Are You As Wishful As A Sixth Grader?

This blog entry about the events of Friday, November 23, 2007 was originally posted on November 26, 2007.

DAY 4:  The monsoon-like rains continued through the night and straight on ‘til morning, leaving everyone on the island with a feeling of uncertainty.  By eight in the morning, the rain had cleared up for a bit — revealing a magnificent rainbow — only to start dumping again for an unforeseeable amount of time.  The flooding rains put uncertainty in Camilla’s and my respective plans for tours that day:  Camilla was planning to see the Mayan ruins of Altun Ha on the mainland, while I’d go tour the manatee reserve.  So far, nothing was set in stone and confirmations of going out to see things were unclear, mostly due to the number of tourists being skeptical of the weather clearing up and staying that way.

“When you come here, you should have certain expectations,” said Bonnie, the friendly woman at E-Z Boy Tours.  “People think it’s a blue sky paradise all the time.  This is typical weather for this time of the year.  It rains at night and in the morning, but then it clears up.”  She and her associate Harry were optimistic it would be an overall good day — it was a matter of convincing others to think the same, so there were enough people to justify a tour.

“Manatees… Manatees…” I urged passers-by like a ticket scalper.  Camilla did the same for her prospective Altun Ha tour; she was hanging on a thread, with the deciding factor being a group of four who were tentative, but wishy washy about going because of the flooding rain.

We went off to get breakfast at Glenda’s but then returned for the verdict.  “Bad news,” Bonnie broke it to Camilla.  “They don’t want to go.”  Camilla was more-than bummed — it turned out to be a nice day after all — and it took a while for her to get over it.  “What else can I do?” she asked Bonnie, trying to salvage her day.

“Have you seen the manatees?” Bonnie replied, smirking at me.

THE BOAT FOR THE MANATEE TOUR picked us up promptly, after we sized up our snorkel gear.  At the helm was Rene, a middle-aged man with weathered tan skin and a ponytail, who had brought along his first grader(?) six-year-old son, a rambunctious boy named Jean (pronounced “gee-ann”), who had a bit of ADD in a thick Caribbean accent.  Also in the boat were two American families: one an ex-pat family from the D.C. area now living in Guatemala City, that included a 4th grade girl and a 6th grade boy; and another family from where I don’t recall, that included an eighth grader.

Rene was to take all of us to the Manatee Wildlife Sanctuary, about an hour away by boat if we went right away, although knowing the manatees eating schedule, we held back for a while and anchored at two snorkel sites en route.  I snorkeled amidst the schools of blue fish and the coral, waiting for something a bit more exciting.

“It’s just not a job, it’s an adventure,” Rene said at the beginning of our tour. 

At the second site, while everyone was off snorkeling, he found a lobster nestled under a rock “Dere’s a lobstah down derr,” he called to me.  I watched attentively as after several attempts, he dived, and ultimately hooked the lobster with his hooked rod, and brought it up to the surface (picture above). 

“Put de lobstah dere!” called his excited son Jean.  “I wan to play wit it!”  He did, mindful of the lobsters snapping mouth, completely mesmerized as six-year-olds often are.

Our post-lobster/pre-manatee midday lunch break was on the docks of St. George’s Caye, a mostly privatized island with luxury homes and a few resorts.  It was mostly deserted with the low season at hand, albeit a lone bar that let us buy beers and use the bathroom, and the handful of British soldiers on leave from the military base on the island.  We ate yummy fish and chicken sandwiches provided by the tour over juices and beers while the hyperactive Jean tried to get a conch shell just out of reach from the pier, underwater.

“Dadee… Dadee!  Come git de conch shellll….”

“You already got one.”

Jean kept asking and Rene kept refusing.  Rene wondered why his son was so hyper.  “You been watchin’ too many cartoons.  Too much Spongebob.”

“He’s going to be an astronaut,” said one of the other fathers.  “He just needs training.”

“He doesn’t need training.  He needs restraining.”

When we embarked back on the boat, Jean refused to come aboard until he got his conch shell.  He pouted when he couldn’t have it, and after we all jokingly threatened to leave him stranded there, he finally caved — but with a frown and his arms cross in rebellion, the way six-year-olds often have.

