And I thought today would go easy,
I decide in the middle of the night that I’m probably not going to travel today. I think I will like it in La Jungla, and I know I’m going to have some trouble with the bikes and the bike racks. I stay in bed until 8:30, chatting with Lola and Sarah. When I start talking to Sarah, I know I’m going to be sad, but sometimes I just let myself go. I think a lot about what a charmed life I’ve led—which accounts for my general trust that I will make it through the night, even when it looks as if Lola and I will have a car-night. But Sarah dying was the one thing that went so horribly wrong. Neither of us could believe we wouldn’t pull through her cancer. Survivors often write about their guilt. On the surface, I didn’t feel responsible for Sarah’s death, but this morning, I am thinking that deep down, I failed her. I didn’t pull her through. I know this is irrational, but still I know this little nagging feeling might never go away.
This is what I think about this morning. I have a few deep scars on my soul.
But I also lie in bed just to hear the birds sing. Antonio later tells me that there are 200 different kinds of birds in this forest. This morning, they all seem to be singing, trying to outdo each other. When you listen, it sounds like that with many sounds I have never heard. In the background are the howler monkeys.
Lola and I go up to the kitchen, dining, and bathroom area to wash up. Antonio is sitting in the dining area and drinking coffee. There are in the dining area enough tables and chairs to accommodate perhaps 50 people. The entire area seems as if it is being swallowed by the surrounding jungle.
The vines and trees are crawling into the living spaces. Green moss everywhere.
The pool has about one-third water amazingly as clear as crystal. Antonio has designed quite a water system: water comes from here and spills out to there, and then to another place, and to another place, all through cement waterways, and eventually into the lake, which is surrounded by mountains. Antonio has built a giant water slide—and I mean giant. And you have to see it as emerging out of the jungle.
I wonder if there is a cup of coffee for me, and Antonio says no, but he would like to make a fresh pot and goes into this jungle-swallowed kitchen to make some. Lola plays in the pool, and I study maps, planning my future.
When Antonio returns with coffee, he sits down and we have a very pleasant morning chat for two or three hours. He speaks often in his broken English, and I use this as a chance to practice Spanish. We talk about politics, education, social systems, and languages. Antonio knows as much about American politics as I do. He is very impressive. I really enjoy talking with him and drinking his coffee through the morning.
Towards noon, I say I have to get back and see whether I can repair my bike racks. I tell him about my accident with the tent. It is really very funny, particularly if you know about my bike and tent accident coming down.
The damage is bad. First, it’s hard to figure out how to take everything apart in order to survey the damage. Not having any manuals makes this doubly difficult, plus I have two different systems—the roof rack and the bike rack. I spend about three hours figuring out how to get the roof rack on correctly, but I do it, and I feel proud of myself.
Then I try to put the bike racks on and discover they are broken—that’s why everything came off. I figure I can fix them if Antonio has a drill (I had discovered that he was an electrical engineer and had largely built this place, so I couldn’t imagine he wouldn’t have tools) and four bolts with washers and nuts. So I take the parts up to the kitchen area, show him the damage, and ask him about drills, bolts, washers, and nuts. No, he doesn’t have those kinds of things, but he suggests a bike repair shop in town where they will surely be able to put these things together again.
So that’s what I do. The two men and the young boy in the shop are incredibly competent and pleasant. They drop whatever they were doing and go about repairing my bike racks. I take Lola for a walk around town, get some groceries, and then sit with Lola on the steps while the two men and the boy work on my bike racks. Lola and I just watch people going by or in the shops. This is a lazy, very wonderful thing to do. When you stop moving, you are more able to see how others move. I think of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity.
Lola and I drift into half-awake, half-asleep.
They are done. I can see that the bike racks are now much better than when I bought them new. They are pleased that I am pleased. The bill is not very much (150 pesos), so I add 50 to it and we are all very happy.
It is early evening. 6:00. I go back to La Jungla, put my bike racks on, organize my car for tomorrow, and then have a chat with Antonio. I pay my bill (160 pesos) with a 500 peso bill and apologize that I don’t have smaller. He goes in his car to look for change. He comes back and gives me quite a bit of change, apologizing because he didn’t have the correct amount, and so he gave me back more than was appropriate. I didn’t really count it, but I think he probably ended up paying me for staying here. It felt like that.
This much is obvious: when you travel, you have all these experiences and you meet these wonderful, interesting people. And they are almost always incredibly pleasant, like Antonio, perhaps because if you haven’t traveled, they wouldn’t have met someone like you. We bring fresh air into each other’s lives.
Goto Day 20: There Are Storms