the car and went back to the room. We showered and chilled a bit then headed out to supper. We decided to try The Lobster Pot, a restaurant recommended by a colleague of Alan’s. Besides, we had a coupon.

We found the place. No wait! It didn’t look like much from the outside but inside it was white tablecloths, a single fresh rose and candle on every table with quiet piano music wafting through the rooms.

We were seated at a table and perused the menus. We split a bowl of lobster bisque…very odd…I’d never seen brown lobster bisque before and it tasted more like beef gravy than lobster. It was tasty…just odd.

I had red chili, honey-glazed salmon and Alan had Maine lobster tail. Both were phenomenal. The herbed vinaigrette dressing on my salad was fabulous and Alan said his bleu cheese was too. After last night’s gluttony fest, it was nice to have a ‘lighter’ meal and not leave feeling stuffed.
We got back to the room and chilled. I journalled, Alan read more of his boot for the trip…Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys. Periodically, he’d break into laughter an dread me a section out loud.

Joe (Alan’s nephew) called and we made plans to get together with them on Thursday.The end of our first full day!

Alan on one of our rest breaks while on the Osprey nature trail.

I'm guessing this is why it's called the Osprey trail.
There's actually another bird in the nest but you can't see it in this picture.

15 March 2010

Touchdown and 'freebie' day

We left home about a quarter after 9 and dropped the dog at the boarder…conveniently located right en route to the airport. At the airport, we checked in, cleared security and went to the gate to wait for our flight.

We had seats together, 2nd row from the front. The plane was packed…not an open seat was left. This was the first time I’d ever been on a plane where the seats did not recline at all. There was almost no knee clearance and we had to sidle into the seats. I don’t know how people larger than us would have fared.

We arrived at the St Pete/Clearwater airport and picked up our rental car. It’s a Toyota Corolla…uh-oh…Alan informed me that if the accelerator sticks, it’s my job to shift it into neutral. We headed out.

We were both starving so we agreed to stop at the first fast food place that presented itself. That turned out to be a Checkers…sort of like a B-Bops except with a nearby, semi-attached building for eating in.

We got a large, seasoned fries, large drink, and spicy chicken and crispy fish sandwiches. I’m sure hunger added to our opinion of the food quality…we both thought it was great.

We ate in the car on the way to the Sirata resort, checked in and settled into our room.
First on our list was a walk on the beach. We could see the Gulf from our room and couldn’t really tell what it was like out there. There were about equal numbers of people fully clothed in long pants and hooded jackets and those in swim suits.

We decided to take jackets, ball caps and stick to jeans and tennies. Good call! The temp was in the mid-60s but it was wicked windy. We started out walking into the wind so that we could walk back with it behind us. Another good call!

There were a few people actually in the water (briefly) but they were far hardier souls than I. There were people jogging in shorts and Ts but they were working up a sweat.

There was one guy out on a kite board almost the entire time we were walking. We marveled at this stamina and strength. There were times he’d leap the crest of an incoming wave and remain airborne for up to 10 seconds as the kite held him up. He tacked in ad out on the same stretch of surf so it was easy to watch him for a long time.

Having flown a traction kite in moderate winds that picked me up off my feet, I know what it takes to fly in wind like that. My hat’s off to him!

After our walk, we decided to go in search of a grocery store to get some comestibles for the week…cereal, milk, half-and-half, and some wine. I called the hotel operator to ask about a local grocery and he directed us to a Publix about 4 blocks up the street. We set out on foot, noting potential eating spots along the way.We found the Publix in a little strip mall and went to check it out. Unfortunately, all the wines required a corkscrew…which we didn’t have and didn’t want to shell out the $$ to buy.

There was a Dollar Tree next door so we decided to check there. I forgot to pack sunglasses and needed an el cheapo pair anyway. While I picked out glasses, Alan looked or a corkscrew…which they didn’t have. I got glasses and we went back to the Publix. We tasted some lemon thyme chicken with sautéed squash ribbons that they were giving out samples of (I got the recipe…). We picked up the goods we came for and decided we’d ask at the hotel if they’d open it for us.
We got the wine opened and relaxed a bit then decided to head back out for supper. The southwest sky over the Gulf was looking gray and threatening. Part of the problem with being in a strange place is not knowing the weather signals. We decided to head out Gulf Blvd. on foot and take the first likely looking place.

That turned out to be the restaurant at the top of the hotel next door. The Spinner is a 360-degree view, rotating restaurant about 10 floors above street level. We took a glass-walled elevator to the top and got a table. Our table moved almost one complete revolution in the time it took us to order, have an appetizer, salad/soup, and entrées…shrimp and scallop scampi for me and seafood fettuccine for Alan.

The food was fabulous and we could see the city lights a long way away, in some directions. On the Gulf side, there was nothing but the reflection of the interior lights.

We walked back to our hotel, fell in to bed and slept like the dead.