Got to Puerto Barrios

I made it out of Livingston this morning with no problems. My plan to stiff the hotel worked perfectly. I feel about this bad (fingers really close together), but I’m certain the hotel lady will find a way to get the money out of the guy. He eats at her house all the time. In fact, he did while he was scamming me, which is part of why I fell for it. Afterall, if the nice lady in the hotel feeds him, he’s got to be a good guy, right?

Puerto Barrios is basically still a company town. Everywhere you look you see people with Dole and Chiquita nametags on. The streets rumble with the sound of refrigerated containers full of bananas. Ever wonder where the banana you had for breakfast came from? Apparently they stand a good chance of having come from Peurto Barrios.

I found myself singing this: Hey mister tally man, tally me banana… daylight come and me wanna go home.

But I don’t really want to go home. Sometimes I’m a tiny bit homesick (well, more like carsick, since it is the closest I have to a home). But there’s always something new to see.

The ride to Puero Barrios was uneventful. Though as usual there were some beautiful gringas aboard, hair waving in the breeze. Traveling for me is always a treat, becaue in Silicon Valley the odd jut aren’t in your favor, even for simple people watching. But among travelers, there seem to be more women than men. And the women are the kind who are self possesed enough to travel outside their comfort zone, low maintenance enough to deal with cold showers and cockroaches, and smart enough to have not alread gotten themselves killed somehow. They are my kind of girls! (Special bonus points: as American girls apparently don’t travel much, they all have awesome accents!)

I feel bad sometimes looking at the guys around me… the girls definately get the short end of the stick when it come to traveler people watching. Us guys are all unkempt, dressed in tattered shorts and holey t-shirts and staggering drunk (ok, not me on the last one). They probably get homesick for the boys back at home, as any group of ruffians would be better than us traveler boys!

Today’s big job was visiting the MSF clinic in Peurto Barrios. I called them when I got here and after struggling with the Guatemalan telephone system (Sam: ask me later about I finally got them. Turns out the doctors (including the head of the project) work in the hospital in the morning, and in the office from 1500 to 1900. So I had to wait until 1500 to see anyone. OK, so I get to spend the night in Puerto Barrios, no big deal. I went out of town to a swimming hole that the MSF staffer recommended and killed time. At 1515 I called the office and got invited over. They were a little confused why I wasn’t just applying for a position with MSF-US in New York, but I convinced them that I was just between language courses and only wanted to talk about their program, not apply for a job. The head of the project didn’t speak English (or maybe as good as my Spanish — and the intersections of those two vocabularies would not have made for an interesting converation!) so she had me talk to a doctor from Uraguay who is working there. She was really sweet and had a story much like mine. She gave me really useful information and wished me well. She also volunteered to keep in touch with me in e-mail. Someday, I’ll get to send her a happy email telling her I’ve been assigned to a post!

One other piece of news of note: for both breakfast and lunch I had my first flour tortillas of the trip. This is big news because I prefer them, but also because it indicates that Peurto Barrios has some different food than in the Péten. Interesting. Wonder what things will be like in Antigua tomorrow? I hit the road at 5 am tomorrow, so as to have plenty of time to get the hell out of Guatemala City before sundown!

Hello from Livingston

I’m in Livingston, a weird little leftover from the past. Here, a bunch of black people who speak Spanish live without any roads to the mainland. Their food is very different than mainland Guatemala, and they sprinkle Carribean slang into the middle of their Spanish. Kind of strange.

Also, there are more hustlers here, and they are very good. So good in fact, I got cheated out of a tour this morning. Luckily I still had time to get signed up for another tour and take that. I have a plan to get almost all the money back that the guy nailed me for. He is in cahoots with the place I’m staying. I have not yet paid for the last night in the hotel, and it so happens the hotel price is just a few quezales less than the amount he cheated me out of. So I plan to stiff the hotel and leave a note telling them to get their money from him. The worst that happens is that the hotel lady calls the police on me, to whom I can explain that she helped her friend steal from me. Should be interesting. I’ll tell you how it turns out, as long as there is Internet access in the Livingston jail.

The legitimate tour was a disappointment anyway. I wish I’d just taken the boat ride down to Livingston (which was awesome!) then left at 6am this morning like I originally planned before I got sweet-talked into the tour.

Tomorrow, with luck, I will visit a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Peurto Barrios. Alas, I have not been able to get in contact with them, so I still plan on ambushing them. I now have contact info, so I’ll probably at least try to call from the boat dock in Puerto Barrios and ask if I can come over.

Rio Dulce is a place that a lot of yachties visit, and sometimes wait out the hurricane season. I can see why after taking a boat trip down the river. Attention crew of the Wonderland: come here! It is cool! Just remember that Senegal has exported some it its best and brightest onto the streets of Livingston!

My first Spanish essay

I wrote a couple paragraphs as a homework assignment, and I thought it would be fun to post them here, to look back on when I am more fully literate. I have applied all the corrections my teacher made to the essay here. They were mostly small changes, but at least one sentence needed to have it grammar all sorted out by her!

Mi padre en San Andrés y mi abuelo tienen elgo en común. Ambos hombres trabajaron como operator de sierra en una fábrica de madera. En inglés, le llamamos “a sawer”. ¿Le llamamos en español un serrador?

El operador de sierra es la persona más importante en una fábrica de madera porque el elige cómo cortar el árbol.Menos basura resulta de más beneficio y viceversa. También, algunas dimensiónes resultan de más beneficio. Es un dificil juego “el serrador” juega!

Audali trabajó par 5 años como un operador de sierra. No se cuanto tiempo mi abuelo trabajó. Él murió cuando me padre estuvo en la universidad, antes de mi nacimiento.

Here is it, translated to English:

My father in San Andrés and my grandfather have something in common. Both men worked as the operator of the saw in a sawmill. In English, we call this “a sawer”. In Spanish, do we call it a “serrador”?

The operator of the saw is the most important person in the sawmill because he choses how to cut the tree. Less waste results in more profit and vice versa. Also, some dimensions result in more profit. It is a difficult game that the sawer plays.

Audali worked for 5 years as a sawer. I don’t know how many years my grandfather worked. He died when my father was in college, before I was born.