A Hundred Dollars in Water Bottles

On the second to last day before we left our rented house on the shores of Lake Atitlan, R and her friend went for a massage and Alan took two of his girls horseback riding. That left me home with Coconut, J, and their friend. I suggested that we take the kayaks to the nearby town of Jaibilito to replenish our milk, potatoes, and to get a treat for ourselves in the form of a 12-ounce carbonated drink. Before anyone agreed to this voyage, though, they all wanted to know how far it was and since I didn't know, I told them it was ten minutes. When we got there we pulled our kayaks onto the shore and there was a gaggle of young kids running round in their underwear which they use as swim trunks and a woman washing clothes and I was a little concerned that someone would take the kayaks, but only a little because I generally have faith that people are honest and really, what the heck are they going to do with a kayak since they can’t use it to till a field? We walked across a grassy patch with a dirt trail worn through it, past some chickens, and up a few narrow streets to what amounted to the town - three stores selling junk food, soda, and powdered milk, a woman selling shaved ice, and an art gallery that was closed. We didn't want powdered milk and we couldn't find any store selling potatoes, but there was one guy set up under an awning selling fried chicken and french fries and he had just pulled the fries out of the oil so they were nice and fresh and we got two orders to share for only 10 Q, which is about $1.30 USD.

I sat the kids down in the shade to eat the fries and went back to check one last store and it turned out they had real milk and potatoes so we got what we had come for, but when we got back to the kayaks, Coconut let me know that our two expensive Thermos water bottles were missing. Now, it hadn’t occurred to me to bring the water bottles with us into town, or to hide them, even though it should have because the water bottles are shiny and when the Spaniards came to this land they were able to trade shiny beads and jangles for large swaths of land, and allegiances, and gold, and shiny water bottles have a use, which is to hold water, so they are actually something that can be purposefully used, unlike a kayak or a shiny bead or jangle.

After I sternly talked to the group of boys running around about the missing water bottles in a voice that Coconut described as yelling at them and her friend described as talking loudly, the bottles did not appear. I next spoke with the woman who was washing clothes; she looked amused, but shrugged her shoulders. She said something to the boys in a language that was not Spanish but was probably one of the Mayan languages that is still spoken by many of the folks around here. Chances are I wouldn’t have understood her even if she spoke in Spanish, and the boys started rooting around in all the trash that was scattered here and there and found my water bottle. They thought this was very funny. I got the impression they were playing a game of hide and seek, and when I asked for the other bottle, they thought that was even funnier. At that point, some of them left to go swimming, but a few others said something that J translated as “An older boy took it.”

Two of the boys walked me to the house of the older boy - I forget his name. I knocked on the gate and asked someone who I think was his mother if so-and-so lived there and she pointed at a boy cutting wood with a machete in the front yard, then she got up and started speaking sharply to the two boys who had brought me there in that Mayan dialect. I asked Machete Boy if he had taken our water bottle and he said no. I told him that the two boys in the street had told me that he did, and he said he didn’t. I asked him if he was telling the truth and he said he was, so I apologized for bothering him and J and I walked back to the kayaks where Coconut and her friend were guarding the other water bottle, and our milk, and potatoes.

There was still a bunch of hustle and bustle around the shore from the boys, and now some girls had wandered over too, and to add insult to injury, some guy who was digging a hole nearby dumped a shovel of dirt and gravel into one of our kayaks.

I wish that I could speak Spanish better, because the only words I could think of to describe my frustration were to say that the town was full of thieves, but I didn’t think that was going to be helpful so I just kept my mouth shut and we all got back into the kayaks and paddled off. By this time, the afternoon winds across the lake had kicked in and it took us quite a bit longer to paddle back to our house than ten minutes and when we got back we were all hot and tired so we went for a swim from the dock.

We’ve now spent over a hundred dollars on water bottles on this trip. We left Alexandria with six water bottles, including three for R.

The first water bottle we lost was a new, insulated Thermos that R got as a gift at our going away party and that we left at Busch Gardens two days after we left Alexandria. We estimate it cost about $25.

The second water bottle we lost was J’s Sigg and we left it on my cousin’s kitchen table in Tulsa after he and his wife had gone to work and we couldn’t get back inside. That one cost $20.

We bought J a new water bottle before we crossed the border into Mexico for $5. A cheap thing that he doesn't like because the water tastes funny if left inside for longer than a few minutes.

The third water bottle we lost was a purple Sigg that R had for years and we left it in the back of a collectivo that was taking us to market in Puerto Escondido. It cost $20 at Whole Foods.

The fourth water bottle we lost was Coconut’s Sigg and it got smushed when we were bouncing over a tope in Mexico and the slider door of the van opened, the water bottle fell out, and I ran over it. Cost $20.

When my in-laws visited in October, they brought us two more Thermoses, one for R and one for Coconut, that we ordered from Amazon for $45.

The fifth water bottle we lost was my Sigg. I filled it at the beach in San Augustinillo and left it in the freezer overnight and it split its sides. It cost $20 at Whole Foods.

When our friends visited us in Guatemala in January, they brought me a Thermos insulated water bottle that we ordered from Amazon for $25.

The sixth water bottle we lost was R’s insulated tea carafe from Teavana that she got as a gift. We estimate the cost to be $25. It was the last of the original bottles we brought with us and we called it the last of the Mohicans. It vanished without a trace.

The seventh water bottle we lost was the $20 bottle that Coconut got in October. It was stolen by some boys in Jaibilito, Guatemala.