Saturday, April 30, 2011

Date Night

On Thursday, Eduardo and I had a real date night!  We have never been out later than Liliana's bed time before so this was a pretty big deal.  We headed out around 5:45pm for the city.  It felt like such a long drive there considering we were both starving and I hadn't been feeling well all day.  I pushed through it telling myself I wouldn't back out of this date for anything.  Eduardo and I desperately needed a night together with just the two of us.  We had some ideas of what we would do, but we were open for anything and didn't want to have too many expectations.  We got all dressed up, which I LOVE to do, but don't ever have the occasion for much these days.  We snapped some pics of each other on the way out!

One particular restaurant we have been to several times inspired the Thursday night date.  A Mexican restaurant called Los Cebollines was the first place we hit.  
We had dinner (and I must add the Mexican food in ES in WAY different than the States) and the BEST part was that they have FREE margaritas for all the ladies after 6pm on Thursdays.  What can beat that?!  
It's no secret that my hubby and I like to have a good time.  After all, we did meet at a Salsa Dancing club ;)  So we took our time eating our food, Eduardo had beer and I had my share of some pretty amazing margaritas.  
It was a great start to the night.  
Following dinner we walked around La Gran Via where the restaurant was.  It's the upscale area of San Salvador with nice shops and restaurants and it's really safe.  I've commented before that I hardly feel as though I am even in El Salvador at this place.  
We then headed over to MultiPlaza, an upscale mall next door to where we were that has a level with all kinds of restaurants, bars and nightclubs.  We looked around to see what our options were.  There was a club playing solely Salsa music we were excited about, but the cover charge was a lot for us and we wanted to see what else we could find.  Funny enough we ended up in a Karaoke bar.  I have never even been to a karaoke bar even in the States.  It was dark with really old music which a lot of people like, but not me so much.  There was a HUGE table of gringos at this bar as well.  I couldn't believe it.  They looked like they were having a great time.  If the margarita I ordered hadn't been so strong and nasty, we might have stayed.  I was so curious as to how all these gringos came about being there. But I shyed away as I do and we left.  

We had passed another Mexican restaurant on our walk that was going to be having a live band at 9:30pm.  We walked back that way and it sounded pretty good.  We went in and got a table.  There were a few couples dancing and right away Eduardo got me up there for a Merengue.  It was really fun.  A big party that was there left leaving not too many more people in the place.  But we didn't care.  Even if it was just us, we got back up there for a few more songs.  Eduardo requested a Bachata, my favorite, and we had a great time.  

Unfortunately starting at the karaoke bar, my sickness I had felt all day caught up with me.  I kept having to go to the bathroom and my stomach wasn't doing so well.  We left the live band and made our way upstairs back to the club playing Salsa music.  Eduardo was really pumped up by this point and really wanted to go in.  I really desperately wanted to as well, but my body wouldn't cooperate.  I was so sick and mad at myself for being sick.  I told Eduardo I just couldn't do it.  Especially since we had to pay to get in this place, I didn't want to leave right away.  I could tell he was really disappointed, but was trying not to show it (which didn't work, btw).  We headed home.

The ride home was SO LONG.  1 hour of darkness and turning and swerving up and down the mountains.  Not only was I sick at this point, but also way drunk on top of it.  Don't get me wrong it was a good time and if I hadn't been sick before we went out, things probably wouldn't have ended the way they did.  But because Eduardo and I are the way we are, we ended up getting upset with each other.  I can't even remember if it was a fight or not, but it wasn't good and the next day wasn't much better.  I guess habits die hard.  We have always been fighters and as much as I hate that part of our relationship, it seem like it will never change.  

But Liliana did great.  We had given my MIL money to take Liliana out with one of our aunts and her son for pizza.  So they had all gone into town for dinner.  She said Liliana never cried once.  When she asked for us, Ana would just say we were at the dentist and she would go "ohhh"  and that was it.  I was so happy to hear that.  She didn't go to sleep until 11pm though and wanted to sleep outside in the hammock, not in the room.  Eduardo brought her to bed when we got back, shortly after that and of course she cried and was mad at me and didn't sleep well all night!  Ha!  That's what I get.  

