OK, granted, I’m seeing little more than airports and aeroplanes and generic hotels for three days, but even so, there have been some highlights:
1. The easy-going chaos of the airports. Teeming with people, loads of airport officials, but none of the paranoia of Heathrow. Sounds like a tour-pamphlet cliche, but everyone’s so friendly, even the security staff and passport control.
2. Immigration at San Salvador. You know the usual no-man’s land feeling of arrivals; those sanitised carefully regulated corridors that lead from aeroplane to passport control to customs, manned by tight-faced uniformed matrons? Not in San Salvador, man. Arrivals and departures are all one thing. People milling between the restaurants and the duty free-shops and the departure gates, going in all directions. Oh, immigration, yes, that way – follow the yellow signs. Families streaming in to hug people while they’re queuing to get their passports stamped. The mystified-looking guy at the front of the immigration queue that peered into my face and asked whether I was in South Africa for a holiday or for work, then seeing the confused look on my face, just waved me through, what the hell. And then, when I went outside to wait for the bus to the Quality Inn, found the airline staff, their ties and top buttons loosened in the after-flight heat, smoking and chatting while they waited for the same bus. Is there an english word for gesellig?
3. Peruvian chocolate. It’s dark, bitter, slightly crumbly and you can taste they make it with unrefined sugar ’cause it has the smoky metallic edge of molasses. Totally different to the milky Swiss stuff I usually love, but when in Peru…
Chocolate de leche – milk chocolate, but almost darker than most stuff that passes for dark chocolate in SA – mmm
4. The way the air of San Salvador envelops you in a sleazy, hot embrace the second you’re outside any air-conditioned zone. Hot countries, man I love them.
5. Business class. Yes, notwithstanding the reservations expressed in my last entry. This is day two of the mammoth transit adventure, and I’m actually just grateful for the steady supply of fresh orange juice and quietness and internet access.