After a wave hello to the park ranger in his little sea shack (with his kitschy bumper sticker), we finally entered the Manatee Wildlife Sanctuary to see what we’d come for.  Manatees are widely dubbed as “sea cows,” for they are essentially that: the cross between cow and a mermaid, an aquatic mammal that grazes sea grass.  (In fact there is speculation that the original reported sightings of “mermaids” were actually manatees — possibly reported by drunken sailors).  The sanctuary was a designated area of mangrove trees at Swallow Caye, surrounded by underwater fields of turtle grass where manatees frequently grazed, eating up to 10% of their body weight, sometimes as heavy as 3000 lbs.

Rene cut the engine in accordance to the rules and then navigated us around the shallow waters with a wooden pole.  The manatees weren’t easy to come by, only coming up for air for a few seconds every four or so minutes, unless they were stressed.  “Then they come up for twenty-three, twenty-four mintues,” Rene informed us.

“Let’s hope they’re not stressed,” Paul the sixth grader on board said.

Quietly we floated around the waters, drifting around an area where we’d seen a manatee briefly come up in the distance.  Rene maneuvered us around so that the current would naturally take us right to it.  It was still an ordeal that required a lot of patience — the sightings were extremely brief.  The 4th grader and 8th grader started dozing off in boredom.

The rest of us deduced that we were in the presence of at least two manatees, one of which came close to the boat before we had our cameras prepared for it.  “Isn’t it that right there?” the sixth graded noticed.  “It’s right in front of us.”  I looked down of the starboard side and there it was.

“It’s right under us!” I said.

That encounter was also brief and we continued to wait patiently for another exciting moment at four-minute intervals in our manatee safari.

“I wish that the water was see-thru and that the area was covered by glass,” the sixth grader said (as sixth graders often do), wanting to walk over an aquarium.

“But then they couldn’t come up for air,” I told him.

“Okay, we need a genie to grant us three wishes.  One, that the water was see-thru.  Two, that there was glass all around.  And three, that the manatees didn’t need to come up for air.”

His father interjected.  “I’d wish that a manatee would come up right here, and then I’lll save my other two wishes.”

Eventually the manatees swam farther away from us, and we settled with what pictures we could capture in our hour there:  manatee noses, manatee tushees, and manatee tails.

“Is that manatee throwing up?” said the eighth grader, finally awake to crack a joke (as eighth graders often do), referring to the funny manatee painting back at the ranger station when we paid our park fee.

THERE WAS ONE MORE SNORKEL SITE on the way back to Caye Caulker, and it was a good one.  Rene managed to anchor us right where a lone porcupine blowfish and about a dozen stingrays were all convened in a seemingly ritualistic spinning dance.  The water was only about six feet deep, so the stingrays were flying up and down and completely around us, freaking many of us out — Jean clung onto me at one point when when he got to close to the blowfish.  I almost stepped right on a stingray.  It was all beautiful to see, especially since none of us pulled a Steve Irwin (I’m sorry, is that wrong to say?) and kept us all happy.  We celebrated with rum punch on the way back home.

THE FULL MOON came up over the horizon on a relatively clear night — a big contrast from the “monsoon” we had just twenty-four hours previous.  The Popeye’s resort upgraded us to a bigger suite since our room had flooded the night before, which served as our place to crash after a last night out on the island.  After a dinner of barracuda steaks and grilled snapper filets, Camilla and I went bar hopping to the two open bars in town, first to Lazy Lizards on the north end before “The Split” that divided Caye Caulker’s two sections — where drunk Frenchman Manu had told me (three times) that he’d seen crocodiles there at night.  That bar was slow, and all the action was over at the Oceanside Bar, where another backpacker group was in town, carrying on as backpackers often do.  With beer in hand, I myself could not help but join in during their rendition of a standard popular karaoke song (at least in my repetoire).

In the end, it turned out to be a good day after all, despite the fact that we originally thought it might be a bust with all the rain earlier that morning.


Popeye’s Beach Resort has an interesting security system; a simple rope at the entrance next to a sign that says “No Wake Zone.”  “When the rope is up, don’t worry, you can just walk over it, [but no one else is going to come in.  It’ll keep the riff-raffs out,” said owner Ron.

Next entry: Accentuate The Positive, Eliminate The Negative

Previous entry: Last Night I Dreamt Of Some Bagel

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Comments for “Are You As Wishful As A Sixth Grader?”

  • HERE´S ANOTHER ONE… I’ll be caught up soon enough…  Stay tuned!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  12:57 PM

  • STEPH:  You know what I’d wish for!  HEYYY…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  12:57 PM

  • SBRs… post me comments!

    Posted by Erik TGT  on  11/26  at  01:00 PM

  • I am first?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  01:10 PM

  • I thought the karaoke song was going to be Bel Biv Devoe…. now you know.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  01:41 PM

  • was that Bon Jovi because you’re from New Jersey?

