Archive for the ‘gringolandia’ Category

When I lived in El Salvador I used to dream of coming to the United States because I thought life would be like what I saw in music videos. Kris Kross, M.C. Hammer, C+C Music Factory – I admired the style of the clothing and imagined the fun I would have living among such cool people. I imagined I would go to a school like Bayside High School on Saved by the Bell.

I’ve lived in the United States now for 15 years and needless to say, my life does not resemble the life of Zack Morris, but it’s okay. At least I finally understand the lyrics (sometimes) to the songs I listened to so often without comprehending any of the meaning.


My family and I returned from our trip to El Salvador a couple weeks ago. I am still trying to recover in various ways.

Though this was overall a happy experience which I don’t regret for a second, it did cause some confusion in me.

There were problems on the first day with my mother, which Tracy already explained on her blog. It goes without saying that this is a difficult thing for me and it’s something that will be an on-going problem. Regardless of the situation with my mother, the trip was emotional in other ways.

For the first few days I felt that I didn’t belong there – that I wasn’t Salvadoran anymore because I didn’t understand how things worked. I’ve lost some of my Salvadoran accent, and somehow, even when Tracy wasn’t with me, people seemed to treat me as a tourist.

After the first week I broke through all that. I felt like I fell into the rhythm of my country. I felt more confident in my actions. I knew where to buy what I needed at good prices and how to get there. I picked up on new slang and incorporated it into my vocabulary. I spent hours talking with my old best friend, reminiscing about old times and creating new memories – our two families together – our kids hanging out the way we hung out when we were their age. I felt proud to show my country to my children – and prouder still that they loved it.

I felt Salvadoran – not like a visitor. But with that new happiness came new problems. Now I felt as if I didn’t want to return to the United States.

Of course the day came when we had to go to the airport and get on the flight. I was surprised that Tracy and the boys were going through a similar mix of feelings. I hugged my best friend goodbye and we both pretended to be stronger than we felt. As the plane lifted off, taking me back to the land of my wife and children, back to my adopted country, back to our house and all its responsibilities, back to work and reality in general, I cried – all of us did.

Once back in the United States, I went through a period of readjustment which still isn’t quite over. Sometimes I feel depressed and nostalgic. At other times I feel thankful, blessed and guilty. I call my best friend daily. He wishes he could live in the United States – wishes he could work in a job that paid him even half of what I make per hour. He wishes he lived in a house on a quiet suburban street like I do, instead of in Soyapango where thieves have broken in and gangs have tagged his home with graffiti. He wishes his son, who is only a little older than my oldest son, had all the opportunities my kids have.

It’s difficult to feel like I belong in two places at once, but that I don’t wholly belong to either.

4th of July

Posted: July 4, 2011 in gringolandia, personal

Today we celebrate the 4th of July – it’s a time to think about how lucky we are to live in The United States – a country of much freedom and opportunities.

I will always be Salvadoran, but I’m American now too – and I’m proud to say so.


Personal Finances

Posted: June 13, 2011 in gringolandia, work

Photo by Mike Schmid

It’s funny, sometimes I feel like I am not Americanized at all, and then something will happen and I’ll realize I have changed in some ways.

Today a friend of my mother’s asked me how much I paid for my car, and how much we pay per month. My mother does this too – asking how much my household bills are and what I paid for things. Likewise, my Mexican co-workers ask me how much my paycheck is on Fridays, or how much I make per hour, (the gringo co-workers never do this.) I feel that it’s very rude and nosy.

I realize this is a cultural difference. In the past, these things didn’t bother me – but over the years I’ve come to take a more “American” view of personal finances, (in that they’re called “PERSONAL” for a reason!)

I’m not sure how to handle these kinds of situations. I don’t want to be rude in return – but sometimes I feel the impulse to lie or change the subject and avoid the question somehow. Sometimes people are persistent and ask until you tell them. I don’t know how to politely let them know that it isn’t their business.

If you have been in this situation before, how did you handle it?

(Image source)

Taco Hell

Posted: June 7, 2011 in food, gringolandia, humor, mi gringa

The other day we grocery shopping too late in the evening and I didn’t want to wait for my wife, Tracy, to cook dinner so I suggested we stop and buy something to take home.

Somehow we ended up at a Taco Bell, (or “Taco hell” as Tracy calls it), even though we haven’t eaten there for years – and with good reason – we don’t really like the food.

I pulled up to the drive-thru and, what sounded like a teenage boy, asked to take my order. I gave my order but he asked me to repeat it twice. It became apparent that he couldn’t understand my accent. Suddenly a female voice came over the speaker and asked for my order. I repeated it, and this woman seemed to understand my accent better so I was able to pull up to the window.

My wife and oldest son had been giggling almost the whole time while I tried to order, and I got kind of irritated.

“Don’t laugh at me, please,” I said, while waiting for them to hand the food to us.
“But why did you say ‘Nachos Bell Grande’ like a white person?” she asked, laughing even harder.

I didn’t realize I had, but I guess I did so the Taco Bell employees would understand me.

“I don’t like when you laugh at me,” I said, trying not to lose my temper after I paid and we were on our way home.

“I’m not laughing at you,” she said, “Don’t you realize how funny this is? You’re a native Spanish speaker from Latin America ordering fake Latin American food from gringos, and you had to mispronounce Spanish so they would understand you!”

I still don’t really understand why it was so funny. Maybe it’s American humor? … And I got sick from the Chicken Baja Gorditas. At least now I remember why I don’t like Taco Bell.

(Image source)

This Memorial Day I spent at my [Anglo] in-laws house. While I was there, waiting for lunch, I texted my brother-in-law, Ruben, to wish him a Happy Memorial Day. Here are our texts.

I decided to participate in a meme where you post your cell phone photos on Tuesdays because it will be an easy way to practice taking pictures and sharing them. Here we go.

We went walking this weekend on this old railroad bridge over the Potomac River.

Of course we had to do our weekly shopping. We shop at Wally World because as Tracy says, “We’re poor.” Here are some nice patriotic shirts.


Like me, they were made in El Salvador.

We also stopped at a car dealership because a car caught my eye driving by.

While Tracy was off looking at a Camaro, I was looking at this one. My mother peeked in the window of the car and complained that it only seats two.