The Unauthorized Biography of Rosco P. Coltrane

When it's my moment in the sun, I won't forget that I am blessed, but every hero walks alone, thinking of more things to confess

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Location: Owensboro, Kentucky, United States


Friday, June 17, 2005

Oaxaca Part 7: Blew Out My Flip-Flops, Stepped On A Pop-Top

Sleeping on the floor in the guesthouse was a good move on my part. It was nice and cool that night.

We all (All of the men) woke up a little before 6 and headed towards Puerto Escondido to go fishing. We ate a little bit of breakfast of fruit and applied sunscreen as per needed. After loading up in the pickup with Aaron, we headed out on the road and saw the sun rise on the way. We stopped at a gas station so we could go to the restroom before we got out on the water.

We got to the beach and met all the boat captain's that were going to take us out. We split up into three groups. Dr. Matt, Aaron, and Jason were going to be in one boat. Matt S., Ryan, and Rick were going to be in another boat. So Kent, Adam, Mark, and myself were in the last boat. We all made a bet that whoever caught the biggest fish would get a seafood platter bought for them at the restaurant.

Our boat captain was Lorenzo and his young assistant Willie. Lorenzo knew quite a bit of English. So we cruised off and started heading out.

We asked Lorenzo if we were going to be near the others and he said yes. But after a few minutes we couldn't see them anymore. We discussed what the order was going to be on reeling in the fish. Adam said that he would go last, then I volunteered to go third. Kent said he would go second, and Mark said he would go first.

About five seconds after Lorenzo threw a couple of lines in the water, we had a bite. Mark jumped up over to the rod and reel and started to pull it in. He pulled in a nice size fish, maybe a foot long and maybe a couple of pounds. We were all giving high fives. Lorenzo said that it was called a Bonita, beautiful fish. I remember we all kept talking about how many fish we were going to catch now. If we kept up at that pace, we would have to go back early.

Well, we didn't have to worry about going back early because we didn't catch anything else for a long time. We just sat back and talked. We suddenly realized that when we were dividing up into boats, one boat had no fluent Spanish speakers. The boat kept on going farther out. The mountains near the shore kept getting smaller and smaller. Adam asked how far do you think we are going to go out. I told him that I figured a few more miles because they would need to go out much farther so they could kill us and sink the bodies so they wouldn't float back to shore very soon.

We saw a turtle or two on the way out, and I spotted a shark. Lorenzo pointed out a school of dolphins to us and started to head that way. After cruising by the school, Lorenzo did a u-turn and was about to go back toward the school. I remembered my message in a bottle and threw it out the port side of the boat. After a few minutes we were right back near this school of dolphins.

Lorenzo it the gas hard. We sped off. We all looked at each other a bit confused, we had no idea what was going on. Willy came up and said that we had one on the line. Adam and Mark looked back and caught a sailfish jumping out of the water. Kent made his way to the back of the boat. Lorenzo stopped the boat and Willy was trying to help Kent put on a strap to hole the rod. I was struggling to go get Kent's video camera to film all the action.

So here we are, right in the middle of a school of dolphins that are jumping around the boat and Kent pulling on this fishing rod. Lorenzo started to dance, which really got everyone excited. If Lorenzo was dancing, it had to be a pretty good size fish. Kent kept on saying, I don't think I am going to be able to bring this fish in. He struggled with it for a few minutes, at least not more than 10 minutes.

Willy pulls this sailfish to the side of the boat and banged this fish's head against the side of the boat a few times. He pulls it in and lays it down on the floor of the boat. This fish was huge. We are all smiles. We are high fiving each other.

This face was amazingly beautiful. It was almost 6 1/2 feet long and Lorenzo guessed that it was about 30 kilos (75lbs) in weight. It had a long nose like a swordfish and had a huge sail on it's back. It was light brown color and had these amazing gills.

We all congratulated Kent. He couldn't stop talking about how he couldn't wait to tell his boys about catching this fish. We started back out with a couple of lines in the water. Now we were sure we were going to catch more fish.

