Am I ready? Sr. Froilan seems to think so. I was sitting on the ground outside Tio Moncho’s side door studying his jicaro trees all bursting with green these drizzly days. In the dry season the branches look pencil drawn, like a million spiders with their eight million legs sticking out in all directions. When every inch of them is covered with tiny leaves, the result is a very bushy ball of green. Tio Moncho was next to me wearing his trademark wife beater shirt, blue gym shorts, and skinny gold chain with a small cross around his neck. We were talking about life, women, the rain, soccer, and the recent news of the massacre in Mexico. Senor Froilan is an old man who is “like family” to Moncho. He is always at the house doing whatever chore he can come across wearing a dirty, long sleeve shirt tucked into dirty jeans with evident years of hard work to match his hands and face. He masks it well, though, with his constant smile. As is his custom, he was sitting about ten feet from us on the plank of wood he carries everywhere he goes.
He stood up and asked excitedly if I’d ever been to the moon. “They do that over there (referring to the States),” he said to Moncho. I chuckled and said, “No, but let’s go. You and me. Right now.” I was serious. If I had a spaceship I would take him and we would go to the moon at this very moment. He laughed and said he wouldn’t be able to make it. They do all sorts of tests and he would never pass. I knew where this was going. The same conversation we always have: me running down the street the first time he saw me.
“Eduardo is ready for space. Si hombre, let me tell you, the first time I saw him ba –ba – ba – ba – ba (slowly moving his arms back in forth in a runner’s motion) ohhh hombre all the way to the bend in the road and back ba – ba – ba – ba – ba just running. No reason. Just running. Oh yes Eduardo is ready for space,” He explained to Tio Moncho who also likes to recount that first encounter with the tall white dude running just for the hell of it. That was the first and essentially last time I ever went running in town after I raised a number of protests from worried on lookers who insisted I would get robbed if I went beyond the houses. I tried my go-to joke that the robbers can have my undies if they want them because I don’t carry anything else. It didn’t work. So I stopped (I also try to keep the attention level on me as low as possible and running through town has the opposite effect). But if Sr. Froilan believes that that single, probably less than one mile run prepared me for the final frontier than I do to.
A few weeks ago I went to have some adventures with my friend Hayley in her site a few hours north of me in the mountains just outside the capital. She claimed the trip would take a majority of the day but I got lucky with busses and rides and made it in just a few hours. Hayley carries an earth tone fanny pack full of toys and snacks and all times. I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen Hayley not wearing board shorts and a tie-dye shirt. Hayley has much more energy than her one year old dog, Igor. Hayley can very quickly string together 8-10 adjectives in Spanish or English to describe her last meal or snack. Hayley loves to talk about snacks and soda. Hayley gives every man, woman, child, and dog the time of day and has got to be the most beloved person in her small little mountain community.
Shortly after I arrived, we hiked up a small, overgrown path through “no fatties allowed” pass, up and down muddy hills until we at last came upon the watering hole. A roaring creek winds its way under and around boulders creating a system of caves and slides. The stream of white pours into the first pool just where the path meets the water. From there it falls into another below it, then another, then another all the way down to the valley below where it calms and meanders back towards town. Sitting in any one of these perfectly round pools creates the impression of a sheer drop off directly beyond it. Amazing. We splashed around with Igor and the neighbor’s dog, Kaiser and talked about cookies (then ate them), our bewilderment that haters existed who wouldn’t want to experience something that awesome any chance they got, formed a plan to start a blueberry farm with overall Thursdays (as in you must wear some sort of overalls on that day of the week), and wondered if we would see the trolls that she had been very seriously warned about who supposedly wander around the rocks smoking dope and (obviously) have long beards and tall hats. We genuinely wished that we could actually believe in things like that. Butterflies were everywhere. Blue morphos with jet black undersides contrasted by sparkling emerald blue topsides. A bird escaped from the Planet Earth dvd box set and landed on a mango branch right in front of us. Also covered in blues and blacks except with a small upside down triangle on its back containing every color imaginable and a split tail of two skinny feathers with blue paddles on the ends. We were without words for a few minutes.
The next day we packed spaghetti and soda, and headed off in a pack of dogs and kids that are way too freaking cute through corn fields and banana groves, across rivers, around bends up into the mountains and back down again all the way to an even more magnificent watering hole kept in constant motion by three converging massive waterfalls. Hayley tried swimming under one of them and almost drowned. It was not funny for 6 seconds or so and then very funny for the rest of the day. That night we sat in hammocks and ate lots of food. I fell asleep exhausted and full.
Back in town, after a few weeks of hiatus due to a teacher strike, we are moving along again and I’ve been relatively busy. I am about half way through my “I deserve” sex ed class with the 6th grade boys and girls in separate groups. Many an evening is spent drawing graphic pictures of the human anatomy that I’m thinking of submitting to a comic book about scary aliens. The kids are awesome, though, and really enjoy the course. As do I.