Category Archives: laugh at oneself

Off the Beaten Path/The Kindness of Strangers

The beaten path is referred to as  the gringo trail,  places that are listed in the guide books. Currently I’m working my way to the western coast of South America, heading across northern Peru. Chachapoyas, the capital of Amazonas named for the warrior people is  nestled in the mountains that are  dotted with their ancient ruins and monuments.  It’s listed, but I couldn’t find anything to tell me how to get here.

In Tatapoto I got up early,  packed, found coffee, and took my stuff to the corner where I could find a tuktuk to carry me to the bus station. As it turns out, no busses come directly here. My Spanish was not fluent enough in listening to understand details, but I was told by two clerks at major bus stations to go to Chiclayo (12 hours) and double back to Chachapoyas (another 9 hours). What??! Besides, the busses leaving wouldn’t depart until that evening.

Only an idiot would go for that. I dragged my muletta across the rocky , dirt parking lot to a hostel I’d spotted from the tuk tuk. It was a hostel/bus stop for Peruvians. A bus that one need only hold out ones hand and it stopped. the clerks told me that I needed to go to Pedro Ruiz and take another bus to Chachapoyas-to hurry the bus was loading, leaving in a few minutes. For 40 soles, about 11 dollars I got a ticket and jumped on board. Pedro Ruiz was not on my map nor listed in the guide book. I had no idea where it was, or how far it was from Chacha, but I was no the bus. I settled into the lumpy seat and relaxed.

Along the way, the bus stopped. The driver called a 15 min break so I got off to pee. As I was exiting the bano, the bus was pulling out. Yelling, I chased it down. I was barely in my seat, and he was in 2nd or 3rd gear. Suddenly he screeched to a stop. The woman and her son who had been sitting across from me climbed on. He was leaving them too. They had been eating when they saw the bus round the corner. We shook our heads, and laughed.

At Pedro  Ruiz, a man pointed me to the garage wherecolectivo busses left for

. I was walking down the street looking for it when another man, asked me where I was going. When I told him, he took my bag, and led me there. At the garage, a woman looked at me and said Chachas? Si. A few minutes later I was on a packed  bus with tourists, Indigenous folks, and locals going to villages in the mountains, heading in to my destination. Piece of cake.

 

 

 

Don’t Pee In The Water.

The Amacayacu lodge or headquarters sets in the confluence of the rios Mata Mata and Amazon. I was sitting on the front dock of the Amazon when some workers from the Mocaqua community docked their boat. Before going back to his roofing job, one of the young guys, took off his shirt and did a back flip into the Amazon. “Ahh,” I though, “I can swim here.” When I mentioned it to Tomas, he suggested I swim in the Mata Mata, by the boat dock, where the people who work here dock. “It’s also somewhat cleaner than the Amazon,” he added. “Fine by me,” I think, so I packed my bathing suit.

When I got here I asked Alejandro, one of the student geologists interning here if he ever swam there.”Yes. almost every day I swim. It’s beautiful. The water is warm on the top, but down under it is cool and refreshing. But, Rubi, it’s very important you don’t pee in the water.” “Why?” I asked reasonably. “It’s not good for you because of the fishes.” Ummm. I understand my pee might be not good for the fishes, but why not good for me? I pondered this. The following day I was in the kitchen with Pedro, another one of the students. “Pedro, what will happen if I pee in the water?”
“He looked at me with startling blue eyes.”It’s very bad because of the little fishes that can enter your body through the place where you pee.” Yikes.

Again I pondered. The practical side of me thinks this is something a mother would say to her kids to keep them from polluting the river, then I considered the many strange critters that live here: the piranha, fluorescent bugs, plants, and fungi, exotic insects, pink dolphins, even trees that are protected by pointy cudgels that strangle interlopers. This rainforest is a scene painted by the Brothers Grimm. If the wolf can eat the grandmother and dress in her clothes, there’s a pretty good chance a fish can enter the peeing place.

