The rain started at some point in the middle of the night. I woke up to it pounding on the roof and cursed my poor luck. I might have to stay another day despite my machinations. Best laid plans of mice and men and all that. I wake up several times through the night hoping not to hear it, but the rain continues through the morning. I wake up at 4:00 nonetheless. The rain subsides during breakfast. I head over the bridge in the hope that it will end soon. It is more of a mist than a rain when I reach Don Salvelio’s house. He is not awake yet, probably thinking that the early hour and the rain would drive me away. He gets out of bed and immediately lies down in a hammock and starts asking me about geography, claiming that, “His truck cannot drive in the rain.” I tell him about how deserts are formed, whether Israel is in Africa, Asia, or Europe, and whether Poland is close to Antarctica. We sip on some coffee, which seems to finally spur him to action. We jump in his truck and hit the road. As we drive, Salvelio’s mood toward me seems to soften. He tells me stories about the birds and animals he has seen while working in cacao forests. The rain stops completely as we drive toward the site. Once there, sampling goes well. I spot some bird species that I have never seen in cacao agroforests: golden crowned warblers, olivacious trogons, and a red-legged honeycreeper. The only problem was the slight scare I had when a scorpion emerged from my backpack as I was packing my equipment.
We head back into town where I meet Emilio and his truck. It is stuck in the deep mud on the side of the road after the rain. Salvelio and I push it free and we lurch to Don Galacion’s home. There, I meet him as he puts on pants. He informs me that he needs to go to Comitan and cannot sample with me. “Well,” I think, “at least I got one more sample today.” However, just as I was prepared to accept defeat, I spot Jose, who is ready to go. So, I take him to the truck and we depart for his cacao plot. We stop where the road turns to mud. The rains have made it impossible to go on in the truck, so Jose and I disembark up the road on foot. The mud clumps and sticks to the bottoms of the shoes to the point that it almost feels that I am walking on stilts. I clamber up hillslopes and slide down the other side. After an hour of walking we reach the site. It has not been tended to as well as Salvelio’s, which is not surprising given its distance from town. I quickly wrap up the sample to minimize Emilio’s wait time at the truck. Another hour and we reach the car. Jose and I sit in the bed of the truck on the back axle so that it does not lose traction in the mud. I say my goodbyes to Jose. All of our equipment is already packed at the CONAMP station, so we just throw it in the bed of the truck and make our way back to San Cristobal, where Emilio and Angelica leave me.
The cool mountain air and familiar streets of San Cristobal are a welcome refuge from the heat, insects, and discomfort of the lowland rainforest pueblos. I am glad to be back in the little cosmopolitan city and settle in quickly, the concerns from earlier dissolving and flowing down the drain after a warm shower. It’s funny, nobody wants to be a tourist, but there is a certain amount of comfort derived from being just one amongst many. Every field trip is trying. I realize I have a tendency to focus on the negatives of an experience, for whatever reason. I must attempt to recall the pleasure of working in the rainforest doing projects that I enjoy in the moments when I doubt myself. As somebody once told me, “They wouldn’t have to pay you if it wasn’t work.” The difficulties are small and the highs incredible in comparison to the prospect of an office or minimum wage job faced by many people. Now I have a week to decompress and prepare for the next trip into the field.