But there were no more fish for us that day. At one point, we had a hit. I jumped up and everyone was getting excited about catching another sailfish, but the fish got the bail and took off.

So close...

So the rest of the day we tooled around the ocean, looking for more fish, but never finding any. After a while, Lorenzo pointed us back towards the harbor.

We were the second team to land. We flopped the big sailfish down and everyone came out to look. On the other boat, Matt S. had caught a Mahee Mahee (probably misspelled that one). Adam, Mark, and I ran over to the ATM so we could Lorenzo.

We paid Lorenzo and I told him that someday I would come back down there and take my dad fishing. And that when I came back, I would make sure to find him and let him take us fishing. He smiled and thanked me.

By this time, everyone had landed. Aaron caught a sailfish but it was just slightly smaller than Kent's. So Kent won the seafood platter. We walked over to the restaurant that we were going to eat at. We talked to a waiter about getting a table for 20. He said that he would setup some tables on the beach for us. We asked him about cooking some of the fish that we had caught. He said he would go check with the chef. When he came back he said that they could cook the Mahee Mahee, but the sailfish they couldn't. Evidently, the restaurant would get into trouble with the Harbor Chief if they cooked it. I guess there is a big sailfish tournament and the Harbor Chief wants to discourage people from catching a lot of them before the tournament. The waiter, who was a bit smarmy anyway, said that sailfish don't taste very good anyway.

Matt S. and I walked around the tourist shops on the street by the beach. We ran into Jill, Kristen, and Bethany. They were really into their shopping. We hung out with them for a few minutes, but decided to leave them to their shopping. Matt S. and I decided to go sit down somewhere and get something to drink.

We found this one little place around the corner from where we were going to eat. I looked at the menu. I noticed something called a Micheladad. I thought, wow, this is so great, they have Michelob beer down here. So I ordered a Micheladad for me and what I thought was a water for Matt S. It was a bit of a surprise when after sitting down for a few minutes on the beach this kid brings us out some sort of Bloody Mary with a Corona for me and a hot chocolate for Matt S. So I asked the kid for "una mas cervasa" for me and a "agua" for Matt S. Well, this time he returned with another Corona for me and a glass of ice water for Matt S. Matt S. was afraid to drink it so, we asked for a bottled water. The kid finally understood what he wanted and walked across the street to get a bottled water for Matt S.

I tried a bit of this Micheladad, but it was maybe the most toxic drink I have ever encountered in my life.

After a few minutes, we decided to walk over to where we were going to eat. I finished off my Corona, which I have never drank before because my father always used to refer to it as "Donkey Piss." And with good reason.

The group finally trickled in. Polly and Cindy had been horseback riding. Polly was pink/red from being out in the sun. The waiter came back and took all of our orders. Most everyone ordered seafood and some fruity drink. I ordered some Quesadillas, some fries, and a margarita. The waiter laughed and asked me if I wanted a frozen drink or on the rocks. I told him to surprise me. He said that he would surprise me and put double the tequila in it for me since I am such a big guy.

Now when he was bringing everyone else's drinks out, they were these big fruity drinks. When he brought out my margarita, it was in this really small glad. He told me to enjoy.

Now it is probably a good thing that the drink was that small. Normally in the States, margaritas you buy at Mexican places are huge. Well, if my margarita would have come out in one of those big glasses, I would have been passed out on the beach. People would have been walking over by me and thought that some manatee had beached.

This margarita was strong! Cindy asked me for a few sips of it. After each drink she would squint her eyes and say, wow.

Everyone had a really good time during lunch. We laughed a lot and told lots of stories from fishing that morning. The fish that Matt S. caught was grilled for us in little bite size pieces. It was very good stuff.

After lunch, a bunch of people went to go on a hike. I didn't really feel like going for a hike. So Matt S. and I sat around the beach for a while. We decided to walk around the street again. We ran into the girls again. We shopped with them for a little bit and then went looking for a couple of T-shirts. We stopped by the surf shops and T-shirt places. Everything seemed so cheap down there. There was lots of things to buy, but we didn't really find anything until later that day. I went into some little shop and bought a yellow T-shirt that had a Mayan figure on it. We bought a couple of cokes at a little store and started to walk back to where we were going to meet everyone to go back to Roca Blanca.

