SUCHITOTO, El Salvador- “What am I going to do with a house?” my wife, Chaya, spoke strongly, “it will just mean that I will have more space to mop.”
We were debating on a place to stay in Suchitoto, a colonial city near Lago Suchilan in El Salvador. We rode out from San Salvador with one day to find a place to stay for the next six weeks. Chaya’s El Salvador cousin and his wife helped us search for apartments.
We walked through the streets of Suchitoto as Chaya’s cousin asked his old friends if they knew of any places up for rent, as well as inquiring with some of his own previous landlords on our behalf. We also hunted for the word “Alquilar” — for rent — painted on the sides of houses, and telephoned the associated number.
It is relatively easy to find an apartment in Latin America — you just walk down the streets of a town that you want to live in looking for signs that say “Alquilar,” while asking shop keepers, restaurant owners, and anyone else that may own property if they know of a place that is up for rent. Within a day you should have a short lists of places willing to take you in.
After a day of searching in Suchitoto, we came up with a big, colonial, mud brick house for $125 a month, a room in a beautiful guesthouse with a grandiose garden at $8 a day, or an apartment for $80 a month. There was also a small, dark, windowless, cinderblock room with a shared bathroom that we could have had for $45 a month, but even a vagabond sometimes finds himself with shocking supply of standards and snubs $1.50 a day accommodation.
The debate was mostly between the house and the 80 USD a month apartment. I thought that my wife may like to live in a real house, a place that could be her own, a place that I could be proud to tell my parents we live in.
“We live in a HOUSE in El Salvador.”
I laughingly thought for a moment that I might impress Chaya’s parents with my ability to provide for their daughter. I was actually just surprised myself that I could really afford to rent an entire house on my meager income — though I had to come to El Salvador to do so.
Chaya and I have lived in all kinds of different types of places — hotels, hostel dorms, living rooms, spare bedrooms, apartments in a lot of different countries — but we have never had our own house before. I thought that my wife would think the potential could be pretty neat. Don’t all married women with children want a house?
“Why would we want to live in a house?,” Chaya asked with a touch of scorn, “We don’t have any things, no friends, nothing to fill it with.”
She was correct, the house would be an overzealous expenditure that would be, ultimately, unnecessary. Though we did consider slinging up hammocks and turning the place into a $5 a night hostel — but sense soon took over: we are to begin working in the Guatemala jungle in six weeks, the time and effort to start a traveler flop house would not come to fruition in this sparse amount of time.
Even still, it was still a decision that required an unusual amount of thought — would we be missing out on something special if we did not rent out the colonial house?
So we made the decision the best way we knew how:
“Lets shoot for it,” I proposed to Chaya, “Put your hand behind your back, and when I count to three quickly put it out in front of you. Stick out one finger if you want the apartment, two fingers to signify the house.”
“One, two, three!”
Two hands with one single finger pointing out each were before us. We decided on the $80 a month apartment. This is like $2.70 a day for a clean, secure place to live, a private bathroom, a couple windows, a large porch, our own sink, and all the mangos we can eat. The best part of this deal is that the apartment sits around a courtyard full of mango trees.
Perhaps my wife would delight in living in a house someday, but not as much as she would eating mangos fresh from the tree.