I'm back in Suchitoto, back in beautiful summer weather, and my two most faithful blog readers have noted grumpily that I have not been blogging much. True, but I intend reformation, and to prove it, here's a story which probably many car drivers in El Salvador could tell.
Just before my last three weeks in the U.S., I had three consecutive days of driving my car into invisible holes. On the first day, I was visiting Rosita in El Paraiso, and thought I'd drive out of her colonia on the only paved road, for a change (I usually connect to the highway by a dirt road). Sounded like a good idea. Wasn't. There was a depression running the width of the street - possibly caused by runoff - and I went crashing into it because I didn't see it at all. No harm done.
The next day I visited Sonia in San Juan Opico, and was turning off a main road onto the dirt road where she has her little tiendita (Sonia sells knickknacks at her children's school). And there was another hole, also invisible, this one really mean with a pretty good-sized rock at bottom. Extricated myself and discovered that I'd torn a hole in the bottom of the bumper and dislocated the hood from its proper seating. Otherwise, the car was driving normally, so I drove home to Suchitoto.
And on the third day (there's a scriptural ring to that) I was in San Salvador, driving on a perfectly level and beautifully paved street, driving up to the office of CONFRES, the Salvadoran Conference for Religious (Catholic Sisters, Brothers and Fathers) to pay our dues and buy some books - a blameless task. I pulled up to park carefully right in front of their building and whump down went the right front tire into what I discovered (once I got out) was an invisible storm drainage entry, about 2 x 4 feet and at least 4 feet deep, missing its cover. The left rear tire was up in the air, and having 4-wheel drive didn't do a bit of good, though I tried. A nice young man came along, trying to be helpful, and we decided that I should call my insurance company. I was in the middle of the call when a guy rode up on a motorscooter - ah, he said, my friend works at the gas station just down the street, he can come and get you out of this. Great, I said.
While I waited for the friend, I went into CONFRES - might as well do my errand, and I wanted to be sure that they knew they had a car trap in front of their building. Oh yes, said the very helpful Sister at the desk, someone stole the cover. We called ANDA (the water company) but they haven't come. Ah, I said, but couldn't you put a tree in the hole to show people that it's there? (This is the usual way of pointing out perils on the road here - trees, shrubs, big branches stuck in the holes...). We did, she said, but someone took the tree.
I went out again to find my moto friend had returned with his friend who jacked up the car expertly and had me back on the level quickly, for which I paid $23, and glad to pay it. Though it did occur to me to wonder if, just perhaps, one of them was responsible for the disappearance of the drain and then the tree, and they just waited for fools to appear and fall in it...
But fortunately, again, I seemed not to have damaged the essential workings of the car. Today I put it in the care of Chamba, our Suchitoto auto guru, who took it to a guy in Istagua who has replaced the bumper before. Probably a good line of business in El Salvador. He's replacing the bumper again, doing physical therapy on the hood, and realigning - and I think there were some other bits needing to be fixed that were past my Spanish car talk level. It will cost me $160. There are some very wonderful things about living here, and, as usual, they more than compensate for the invisible holes.