- 20 October 2001
- Real Inter-continental
- 299 KM
- 220482 KM
Heading towards El Salvador, I drove over a recently paved, excellent road – save a very few potholes – and found simple, yet refreshing countryside stocked with thousands of scenes to absorb and ponder. The first that caught my eye: A little boy, no older than four years old, trying to carry a large sack, perhaps potatoes or onions, down the highway, but the little one could not pick up the burlap bag, which was his height, but much larger than his width. He wrestled and prodded trying to wrap his arms around it. As we dashed by, I could not help but think that in America, children are supposed to be children – play and learn. Here, at about age four, the boy is expected to do the work of a man. Less than two kilometers down the road: A little girl of probably five years was burdened down on her right side as she lugged, slowly and steadily, a three liter can of water to her destination. Again, I watched as a child completed a difficult, older person’s chore, but one that is a part of her young life. Soon after, we passed about two handfuls of young children – mostly males between four and eight years old – selling chopped firewood on the side of the highway, with the stacks sometimes protruding onto the road. Thus, when two cars approached each other and the piles of wood got in the way, horns tooted madly at the children.
I observed splendid red flowers growing in bushes and tall, strong trees beside homes of the poor, who live mostly off the land. Poverty does not mean lack of care for property as pastel colors are painted onto the cement and stucco homes, topped with golden terra-cotta tiles, coupled with the assortment of colorful laundry hanging on homemade lines. There are no mud homes. I have spotted mud barns a couple times, but most folks use cement, stucco and wood for building. Few leave broken-down cars, trucks or tractors rotting beside their homes. Pride in ownership is abundant in these hills, which make for a spectacular drive through a lush, tropical rain forest of palms, shrubs, trees and flowers.
Birds-of-paradise that sell for US$5 a stem on New York street corners grow in the wild along with cedars and mahogany trees, which fetch a fortune as furniture. Clearing the tall grass along the highway, faster than any lawn mower, are teams of 10-15 men rapidly swiping large machetes, as long as my arm. Then I turned one corner to find eight goats resting in the road and a few minutes later came upon four Brahma bulls meandering ever-so-slowly across the way.
I noticed no schools along this stretch, but saw a few older churches in good condition. The young people walking or sitting by the highway, watching the world pass by, were dressed like teens in small towns across America. Girls wore jeans, short skirts, t-shirts and tiny tops, along with wedge-heel sandals and boys sported jeans, shorts and athletic tops.
What a rewarding drive today.