I wake to rain drumming on the shed’s tin roof. The opposite hillside that I stared at yesterday is completely enshrouded in dark clouds which roil on the horizon and race into the valley where Agua Perla lies. There will be no sampling today. I crawl back into my hammock and listen to the pitter patter raindrops that ebbs and flows with the intensity of the storm. The storm finally breaks around 10AM, at which point it is too late to do any sampling. It looks as though I will need to stay for an extra day.
The kids, suddenly freed from the confines of the house, race over to me. I escape their babbling by walking to the stream that Reynaldo and I passed yesterday. “El arroyo de la sierra, me complace mas que mar.” I roll up my pant legs and dangle my feet off the bridge into the water. The brisk coolness is a welcome antidote to the heat of the day. I read continuously for the first time since my arrival, taking a break only to observe a few electric orange dragonflies perched on a floating log. I head back when it is time for lunch lest my hosts think me ungrateful.
After lunch Ermilo asks whether I would like to go to the cabins. I agree, if only to do something different. An appointment with the dentist would be a welcome distraction at this point. Luis eagerly volunteers to come with us. The cabins are situated near stream past a barbed wire gate. Three neat wooden cabins that were quite obviously constructed in only the past few years stand next to a large, open-walled dining building. The thatched roofs rustle in the breeze. This is a community ecotourism project organized by Ermilo and 9 other men in the village. It is evident that a large amount of money has been sunk into the project already and I am sure that they were hoping for a greater return on investment. This is exactly the kind of ecotourism project that contrasts that at Las Guacamayas outside of Reforma Agraria. It arose organically through community support rather than being imposed from a far-away government. Profits too will return into the community rather than being funneled into the national government’s coffers. It is too bad that the infrastructure necessary to bring and retain tourists does not yet exist here. The bridge that would connect Agua Perla to the main road broke three years ago and has been in disrepair since. They do not have internet or phone service to take reservations or any advertising to draw in tourists from the road. I offer both my excitement and a few choice suggestions. Agrotourism is expanding rapidly throughout Mesoamerica, especially that fueled by chocolate and coffee. Tourists come to observe the process of harvesting and making their favorite bean-based delicacies. This site, in my opinion, would offer a great opportunity to do this, especially combined with the proximity to intact rainforest. The lodge could offer an eco-agro-tourism where tourists could learn about cultivating cacao and then visit the rainforest which is preserved partly thanks to the cacao agroforestry itself. We bathe in the river, but cover up quickly to protect ourselves from the piercing proboscises (proboscis? proboscies? probosciszszes?) of the mosquitoes waiting for a moment to strike at our exposed flesh. A lizard of some sort, possibly a skink, shuffles off into the undergrowth as we walk back up the trail to the cabins. Luis grabs my hand gently as we walk along rocky road back to the house. He holds it so softly that his soft, pudgy palm would fall out of my grip if I uncurled my fingers. It seems less an effort to actually be safe or secure, and more a simple gesture of comfort in acknowledging my presence. Of course, he punched me square in the balls as we were playing yesterday. It wasn’t an, “Oops, sorry about that. It was an accident,” punch. He wound up. There was intent in that little fist. Once I was down, he took the opportunity to try to rip out my beard. So all in all I don’t know if he really appreciates me all that much. My sabbatical has been noted and terminated by the children, who pull at my arms and drag me to play. I have come to actually appreciate the half hour I can physically devote to the kids. It offers a nice change of pace during the day and gives me a powerful bargaining chip to entice them to stop bothering me for a moment. Fortunately, they seem to forget what we were doing during my bathroom break. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of accidentally peering into the hole in the floor that serves as a toilet. I shudder and close my eyes. The writhing shit stew below was enough to make me gag, but I had to suppress the reflex so I did not need to face the opening while vomiting. I gingerly crouched down over the opening, praying that nothing from down below would investigate me. Ermilo’s son and two grandsons, who live in the house next to his, join us for dinner shortly after dark. I like this system of keeping family close, but not too close. Certain facilities, like the living room, kitchen, and bathroom, are kept in a common building, allowing for, or rather forcing, social interaction, while bedrooms are in separate small buildings for each family within the family property should you want some privacy. The other men are not nearly as talkative as Ermilo and we eat in silence until they leave. Ermilo then opens up. We talk about the cacao cultivating workshops that he has attended. Excited, he leaves the kitchen and brings a few small books detailing the process of cacao fermentation which we peruse until his wife, a somber, thin, unassuming woman brings us a special desert: boiled squash. She asks her husband what I thought of the cabins. I don’t know if I have ever actually been spoken to by a Mexican woman. They always speak through their husbands. It seems that this use of intermediaries to converse with outsiders is a widespread social convention in Mexico.