Day 12, Saturday, July 22
Last night we caught 9 bats of 6 different species. Glossophaga sorcina, Myotis keaysi, Myotis albescens, Artibeus toltecus, Sturnira ludovici, and Pteronotus parnellii. The night was long, but dry. By the time we finished processing bats and taking down nets it was after one AM, then we had to walk back to camp. This morning I am very tired, and my socks are cold and damp. I feel pretty crappy overall, and may go take a nap. The generator has not been turned on today, so I have not been able to check email.
Later: What started as a gloomy day has turned out quite sunny. The generator came on around 10:15, and I was able to send off a couple emails saying I’d be without email for a few days. Then I packed up and Sergio and I caught a ride to Buenos Aires, a small community of about 70 families a few kilometers down the mountain from Base Camp. The drive must be undertaken in 4 high, the soggy clay is quite thick along the way. Once there, we had lunch: potato salad with eggs, and something else I’ve forgotten. I also had a coke, because there is a little store where you can get soft drinks, candy bars and chips. At Base Camp there’s a little room where they sell snacks, but it only opens once a day. Several other volunteers are here as well, and the atmosphere is quite relaxed and happy, with dryness and sunshine to spare, especially compared to Base Camp where the sun is a premium and mud is the economy.
After we ate we took a short walk to visit a family that Sergio met when he came here a few weeks ago. Alejandro and Sandra have seven children and one on the way. We went to their tiny adobe, which has 3 rooms. A kitchen area with a hearth, and many sticks propped up next to it. Sandra’s two oldest girls bring out bracelets, necklaces and earrings for sale. I buy 4 bracelets and a necklace, for just a little under 500 lempira (about $20). I’m pretty sure that they didn’t make any of this jewelry. In fact, I’m pretty sure they weren’t made in Honduras, they look made in China. But it’s either buy the bracelets or just hand this family 500 lempira. I study the jewelry carefully and choose the ones the girls recommend. I have barely spent any money since arriving in Honduras, and know that my money is well spent here. In fact, I should dump all money I plan to spend in this community, as the people here do not have much at all, some even less than that. The family was all smiles about the sale. They were quite gracious, serving delicious coffee, grown just down the hill a bit, roasted and ground right there in their tiny 5 X 7 kitchen. We stood in the kitchen and Sergio chatted first with Sandra, asking in his way that never offends when she would stop having childern, to which she smiled and said “when god says it’s enough.” The youngest, Fanny, stood shyly in the doorway. There are 4 girls and 3 boys. The entire family sleeps in a long narrow room off of the main room, which evidently is being used by opwall students, for which the family is paid. 9 people including a pregnant woman sleeping in a space maybe 6 by 10 or 12? With clothes folded on crude wooden “shelves” and a rabbit sharing the space, and stray chickens coming in and out. There are no possessions, just a few clothes, a few dishes, two large shiny pots that look like the most prized possessions, Outside is a shower, drop toilet and clothes line. Alejandro’s father came by. A shrunken-looking small man with bluish eyes, he wore a Stetson-type hat and looked quite wise and friendly. He told Sergio about the time he was fishing and caught many large white bats when he threw out his net.
We went outside and saw Jenny, who works as a cook at Base Camp walking along the path. She invited us to come see where she lives. So once we had finished visiting with Alejandro’s family, and had turned in our laundry for washing, we walked a little way down the path to Jenny’s house. She lives with her parents in an adobe house, with a corrugated tin roof and concrete floors. The walls inside were painted and had a few photos and 6 diplomas hanging, one for each of the daughters. There is no electricity in town and Jenny and her mother showed us that they had one large car battery to power their tiny tv, and when it needed recharging they would take it to Cofradia, an hour away. To buy a solar panel costs 15000 lempira, and one panel is only enough to run a small tv or radio, not a refrigerator, so there is no refrigeration. Ice is delivered on Saturday, so it was quite a special treat that we had a wonderful sweet drink made of oats, and had an ice cube from Cofradia in it. Jenny and her mother looked so proud to share ice with us. As it was the only ice I had for a month, I really thought a lot of that ice as I enjoyed my drink. Sergio is very nice, and has an easy style talking with the people in the village. I like listening to people in latin countries speak to one another. Not only is the language quite beautiful, but they speak in a very soft, easy going, unrushed manner. I know some of what they are saying, but it doesn’t matter, just listening to the rhythm of their conversation is relaxing and enjoyable. Pretty soon Jenny’s father came out from a nap and he and Sergio talked about the military who are paid to protect the forest from logging even though no logging occurs in the area, so they are being paid to do nothing. We needed to get going, so Jenny’s mom gave us a tour of her flower garden, in the front and along the sides of their house, with many beautiful flowers, orchids, carnations, and many varieties, a few large showy flowers and many delicate small flowers in yellows, pinks, lavender, reds and whites, and a butterfly.
Buenos Aires is slowly revealing itself to me. the simple village life, children wandering and playing and poking out from an overgrown fence to say hi!. Men sitting along roadsides, always smile and say hola or buenos tardes. Women washing, cooking, cleaning. Aptly named, a cool breeze blows across the balcony at the ecolodge where we are staying. Very simple and nice, I braved a cold shower and feel refreshed but tired and on the verge of a cold from last night’s late work, little sleep and this morning’s dampness. Tonight I will sleep on a bed and tomorrow there should be time in the early day to lollygag until we have to do a killer transect, and I’ve been told that it may all be for one bat. We will be here until Wednesday, and then I will have surpassed the half-way mark of this experience, on the downhill slope time passes differently than when heading uphill. I hope all will be well back home and hope my parents are doing fine. I hope this experience makes me stronger and better.
With this experience there are rough days, and better days. Waking up with cold wet feet and cramps in a muddy camp was rough, but seeing Cofradia lights twinkling from high up on the mountain side of Buenos Aires is lovely. Sergio also, is great. He is a very intuitive, nice young man. How lucky I am to have met him, and how funny that he had contacted me 3 years ago wanting to work with bats. It seems quite fateful that this experience has been much better for me since starting to work with him. I love being in the village, seeing the children, smelling the cooking smells and hearing nothing but crickets when I go to sleep. I haven’t seen or heard an airplane for nearly 2 weeks, nor have there been any traffic noises. The only modern sound is that of a very occasional pickup truck, the generator at Base Camp, and a few random computer error blips in the science room. Slowly I’m being pulled out of my life and transplanted to this one. Life is about adjustment. This is an opportunity to practice many adjustments. The long steep walks are forcing my legs into shape. I am starting to realize that when this is over, I will have found it to be an incredible experience, even though many days have been so hard, and I have questioned my resolve. I will be here until the end, and will receive my handsome reward, returning home to the things I loved and missed while away. But I will be different. I will take all this with me. At the close of the evening, my roommate and I chat ourselves to sleep. Aidan Murray, from Ireland, the eastside where the pace is much slower than Dublin and the west. A medic here, in his last year of medical school back home before he starts an internship. The discussion started with conservation and biology and found its way to the disorganization of OpWall and lack of proper medical staff and lack of meds with proper expiration dates. I can see the peak ahead, almost to the top of this journey before beginning the descent. This will be a lovely spot to spend a few days before the second half.