We saw Polly and Esther and hung out with them for a while. We got some little ice cream treats at this one store. After that, we sat down on the curb and waited for Aaron to show up with the pick up.

About half the group left at 6 and the other half was going to leave at 7. I went with the group at 6. We rode back to Roca Blanca in the back of the pickup. I left my T-shirt in someone's bag, and haven't seen it since. Cindy told me a week or so ago that she had it in her bag.

We got back to the base and I headed for the beach. I didn't swim this time. I just stood there on the beach and watched the sun go down. It was pretty amazing. After a while, I walked back over to the guesthouse.

Next we had the last team time. Everyone talked about what their experience had been like during the past week and what they liked the most. Amy wasn't feeling very well and missed a few minutes of the meeting, but she hung around better than most people would. When it was my turn to talk, I talked about my apprehension and reservations about coming on a mission trip to Mexico. I don't know why it took me so long to go down south of the border. I loved every minute of it and told everyone that if I needed to pay a deposit for next year's trip that night that I would be happy to pay in pesos.

After the meeting, everyone was pretty tired and decided to go to bed. I asked Adam if he wanted to go jogging out on the beach the next morning. He kept on thinking that I was joking with him. I assured him that I wasn't and that I would see him the next morning at 6:30.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Oaxaca Part 6: What It Is Like To Be 5 Years Old Again

(Sorry it has taken so long to get this next installment published, work has been more than crazy the last few days.)

We woke up and started packing everything up. Everyone was a bit on the groggy side. We had a quick team time and then started to pack up the trucks. We also moved a bunch of timbers underneath the roof on the porch.

Aaron invited all of us up to a man named Primo's house. Primo was the first person in El Moscoe to invite the missionaries into his house. Primo has donated the land for the clinic and the new church that is currently being built. We went up to meet his family. The women were making tortillas and the boys were about to go start cutting lumber. There was also a translator up there that has begun translating the bible into Mixteca. It was funny because he was this 6 foot tall Canadian that keeps banging his head on the short ceilings, so Primo is building the doors to be over 6 foot tall so that he can walk in the church.

Primo might have the worst teeth I have ever seen on a human being, but he has the best smile.

We went back down the hill and had a quick breakfast. It was quesadillas. They were really good. I guess Oaxaca is pretty famous for it's cheese. Maybe they are the Wisconsin of Mexico. After the breakfast, we prayed for Florentino for a few minutes.

The Pasahero finally arrived. Everyone piled up in the Pasahero. There was going to be room in the Suburban, so I rode in it instead of the relative ease of the Suburban. Kent, Adam, Mark, and I rode in the Suburban with Greg and Beth. We talked a lot about music and theology. After a while, I started reading my book and listening to a little bit of music. I let Mark borrow my copy of What's So Amazing About Grace: The Visual Edition.

We stopped for everyone to use the restroom on the side of the road. Esther was feeling pretty carsick and was having trouble with all the dust, so she hopped into the Suburban with us. We were listening to the latest U2 album and discussing why U2 is such a great band, what their songs really mean, and if they really believe in God.

We stopped in a little town for some lunch. Once again, I had a refresco. It was pretty stout. During lunch, everyone was hanging on a tree and then having a pull-up contest. I would have joined in, but I didn't want to embarrass anyone. And by anyone, I mean myself.

Back on the road again. We listened to the new U2 album again. No one complained because it is such a good CD. We started talking about Medical School and how much it cost. I also had no idea the insurance premiums that doctors have to pay. We tried to solve the health care crisis during the drive, but we couldn't get everything hashed out.

We stopped at a town for some reason. We didn't know it at the time, but the Pasahero driver wouldn't drive any farther without some more cash. So I guess we had to pay him an extra 50 bucks or so.

