Santa Ana may not seem like an "off the beaten path" kind of place, and truthfully, the center of town is probably a pretty well-known tourist destination. With Mayan archeological sites nearby, a traditional colonial town lay-out and early 1900's architecture, Santa Ana has a lot to see and discover. During the boom time, coffee profits helped to bring prosperity to the city, but life has been a little more difficult here in recent times.
Two German friends and I were invited to tour the town with a friend who lives in Santa Ana. We walked through the cathedral, strolled through the town square, and then went into the courtyard of the government buildings, where we sat and enjoyed the flowers. After chatting with a few guys from the mayor's office, we headed over to the theater. When he was young, our friend used to see movies in the 100-year-old theater, which was abandoned for a while and is now being restored to its more historic form. At the end of our tour our friend bought us each an out-dated calendar, so that we could remember the beautiful town through the calendar's photos.
I think so often we spend time working or helping or dealing with crises with our brothers and sisters in El Salvador, that there isn't time enough for our Salvadoran hosts to share with us their favorite vacation spots, the historic sites, the places in which they smile with pride. Typically, we North Americans like to go off with our delegations to see the historic sites on our own or with one or two Salvadoran guides who are "used" to us. I think it is so much more fun to go to places with local families, so that they can share their stories and we can experience and learn things together.
So, besides touring the historic sites of Santa Ana, we also got to go a little bit off the beaten path to meet the kids in the neighborhoods, to meet our friend's mom, and to learn a little bit about some projects which were started by non-Salvadoran NGO's but not completed. We had time for conversation about sustainability, time to laugh and learn together, time to smell the flowers, and time to receive a thoughtful gift that reminds us to take time.