Bird Watching with Bubba

Excerpt No. 4
Ambergris Island

The following weeks at the Hotel, Bubba and I got to know San Pedro. Diving, fishing, exploring, drinking with Chico and trying to stay out of Celi's way.

One could say San Pedro is a dream. Someone could say San Pedro was as if it were set in another time. Someone else could say San Pedro is as if it were in another world and they would all be saying the same thing.

There is salt and sand, towering coconut trees, fishing boats pulled onto the beach, large piles of empty conch shells, tall stacks of lobster traps and bleached wooden houses.

San Pedro is a Roman Catholic fishing village and early every morning, except Sunday, the men went out fishing. The mayor was a fisherman so he went out. The town councillors were fishermen so they went out; the justice of the peace was a fisherman. It gave the town a peaceful air during the day, nothing important or official could happen. All shops and businesses closed for lunch and most for the remainder of the day. Afternoons were for sitting in a shady spot. During the morning if you needed meat you went to see Hipalito the butcher. If you wanted vegetables you went to see Mario at the vegetable stand. Fish were at the co-op and bread was at the bakers. If you had a problem you went to visit the constable at the police station. San Pedro was a poem and in some way it all seemed to surround Celi's Holiday Hotel.

The tourists stayed at her hotel, ate at her restaurant and drank in her bar. The locals and expatriated gringos of the village, seem to be drawn to its lobby. Some waiting to see what would come to town next, others just drinking to forget life before San Pedro.

The bar opened at dawn and didn't close until the last wandering vagrant dollar had been spent or retired for the night. Not that Celi was avaricious, she wasn't, but if one wanted to spend money she was accommodating. Celi's position in the community surprised her, as much as she could be surprised. Over the course of years everyone in the village that drank had owed her money. She never pressed her clients, but when the bill became too large, Celi cut off credit. Rather than patronize another bar, the client usually paid or tried to. Her wealth may have been entirely in unpaid bar tabs, but she lived well and had the respect of the villa& In some sense she was San Pedro's benevolent Queen.

I kept looking for some sign that this wasn't paradise, but it still eluded me. but it still eluded me.

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