Lockdown in El Salvador
Just like you, our plans have changed. We haven’t travelled very far since our last correspondence. We expected to be somewhere in Mexico by now and well on our way to the US border. But we’re still stuck in El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America.
Bio & Fair Cashews
Last time we were in contact, we had arrived at APRAINORES, an association of small organic and fair trade cashew nut producers. The experience was an amazing discovery. Around 80 members of humble families living in the hot lowland rural areas of the Rio Lempa. The evergreen tropical cashew tree (anacardium occidentale) grows natively in Central America, Brazil, and Venezuela. The so called “false fruit” is the size of a pear, red or yellow in colour. It’s very juicy and could be rather astringent if not eaten when ripe. The locals sometimes freeze them to eat as an icy desert. Due to its delicate consistency, it’s often left on the ground and only the actual seed is harvested. Curiously, it grows externally and contains the nut. The procedure that leads us to the actual nut found in supermarkets is incredible and fascinating. Imagine, the processing could be rather dangerous too due to the toxic acid residing in the shell. We highly recommend you buy these delicious nuts with a fair trade certification. This guarantees better work and living conditions and salaries to the workers and their families. Honestly, at home, we couldn’t afford to buy them often. We’ll never forget this experience. I can confirm the high price is more than justified considering what we now know and the individual handwork needed.
Over 100 days in complete Lockdown, and we still don’t know when we’ll be free again. The path around us isn’t clear yet, but this significant part of our lives and the journey is worth telling. El Salvador was the first country of the American continent to take preventive security measurements against the Corona Virus. We remember getting through Covid-19 protocols at the border entering from Honduras. It was 17 February 2020, it looked so weird, like “Hey, what’s going on here?!” we thought Coronavirus was something happening only in China, we felt so distant from the growing threat.
Anyway, life keeps surprising us, we’re all safe, isolated in comfort, and in the best place to be for a long lockdown. We’re hosted by Los Pinos a cooperative of small Fairtrade coffee producers in the municipality of El Congo (funny, Seba’s mother’s family grew up in Congo – RDC). This place drew our attention since we first spotted the name written on the map of El Salvador. At the time we wondered whether we would ever come across it.
Everything happened so suddenly. The front tyre of our tandem exploded due to the excessive pressure and heat while cycling along the hot Pacific coast towards Guatemala on 12 March 2020. With 42°C beating down on us, we sat under the shade of the only tree around, eating tortillas figuring out what to do, not too worried about the bike. The government shut down borders the previous night. An Italian friend living in El Salvador, immediately sent 2 of his company’s vehicles to rescue us and our bikes, taking us right here to Los Pinos! We have been here since. They kindly put us up in a little house usually used for their rural tourism project. It sits on the edges of a crater with a stunning view of Lake Coatepeque and Volcan Santa Ana, the highest of the country. A place surrounded by natural beauty and the agroforestry coffee plantation.
We can see the peaks of the mountains of Guatemala from here, wondering if we will ever reach them. Squirrels, birds, butterflies, bees, flowers, sunsets, thunderstorms, everything seems greater. How magnificent and powerful nature is. We can’t stop contemplating. Feeling grateful to the universe for this time and opportunity of living, carefully in it. Surprisingly, the days pass quickly here. We’re busy with the many activities on the farm, also taking care of 9 deers and a turtle that was given to Angy and Anna. We’re fortunate to have lots of fruits too, like bananas, avocados, mangoes, and enjoying good local quality coffee, of course. This is certainly the longest period of our lives where we live strictly together in a single spot. We’ve hardly seen anybody, moved anywhere, and been unable to either. A South African would express this moment with a big “Eish!”. But we keep focusing on the bright side of life and all the good things that Covid-19 brought us and to many of you too.
We’ve been traveling continuously for over 4 years and a half. Adapting and changing plans has become a sort of game. Homeschooling our daughters, living outdoors and facing the difficulties of life together, one at the time. This has been our routine long before the quarantine. Yes, we weren’t always happy. We felt scared, anxious, uncertain, not understanding exactly what was going on around the world. Hearing terrifying numbers of deaths especially in our home region in Italy. Many travellers were interrupting their plans, repatriating through humanitarian operations. We thought the moment to go home for our safety and back to our families hadn’t come. At the time Italy was considered the worst place on Earth due to the pandemic. Hospitals were collapsing and everyone was literally freaking out. That’s why we’re still here after 3 months and most likely won’t have other options before late August. As Mandela once put it: “It only seems impossible until it’s done!”. Patiently, we keep trying to find the right balance taking advantage of the positive energy. We enjoy this time together, studying, helping out on the farm, writing diaries, reflecting on our paths, and how we wish humanity will stand stronger and more sustainably when this is all over.
The past is history, the future is a mystery but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present. Every action counts, we should all do our best for ourselves, our planet and future generations, a mission worth fighting for… words that have been often repeated like a mantra, each one of us, if we really want we can make a huge difference. The Dalai Lama said: “if you think we’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito!”.
We’d like to share with you our happiness and great surprise seeing Angy riding the tandem alone the other day and then taking her sister on board too. This happened after a few minutes when Angy said: “Anna do you want to come for a ride?!” We couldn’t believe our eyes. We were filled with emotions, remembering the start of this journey. They were so small… And so light. Angy couldn’t reach her pedals so we had to adapt an 11cm extension for her. Now here they are, riding alone. The next step will probably be to get a single bike for Angy and get rid of the trailer. Anna could then join Seba on the tandem…but security first, step by step and we’ll see what follows.
That’s all for now, stay tuned as the adventure continues. Thanks for following and being part of the team we wish you all the best!
Happy Family BIOcycling
Seba, Alby, Angela e Anna 🙂