Men without shirts are sitting under brightly colored umbrellas with typewriters conducting business: the typing-out of formal documents or solicitations for a small fee. And on another street not far from this one, there are crowded stalls of hanging light bulbs and machetes and rubber boots and long, fat tubes of chorizo. These streets have no lanes. Motorcycles weave in and out of moto-taxis. There are few cars, few trucks.
Motorcycles are often piled high: women in high heels sitting side-ways holding a small baby in one arm and plastic bags of plantains and potatoes in the other. One or two other small children sit between them and the driver as they dart effortlessly through dusty downtown stalls stopping for one thing or another until the motorcycle is lost in black and yellow and white bulging plastic bags, and sweating bodies. There are also moto-taxis.
A moto-taxi is a motorcycle whose attached 3-foot seat is supported by the two wheels underneath that attached seat. All of us get around town on that one 3-foot seat. Michael gets in first with Nathanael on his lap, then Julia, with Chloe on hers. I get in last with Abigail on my lap and Michael and I hold our bags of bars of soap and scrub brushes and such with our free hand on a little shelf attached to the back of the moto-taxi. Because it is dry season, there is much dirt and little rain. Riding into town, even our teeth become covered in a spray of red earth. It can burn the eyes and make breathing a bit labored every now and again.
By the time we arrive on our little street where the corner market stands-- painted a peeling, lovely peach color-- we climb out and pay our driver the price we came to an agreement on in the beginning. Under our feet crunch fat, brown mango leaves from the cluster of tall trees jutting out from littered earth. We follow the mango leaves to our black gate set in a pale aqua cement wall. This must be the third or fourth layer of paint this wall of cement and brick has known. Someone has taken a blue crayon and drawn a wiggly line across that whole front wall. I’m not sure if that someone shares our last name or not.
Instead of being separated by a street, our houses face each other separated by a sidewalk and some red dirt full of incrusted bottle caps and candy wrappers from the little market across the way, and a stray dog or cat.
The house in front of ours has a tall picket fence and mannequins with pink, green and blue-colored hair. If the multi-color-haired mannequins are out, our neighbor’s little shop is open for business. Her screened-in veranda is piled with plastic wrapped sandals she’s designed and labeled, clothing, purses and some jewelry. It’s quite an operation.
At the corner, across a dirt road, Maria sets up a few tables covered in cloth, chairs and a hanging light bulb or two. She lays out a spread of boiled yuca and bananas. There’s usually rice and potatoes. The meat cooks on the fire there on the street corner. There is always a crowd.
On the rooftop, there is much wind, little dust, and the tops of palms, almond and mango trees in view. An airplane leaves the airstrip not far away. Driving, Latin rhythms absorb the usual roar of the competing moto-taxi engines.
Our water supply is also housed on the roof: a stout, blue, routinely-filled water tank. While we cannot drink from it, we do bathe in and cook with it. We use this water for our laundry. Beside the blue tank are electric-looking cables strung in zig-zags where we hang the clothes and sheets that have been hand washed, stomped on, wrung dry, and piled tall--still dripping--into a bucket and carried up to the roof to dry in the hot sun...
The first home.
The next: Yarina Isla.
In October, we will begin to travel. For up to a month at a time, we will be living in Yarina Isla, a tiny jungle community along the river, reached after a long, dusty road trip and boat ride down the river. Our home there is underway: a raised wooden floor built on stilts covered by thatched palm. There are no walls. Water must be gathered from the river and boiled. Wood must be cut. Jungle brush cleared, and yuca and pineapple planted. Yarina Isla will be our next home.