Tuesday, June 12:  Tonight my friend Mario and I go back up Jebel Akhdar to have dinner at the Sahab Hotel one last time before he leaves Wednesday evening for his summer break to Canada & Cuba.  I had been feeling kind of down and out during the day, so he suggested some cool air, good company and lots of laughs might do me some good.

poolside at the Sahab Hotel

the pool and the mountains stretch out before us

When we get up to the Sahab Hotel, we are told that the hotel has some VIP guests tonight and we are not allowed to take pictures of the guests, who apparently are some famous Emiratis.  The staff seats us at a table in the corner of the patio, away from the guests.  We sit under a little trellis where we can see the guests but remain unobtrusive.  As always on Jebel Akhdar, there is a lovely cool breeze and the temperature and the views are perfect.  We order some Asian dishes this time, which I don’t remember seeing last time on the menu.  Mario tells me of all his vacation plans and I can’t help but be envious because I am stuck here till August teaching summer school. I keep telling myself my time will come!

the gorgeous Jebel Akhdar terraced plantations

Before we sit down, Mario discovers a boot tree with little berries that he picks and starts nibbling on.  We had discovered these fruits growing wild in Wekan last time we were there and fell in love with them.  Funny thing is that after the Emiratis come out, they also head for the boot tree and a professional photographer takes pictures of this mystery VIP with the boot tree!

looking through the trees up to the hotel

We have a lovely time as always and enjoy our meal and our wine. Mario and I always have interesting conversations and this time is no exception. I tell him of the book I’m reading called Eleni about the Greek civil war in the late 1940s. I’m appalled at how neighbors in the small mountain village of Lia in Greece turned on each other during years of guerrilla occupation; paranoia ran rampant. I have read about this deterioration in human behavior before in Ursula Hegi’s 1994 novel, Stones from the River, where German citizens began, under Hitler, to turn against their Jewish neighbors, people they had known all their lives. People used every petty dispute or jealousy against their neighbors to save themselves.

Mario tells about his time in El Salvador during the early 1980s; he tells how horrible it was to live in a time of war, with paranoia running deep.  Neighbors and families turned against each other; no one could trust anyone.  He said dead bodies appeared on the streets and though at first it was horrifying, later it became commonplace.  He explains that people get hardened to war and the atrocities committed around them every day.  A person learns to survive despite the horrors that surround them.  Luckily for Mario, he managed to escape to Mexico, from where he eventually emigrated to Canada.

happy times at the Sahab Hotel

I realize I know so little about El Salvador’s war, and knowing Mario, I am now curious to read about it.  I find this on Wikipedia: The Salvadoran Civil War (1980–1992) was a conflict in El Salvador between the military-led government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), a coalition or ‘umbrella organization’ of five left-wing guerrilla groups. Significant tensions and violence already existed in the 1970s, before the full-fledged official outbreak of the civil war—which lasted for twelve years. El Salvador’s Civil War was the second longest civil war in Latin America after the Guatemalan Civil War. (Salvadoran Civil War)

If any of my readers know of good books, told from a personal standpoint, of El Salvador during the Civil War, I would love to have your recommendations.

Tomorrow I’m due to take Mario to the airport for a midnight flight.  I’ll certainly miss him while he’s gone!

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