Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Stumbled Upons

With not much to do here, but relax and read, we thought we would take a walk into town. We stumbled upon directions in our room stating the way to walk if you so chose. There is a path and then a gate where you turn right for the town and left for the Castillo. Either direction should take you thirty minutes.

Finding the path to the kayaks was easy. From there, we stumbled upon the wooden bridge that goes on and on and on while winding in and out. If it where straightened out, it probably would cover about 4 city blocks. I really admire the patience of the people who built it. It is elevated through swampy land with creepy vegetation that looks like a haunted marsh.

When you reach light at the end of the bridge once again, escaping from the canopy of trees and vines reaching this way and that up from the water and other arms reaching into it, you stumble upon a field. On the left side of the field are cows. Brahma type cows, with the long wattles under their necks. They stare at you with suspicion and are really skittish as if they may have seen many things emerge from that darkness where the bridge ends, but they keep their secrets, not sharing a single memory with anyone but each other.

The directions we were to follow were to look for a green gate. Shortly after passing the cows with the secrets, we stumbled upon a green and gold gate, but this did not look right. We were warned that the green gate would probably be locked, but we could squeeze through. This gate was yawning wide saying AHHHHH! We kept walking, but we stumbled upon the path; it consisted on rocks of innumerable sizes, making a stroll difficult, but each step required climbing until the next step. After another ½ a mile, we stumbled upon the really real green gate. It was locked with a chain and a lock. Swinging the gate to and fro did not provide enough room for squeezing anything much larger than a cockroach through. We stood back and assessed the situation before we despaired.

Looking at the situation again from a bit of a distance, we stumbled upon a solution. On the side of the gate post there was an open space where we could squeeze through easily and we did. Our quest was to go to town to buy a Tigo Movil Internet USB stick, so we turned right based on our instructions. Walking on the roadside did not feel too safe, because the road curves and cars don’t pay too much attention to pedestrians. We both independently estimated that it was another mile to actually stumble upon the town. Whoever suggested thirty minutes walking must have been an Olympian, but we made it.

Once in town, we were overwhelmed with the people around, the traffic was horrific both vehicle and pedestrian. With the note in my hand like a child sent to the grocery store by his mother, I went to one shop after another wherever I saw a Tigo sign. In each place, they shook their head, said something in Spanish, which took me too many seconds to comprehend and then they pointed me in another direction. Finally, we stumbled upon the Tigo store, the place where they sell mobile phones as well at the Tigo service needed to operate them. Eureka! This was the place.

For 205 quetzals or 20 Euros, I would get 3 GB of Internet service; however, they we running a special offer and the first fifteen days are free. Now what I was uncertain about is exactly how much bandwidth usage is free?  Once you do use up the GB you pay for, you can return to any Tigo store in Central America or any other place you happen to stumble upon one and add money to your stick. Quite a deal, I thought, since the hotel did not have WiFi and only two computers that I could only use for e-mail, nothing else.

Being potentially connected to the world again, we explored the town, all one street of it. That is not quite true; there are 2 streets, but since the 2nd street is the one we had to walk up to get to the main street, that had been explored already. Along the one street, it was as in many villages, dozens of the same types of stores competing with each other. Three restaurants sit side by side, none of which would pass a health inspection from a long distance glance. There are more hardware stores here than most cities have bars and pubs. How much duct tape does anyone need?

In one section of the street, we stumbled upon five women with food carts set up side by side along the street. Note that sidewalks are non-existent so you are battling other pedestrians while all of you are trying to avoid bicyclists, tuk-tuks, cars, and delivery trucks all at the same time. It is visual juggling at its best. As we are trying to negotiate some walking space past these women who have their food carts partially in the road, each begging us to try their tamales, tortillas, fried chicken, stuffed chili peppers, and other foods they have labored over. As soon as the warning scent of a potential customer reaches their olfactory glands, you turn into prey. Each woman is screaming at you to buy their food suggesting you only look straight ahead until you have bypassed the competitors’. Everyone has the best selection and flavor in their own mind. We get past each of them with our clothes, bodies, and minds intact, but not without minor scarring.

Now that we are out of the battle zone, what now? We have walked the street, both sides. We have done the side alleys and the courtyards. We have stumbled upon 39 hardware stores, 24 stores that are selling flip-flops and used books, 11 stores offering cheap mobile phones, one veterinary supply store and one pharmacy being run out of someone’s spare room, but where they offer to administer injections and intravenous medicines as well as fill prescriptions. The single woman behind the counter had glasses like the bottom of a soda bottle. Viva la cultural differences.

After that long walk and complete investigation of the town, we were ready to stumble upon something different. We found a hotel restaurant down by the waterfront. The papaya smoothie was delicious, but what now? The clouds were darkening and herding together in what had been a luscious blue sky was now looking like a bad bruise of black and blue. The thought of walking 2 miles and potentially getting caught in the rain did not get score high on my fun-o-meter. We tried taking a tuk-tuk to the green gate, but that was a forbidden zone for tuk-tuks for some reason. Luckily, we stumbled upon a taxi that was more than happy to take us and charge us 25 quetzals. We were more than happy to pay 2.50 Euros for a mile ride.

Back to the green gate, we squeezed through the side once again and retraced our way back to the hotel. We made it back to our bungalow when the skies opened and the rains started to pour down.
For the first time, I took my netbook computer to the restaurant and was ready to connect to the Internet with the new Tigo stick. Each time I had used the netbook here, I had only used it in our bungalow. As soon as the computer booted up, what did I stumble upon, but a message “Wireless connections are available. Would you like to connect?” Well sure I would like to save my 3 GB for as long as possible. Gosh darned if there was not an unsecured Internet connection that was available for using. I was able to post the last three days of blog posts and read and respond to e-mails. I trawled the Internet with the feeling that I had been released from a prison about to explore the world without restrictions once again. That lasted until 6 pm, when the entire Internet connection was lost, not only my WiFi friend, but the connection for the hotel’s computers as well.

Tomorrow, I will try out the Tigo Internet stick that I had stumbled upon.     
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