Sea Star 7

1998 Bayliner LeClercq

Little thieves

After a few hours of sleep, got up for breakfast deciding to try and stay awake the whole day to snap us onto the current time which is 8 hours ahead of Puerto Vallarta.

At breakfast it became clear that the hotel restaurant was unaware of our food allergies.  We had been promised by the travel agent that all locations had been told about them and agreed to accommodate them.  But our table was immediately served pastries that we couldn’t eat.  They would happily accommodate when we said “can’t eat that”, or “please take this dish back we asked for it without XYZ and you put it on the dish anyway”.  But the thing that concerned us is that when we get out on Safari – where presumably supplies will be limited, we really need them prepared to accommodate us.  In later conversation with our guide, Shabani, he took the list and personally informed all the future locations where we would be going.  We asked him, whether there is a word in Swahili that means allergy.  In Morocco we were told not to trust the kitchens even after they are told of your food allergies as they have no word for allergy in Arabic – so while they will say yes, they understand, in fact they don’t even grasp the concept.  Shabani assured us that in East Africa people are allergic to various things and can swell up and the like because of it, so our requests will be taken seriously. 

After breakfast we went for a walk about the coffee plantation grounds.  They have an area where they hire disabled people to work weaving looms, string beads, and a forge where they make glass objects.  Some of the jewelry was stunning and Melissa picked up a few pieces for $25 USD each – that would be $100 or more back in the US.

After the tour of the glass blowing, Melissa decided to get a pedicure.  She had intended to do so before we left Puerto Vallarta, but the hurricane over the weekend blew those plans away.  Nice to just sit and read a book for an hour while getting a foot massage.

Then Shabani showed up to take us shopping.  This was an unplanned excursion, but without Melissa’s luggage, she need a few things.  We first went to the cultural center where there are various stores selling trinkets, t-shirts, and wood carvings and such.  We bought a long t-shirt that would make do for Melissa as a night shirt, a t-shirt for Melissa, and a nice silk shirt for Dave with elephants on it.  Along with soap stone plates with Zebras carved into them.  We also saw the same jewelry as at the Coffee Plantation – even with the same brand mark – but at twice the price.  We later learned this is because of the way the items are taxed.  Because the plantation has all the disabled people making the goods the government gives them a break on taxes so they can sell the items at a steep discount.

Oddly, we felt a strange sense of déjà vu because a LOT of the stuff looked EXACTLY like the junk you find in Mexico.  The blown glass objects and table ware – you could set them side by side and not be able to tell the difference.  Same with the leather goods – sandals, purses, etc.  One huge difference though – the attitude of the sellers.  When you wander the markets in Mexico, the vendors are pushy.  They don’t hear “no thank you”, they just push and push.  Whereas the vendors here are incredibly polite.  They will be friendly and encouraging, but will take a “no thank you” and let it go.

The cultural center here also has an enormous art gallery that is 5 stories high.  There is everything from a collection of masks from all over Africa you can take home with you to artists paintings.  The carving in the far right of this picture had hundreds of human figures hand carved into a single ebony tree trunk.  It took years to create and was spectacular in its detail.

We then moved onto the mall.  Melissa has been living off a single pair of underwear that she washes in the sink at night.  Alas the women’s underwear shop was boarded up as though they hadn’t paid rent.  Melissa finally gave up and stole a pair of Dave’s to wear at night so at least she had two pairs.  Yeah, its pretty strange wearing tighty whities.  Don’t really want to discuss the fact that they actually fit pretty well and are actually more comfortable than women’s panties.  These are the great little adventures that travel is really all about that bring you closer to your spouse.

When we got back, it was time for lunch.  Dave had a burger and Melissa had chicken skewers.  Might rank right up there with the most tender chicken ever.  Really yummy.  As we sat in the restaurant, we watched the little black faced monkeys scurry about.  We are familiar with how small monkeys can be thieves as we saw this at the Guadalajara zoo many years ago, and later in Nicaragua found kayakers that had their paddles stolen by the little thieves.  The monkey varietal is different here in Africa, but same little thief behaviors.  You have to hold onto your stuff as they will grab food, cameras, and cell phones right off your table to eat or play with.

We watched in amusement as the monkeys swiped pizza crusts from the kitchen, bread right off a table where the guests were still seated, and finally a burger bun right off Dave’s plate.  The staff were none too amused.  They brought out the slingshots and tried discouraging the little thieves.  (Reminded us of Dave using his slingshot with ice to discourage the pigeons who make a mess of our deck in Mexico.)  We watched as one baby monkey dropped down behind a fence and played “peek a boo” with the staff.  He would duck down and their attempts to hit him would miss by a mile.  Then he would pop up just high enough to peek over the fence and check out the situation.  Then duck down again.  We were rolling with laughter.  It was all too fast to get pictures.  In the end though, the monkey’s won because the restaurant staff needed to get back to serving guests, so all the monkey’s had to do was be patient and wait till the staff again turned their backs.  The staff might have won a few skirmishes, but its clear the monkeys have won the war and have the run of the place.

After sitting outside on our veranda, this little guy came to check to see if there was anything we might have left behind for him to swipe:

We were in bed by 9pm, but Melissa was wide awake at 2am. Sigh.  Still not quite time zone adjusted.

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