We got back going again, only to stop to get some gas at a gas station. I bought a big water, a juice for Esther and some papas fritas (chips). I think the lady didn't give me back the right change and gypped me out of a few pesos, but I didn't figure it was anything to get worked up over.

The roads were pretty smooth from then on until we got back to the Roca Blanca.

When we got back we started to unload everything. Kent and I had already decided that there would be no more sleeping in that unbearably hot room outside the compound again. So I unloaded all my stuff in Jason, Ryan, and Rick's room. We had been told that dinner was about to be served, so we headed over to the cafeteria, which basically was just a big thatch roofed porch overlooking the beach.

I didn't feel like eating, so I told Kent that I was going to go out on the beach. He said he would too. So I put on my swim trunks, grabbed my book and headed out towards the beach. I didn't even figure on swimming because truth be told, I am not a very strong swimmer and have a pretty big fear of drowning.

I just stood on the beach and watched the waves crash into the beach. Kent kept edging down towards the tide. I walked a little ways down until my feet started to get wet. I told Kent that was as far as I go. I had heard that the undertow was pretty strong at this beach and that I would be a goner if I got out too far. He kept on egging me to get in.

A big wave came in and pulled me into the ocean. Well, I said, I have already got soaked, I might as well swim for a bit. I kept on telling Kent that I wasn't going to go any further out, but I kept on going out further and further. We were jumping into the waves. I kept laughing and laughing. The undertow would pull me back as the waves were pushing me towards the shore. I was at the mercy of every single wave. And all I could do was laugh.

Actually, giggling would probably be a better word for it. The rest of the group slowly made their way out to the ocean. I think Jason has some video of me flailing in the ocean and just giggling.

I felt like a 5 year old. I was in the ocean and I was just being swept in every direction. I couldn't control anything except to try and keep my swim trunks on, which I did successfully. I was tossed and turned with brute force. But there was something about being out there in the ocean that made me feel at ease for the first time in a long time. It felt like I was free. I felt like I did when I was a kid. Long before I knew about alarm clocks, taxes, speeding tickets, the frailty of life, and mortality. Way back when the future was more fun and exciting than scary.

While I was swimming/flailing around in the Pacific, I was 5 years old and having fun with no worries. This flawed world was flawless, if only for a few moments.

I don't know if anyone else had that feeling, but I did. And now looking back on that event two weeks later, I long for feeling again.

After getting my fill of having seawater rushing through my sinuses and half of the Pacific floor settling into my pockets, I decided to get out. Everyone else was making their way out slowly and I decided to join them.

I had brought a bottle to throw out in the ocean, so I went back to my room to get it. I tried a few times to throw it in the ocean. The tide kept sweeping it back to shore though. I gave up after a few throws and went back to my room. I took a shower and shaved off my all my stubble that had grown over the past week. I changed into some other clothes and walked back to the cafeteria. There was a little store open next to the cafeteria and I bought some little chocolate chip cookies and split a coke with someone.
(When I first published this, I got my nights wrong. I mistakenly put down Friday night's happenings instead of Thursday night's team time. Sorry.)

After a bunch of people discussed politics and the role that the church has in politics, which I tried to stay out of as much as possible, we headed back to the guesthouse and had some team time. It was pretty good time, except it took a while for everyone to get together. Some people were taking showers and we had to wait on them.
After team time, I put my headphones on and went to sleep underneath an air conditioner. It was nice and cool.
A first, so far, in Mexico.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Oaxaca Part 5: These Mountains are So Beautiful, It Makes Me Want to Vomit

After everyone got up, we some more team time. Laura came by before team time and asked me if I really had my heart set on working in the clinic. I told her no, it really didn't matter to me what I did. She told me that some of the others really wanted to work in the clinic so I could just stay on the construction team for one more day.

After team time, Aaron and a few other guys went up to get the fish for the pond. Most of us were talking when a man came up with a machete and wanted to get a tooth pulled. Adam volunteered to pull it. I am not exactly sure if he pulled it or not, for some reason I thought there was a problem.

