Danger and Fireflies

Go, they said. But be careful. Have fun, but keep your guard up. Are you scared?

El Salvador. Skip it, they said. Haven't you heard? 

We got there, overwhelmed by a big city, confusing streets, a little lost. There were so many guns. So many looks, from men, old women, strangers. There was no one on the streets at night, even though it was just 7pm. When we asked why, they told us local people were scared too. There are gangs you know, haven't you heard? 

In the weekend we go to the hills, little villages on the flower route. Happy murals on every wall, bright colors. Waterfalls. There is a food festival and people singing, children in roller skates. Joy. People look too, I smile and they smile back. There is guns too, outside the pharmacy and the supermarket, even the lingerie shop. But they seem to matter less. 

When we go back to the city, the same guns. The same looks, but I smile now, giving them room to smile back and they do, giving smiles even bigger than mine. Now we walk through the market instead of around it, through the street where the prostitutes are on the lookout instead of taking the detour. We take the local bus and not the taxi, hell, we even walk home at night. There was lightning and thunder but somehow no rain, the sky felt so fresh after a hot day. We saw fireflies... 

El Salvador. A week in and I am not scared anymore. Intrigued. Curious. Enchanted even. I dropped the fear somehow (without losing my common sense, don't worry). And I realize this is why I travel. To go beyond the stories you are told, beyond the warnings you've been given. The stories are a part of you when you arrive, but when you leave all you have will be smiles of people and your erybody own version of the truth about this place. And going beyond the story once, will make it easier to see past it the next time. Maybe even to go beyond the stories we hold about ourselves. 

Don't go to Honduras, they say. Haven't you heard? Yes, but we will probably go anyway. And btw I heard they have guns on the streets in Brussels now too. 

When I left I was scared of dogs. Nobody warned me about them though. I can't say they are particulary nice necessarily, but a couple of weeks in, I did not feel the fear anymore. I dropped it, because it was simply no use. The dogs were everywhere and all the time. Being scared of them meant being scared everywhere and all the time. It was no use. 

I had no idea fears could fall away like that, that it could be so easy. Sometimes maybe it really is not that hard... Because haven't you heard? When you walk around at night in El Salvador - you can see fireflies.

My truth now is, if this region is one of the most dangerous in the world: I am relieved. But that is just my version of the story.