Today, we began with a hearty breakfast and then prepared to head out, thanking our hosts profusely and petting as many of the animals good-bye as would sit still for it. I had a hard time leaving Mina—I doubt she'll survive for me to see again if I go back next year. Still, she was a darn happy dog, so I can't be too sad.
The ride back to Guatemala City was uneventful, (if you can call darting through the sketchy traffic patterns while oogling far-off volcanoes uneventful), and made it to Dr. Dennis's bar unscathed.
Have I mentioned that Dennis has a bar? It's been so long since I updated I honestly can't remember. He got tired of just being a kick-ass vet and decided he needed to start an open-air biker bar next to his little clinic. He makes balloon animals, too. And one of the best margaritas I've ever had. And he's getting his pilot's license. And he was in the military at 11 years old. And he has owns crocodiles. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
We were all happy to get out of the van when we arrived, and even happier to wander around his bar with drink in hand, enjoying the random décor and tiny playground. This consisted of a teeter-totter with no handles and a little ladder to climb up in the tree, which was especially entertaining once the alcohol kicked in. However, the biggest event of the visit was the FOOD.
We watched as Dennis put more and more meat on his massive grill, the only obviously identifiable thing being the entire rabbit on a spit. While we waited, he supplied us chips and homemade spinach dip and a soup that he survived in a tiny cauldron hanging on its own tripod. Then there was grilled french bread. Then there was more alcohol. When we (or at least I) were filling quite satisfied with our lot in life, he started bringing out the actual meal. Beyond the standard piles of meat, my favorite part of the meal was when he stuck pieces of steak all over this mace-looking thing that had been heating up on the grill, poured something flammable on it, and lit it on fire. I'm so sorry I don't have pictures of this yet. I'm working on it.
That day, we ended up trying at least 5 different types of animal: pig, cow, rabbit, frog, and crocodile. My least favorite was the crocodile—it had a LOT of fascia, so it was hard to get to the actual meat. I gather that's a predator thing. After we had gorged ourselves, we went to visit Dennis's clinic next door on the hillside, denoted by a sign that simply stated “VET,” the letters formed out of bleached bone. Going inside, he told us stories of the variety of animals he'd dealt with. As I may have mentioned before, Guatemalan vets don't really specialize—you have to be prepared for anything that walks in the door. Dennis, in particular, has connections to a local zoo/circus/something, so he gets to play with scarier animals than the rest of us might. To deal with this issue, he made his own blow dart gun with which to anesthetize the grumpier, bitier, pointier things. The darts he fashioned out of hypodermic needles, sealing the ends of the needles and putting a tiny hole in the needle a little further down. This hole was covered w/ a rubber washer until the needle entered flesh, at which point it would be shoved down from the hole and the anesthesia could enter the animal. I want a blow dart gun. I can't promise who/what I'll use it on.
Then we went back to the bar, and with very little encouragement from Dennis, went down to meet the pet crocodiles he keeps in the backyard. At one point he asked me if I wanted to hold one, and in my drunken state I didn't hesitate to assure that I did, indeed, wish to cuddle an enormous lizard of death.
So he grabbed it, we lassoed it, and he restrained it as I wrapped duct tape clumsily around its snout. That one might have been named Louise. I can't remember at this point. After I grabbed the crocodile and cheesed for the camera, everybody else secured their gumption and got in line. Most of us had indeed imbibed by that point.
Afterwards, we climbed, giggling, back up the hill to the bar, where Dennis pulled out his karaoke station. Seriously, the day just got better and better. We then proceeded to belt out everything from La Bamba to Bohemian Rhapsody, with musical Spanish interludes from Dennis addressed to one or another of the ladies.
After taking full advantage of every hospitality Dennis felt like supplying, we headed back to the house in San Lucas and prepared ourselves to leave the next day. I haven't slept so well for quite some time.
Today, we went home. I can't lie—I was EXTREMELY excited to be back in my own apartment. If we could have transplanted my apartment to Guatemala, that would have been one thing, but I was in serious need of my own space, especially including the roommate's cat Cricket. We started out the morning with Steve making breakfast, and enjoyed one last meal together before heading back to Guatemala City and the airport. One of the hardest parts was saying good-bye to the animals in the San Lucas house. Mina was my absolute favorite—her tail started wagging the moment she knew you'd noticed her, and she never stopped trying to sneak inside to be closer to us (and whatever armchair she could hop into while we weren't looking).</strong>
Danika and I were both chomping at the bit, so the drive to the airport was frustrating—Darvy said that level of traffic congestion was REALLY unexpected, and I pushed my imaginary brake pedal more than once as we fought our way through the hordes of other commuters.
Still, we made it, and survived the airport security and souvenir peddlers to get to our flight. Everything about our travel day was uneventful, except for our lay-over in Houston. If you recall, I had a great deal of luggage trouble on the way out to Guatemala, so I was very prepared to make sure that my luggage actually got to my final destination this time. However, for some reason that's not how things are done when you're coming back INTO the US, and we were required to pick up our luggage and recheck it. My flight was a bit later than everyone else's, so I definitely had more leeway, but I was also switching airlines (mental note: stop planning itineraries with airline switches), so I had to travel quite a ways via a sketchy tram system, stairs, and elevators to get to my last flight. I survived, being the scrappy adult that I am, and made it home safely in time for Danika and her sweet husband to give me a ride with them back to Fort Collins. Stepping into my apartment was...wonderful. Cricket, the roommate's cat, came running and flopped in front of me for his traditional belly rub as if I'd never been gone. However, his degree of cuddliness since I've been back indicates that he did, indeed miss me. David, my roommate, once plaintively mentioned that he was pretty sure Cricket likes me best now. I had to admit that I cheat—I have built-in cat pillows (aka cleavage) and a heated mattress pad.
My hot shower in my own apartment right before getting into my own bed might have been the best one of my life.
Random things:--When you spend over a week immersed in a Spanish-speaking culture, it can be difficult to turn that part of you back off. This can lead to awkward situations. For example, I was going into a bathroom in the Houston airport and passed a small Latina woman coming out. Because I'm a friendly person, I instinctively greeted her, “Hola!” without thinking about the fact that she might be insulted that I assumed she spoke Spanish just by how she looked. To be fair to me, I honestly didn't even notice her appearance when I said it. It was only afterwards that I considered what that might have sounded like. Also, I did the same thing to the Chinese woman at the food stall where I got dinner.
--Even if you expect and prepare for it, the culture shock of coming home can hit you. I only had 3 hectic days to get back into the groove, and yet I was surprised when I had a bit of a crying jag at the end of my first week of school. It affected me that much when I was only gone for 10 days.
Imagine what it would be like if I'd been gone longer...