El Salvador has two seasons: wet and dry.
We have been experiencing the dry season for what feels like a lifetime at this point. Every day is sun. The piercing kind of sun where if you walk along a road at midday, it feels like you’re walking across the face of a giant frying pan. You feel the heat at the tip of your nose each time you exhale. Because of the thick, relentless heat, your brain slows down. You get fatigued easily. I heard once they ran a study on productivity and found the countries closer to the equator were the least productive. In the final month before the rain, the trees, the grass, everything goes brown. Everything turns in on itself, slows down, and just tries to get through that pounding, unending heat. People become almost almost permanent residents of Club Hammock.
And then, after that, the smell of sweet, overripe mangoes fills the air. The arrival of mango season is potent for me. Not only was it the first smell I remember when I arrived here, around this time, three years ago. It also announces that soon, there will be rain. Not yet, but it’s coming.
And then, a week or two of clouds.
Where the sky finally turns grey for days on end, a ceiling that forces the humidity down on all of us; a thick, wet blanket. And it gives us a small reprieve, a small space in time between the wet and the dry. After months of explosive sunsets that frequently draw a ‘is this for fuckin’ real?’ From tourists, the grey sky is actually kind of nice. When the sky is grey you don’t feel that frantic obligation to ‘make the most of it’. You’re allowed to just… be for a bit.
When I lived in Australia, I didn’t really notice the changing of seasons so much. “Fuckin’ hot today, isn’t it?” Became “Fuckin’ cold today, isn’t it?” Maybe I threw on a jacket or stayed that minute longer in the hot shower. But I had my car, my closed-in house, my retail job at the mall, and mall season is the same season year round; bright, loud, tinged with the manufactured feeling of ‘you must buy stuff to feel whole and complete.’ Weather didn’t really affect my life that existed in indoor, climate controlled boxes in Australia.
But the difference here is not only does nature operate in seasons, so do the people here who have adopted El Salvador as their home.
With the incoming of rain and endless months of grey skies, the tourist season thins out a bit and the expats usually use this time to go back to Canada or the States, where they make most of their money.
With the wet season, the swells arrive, and the sunshine-and-palm-trees tourists change to groups of die-hard surfers.
So I’m here. Things are turning green again. The Arbol de Fuego (tree of fire) out the front of my house has exploded with orange flowers. The grass in the spare plot of land next to my house is still brown but the earth is wet and I know it’s only a matter of days before it turns green again. Last night we had our first real, good downpour that lasted all night. The air is heavy with the next impending rain.
People are leaving for the season.
The wheel is turning and everything is changing.
And so am I.
For the last three years I have been working for a family from the States as a tutor. The kids are 12 and 14, respectively. They spend 7-8 months of the year living in El Salvador and the other time working a giant food stand they own at the fairs that run up and down the Californian coast.
This year, after an unexpected rupture in my life, the mother of the family became an enormous source of support and counsel for me. Our relationship became stronger and that house became my refuge, twice a week. Coming into the air conditioned house, with breakfast made and the house abuzz with the normal chaos of the Western nuclear family, I felt a brief reprieve, a breather, a haven from trying to figure this whole country out, and my place in it.
Each season has ended with a lighthearted; see you soon! Knowing we’d see each other again in a few short months. But next year, it will be different. The eldest is going to a school in the city and it’s very likely I won’t be working there again, at least in that capacity. The routine has changed and the entire framework of our friendship will be recalibrated. No longer will it be forged in passages of time we steal in passing to chat, hushed voices in the kitchen while the kids work on their assignments, a quick, ten-minute morning conversation on her way out of the house for the day, or a conversation that turns into two hours by accident while I’m on my way out after the work day.
We’re not quite sure what it will look like yet, but it will be different.
Want to write like this? Learn how today in The Salty Club Masterclass: “write like you mean it.” This way >>
Also, in another job I have, an integral member of the team is leaving us. Someone who I have known from the start. She is leaving, and the wheel is turning, and that chapter is over.
Also, I’m changing. It was a cruel spring where I wore anger like a cloak for the better half of twelve months. But now the new bamboo shoots are bursting out of the cracks and I’m feeling new things; a kind of forgiveness, understanding, recognition the human experience is messier than we realize and we are all more alike than we think. I’m no longer ‘in healing.’ I go back for visits but it’s not my primary residence.
This season is new, and I do not know what is coming or what anything is going to look like. I’m dropping a lot of my frameworks and beliefs. They’re rusty and they don’t exactly fit what I’ve experienced to be true anymore. With relationships, with work, with what’s the best way to live this life. I’m suspended a bit as I settle into my new framework. Right now I feel a little naked.
I’m moving to Guatemala soon.
I’ve been doing the long distance relationship thing with my partner for the better part of a year now. We had to cross a border from Guatemala to El Salvador every time we wanted to see each other and the time was always too short.
You know, I’m kind of over having to get permission from an immigration officer every time I want to have sex. We thought he was going to move here, but an unexpected and exciting promotion means he’ll be in Guatemala for some time. I want to go to him, and try the domestic thing for a while. Really, I want to kiss him before he goes to work and talk about our day face-to-face instead of over FaceTime.
I want to see who we are together when we’re not rushing, when we’re not zip zapping all over two countries trying to find a common space for a night or two.
So to gain new seasons we have to lose old ones. An old routine, a relationship, an old way of thinking, an old comfort zone. Maybe some things simply recalibrate and we lose other things. There is a loss, and there is a grief there, for the ending of every season, for everything that was comfortable, fun, nurturing and good.
Maybe, like the mountains of El Salvador that wither and go brown each year, then explode with colour a few months later, the season will return as it always has.
Or, maybe it will return, but a little different. Maybe it will return completely, unrecognisably different.
The best thing we can do is acknowledge that the wheel is turning, and the seasons are changing, and this is not a disaster. It’s simply what it’s always been, what it was always going to be, the only constant we can truly rely on. We can watch it unfold with curiosity. With trust in the whole process, that we’re supported by forces we can’t necessarily explain. Trust that we can face and handle whatever will get thrown at us next. With appreciation for how beautiful this whole process actually is.
The new season is here and I am ready.
Feature Image shared with full consent by photographer Samantha Hunt