Saturday, December 29, 2007
the front bar at Hotel NaBalam
As a new month opened, things started to get better and better. We now were getting water for 8 hours a day and stopped worrying so much about it. The sun returned and temperatures were warming up to where they should be. Every passing day saw the sea loosing its’ angry green look and returning to it’s brilliant blues.
Even though only parts of the island had electricity returned, many people had gotten their hands on generators so there was starting to be lights shining everywhere. And more and more restaurants were opening. Still no tourists, but lots of local people. We saw a very strange thing one night while sitting at the bar in Bamboo restaurant.
Many of the stores and restaurants on the main street downtown, Hidalgo, are located in what look like single stall garages with a metal door that slides up. Just like a garage door! Bamboo Restaurant occupies four of these stalls and has taken out the interior walls, making for one huge space. Three of the garage doors were down, making it look like from the street that only the bar area was open. Which was true. The waiters were all there even though they were not serving food. I don’t know where it came from, but the cook brought out a huge platter of shredded meat and set it on one of the tables, blocked to the public view. He also placed several forks on the platter with it. The waiters came running in from the street, grabbed a fork and just stood there around the platter, stuffing meat into their mouths as quickly as they could. They would take about five mouthfuls and hand their fork over to the next person in line. By now, word (or smell!) had gotten around that Bamboo had meat and every waiter in the immediate area took a turn at it with one of those forks. It would have been funny had it not been so sad. We could tell that these guys were really hungry as they stuffed their mouths in total silence. Not a word was exchanged and they would just silently hand the fork over to the guy in line behind them. Everybody got some.
I felt so guilty watching them out of the corner of my eye. It would have been impolite to just stare. These guys probably had not had meat since before the hurricane and, I am sure, had very little else to eat either. With no work for the first few weeks, none of them had any money. Saving money is just not very popular here. B and I decided at that moment that we could not help everybody, but we could certainly do whatever we could for our friends. From then on, we had our friends over in rotation for either lunch or dinner. There was a lot of chicken available by this time and we ate a lot of it! I never got sick of it because I knew the reason I was having so much of it was so that somebody else could have some too. I guess I would have preferred at times to just give them a damn chicken, but that is too blatantly charity and would not have been appreciated.
In exchange for feeding our friends, we got a lot of company, had a lot of laughs during an otherwise stressful time, sharpened our Spanish skills by speaking Spanish for hours on end…and we finally learned the proper (read Mexican!) way to play Dominos!