When my wife and I take cycle tour vacations the last day has a special sadness. We’ve usually spent a week or more packing our belongings on our bikes each morning, cycling all day, and then setting up at the next inn. At the end of the trip we can do it all with little effort and maximum efficiency. The final day, we are the best we will get this trip. We’ve developed a sense of mastery over this task.
That is how it is now here in El Salvador. I am as good as I will get. I’ve mastered getting ready for school, doing my laundry, teaching a class, getting copies made, finding good food and a thousand other things that I had only the vaguest clue about eight weeks ago. It means I can just enjoy life a bit more these days.
My Spanish is also the best it will be for now. It is far from fluent, but I can handle all of the basic social graces, make small talk and do all the basic things that I struggled with at the beginning of the trip. The other day on a volcano hike, I followed the custom of offering some food to the police officer stationed at the summit. He was curious about me, where I was from, why I was visiting and what I thought of the country. I was able to handle a five minute conversation without missing a beat. I can also better understand when students or teachers speak to me in the school, even with all of the noise.
But tomorrow, I leave for home. Then, I need to stop saying “como” instead of “what” when someone says something I don’t quite hear, and nodding and saying “Si, si” when I do understand. I’ll miss the feeling of mastery that I have gained here, but I’m pleased to know that I achieved these skills during my time here.