    That’s a huge lobster and it makes me hungry.  I can’t wait to read about Guatemala. 

    “Dere’s a lobstah down derr,”  That sort of sounds like a south side Chicago accent.

    Posted by sara  on  11/26  at  02:49 PM

  • How anyone could be drunk enough to mistake a manatee for Arieli is beyond me.

    Erik, do you have a rough itinerary?

    SBRs, break the silence.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  02:56 PM

  • The first, a furry dog.  The second, a flying boat.  And the third, was a planet full of manatees.  This is the story of that planet.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  03:31 PM

  • barracuda steaks sound interesting

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  07:16 PM

  • TDOT - i guess you’ll never know unless you get really really wasted!  haha..  so are we playing 3 wishes or what?  che rivada knows the answer…cuz they certain aren’t very 6th grader appropriate…

    Posted by markyt  on  11/26  at  08:27 PM

  • Yeah erik - what’s the itinerary? Scheduled stops, making it up as you go along or somewhere in-between?
    Also - write faster!

    Posted by Dunlavey  on  11/27  at  05:51 AM

  • What kind of camera are you using? Did you get a “real” underwater one, or only the same bag as before?
    I’m so jonesin’ for some warm weather… not that SoCal is truly that cold, but… yeah.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/27  at  11:49 PM

  • a little monkey told me that ERIK TGT has been in the jungle in NIZ and NEZ (no electricty zone) but will be back soon….

    keep your web browsers and RSS feeds tuned in…

    Posted by markyt  on  11/28  at  01:40 PM

  • I hope that means binge blog reading later in the week!  Erik, I hope there isn’t a tarantula on your bedpost again..  How I remember that years later is beyond me.  I guess it’s my intense fear of tarantulas!

    Posted by sara  on  11/28  at  02:24 PM

  • GREETINGS FROM ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA!  I’ve had a hell of a time getting here, and I’m sure you’re all on the edge of your seat, waiting to read about it.  Well I hope that seat edge is comfortable since I don’t have anything ready to post yet; with the lack of electricity in the jungle I haven’t had the opportunity to even get stuff on deck. 

    But stay tuned!

    SARA:  Bon Jovi because it’s awesome.

    KENT:  I didn’t make that up; I learned about the manatee/mermaid theory at the Mythic Creatures exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in NYC.  Rough itin:  Antigua is my base for the next 3-4 days I guess and then I’ll head down into El Salvador before heading north to Honduras.  Are you going to Roatan?

    STEPH:  That manatee’s nose looks like a cat! (seriously)

    DUNLAVEY:  Calm down, you.  I’m making it up as I go.  So far I haven’t really used my guidebook yet as I’m going with the flow with Camilla and “the Berkeleys” whom you’ll read about in the next entry…

    NOELLE:  It’s the waterproof/shockproof Olympus Stylus 720SW.  I hate it.  Sure its good for underwater, but I really regret not having a Sony T-series camera with me.  The Olympus is slow—I can’t take as many “spy shots”—plus the focus and color are mediocre.  Works well for party tricks when I drop it front of everyone though!

    SARA:  Tarantula’s schmantulas… this time, scorpions.  Stay tuned…

    Posted by Erik TGT  on  11/28  at  11:25 PM

  • ERIK: December’s plans are shaky at best. (note to self: don’t make travel plans with dodgy friends)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/29  at  01:02 PM

  • Who else is in Central America over the holidays?  I’m in Guatemala Dec 22 - January 13.  Might or might not go to Honduras..

    Posted by sara  on  11/29  at  02:37 PM

  • KENT:  Come on down anyway… Iknow you’re dying to be on “The Trinidad Show.”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/29  at  02:44 PM

  • E - is the sony one the one you had for your last RTW trip? I may have lost my camera (that I dropped in Angkor Wat) in a drunken stupor last night. So, it may be time for another camera… I think I want another Canon, but def w/ a viewfinder, not just the screen.
    Thanks for the info…
    I wanna go to Central America for the Holidays, but I’ll just have to dream.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/02  at  02:48 AM

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This blog post is one of thirty-nine travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: The Central American Eviction Tour* (*with jaunt to Colombia)," which chronicled a six-week journey through Central America, with a jaunt to Bogota, Colombia.

Next entry:
Accentuate The Positive, Eliminate The Negative

Previous entry:
Last Night I Dreamt Of Some Bagel


Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.

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