So now you have a play-by-play of our date night.  It was great for the most part.  I would do it again in a heartbeat if we could afford it, but I think it's a one time thing.  Unfortunately the gas money is just too much and like anywhere in the world, going out is expensive!  But atleast Eduardo and I both got to feel like our fun selves again, even if just for a few hours.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Day Trip to The Decameron

Last Saturday Eduardo won a FREE family pass to The Decameron All-Inclusive Resort for Sunday.  He just happened to stop at the gas station for a fill up and a woman came to the car (as they always do) with a scratch-off for him to do.  He reluctantly did it and was glad he did.  We have wanted to visit this resort since we got to El Salvador, but we've always wanted to go alone and have never been quite ready to leave Liliana alone for even one night so we haven't gone.  It's an all-inclusive resort, which means it includes all the food and drinks, including alcohol.  It's quite a large place on 1 km of beach front.  Eduardo joked that they must have brought the sand in from somewhere because it's not that nice anywhere else in El Salvador!  

Check-in for the day was at 9am.  The pass included 2 adults and 3 kids.  Unfortunately we had just Maynor and Daniela back home on Friday, but we went ahead and picked them up Saturday night for the trip on Sunday.  The nice thing about the resort is that it's only about 1/2 hour from our house.  I had a feeling there was going to be a catch to the whole "free pass" thing and I was right.  We spent the first 2 hours of the day listening to a woman try and convince us to buy a "membership" to all the various resorts they have.  After taking a tour of the place, we found it to be really super nice, but not the place for us.  It's hard to put my finger on why we weren't feeling it.  The resort was beautiful and had everything to be desired, but both Eduardo and I agreed it wasn't somewhere we would take an extended vacation.  I think we prefer somewhere a little less kid-friendly and more serene.  I've looked up family-friendly resorts and have seen the ones that have adult-only areas and I think we would prefer something along those lines for a family vacation. Anyway, the woman who was showing us around didn't take rejection very well when we told her we weren't interested.  She actually got quite rude and Eduardo ended up complaining to the management about her!  Crazy things always seem to happen to us and I swear we are super nice people!  Well once that drama was over, we got to relax by the one pool we were allowed to visit and the small section of beach we were allowed on.  I shouldn't complain cause it was great, just not as friendly of a place as I had hoped.  

The best part of the day was when we convinced Liliana to go in the pool.  She hasn't liked the beach up until now and we even got her to play in the sand!  There was an awesome baby pool that Liliana could walk around in and she thought that was the coolest thing ever and it was!  We took along our niece, Diana as well as Eduardo's mom and his uncle Lalo too.  Everyone had a great time and we were all sun burned by the end of the day!  It was a wonderful way to spend Easter after all the Semana Santa festivities throughout the week, which I still need to blog about.  Here are some pics to sum up our day at the beach:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Liliana's New Play Space

One of the first things I did when we got back from Indy a few weeks ago was make a special little space for Liliana to play.  It was one of the things that I have wanted for her since we first got to El Salvador.  I just didn't know how to make it happen.  Well now that she's a little older and seems to be acquiring more toys/books/puzzles, it seemed like a separate space to keep all these things was necessary.  I knew at once where I would make room for a space like this.  It would be our "dining room" area.  It's a small little area that is completely taken up by the large table that we hardly ever ate at.  We gave the table to my MIL for her separate living quarters across the courtyard and she was pleased with that.  I then moved a small table perfect for two chairs and Liliana's chair that attaches to the table, into the living room area.  And it's all perfect!  The table fits nicely and now we all sit down for each meal and eat together, which I am super pleased with.  Liliana even likes to eat at the table now as opposed to the running around and eating that she did before.  And  now there is a space that Liliana can play and make a mess and I don't have to feel bad about the mess,which is a plus as well. Daniela also loves this area and the girls are having fun playing there together.  Also when Liliana's cousins come over she likes to show them her area and it's pretty exciting for everyone.  Most kids here hardly even have toys, let alone a space all for them.  Our little house seems to be coming together a little at a time :)  

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Numbers, Colors and ABC's

These are the things were are playing with lately.  Liliana loves to sing her ABC's over and over throughout the day.  It's a super cute thing to listen to especially because she doesn't quite have it down yet.  She has the beginning and end and then some really funny sounds through the middle parts.  I have a lot of fun practicing with her and just listening to her practice them herself.  She is so proud of herself every single time when she gets to the end.  It's just adorable!

We have been working with numbers for a while now as well.  We started off with all our numbers in English, but somehow got distracted with the numbers in Spanish for a while now.  She had gotten the English ones down pretty well, but still skips around a lot.  Now that the Spanish numbers are going extremely well I want to get back to the English versions.  She can count up to 15 by herself in Spanish and way beyond that with help.  All the family here seems very impressed by this and everyone that comes to the house loves to practice her numbers with her.  It's really cool to see everyone participating and being active in her education.  And I think they are all surprised at how much time I spend working with her on these things.  Sadly, it's not something I see here in El Salvador much; parents taking the time to educate their children or encourage their imaginations.  Unfortunately kids grow up way too fast here, faster than they should.

