The Astounding Travel Adventures of a Miraculous Fellow

Don’t ride your bike at night, and other useful information.
June 11, 2008, 8:26 pm
Filed under: The Salvador



Welcome to El Salvador.


·       Don’t drink the water.

·       Don’t walk barefoot in the cow shit.

·       Make sure the food is boiled, peeled, and cooked.

·       Don’t make love in the puterias.

·       Don’t walk alone at night.

·       Don’t use the ATM by yourself (but…there are no ATMs so it doesn’t really matter).

·       Be sure to move across the street when someone approaches you with a machete (something that occurs far too frequently).

·       Don’t go near the water unless you feel like becoming crocodile food.

·       If you must cross the street, do it in a dead sprint, because cars clearly have the right of way.

·       And, finally, when you contract malaria don’t go on a groping spree.  


Follow these simple rules, and you will find El Salvador a most agreeable place.


At least that’s what I thought – until last night.  What I didn’t realize previously is that there was one caveat missing from my list:


Don’t ride your bike at night.


“Why?” you may ask.  (Or, you may simply be asking, “When will this story ever end?”)


The answer is simple: chuchos.  Dogs.  Mangy, filthy, flea-infested, muddy, smelly, lovable dogs.  They are the reason you don’t ride a bike at night.


I left my friend’s house last night with a peaceful, tranquil 30 second bike ride on my mind.  What actually transpired was basically how I imagine it will be once I pass through the Gates of hell when I finally die after a 150 year- life as a celebrated Hall of Fame NFL punter, Grammy-winning love song artist, break-dance champion, and Canadian Prime Minister (cool, eh?).


So I started to ride down the dark streets with just a flashlight, minding my own business when I heard a soft growl, followed by a jet-propelled canine swiftly approaching at mach 14, bearing his mangy, filthy, lovable teeth.  Not being fully accustomed to the culture of El Salvador, I mistook this gesture as one of friendly salutation.


Wrong.  Incorrecto.


As he quickly gained ground with the intention of lending me some of his rabies, I started to pedal much, much faster.  Luckily for me, this particular dog was literally all bark and no bite (hmm, I always wondered where that saying came from, but I never knew the utter terror that it implied).  As I frantically pedaled on, I realized that this evil Cujo-reincarnate’s friends probably heard the ruckus and were gearing up to dine on the other white meat – me.


This time I was right.  Correcto.


As I passed shanty after shanty, dogs were coming out of the woodworks snarling and snapping at me and my bike.  So, I did what any tough, burly man of my age would do: whimper like an injured squirrel and pedal my ass off.  The first dog reached me very quickly, and was going for my ankle, so from the seat of my bike I attempted an acrobatic ninja kick at his face while moving at 150 mph.  I missed, but that little bitch (female dog) got the hint and backed off.


As I was about to say something clever like Will Smith in one of his marvelous epic films, (possibly “Welcome to Earf” or “Step off Sucka”) another mangy little bastard flanked me.  Making a sharp, well-maneuvered, wildly flailing turn to my right, I narrowly averted a disastrous fall, and resumed whimpering.  This mutt got close to me but by the time I got over a little bridge, he backed off too.


Then came the onslaught.


Four dogs came out of the shanties, and like any good survivalist I took out my flashlight and shined it on one of the little buggers.  He stopped in his tracks, frozen.  Pussy.  At the next one I simply shrieked at the top of my lungs “Chucho!” and he stopped as well.  I guess he spoke Spanish, and took offense at being called a filthy mangy stray dog by a terrified gringo.  As the last two devil hounds approached, I simply flexed my biceps at them, whereupon they turned around transfixed, and killed all of the other dogs in the village, and then brought me some cold beer.


Thirty seconds of hell.  I was lucky to survive.  


Chuchos putos.
Anywho, other than this horrifying experience, all else is well in El Salvador.  I started teaching English classes twice on Saturdays in Cuidad Romero.  I have now truly reached the level of “gifted teacher” – as my students are now cursing at the level of a drunken pirate.  Sadly, the slow learners are only cursing like a 17th century Portuguese deck swabber.  Not bad though for a few classes though. 
As for entertainment, aside from running in death-defying Chucho Races, there are plenty of other things to occupy my time.  I went fishing with Luis and a few guys on the Bay of Jiquilisco the other day and caught five fish, and probably the Black Plague from touching the water.  It’s really beautiful in the Bay of Jiquilisco, just mangrove forests and water.  And crocodiles, of course.  Upon mangling one of the fish I caught by poorly attempting to remove a hook, I walked over to the water to wash the fish goo off my hands.  Immediately Luis said “Jeff, what are you doing?  Cocodrilos.”  I said, “come on, there’s no cocodrilos here.”  He nodded to Juan Jose, one of the local kids who lived nearby, and he ran off.  Two minutes later he returned bearing a two foot long crocodile skull.  I don’t go near the water anymore. 


I also play soccer with the locals a couple of times a week.  My scoring output is rather impressive.  I tallied two magnificent goals while floating along the field like a gazelle playing forward.  Unfortunately, I allowed 16 goals while playing goalkeeper like a paraplegic, mentally-challenged howler monkey whose only concern was the protection of his genitals.  But let’s just focus on the goals I scored, shall we?


Other than that, I’m still working on the project building stoves and latrines in my village of Salinas and teaching English in Cuidad Romero on the weekends.   The situation here has yet to cease to shock me every day; these people live in extreme poverty, without the basic necessities such as a place to go the bathroom and something other than an open fire to cook their food.  No matter how bad their situation though, these amazing people never even think of complaining; they just live their lives the best they can, and enjoy the good things they do have.


While I have a damn busy schedule, I’m hopefully doing some good.  Whatever I can do to help these people, I will do.  But, alas, if I’m not doing any good, I can try to live up to my personal life motto: “it’s not what good you do, but how good you look while doing it.”


And, for my final words of advice, for those of you who take him for granted: don’t forget to shake the hand of Gus, your local dogcatcher.



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