Today is Wednesday and we leave in 2 days for Monterey and another semester of graduate school. As our trip has almost come to an end I feel like it is appropriate to randomly muse about random observations and experiences of the last three weeks.
To begin I will talk about the bugs here. If I could use only two adjectives to describe the various insects, arachnids and creepy crawlies here they would be, “large” and “numerous.” I am torn between weather I like them or dislike them. On the one hand I find that my general curiosity and interest in the natural world has me absolutely fascinated with them. There are more insect species around 1 house in this community than you can find in the entire city of Monterey. On the other hand, it never ceases to be mildly disconcerting when your roommate finds a live scorpion in his mattress or when, upon entering the bathroom, you find an even larger live scorpion living under the toilet seat. This combined with the sheer number of insects that end up falling in your food or drink at the dinner table or swarming you at night when you are reading in bed with your headlamp on can make the bug situation rather irritating.
The Weather here, as one would expect, is hot and humid. El Salvador has two seasons that they call “summer” and “winter,” but in no way whatsoever correspond with the traditional seasons of temperate areas. “winter” lasts from May to roughly October and would be better described as the rainy season. During this time it reliably rains at least once a day. The season they call “summer” lasts from roughly October to April and during this time it almost never rains. “Summer” is typically not significantly hotter than “winter” except in March and April, which are generally the hottest months of the year. Currently we are smack dab in the middle of dry season which has been both a good thing, and a bad thing at the same time. Every single day has been clear and beautiful and there are almost no mosquitos to speak of but, each day has also been rather dusty. The problem with dust has been exacerbated by the fact that this year has been unusually dry and El Salvador is currently experiencing a drought. The dust can get rather severe and cause respiratory problems.
The dust leads me to my last and final observation I will make about this country which is its overwhelming economic dependence on agriculture. The country in general is rather densely populated and dominated by small inefficient farms and, when driving through it, both of these things are highly evident. Outside of the mangroves, I have not seen anything I would call a proper forest or natural ecosystem in the entire country. What I have seen are crops precariously planted on incredibly marginal lands including inclines greater than 45 degrees and weathered rocky exposed soil. Almost all of this is done using hybrid seeds, fertilizer and pesticides of US origin and supplied at subsidized prices by the national government. I fear that this country’s dependence on agriculture is incredibly unsustainable both in ecological and economic terms, and may lead to something very similar to a dustbowl here. Ironically even despite all this agriculture the country relies on net imports of food to feed itself.