Monday, August 13, 2007

Back to our “normal” life in the jungle

With Steph and Matt gone back to NY, we’re getting back to our normal routine which, in the jungle, isn’t always normal, and it’s been even less normal than usual this week despite our best efforts to get back in our rut. Selwyn has been on vacation this week because he’s been here six months and has earned a week of vacation, and with our busy July he’s been doing double duty, doing everything he always does around here, plus taking our guests on horseback rides and jungle tours, plus being our house/horse/dog sitter while we’ve gone away overnight. Long story short, he’s more than earned it. On Monday, for the first day of his vacation, he planned to go to Melchor, the town just over the border in Guatemala, where many Belizeans around here go to shop since prices are lower and the exchange rate is good. We’re in desperate need of hammocks (I know, I know, it’s funny how “needs” change), so we gave Selwyn money and told him to get the best three hammocks he could get for the money.

I didn’t mention it in the last blog entry, but Tom and I faced a dilemma over the past weekend because we were driving from home to San Ignacio on Saturday morning, and between here and San Antonio we saw a guy we don’t even know riding our bike. We’ve turned the bike over to Selwyn to use to get back and forth to work since he lives about 3 ½ miles from here, and because he sets his hours based on what we’re doing here rather than on when he can get rides, we figure it’s only fair that we help out with transportation. We call the bike the company truck, and Selwyn has it with the understanding that it’s for his use only. We’ve found his family sometimes “borrowing” it, and we’ve just asked Selwyn to try to limit the use of the bike for anybody other than him, and told him that it’s fine to say we don’t want anyone else using the bike if he’s in an awkward position with his family. Anyway, here we were, just driving down the road, knowing Selwyn is in school in San Ignacio on Saturday, and there’s our bike being pedaled down the road by a perfect stranger.

Tom (for some reason always on the lookout for our bike on the road) stopped the truck, got out, and waited for the bicyclist to reach him. The guy stopped, and Tom just said “That’s my bike.” The guy said he knew, and Tom told him to get off it because nobody other than Selwyn is supposed to be using the bike. The guy didn’t argue, and Tom put the bike in the back of the truck and we went on our way, with both of us stewing, of course. When we got home we locked the bike in the tack shed, and figured that we’d see Selwyn on Sunday when he got home from school and realized the bike was missing. Sunday morning was the morning we took the early morning airport run, and we were a little surprised when we got home that the Selwyn wasn’t here. We started coming up with all sorts of scenarios about why somebody we don’t know was riding the bike, and what Selwyn could possibly be doing that he didn’t even know the bike was missing. When we didn’t see Selwyn at all on Sunday, we figured that he’d stayed in San Ignacio and we’d see him when he got home from Melchor on Monday.

That turned out to be a correct guess, although that’s the only part of any of our scenarios that was anywhere close to the truth. We didn’t see him all day on Monday. We sat down for dinner around 7:15, and heard a car stop at the gate. We looked at each other, Tom said “Selwyn,” and we waited for him to walk up the driveway, with a last minute whispered conference about how we were going to handle the bike issue. We agreed that Selwyn was no longer going to be able to borrow the bike since he obviously couldn’t prevent other people from using it, and we were thinking of instituting a no more loans policy on all our stuff, including the weed whacker and our camera which occasionally spend weekends in San Antonio, supposedly used only by Selwyn, but the bike incident had us wondering.

Wrong. We never would have guessed Selwyn’s story, and after we heard about the day he’d had, we both felt guilty for even doubting him. It turned out that after school on Saturday, he went to his aunt’s house in Santa Elena, and she convinced him to stay overnight on Saturday, go to church and visit with them on Sunday, and then leave for Guatemala from San Ignacio on Monday morning. He got to Melchor without any problems, and changed our money and the money he’d taken for his own shopping. He’d shopped around, picked out the stuff he was going to buy, and was in the process of paying for our hammocks when somebody came up behind him, shoved him, and grabbed his wallet – with all of the money he’d changed. The thief took off into the crowd, and although Selwyn and a few other people chased him, they weren’t able to catch him.

After realizing that all of his money (and our money) was gone and he hadn’t purchased anything, Selwyn set about figuring out he could get home without any money. He went to the border and found that his karma wasn’t all bad; he saw someone he knew who also lives in the Pine Ridge, explained his situation, and asked for a ride home. The guy wasn’t going all the way home, but he said he could get Selwyn into San Ignacio, where Selwyn knows enough people that he could find someone and borrow a few dollars to catch the bus home. The good karma continued, however, and before he even got to the bus stop, Damion (our next door neighbor) drove by and asked if he needed a ride. It turned out that Damion, Olmi, Wilton, and Daisy had also spent the day in Melchor doing some back-to-school shopping, and if Selwyn had waited just a few more minutes at the border, they probably would have driven by and given him a ride from the border all the way home. As it was, Selwyn hopped in the back of the truck and asked Damion to drop him off at his house in San Antonio. Selwyn was planning to come out here, but because he’d been gone for a few days he wanted to stop at home first and check on his animals, making sure that the neighbors had fed them while he was gone. And, he said, he figured that once he’d checked the animals, he could hop on the bike and get out here to talk to us about the money before it was even dark.

But, Selwyn didn’t know that the bike was here. He said he fed the animals, and went into the back room to get the bike, and discovered that it wasn’t there. He stormed over to his neighbor’s house to see if they’d seen anybody in his, and his neighbor told him that he’d “borrowed” the bike on Saturday morning, and Selwyn’s boss had stopped and taken it. At least at that point Selwyn knew where the bike was, but he also knew that on top of telling us that our money had been stolen, he knew we’d be stewing about the fact that somebody we didn’t even know was using the bike. But, being Selwyn, that just made him want to talk to us even more to let us know everything that had happened, so he walked up to the main street through town to try to catch a ride to our house. His good luck with rides held, and he found someone he knew driving to Blancaneaux, which means they’d go right past our driveway, and he got the ride.

Sheesh. What could we say but “poor Selwyn?” We listened to his story, assured him that while we don’t like to throw money away the stolen money wasn’t his fault, and told him that we certainly wouldn’t hold against him the fact that the neighbor borrowed the bike out of his locked house without his permission. We fed him – he hadn’t eaten all day since the money had been stolen before lunch, and it had taken until dinner time to get home – told him to take a hot shower, and then Tom loaded Selwyn and the bike in the truck to take him home. Fortunately for Selwyn, Steph and Matt had forgotten that they wouldn’t see him again when we went to Hopkins on Friday morning, so they’d left a tip with us for Selwyn for leading the trail rides. We gave him the money so he had some cash, and thanked the powers-that-be that we all forgot to give him the tip on Friday, because then that would have been stolen as well.

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