Colors are something we are getting into most recently.  Liliana is having a lot of fun with this the last few days.  Her favorite color to say is Blue.  She thinks everything is Blue or atleast wants everything to be blue!  She has known the color Yellow for a while, but now wants to call that Blue as well.  Haha!  For now I am sticking with the colors in English most of the time, but I'll see what happens with that.  I seem to go back and forth so far with the languages and so far it seems to be working.

The funniest part about our color learning so far is the color Orange.  For some reason Liliana calls every round fruit out there an Apple.  No matter how many times you correct her, if it's a round fruit, it's an Apple.  It's really funny.  Well the other day I was teaching her the color orange and she started saying "Apple".  I kept telling her it's orange, but even today when she saw something orange she said all on her own "Apple" and pointed to the color.  I was cracking up at how darn cute she is.  She just really likes the word "Apple!"

Saturday, April 23, 2011

One Year in El Salvador

Yesterday was a milestone for our family.  We hit the one-year mark of living in El Salvador.  We set off on our journey for El Salvador last April and after 9 days of driving through the States, Mexico and Guatemala, we made it to our destination of Izalco, El Salvador on April 23rd, 2010.  I see this year as a great accomplishment!  When I mentioned this news to Eduardo yesterday, he seemed more depressed than excited about it.  But I'm choosing to see it differently.  It's an absolute miracle in my eyes that we have made it this far.  We have been to hell and back it feels and we are still coming out on top.  At times it definitely doesn't feel like we have grown stronger and closer as a family and in our relationship, but I know we have.  The things we have experienced here really are priceless.  Would I trade what we have been through for the easy road?  Hard to say.  I don't think life is meant to be hard, but when it is we have to embrace it for what it is.  

I'm proud of my husband for getting through this year while maintaining his strength and dignity.  I'm proud of my daughter for dealing with all the traveling and cultural changes like a champ!  And I'm proud of my mother-in-law for putting up with us in her house for as long as she has!  Haha.  I'm also proud of Eduardo's kids for handling the return of their father along with his wife and new baby as well as they have.  But most of all, I'm proud of myself.  I really am.  I wouldn't wish the past year we have had on anybody, but I'm still here and I will never stop fighting for my family and for changes in our very flawed immigration laws.  

I'm grateful for our friends and our family who have supported us this past year.  And I'm sad for the friends we've lost or grown out of touch with and I'm sad for the family that hasn't been supportive at times.  I'm grateful we have learned so much from living in another country and we are better people for it.  But I'm sad for who I've let myself become as person because of our circumstances.  

I'm hopeful about what this next year has in store for us.  I can feel it with every fiber of my being that there is going to be a change.  And with that change will bring great opportunity.  I am ready to move forward and see what else it is we can create in our lives.  One thing this experience has brought is a new start.  When our time comes to move on from El Salvador, it will be a time to create the life we really want.  And I see that the experiences here have helped Eduardo and me both see more of what we want in life and what we want to create for ourselves.  It will be an exciting time.  

How much longer do we have in El Salvador?  That's the question everyone seems to have.  Well, we don't know.  It's just a waiting game.  A month ago I would have told you it will be another year and a half to two years, but now I'm more hopeful.  I believe it will be less than that and it will surprise us all.  I pray for that every night.  So here's to our year in El Salvador and to the time we have left on our "vacation".  

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sing-a-long with YouTube

This has to be one of Liliana and my favorite past times.  We love to sing and we love to find videos on YouTube to sing along and dance with.  Amongst our favorite songs to sing are:

The A,B,C's,
The Wheels on the Bus,
The Itsy Bitsy Spider,
Old McDonald had a Farm,
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
Los Pollitos (in Spanish)
and the most recent is Baby Beluga by Raffi.

