I have come to live el bario Jucanya known for gang wars, bacterial outbreaks and floods.
My mission this day is also simple: get a map and a dictionary. So, I am given my handful of keys and let myself out of the courtyard onto the tight street. The first person I see is a blond gringa and I track her down and introduce myself as “la neueva gringa.” This is Padme, who is known locally as “Batman” because nobody can pronounce her Indian name. Well, Batman is very helpful she shows me how to ride the “tuk-tuks” (covered three wheeled golf carts) into town, get me a xerox of her map and shows me to the tourist coffee bar with a bookstore attached. She chatty and testy- does not want to be tour guide- but she consents to join me for lunch.
Batman has lived in Panajachel for 14 years and knows everybody on the streets of the tiny lakeside town. She tells me that the place is usually a swarm with evangelicals, volunteers, old hippies and in the winter it abounds with U.S. geezers. She provides much useful information. For example, why all houses have exposed re-bar. “Because it shows the tax people that the house is incomplete and, therefore, not taxable.”
she is a character and after telling me that she wants to go home, insits on walking me down to the Sunset Bar on the lake. On the way there she motions to many bustrip vendors that are sandwiched between the food frying and the endless loud textiles on sale.
“Where is Tickle (TIKAL)?” I ask mispronouncing the name. This catches the ear of Marie from Australia and the three of us adjourn to the palm fonded patio for early cocktails.
Batman spies a very gorgeous young man who is nursing a small bottle of Johnny Walker and strikes up a conversation. (Earlier Batman has explained that the one family owns the brewery and all the distilleries so any brand liquor is very expensive.) She quickly deserts our table and joins the handsome guy from Guatemala City. He tells her that he is still heartsick after 5 years since his wife left him but likes the look of two young gringas who a inside. Batman hies herself off to hustle the two ladies over to their table and on the way back flirts with a hippish man at a nearby table — soon we are taking up three tables and having a screaming good time as Batman sucks down the Johnny Walker. Well the hippy guy has some pot so Batman invites herself to his room, where he tells us that he was asked by some one “Are you a hippy?”
he responds “What’s that?” and the questioner responds “That’s what they all say.” By this time it is about 10PM and Batty is rather a mess. So, we agree to walk Marie back to her hotel and catch a tuk-tuk back to our bario across the river.