Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dinero, Manejo, y Otras Cosas

Everyone here rocks the Hamiltons, or $10. In fact, that is the largest denomination dispursed by the ATM. :)


In El Salvador, since the late 90s there has existed a privatized Social Security system. Anyone who works in El Salvador would see an automatic payroll deduction (for me, I believe it will be roughly 6.5%), but it is money that they can reclaim either at retirement, as pension, or at the time when they permanently leave the country, as a lump sum. Employers also contribute to this Social Security. The same Social Security system also provides a form of socialized health care in this country. Although foreigners like us are also eligible for the ubiquitous health care, they typically go to private doctors to avoid the long lines (and to ensure "better care", whatever that means) -- hence the private health insurance that we pay for. But, it's good to know that the poor is somewhat provided for in this country, at least in theory.


Thus far, Geoff and I have had a fantastic experience in El Salvador! People have been super friendly and helpful -- not to mention extremely patient with our Spanish. Things are definitely much slower here, except when we are driving. As in many developing countries, speed limits and traffic signs/signals work more as recommendations than as hard-and-fast rules here. Even lane divisions aren't so clear-cut; people habitually cross over to the opposite lane (in face of on-coming traffic) in order to pass a slower car. Maybe surprisingly, the craziest drivers appear to be those of busses. On our first day with a car rental, Geoff and I had a few close encounters with busses coming at us at full speeds while we are stopped, or witnessing bus drivers making 3-point turns in the middle of a busy street! Holy mother of God. They are CRAZY! Also crazy is the fact that pedestrians are literally everywhere. In the busier parts of town, at every traffic light there would be teenagers coming up to wash your windshield. They don't take "no" for an answer, even though most cars do not pay them for the unsolicited service. The same goes for street vendors who weave in and out of traffic to sell all kinds of stuff. We even saw a juggler in front of a taxi cab that was stopped at a light. On the way to the beach last weekend, we also saw cows and horses walking unsupervised alongside the cars on the highway. One kid crossed the highway in front of us on a skinny horse, which he was spurring along with a random tree branch. Geoff and I could not stop exclaiming how crazy people are down here, but it seems to be just a way of life for them, no hay drama.

I really like how things are different here. As it turns out, getting an apartment wasn't so hard; obtaining a permanent visa also seems to be fairly straight forward, albeit a matter of time. What Geoff and I have spent the last few days agonizing over, ironically enough, is setting up our phone and internet services. To get those set up, not only do we need a passport and a NIT card, but we also need apartment contracts and formal letters from my school, vouching for my employment contract and salary. And, as you can imagine, pulling those details together is not just a matter of hours, especially down here. It is a bit frustrating, because even though we are gaining basic Spanish proficiency pretty fast, it isn't helping to hurry along the settling-in process, and Geoff is losing time daily for work as long as he does not have reliable internet access at home...

I am holding my breath that everything will be OK by the end of today. The 85-degree ocean is, too, holding its breath...

1 comment:

  1. wow Mimi. Haven't read your blog for a long time. I can't believe you moved to another country all together!! I guess you'll be able to blog in Spanish soon.