We listen to different arrangements of each song to find our favorites and we have a blast.  Liliana particularly loves any song that has hand motions or body movements with them so today when singing Baby Beluga, I made up my own movements.  It was actually quite funny because it was in the middle of a "toddler tantrum" when I broke out in song and dance with Baby Beluga and Liliana instantly stopped crying.  She then started laughing and dancing around too.  Even hours after this occured, I kept hearing her start singing "Baby Beluga, Baby Beluga".  It was so cute.  They were the only words she got from the song for now and it was adorable.  I would sing along with her and do all the verses.  It was one of those times when I was so in awe of my daughter at how bright and happy she is and how new and innocent the world is when you are 2 and 1/2 years old.  I hope we never stop singing and dancing!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Medical Tourism

In searching online for information on quality dental care in El Salvador I came across an interesting concept called "Medical Tourism".  Medical Tourism is the practice of traveling abroad to receive medical and dental procedures.  The concept is decades old in Europe and has been practiced for hundreds of years in Asia, but it's a fairly new idea for Americans.  There are actually a number of companies out there that provide what I see as a "package" service that includes the care, hotel stay and expenses for a sort of "medical retreat."  I find this quite interesting and can see the appeal for many Americans in a lot of different situations.  I also think that besides the "retreats", word of mouth care is just as functional.  

As I said there are many reasons why someone would want to travel to a foreign country to receive medical or dental services.  The #1 reason is Cost Savings.  Here is an excerpt from Medretreat that discusses why and how the savings can be so high in acquiring services abroad:

1.      “Many workers in the health care industry are basically getting paid to shuffle paper around. The health insurance companies are paid to deny health claims and the government workers at Medicare and Medicaid offices are paid to find new ways to deny payments to doctors and hospitals for services rendered. Thus, doctors' offices and hospitals have to employ entire armies of people to sit around and reclassify procedures in ways that can get paid by insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid. It's a massive waste of time, money and effort.”

”As a medical tourist in another country, you eliminate these paperwork shufflers. And right there, you can save as much as 80% right off the bat. Because now, your dollars are actually going to the surgeons, anesthesiologists and other hospital workers who are attending to you during your surgical procedure. Whereas in the United States, your money is going to the insurance company and then the insurance company money is being used to pay paper shufflers.”
2.      “Another reason these surgical procedures are so much more affordable in Asia or other regions of the world is because of the liability issue. In the United States, doctors and hospitals must carry extremely expensive medical malpractice insurance policies. And patients seem to love to sue in the United States. In contrast, when you undergo a surgical procedure as a medical tourist in an offshore hospital, you sign paperwork that says you agree not to sue under certain conditions. Thus, you save a fortune by essentially not funding the legal fees, settlements and malpractice insurance costs normally found in a U.S.-based healthcare practice.”

Another reason for one to consider for travel abroad is the experience of a new country or a vacation and medical/dental work in one!  Even after the cost of plane tickets and expenses, the cost of traveling to another country is still less than what you are typically going to pay in the States for the same services.  Why not go somewhere else and get it cheaper and have a vacation.  

I think the number one hesitation of getting any kind of medical care outside of the United States is the belief that the care is quite up to par.  I can tell you that this is not always the case.  I'm sure it is different country by country, but I can personally say that in El Salvador the care is equal if not more that in the United States.  There are sites you can check online for doctors and dentists that are reputable and as I stated before, word of mouth is the best.  

We took a chance when we first arrived in El Salvador in search of dental care for Liliana.  We had been to a very high priced dentist in Indianapolis before we came down here only to be hit with a very pricey quote we knew we would never be able to pay, especially without insurance at the time.  We got the opinion and quote of the dentist in Carmel, Indiana and then talked with a dentist here and got a quote and opinion from her.  I can say without a doubt that we have always been happy with the quality of care in the dentist we chose.  She is only 2 blocks from our house, has great prices and best of all has all the up-to-date equipment as in the States.  And usually I would find that since I am American I would get charged more than a local, but our dentist actually gives us even deeper discounts and free services!  She also is always going to Guatemala for continuing education every month.  She has given us some different perspectives on Liliana's teeth than we received in the States and we've always trusted in what she has to say.  She does want to put metal in Liliana's mouth for reasons that make a lot of sense, but she is understanding of why I do not want to do that due to the fact that Liliana already tests high for heavy metals in her body.  The dentist always respects our decisions and is very educated in her craft.  She is also very good with kids and has a 3 year old herself so she understands our struggles with getting Liliana to brush her teeth and other issues.  Never once have I ever felt that she is judging us, which is something I always find in the States.  No matter how nice the doctor/dentist is, I always feel they are judging my choices or decisions.  With this dentist I have never once felt that.  She just gives us the facts straight on and if we haven't followed through, she tells us what the consequences will be plain and simple.  

My mom has recommended my brother and my grandma to come to El Salvador for dental work.  My grandma was quoted about $9000 for the bridge she needs and we have told her how much she could save by doing it here.  We will see if either one of them actually come here, but it's a good option.  And after all my researching, it's interesting to see that there is really a market for this kind of thing and that hundreds of thousands of people are actually doing it.  It's definitely appealing for the majority of people without insurance and even with insurance the doctor may just be tacking on more services for the sake of making more money.  

