We are living in a real little village. It reminds me of some of the small country towns in Uruguay. There are a couple of small shops --what we would call almacens or kioskos down there, usually located in the front room of someone's house. This little village actually has a couple of restaurants/bars too (and the required tequila distillery) since it is located right by the tourist attraction of the zoo, and has the beach across the Barra de Navidad road, but it feels pretty quiet. Mostly cinder block houses, with an empty church cinder block shell still in use near the center.
When the kids and I walk through the town we see into the open doors of people's homes, one or two rooms deep is all, with the back door open to a backyard patio. Sometimes the dona de casa is washing laundry on that patio by hand. Almost every place has a load of washing hung out on a line, or over a railing to dry. I almost always say buenos dias or buenos tardes when I pass someone, and kind of keep my head down a little, smiling, and every person responds. But if I don't for some reason, they usually don't initiate contact. I don't know what they think of us here in their village.
But. If we head through the town and cross over the road towards the beach, everyone talks to us. Everyone asks if we want a taxi, if we want to go horseback riding, if we want to take an excursion on their boat towards Los Arcos, if we want to eat in their restaurant. I usually just want to walk down the beach to our little spot and snorkel. I know we will want to do some excursions, but not without Jeff, who has to work these days. I usually say, "not today, but thank you" but worry I am building up resentment towards us. Is that our responsibility when we come down here? To spend as much of our money as we can to help the local economy? Maybe it is. Maybe that would help the kids I see in the village running around without shoes, help the stray dog I see with some kind of festering wound on his ear, covered with flies, sprawled out on the sidewalk. Maybe it would help the people in the shack created out of scavenged wood and rusting metal sheets. Maybe. Are these the same people asking?
Jeff got stuck in a work emergency yesterday and couldn't go down to the beach at all. We went without him, ate dinner without him, did the dishes, and then wondered what to do with the rest of the evening. I wanted to cheer us up, so I said we would try to go to one of these little house shops in the village and get ice cream bars. We walked out in blazing heat, the breeze that usually helps with that in the evenings was gone last night. We tried the little shop closest to us, and although they have a sign out advertising what looks like Haagen Dazs bars, the boy who came out to attend us said they didn't have any. We tried the bigger shop near the entrance to the village, but they just had a few that looked like they had been thawed out a few times, so we crossed the road.
We immediately attached a friend who talked to us about his family's horseback riding business, told us his prices, asked us if we wanted to try that. Maybe another day I said, but remembered that Jeff had said he would rather do ATV's so I worried. He asked us what we were looking for, and I felt embarrassed that we were looking for ice cream. This guy looked like he hadn't seen that many ice creams from his whip thin frame. He told me which little store to go to, and I thanked him, and started walking back into the village, but he followed us, talking the whole time. I went in the almacen and he showed us where the little ice cream freezer was, and negotiated with the cashier for an exchange rate from dollars to pesos. It was actually a little low, but she had been eating dinner when we walked in, and she was breaking a twenty for me, so I didn't complain. It was fine.
Was he kind? Yes. But desperate for business? We walked back to our condo eating our ice creams. I don't know if I can help him. Maybe it is wrong for us to be here if I can't. Maybe we should have stayed in a resort after all with the barbed wire on top of the circling wall.