Thursday, March 5, 2009
Sunrise to Sunset in Monterrico
This will probably be the last post of the trip with new photos, so I´ll try to make it worth it. The battery charger for my camera hit a wormhole in my backpack and disintegrated somehow.
I chose to get stuck for a few extra days in the tranquil beachside village of Monterrico, and I´m very glad I did. It was all about the fresh seafood, hammock relaxation time, and playing in the waves. On Monday morning I took the opportunity to take a boat ride through the mangrove lagoons with Rudy Florian. He was the second person we met in Monterrico as he approached us to ask if we´d be interested in the 5:30am tour the next morning. I liked him immediately. He spoke slangy english with an accent from the street and said he liked the dodgers. I noticed the tattoos hidden on his face - one on his eyelid and another barely sneaking out from behind his mustache. Laurel noticed the spiderweb on his elbow but I didn´t catch it. He seemed nice and mellow. I had only this first impression of him but it led me to presume that he´d spent some time in gangs in the US, probably LA, and then came back and chilled out and now is making an honest living in his hometown, getting by on the tourist economy here and hanging out on the beach. He said that 5:30 is the best time to float around the lagoons because all the birds are waking up and they´re most active then, and the sunset. It took five days but I finally took him up on it. It was a little bizarre, waking up in the dark and meeting Rudy outside the hotel, walking up deserted Calle Principal, half asleep. I was glad to be going out on a boat, through the lagoons full of unfamiliar wildlife and some incredible looking trees. I was also glad for a chance to kick it and get to know Rudy a bit.
I was curious to hear about his time in the states, and to know whether my suspicions about his tattoos and streettalk were on target. We started talking on our walk to the boat launch about language and how he learned english. He got to LA in the early 80´s during the height of Guatemala´s civil war, when he was 13, and was the only kid in his class who didn´t speak any english. None of the other kids could help him because they were usy enough with their own work and the teacher, though she tried, didn´t have the time or resoures to bring him up to speed. After a couple months of struggling and getting lost every day he stopped going to school and ended up meeting some spanish speaking kids on the street who helped him learn a little english. I was curious to carefully ask about what the rest of his experience on the street was like but thought it might not be too smooth to come out and ask if he was in gangs. Then, he just started talking about it.
When his mom was killed (there were no more details than that,) he and his little brother had nowhere to go and nothing to do, so naturally found support and resources through their peers on the street and became involved in a gang homebased in central america. There were rules to live by that helped them survive. He told a story about having his face and ribs broken by a rival gang with baseball bats, and of getting shot four times at once. These were highlighted as we floated around under the rising sun by stories of being a little kid and fishing these very same waters with his father. The best of those stories being the one where a piece of wood fell from the net into the boat amidst the pile of fish and, at the end of the outing when he grabbed it to throw it out, it turned out to be a baby crocodile, rigid and still until that moment, suddenly began thrashing about when he grabbed it by the tail, launching all their fish back into the water and scaring them both half to death.
As we floated around through the mangroves, the sun rose and the birds were everywhere. Rudy, who comes out here every morning whether he has a tour or not, knew all the best spots to see the sunrise, the egrets and countless other water birds, and the fish that gets around by skipping across the surface of the water. The volcanoes Agua, Fuego and Pacaya rose from the horizon in the distance and the morning was tranquil. I thought, as we drifted, of all the ways and all the times in my life that I´d been taught to be fearful and intimidated by the idea of a Latin American gang member in LA.
The following day I started my trip back to San Pedro La Laguna by catching a ride on a raft along with an enormous diesel flatbed truck with over 9 tons of water and shrimp larvae. And when we landed on the other side, it seemed like my quickest way to the bus in Taxisco would be to catch a ride the rest of the way there on the back, holding onto the ropes securing the tanks on the flatbed. Sure wish I had a camera for that. I´m now back in San Pedro, killing time, working in a coffee processing plant in the afternoons and eagerly awaiting my spanish lessons that start next week.