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Next Chapter in “My International Life”…

(Photo taken in El Salvador. I was probably around eleven years old.)

El Salvador, located in Central America, loomed ahead of us.  I remember clearly the day we were told about my father’s next work location.  

A family meeting was announced in our Chevy Chase home.  Now, this only happened for one of two reasons; either a new baby was on the horizon (I only got to experience that once being the fourth from youngest.). Or, a new country was ahead of us.  This time it was the latter.

Excitement was in the air. What would it be?! Europe, maybe? Some city of great historical renowned, such as Paris or Rome? We waited with excitement. Finally, he shared the next chapter of our family destiny.

“El Salvador,” he said.  “El Salvador.”  We all looked at each other quizzically.  “Uhh, where is that,” one of us finally bravely asked; for my father’s growing frustration and annoyance were obvious in the aftermath of this important news.  This drumroll moment was not being received as he had anticipated!

One of my brothers  went over to our set of encyclopedias and looked up El Salvador. “The smallest country in the western hemisphere,” he shared, “and located in Central America.”

I think we might have laughed about how this announcement had landed, not out of meanness but because it was actually comical. And we were all actually  happy about it and more than willing to give this very small country a chance.  After all, it decidedly had an exotic appeal!

And, it turns out, it became a beloved experience and destination.

The house was soon getting organized and packed up for our next international venture.  By now, my mother was sort of a pro, knowing what to bring and what to leave behind.  

And before we knew it, we were on our way!

I have a distinct memory of the drive from the airport, in the dark of night, into San Salvador, the capital city where we would reside.  For a while, I had been in the midst of a horse-crazy phase.; not unusual for a preadolescent girl.  I had read “Misty of Chicoteague” and other horse books. And, by far, my favorite books had been, heretofore, “The Black Stallion,” - the tale of Alex and his mighty black steed - as well as, “Man of War.” 

Being somewhat obsessed with the horse world, I - with a fair amount of insensitivity - chose this time when my parents were both exhausted and weary from international travel with their five children to bring up and insist on the need to procure a horse or two as soon as possible!  This was patiently but not happily received, from what I remembered.  Not the appropriate time to do this. 

Nonetheless, my plea was heard. The next three years, I indeed did experience the equestrian life. More about that later…

We arrived at the Intercontinental Hotel, our residence for the next six weeks or so while our house was being prepared.  It was pitch dark when we got there so imagine our surprise the next morning when we were  granted the magnificent sight of Izalco, a majestic volcano, close by; clearly in view and filling our various hotel windows.  It was a dramatic and gorgeous panorama and one I remember to this day. 

Life was very pleasant at the hotel.  A swimming pool and room service will do that.  I remember once coming back from school and ordering a banana split as an afternoon snack in the dining room while sitting at the bar. And I particularly liked their soups…Cream of Chicken…Cream of Celery…I might have acquired a taste for Vichyssoise, a cold and creamy (and absolutely delicious) soup, there.

Once, while sitting poolside, I felt adventuresome enough to order Escargot!  (Snails seeped in butter and garlic). Not to my taste, as it turned out, and not to be repeated.  Kind of rubbery though I love butter and garlic.  

I look back in amazement that I actually ate this.  It is now such a very unappealing idea.  

At one point I started writing a newspaper about life at the hotel, and was going around interviewing people. I happened to interview my older brother, David, while he was in the pool. Poolside, I asked him his opinion of life at the hotel. His most salient comment was that “the water was too wet” in the pool.  I did appreciate his humor. I still think it’s funny. 

The newspaper endeavor was not very long-lived.  But, I did make some inroads. And it was fun.

Back to humor, my brothers could be pretty comical.  They would  play pranks such as  telling the fellow in the lobby who announced telephone calls for the guests to announce that Frank N. Beans or Ben Dover had a call.  Corny, but still funny. 

Eventually, we moved into our new home.  More about that later…

Annie Kiyonaga

October 3, 2023 

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