At many times I have wondered why I am squandering a redundancy pay-out that could have set me up a new business, or given me quite a few relaxed months in Australia while I figured out what the hell was next.  What is with this stubborn but meaningless self-imposed rule to not fly? Oh, woe is me.

Well I’ve still not figured that out.  But I decided to stop moving and make some time worth something by booking myself into some Spanish lessons for a week in Nicaragua.  But first I was to spend a night in San Salvador, El Salvador.

I’ve seen the picture for myself…

People normally skip El Salvador and Honduras, not least because they both have two of the highest murder rates in the world and are considered to be tourist-hostile.  Last month El Salvador made international news for having its first murder free day since January 2015, with the daily murders usually exceeding 20.  But this is generally gang-on-gang, and one can normally stay safe with some common sense and trust in your instincts.  I’ve already spent a couple of years in Honduras, and people also say bad things about Colombia, which is one of my favourite countries.  (Now I write this I remember that people I met there have both been murdered and have murdered others.  Oh, the selective memory.)

With Spanish booked in Nicaragua on Monday, I only had a day to visit San Salvador, the capital.  I stayed at a hostel in the Embassy district, and a day time city walk proved to be safe and beautiful.  The people are friendly, funny and keen to assuage their country’s reputation, much like in Colombia.  The map is full of surf spots; perhaps I will return once my girlfriend’s dad teaches me how to surf…

Look at this VW beetle conversion. I want IBM one

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Free drinks that you pay yourself…

Back at the hostel I met a guy called Billy, who claimed to be working for AT&T in El Salvador, and invited me out for a drink with two Americans in our dorm.

After telling us about his time in the US Marines, his crack and heroin addiction that led to him having his entire blood volume filtered to expel his addiction, and the team of 300 call centre attendants who worked under him, he said he didn’t have his money with him to pay his bill.  He’d get the beers tomorrow.  Hmmm.  A reminder that sometimes the ones to watch are those staying within the iron bars of the hostel.

First class and big hotels…

I’d hastily booked my Spanish School at Estacion Biologica, which was on the banks of a lake, or should I say the crater of an ancient volcano that once imploded and filled up with rainwater.  The hostel tripled as a Spanish school and environmental research and conservation establishment.

Arriving at night, it was very basic but I like that – makes me feel like I am not spending too much money.  The hostel seemed to attract intellectuals – the proprietor has a PhD, one guest was an environmental engineer and the other doing a PhD in Anthropology.  The wall was carpeted in the hides of animals dispatched by natural causes, alongside sketches of the local flora.  The hostel was directly under the jungle canopy, interrupting its density, where howler monkeys were to wake me the next morning with their babies on their backs.

Howler Monkey above my hostel

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All food, board and 4 hrs Spanish a day was provided for $250 for the week.

In the morning I met my Spanish teacher, Adriana.  In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king, and I felt very clever to have the best Spanish of the gringos.  Each morning was as  much a cultural exchange as a Spanish class.

In the afternoons I swam in the lake, and ran around it in the evening, in a vain attempt to shift some of the weight I have gained from lack of exercise routine and all the rice, beans and tortillas.

One evening we ventured out to Masaya to a karaoke bar.  It was disappointing – there is no showmanship!  A guy walks around the tables and gives singers a wireless microphone as they lean back in their chair lazily muttering out the lyrics in between swigs of their Toña cervezas.

A dodgy guy with a Chelsea smile and glaring eyes started a conversation with me before touching the face of one of the girls we were with. Having been in such a situation before, we made our exit.  The rest of the bar seemed fine, I must point out.  The type of person that approaches strangers in bars is sadly usually a wrong ‘un.

It’s time to take new measures…

The next day I boarded two chicken buses to the Costa Rican border, now an expert at avoiding the taxi drivers who insist theirs is the only onward option.  When I got past passport control I was ripped off by a Nicaraguan who took $20 to get me onto an onward bus.  To his credit he gave me the money back once I figured out his game, and I got on a local bus to the town of Liberia, where I would stay the night before upgrading myself to someone who hires a car for a few days…

*The headings are lyrics from a song, perhaps someone will guess it (without Google)!

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