Below are some links to websites with more information about international medical care:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Semana Santa (Holy Week)

Holy Week, or Semana Santa in Spanish,  is upon us here in Izalco.  I remember before our trip to the States everyone was very concerned about us returning in time for Holy Week.  I wasn't quite sure why, but now I see why it is so special to everyone here in El Salvador.  The entire country has the whole week off to start!  That's a pretty big deal.  Basically everyone gets a vacation for a week and not much is open.  I was hoping Eduardo and I might get to go out one night to the city alone, but he says that nothing will even be open (although I want to confirm this ;).  Families all spend time together.  The beaches and water parks will be packed full of people.  I don't usually see men wearing shorts all that much and this morning in town it seemed like everyone was ready for the beach and in their beach wear.  The stores are all geared up with bathing suits and beach attire and accessories.  Everyone is ready for a good time!  And Izalco specifically is the place to be!  It's known around the country for it's celebrations throughout the year, especially for Semana Santa.

I found this awesome description today with great pictures that describes in detail what happens in Izalco during Semana Santa.  It's pretty cool and has me even more excited for the coming week.  Check it out  here!!  I will post more as the week progresses about the different events.  Happy Holy Week!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Price Smart

I'm so excited that we got a membership to Price Smart in San Salvador.  Price Smart is the El Salvador equivalent of Sam's Club or Costco in the States.  It may not seem like a big deal, but when you live in a small town like our's, in another country like we do with limited food choices, it's a pretty big thing!  I've never cared too much for the food in El Salvador and we mostly stick to fresh fruits and veggies and sometimes meats.  But the meat we get doesn't ever seem like it's good quality and even in the grocery stores I never see any employees using gloves when handling any kind of meat items.  The times we have gotten food from Price Smart in the past, it seems to be better quality.  Also we can buy in bulk which brings the cost down.  I divide it all up and store all the extras in the freezer.  The thing is that we have to drive to the city to buy everything which costs a lot of gas, but I don't care.  It's an excuse to get out of town and we get foods that aren't available here it town.  Liliana really loves the turkey and ham lunchmeat we get.  Here in town, I don't really believe the lunchmeat is made out of real meat...scary!  We got yogurt which Liliana has recently taken a liking to as well.  I'm glad to have more options for her more than anything.

We went in on the membership, which is $37.50 per year, with our friends Sarah and Isaac.  They are the ones that introduced us to the store and are equally as excited about it.  This trip I definitely saw more gringos than I ever had before.  It was funny.  Also shopping there are all the wealthy people of El Salvador.  I find I always want to stop these people and ask them what they do for a living or ask the gringos what the heck they are doing in El Salvador!  But I just get wide-eyed over all the food and enjoy our shopping and when we get home we get to enjoy all the yummy treats.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Back in El Salvador

I'm not sure how I got so off with my blogging.  My trip to Indy took a lot out of me and I found I had no time or energy at the end of the day to even blog!  I have so many things to catch you up on, I don't even know where to begin.  I might just make it short and sweet for now.

We have been back since last Tuesday, almost a week now.  It was so good to come back to the nice weather, that's for sure.  Liliana wasn't hesitant at all when she saw her papa at the airport.  She practically leaped into his arms!  We took a different airline this time.  We usually take Delta, but took Continental instead which took us through Houston instead of Atlanta.  The flights were not full at all and were pretty good.  I might choose them again in the future.  We got in late though around 8pm, which is late for El Salvador standards.  We recently got our front windshield tinted and it makes it hard to drive at night so it took us longer to get home.  We also stopped and ate in the city since we drive straight through it on the way home.  Sleeping in my bed with Eduardo and Liliana was the best thing.  I love our comfy king-sized bed and having my 2 favorite people with me was the best!  (I actually think my bed is my favorite thing about ES. LOL).  

The kids were here over the weekend and it's always fun to give them all their presents I buy them while I'm away.  Liliana loves to hand them out.  It's so cute.  I've also created a play space for the girls since being back which I will blog about later with pictures.  It's nice to be with my family, but it's all bittersweet once again.  As much as I do love aspects of our life in El Salvador, I just wish we could all be back in the States.  But I will put that out of my mind and carry on with the life we are living and enjoying it to the fullest.

I'm glad to finally be blogging again.  Now as I'm writing I realize how much I've missed it.  Well I'm back!!