So the rest of the team, minus Adam, hiked up the mountain. Everyone had a chance to pick up a fish out of the barrel, name the fish and throw it in. Almost everyone threw one in. I tried to catch one with one hand, there was no way I was going to put my already cut hand in the barrel, but failed to get one. I think pretty much everyone else threw a fish out in the pond. We milled around the mountain for a while and looked out at the beautiful mountains.

After we went down the mountain, we grabbed a quick breakfast. The clinic team (everyone but Kent and myself) loaded up and headed off to clinic. Aaron was taking a truck load of the team, so Kent and I had an hour to burn. I read a great article by Philip Yancey in the new issue of CT. Kent also let me listen to a John Piper sermon on his IPOD. The sermon was pretty powerful, it was about racism. Right around the time the sermon finished, Aaron pulled back up.

We loaded up a few things in the back of the pick up and headed off to go drop off some supplies. Roberto and his wife came with us so that they could buy some corn. Roberto and his wife rode in the cab with Aaron, and Kent and I rode in the back. Though there were only two of us, the ride was still pretty rough. There was chicken wire, lots of shovels and a bunch of other stuff in the bed with us. Kent and I first thought it would be a good idea to sit on the side of the bed and hold on to the cab. That was a bit of a miscalculation on our parts. We adjusted everything in the bed and sat with our backs towards the cab.

The ride took about an hour or so. Kent and I discussed many things on the ride. We talked about what we had enjoyed the most during the trip. Kent talked of his family and how much he missed them. We laughed about a lot of things. We talked about why donkeys are so funny and why the Mexican bulls didn't seem to live up to the hype. The ride was amazingly beautiful. The mountains were amazing and with each turn we found another amazing view. In fact, I told Kent that the view was so amazing that it made me want to vomit.

When we began to get close to the town, Kent and I discussed the town we were going to.

Missionaries had previously been welcomed there, but had been kicked out. It had only been recently that people had become more receptive to getting help from missionaries. Kent and I decided to pray for the town because we knew very well that there could be some hostilities towards us.

We finally made it into the town and dropped Roberto and his wife off to find some corn. We stopped underneath a tree in the middle of town. This tree was amazingly old and big. It had to be over 200 years old. Aaron went up to find the man (unfortunately, I have forgotten what his name was) that we were dropping the supplies off to. Aaron came back down with him and we walked the supplies up to his house.

His wife was out in the yard hanging up clothes. She came over to say hello and her husband went and got us some chairs. We all sat down and talked about what he needed to do to build the fish pond. Aaron eventually had to draw a picture for him and I think he finally understood. The older gentleman left for a few seconds while we talked to his wife. She told us that she had been suffering foot problems for 7 years. She could barely stand up. After a few minutes her husband came back with a handful of oranges and gave each of us a couple.

The wife asked us if would could go inside her house and pray for her. I know I was very honored that she would ask us that, and I am pretty sure that Kent was as well.Kent and I both prayed for her in English and then Aaron prayed for her in Spanish. She was on the verge of crying when we got finished.

We went back out on the porch and ate the oranges. Now, I know earlier that I said I really didn't pay much attention to the food, but this is one of the few eating experiences that I had and remembered. I had never seen a green orange. Aaron assured us that it was okay to eat and it was ripe. I must also admit that I don't really eat that many oranges, but this was by far the sweetest orange I have ever eaten. I was glad I was wearing my sunglasses because it was so sweet that my eyes were watering.

We soon excused ourselves so that the old gentleman could catch the pasahero that he was waiting on. Aaron and Kent went go and try to find Roberto. We were walking down the hill and saw that Roberto was next to the truck. Then the ground fell out from underneath my feet and I rolled my ankle as I was rolling down the hill. Aaron and Kent ran down to check on me. I felt my ankle roll very hard, and I was pretty scared to standup. But after a few steps, it didn't feel so bad. I was glad I was wearing my boots that day. I also found out that, according to Aaron, the remedy for a turned ankle is little chocolate wafer cookies. What can I say, they worked.

