Iguanas in Mexico fly at midnight
It was Nestor's gold capped smile that greeted us in the lobby of a small San Patricio Melaque hotel. At 2 a.m. his warm greeting enhanced his offer of the last available room on a busy holiday weekend. When aging cars roared the room awake and late night guests rang the bell, it became apparent why this was the last room. I thought, "I must change hotels in the morning."
The next day, Nestor became my primary reason to stay.
Our paths crossed daily. Since Josh, Rose and I passed by the lobby to and from the beach, restaurants, phones and market, we often greeted Nestor. Our first conversations were typically polite and short. Nestor's twenty words of English and my little Spanish allowed everything that he said to tickle my funny bone. He had that droll sense of humor that delights the listener in any language. Communication is more than just words. It relies on body language, facial expressions, and emotional intent. Lucky for me, or my time in Mexico would be spent lost, hungry and lonely!
Nestor wanted to practice his English. I needed to practice my Spanish. It was an intercultural match! He was a man and I was a woman. Another match! However, a lack of a shared vocabulary stymied the conversations. Nestor obviously knew many things, but how to draw from his well of information?
I remembered that my husband, Bill had showed me how to successfully navigate the circumference of Mexico with 10 words of Spanish, a stick and some dirt or sand. Bill made himself understood by everyone: store clerks, gas station attendants, police, fishermen and beach vendors. His technique achieved more than my conventional use of a small Spanish/English dictionary. Thus, when I met Nestor in the lobby, I asked him for a pen and paper from the grand polished mahogany desk. I started to write and to draw. A version of Spanish pictionary was born! Nestor joined the game with great enthusiasm.
The conversations started to explore many interesting topics: politics, environment, family, culture, food, music - todo! (everything).
Nestor described his time in the northern state of Tamaulipas where, as a youth, he attended university. For twenty years he had served as a judge with his jurisdiction including Guadalajara and San Patricio Melaque. The courts sat 180 miles apart so he commuted once a week along the tortuous Highway 80. Four days a week in Guadalajara produced wife # 1 and four children. The three days in Melaque created wife # 2 and two children.
Over the years, Nestor found this working schedule too intense and busy, so he retired to manage this small hotel. He loved his life in Melaque. The laid back lifestyle suited him perfectly. Living with one wife and family was easier to handle.
For eight months of the year, he called the Costalegre region paradise. The months from May to September, he described it as a humid inferno. Since he dabbled in real estate, he gave me his business card. Under his name and credentials, it stated, "English spoken." "But you hardly speak English!" I exclaimed. Nestor flashed me his gold capped smile and answered, " Verdad" (truth). You teaching me!"
One hot afternoon, we stood in the shade, discussing the finer points of the philosophy of 'working to live' or 'living to work' when we hit a snag in the conversation. Understanding ground to a halt. The conversation had begun without the customary pen and paper. A gringo friend of Nestor's opened the door of his bungalow beside us. Nestor announced, " Mi amigo John, speak good Spanish and English. He help us!" After the introductions, Nestor spoke in rapid fire Spanish to John for several minutes.
I caught not a single word.
John turned to me with a funny look on his face. "Well," he said. "I think that Nestor wants to tell you that the iguanas fly at midnight."
I couldn't believe my ears! "Nestor wouldn't have said that!" I protested. "That has nothing to do with our conversation. Besides it doesn't even make any sense. Come on. He must have said something different." John just shrugged, pulled his beach towel to his shoulders and bid us adios.
Nestor beamed at me and asked, "You understand mi amigo, John?" I reached over and hugged him. He looked pleased but surprised. I laughed and said, "Believe me, we're better off talking without ' tu amigo', John. Let's go find a pen and paper and talk in the lobby!"
. . . . To be continued . . .