I will probably swim, but not laugh hard while I’m in the process, or sneeze.

Everything’s gonna be alright.

Cathedral de Bolivar, Centro Bogota

Cathedral de Bolivar, Centro Bogota

It was an inauspicious beginning. I waited 12 hours to get a flight out of Charleston with the warning that the flight into Bogota was over booked too. So, I expected to sit in the Houston airport another 12 hours. Never give up hope. 11PM. I napped as seemingly hundreds of Colombians poured into the gate area. Finally, 11:40 I went up to the agent. “Any chance at all I’ll get on this flight?” “Si. No problem. That man will call your name in a few minutes” Woohoo!!

Soon, I was cozied into seat 3A. First class, room to sleep, a nice glass of red wine before take-off to help the process. When we were airborne I had another. The young, quite handsome, guy who spoke no English, next to me rolled over into the console between us  knocking the deep red zinfandel onto my beige jean jacket. “No problemo, I assured him. Esta solemento una jacketa.” Maybe I made sense. He got some paper towels  from the bano to help me clean up.

Protest photos on main ave in downtown. Mostly showing photos of the homeless

Protest photos on main ave in downtown. Mostly showing photos of the homeless

A few minutes later as I was filling out the tourist form, big drops of black ink dotted the form. I blotted them with my napkin and kept on. Later, the customs agent would peer at them  skeptically. “Ink, I said. Disculpe.” She waved me on.

In Bogota I went into the airport bathroom to freshen up, and found that my makeup Revlon (natural beige)  had spilled. Omg.  Such a sticky  substance.

At 9:30 am, Two hours later (24 hrs after I left Charleston) I was sleeping on a couch at La Pinta Hostel when Albero showed up. I had told him to wait until I called him, that I hadn’t had any sleep. He didn’t listen. He told the clerk at the hostel that he was taking me and would bring me back tomorrow. She smiled. I was whisked away.

Verduras & fruitas

Verduras & fruitas

 

Alberto's finca en San Francisco, Colombia

Alberto’s finca en San Francisco, Colombia

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On the way to the Catherdral de Sal, he stopped at a house in Bogota. “It is my house, but I give it to my ex-wife because she give me children.” “Fair enough, I think.” He introduces us. Claire I think, but find out later it’s Clara. I like her. She gets into the car. 

Clara y Ruby

Clara y Ruby

 

 

The three of us sped off. For the the next 24 hours we tour the catherdral, have dinner, and spend the night at his lovely finca in the country.  In my honor Alberto plays John Phillip Souza marches and a compilation of classic country music.

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The pipe has a leak. (La tubria tiene una fuga.)

 

Sailing off into the sunset.

Sailing off into the sunset.

I’m taking an on-line Spanish course. Yesterday I was taking a quiz using the verbs tener -to have and  hacer -to do or make. Rather than look up the English translation I try to figure the sentence out. Sometimes, about 80% of the time, I’m right, sometimes I’m waaay off. La tubria tiene una fuga. I’m thinking cannas-tubers and fungus: tubria and fuga. I knew the nouns were  singular so I got the verb correct.  The actual translation gave me my first laugh of the day. I pictured myself in Amazonas listening to my students, or new friends, responding to comments, commenting on situations, ideas, facts..learning.

gorgeous orange canna

gorgeous orange canna

“Ruby, la tubria tiene una fuga.” I might answer,  “Muy bien. Voy a excavarla y tirar a las basura.” He or she will look at me like I am nuts.  Maybe a student  or will use the idiom. ‘La cosa va viento en popa.’  (it’s going exceedingly well.) Maybe she is complementing me on my progress.  But, I hear, the word popa and viento and think her dad is going somewhere. I might just say ‘donde el van?’ which I hope means where is he going? Ahhhh. It is the way with other languages. You study, practice, make the best of it , be brave. And laugh at yourself.

Go for it.

Go for it.