Sunday, October 16, 2011


When you find yourself bouncing along in the back of a Colombian police van, there are questions you should ask yourself.  “How did this happen?” is probably the best one.

Looking back, I suppose this really came of trusting people.  At every step of this trip, people have softened us up, worn us down with their kindness.  Bringing us banana bread.  Offering their condos and cars.  Touring us around the area.  Giving our girls birthday parties.  In the Vivorillos, unpopulated islands off the tip of Honduras, we were alone except for the shrimp boats that anchored there during the day.  One day, two shrimp boats came by and gave us 15 pounds of shrimp.

So.  Much.  Shrimp.
Trust and kindness.  Look where it gets you.  Looking out at the world through a metal grate, that is where it gets you.

We arrived on a small Colombian island with happy smiles.  We’d had calm seas, the place was beautiful, the people (once again) friendly.  What could be better?  Checked in, clean(er) once again, the next day we decided to go exploring.  Sometimes this is an easy business, sometimes not.  We decided to go by land for once, and asked our customs agent for advice.  The bus (singular) wasn’t around at the moment, so he walked us down the street to look for a taxi.  No taxis.  Hmm.

Back in the police van, the rain was starting to pound the metal roof, little rat-a-tat-tats asking me “what-did-you-do? what-did-you-do?”

The agent spotted a man he knew parked at the side of the road.  They chatted for a minute, then seemed to come to an agreement.  We were told to climb in, as the man would take us where we wanted to go.  Relaxed, trusting, we smiled and climbed aboard.  Accepting rides with strangers?  Pfft.  Small potatoes for Papillon.  What could possibly go wrong?

And then we were attacked and robbed and beaten and shot full of drugs and left for dead bleeding in the gutter and I cried out “Why oh why did I ever trust anyone?” and I then I died.


Nothing went wrong, of course.  That man parked on the road was an off-duty cop, and he had use of the police van for the day.  So he took us all over the island – to a dive shop, the beach, a great seafood restaurant.  We chatted about the neighbourhoods and people there, his life, our lives.  At the end of the day, well after dark, we got back to the dinghy, waited out the rain, then gently roused the sleeping girls in my lap, and headed back to Papillon.   Another new friend, another invitation to visit a new corner of the world.
Kids love sleeping in police vans!

I have to tell you, people, all this is making me cast a stern eye on some habits and attitudes from back home.  Too much watching the news and not enough interacting with the neighbours is making people suspicious of their fellow man.  It is a crying shame, I have to tell you.  Yes, we all have to be careful in this ol’ world, but it is not as bad and scary as you might think.  That homeless guy shuffling over to your kids?  He just wants to tell them about the Australian pine tree they have been playing under.  He actually knows a lot about them.  And that hard-faced lady at the small hotel?  She’s just tired of being talked to like she wants to screw you over.  If you talk to her like a human being, you’d be surprised at how nice she is.

More than once we’ve heard from other cruisers, “be careful here – the locals all want to rip you off.”  And then we have seen how those same people treat the locals, and I’ll tell you – I’d want to rip them off, too.

All I can say is, it hasn’t been our experience.  And I’m pretty sure I know why.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Amy. Both for answering our concerns about the police van, and for reinforcing what we have found in life. You reap what you sow. Any where you go. (but you still need to be careful at times too)

Ruth and Carl