Roberto said that he found some corn and pointed us toward the house where he was going to get the corn. Aaron drove the truck down a hill and backed up to the porch. When we got out, we found out that the people that were going to sell Roberto the corn were having their lunch, so whenever that was over they would sell him some corn. Then a gentleman came out and told Aaron to drive down the hill because that was where the corn was.

So we drove down the hill, but come to find out that Roberto was going to buy some corn from the original person at the first house. Aaron apologized and said that he was sure that they said something about coming down the hill to get some corn.

We drove back up the hill to find that everyone was done with lunch and Roberto was buying some corn.

This was the only time during the trip that I felt apprehensive about my safety. When we got up there, everyone was milling around and was drinking. The entire thing just felt kind of wrong, like something was going on that we didn't know about.

Nothing happened. The only thing that happened was Roberto bought two bags of corn. The man (who was wearing a hat with a silhouette of a naked woman, a Viagra pill, a Corona, and a marijuana plant with the words "What a Life! in Spanish) wouldn't sell him anymore, so we had to go back down the house at the bottom of the hill.

When we got there, Roberto was buying the corn while the gringos (Aaron, Kent and myself) stood around the truck and talked. Aaron told us all about how he found himself down in Mexico. He also told us of his struggles as of late. He told us how he felt underappreciated when trying to help people out and about his doubts. He also told us of his future wife and all about the wedding plans.

Finally, Roberto yelled at us and we walked up to the house to get the corn. Roberto had a total of 6 bags of corn. Each bag of corn probably weighed about 125 pounds or so. We loaded them in the back of the truck and took off back to the base.

The bags of corn were quite comfortable. Kent and I sat on them on the ride back and they were much easier on our butts. We picked up a man who was walking to the next town over. We talked a bit with him while riding. He offered us some of his bananas. He had silver white hair and said that his hair had gone white even though he was still relatively young. He laughed when I took off my hat and revealed my bald head. It was only then that I realized that I hadn't seen any bald Mexicans. That was why everyone always laughed so much whenever I would take off my hat.

When we arrived in his town, he got out of the truck and thanked us. Kent told me how to say God Bless You to him. But when I started to say it to him, we took off. I said "Tu Dios" and forgot the rest. Kent was laughing because all I said was "You God" to the man.

Roberto had Aaron stop in the town so that he could buy us all refrescos (coca-colas). We thanked him for his generosity. It was then that Kent and I started to read the side of the coke can. We thought it would be a great SNL skit in which a person visited a foreign country and only repeated ad slogans like "Para mejor dis por tomarse una coca cola" which I think mean "it's a good day for a coca cola."

On the way back we stopped and talked to some family on the side of the road. Kent looked at me and said, "I'm gonna make a run for it." I knew exactly what he meant, so I told him that he ought to wait until we get back to the camp. He said he couldn't so he ran out into the bushes. What was really funny was there was this stray dog that followed him into the bushes. I couldn't help but laugh. I was going to tell the dog to leave or yell to warn Kent, but I couldn't stop laughing. He ran back out to the road and said that he felt much better. Aaron finished talking with the family and we started back up the road again.

We picked up some kids on the way back. They lived in El Moscoe and had been cutting trees. They laughed at our broken Spanish.

When Kent and I got back, we unloaded the corn on the ground. Aaron drove to go get the rest of the group. Kent and Roberto carried the corn up the hill to Roberto's house with a wheelbarrow and a rope. It took them almost an hour to get 6 bags up there. I loaded it up at the base and they pushed and pulled it up the hill.

When everyone got back, we had dinner and then team time. I read some more of my book, wrote a little bit in my journal and then decided to call it a night. Unfortunately, my batteries went dead and I couldn't listen to music as I was going to sleep. Instead I had a weird dream that I was working at some store and Matt Fries wanted to buy a puzzle, the only problem was I couldn't figure out where the puzzle was. I was just walking around the back rooms of the mall searching for a puzzle.

Weird huh?