"Let's go check out some fun places."
I love it when I have some free time and my friends in El Salvador have some free time and they offer to take me to the fun spots. This is really excellent for someone who leads delegations on a regular basis, and this is how I found out about the sports complex in Nejapa.
We drove through the town and got a little history lesson about the tradition of boys throwing fireballs at each other: "Las Bolas De Fuego" every 31st of August. The historical story is that the local volcano erupted more than 300 years ago and forced the villagers of the old Nejapa village to flee and resettle at its current location. The community remembers this event by watching boys throw balls (balled-up rags soaked in a flammable liquid) at each other. There is also a legend about a saint fighting the devil with fireballs...
On the far side of town the cobbled road dumps you into the complex. After paying a small fee for parking, we walked around a large and lovely pool, set against the backdrop of beautiful hillsides. There are soccer fields, play areas, a kid pool and a place to get food. One of the highlights, which my guides were eager to show me, was the little zoo. It featured that rare and mysterious creature from the north - the raccoon.
When we brought a bunch of college kids and families for a Christmas visit later that year, we put the Nejapa pools on our itinerary. The young people and older folks alike had a great time cooling off, having contests in the water, playing a pick-up game of soccer with some local kids and chilling out with our Salvadoran friends. It was a wonderful day!