Friday, December 22, 2006

Lost Tourist in El Valle; Ways to Say Yes

Adam's team resumed work today and I went to the library to get some work done. I worked for a few hours, with a nun on one side of me and a retired American woman on the other. I could have done more but I got sick of the old, unresponsive computer mouse, so I went to lunch. After lunch I noticed a young American standing in front of the Melo store, sweating profusely and poring over a Lonely Planet guide. This being Christmas season, I have seen several American tourists about town. Many of them are out walking in the midday sun, a bad idea at any time of year but especially right now, the beginning of dry season, when UV levels are very high.

This particular young man looked lost and uncomfortable. I went over and asked him if he was trying to figure out where to go.

He said, "Yes!" in a tone that implied great relief, and said that he needed a guide. He told me his name was Eric and he was from Los Angeles. He is staying at Los Capitanes for a few days then moving on to some other part of Panama.

I took him to see Niko, a craft seller at the mercado. Niko asked him for three dollars an hour, and the young man said yes, but since neither of them have a car they will have to take a taxi. Niko is an odd young fellow with an attitude that is a mixture of intense, tough and ingratiating. Actually I have met many young Panamanians like him.

I later found out that a man named Mario, who runs the Serpentario (the snake shop) here in town, is a licensed tour guide and is bilingual.

As I turned to leave, Niko took me to the side. He thanked me for bringing him some business, then asked me if I know martial arts. He must have heard this from Cleo, another craft seller with whom I have developed sort of a friendship.

I said yes, I know some Hapkido, a Korean art. Why do you ask, do you want to learn?

Niko responded with a very intense, "Yes!", glowering and getting very close to me, like some young warrior trying to prove his sincerity at wanting to go to battle.

I may regret this, but I told him to come by the house Tuesday evening for a practice session. I do need a practice partner to hone my skills on. I made it clear to him that I am not an expert, but I will teach him what I know. He said, "How much I pay?" I waved him off and shook my head to indicate that there would be no charge.

When I got home Adam's team was gone. Rosa informed me that the mini fridge - the new one I bought just last week as a temporary measure until full electrical power is restored - is no longer functioning.

In addition, I discovered that one of my new surge protectors, one I just took out of the package yesterday, is fried. It smells burnt and no longer lights up.

Called Adam and he says that he's waiting on EDEMET to install a new transformer on the street pole. His team will put in the new wiring tomorrow. Looks like I'll have to go back to the library to get some more work done. I'm tired of this.

But would I trade it all to be back in Oakland, or even San Francisco, for that matter? No, no. Definitely not.

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