I lost my passport. (Insert long string of appropriate words here. They follow the Macarena-like search of every pocket on your body and in your bag, while you’re in an elbow-to-elbow-crowded launch crossing a lake, about an hour from where you probably left it.)
Have you ever had that gut feeling you should pay attention to something, ignore it and then feel the shit after it hits the fan? Passport security is something I’ve learned to take seriously over the years. So, when I arrived at Las Pyramides in Guatemala last month, I asked them to keep my passport in their safe, even though I knew I’d be in a very secure environment. There was that feeling in the back of my mind that I’ve learned to pay attention to. I retrieved my passport the day I was leaving.
Anyway, after a good breakfast at my favorite restaurant (http://www.jpmaney.com/private-selves/), I said goodbye to everyone and went down to the dock. Halfway across Lake Atitlan that little voice whispered, no, shouted at me, “Where’s your passport?” I got off my water-borne chicken bus at the next town. When I told the driver why I was leaving early, he didn’t charge me for the distance we’d gone. I waited 25 minutes for a launch going back where I came from [and another too-long time on the water, wanting each stop to go faster, followed by the walk from the pier].
My head and its logic told me everything was fine. My stomach said another thing. Over and over. And over. Got back to the center, put my head in the office door and they had it. They’d found it in my room, but had no way to contact me. We all had a good laugh and I pulled out a bit of my emergency cash as a donation to the center’s children’s fund. Then I sat around for a while talking with others who hadn’t left yet, having some wonderfully worthwhile conversations that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. I think one of the conversations was also with my subconscious, which was asking if I really wanted to leave…
The moral of the story? Pay attention to those voices in your head – and to the ones in your ears, too.
Back in the water shuttle, second attempt to reach Panajachel. On this trip I met Mark, the British owner of the restaurant I’ve been praising. Great, because he hadn’t been around when I was saying my goodbyes to everyone earlier that morning. He was going to the vet with the dog he inherited when he took over the restaurant lease. [She came with the restaurant and dog care is written into his lease.] We chatted more casually than we could when he’s “on the job” – and I found out we’ve worked and travelled in some of the same places over the years. As we pulled into Santa Cruz, he showed me his old restaurant, now completely under water – and he actually sold his underwater land to someone just a few months ago. [Lake Atitlan has risen 6 meters/20 feet in the past 5 years.] The new owner is building a new place on top of the old, using the piers from Mark’s old place to create a deck over the water. Local dive shops bring their divers into his old place to sit at the old bar in full scuba gear.
I’d planned to go on up to Antigua that day, so I’d be close to the airport for my following day’s flight. When I missed the noon bus, I started walking toward a local hotel I use when I’m in Pana. The next bus wouldn’t get me to Antigua til after dark, and I didn’t want to be looking for a place then. A local tout asked me if I needed a place to stay. I told him I’d look at it, since it was on the way to where I was going. It was nicer and cheaper than my destination. It’ll become my new place to stay. Then I bought my Antigua ticket for the next day, for five quetzals less than they were charging at the dock. Next stop, one of my regular cafés in Pana – there’s a tree growing in the middle of the dining room. It had already closed for the afternoon. Found an Italian place I’d never tried and had a fantastic meal. Then I walked up the street to Dina’s, one of the best chocolate shops I’ve ever been in, on any continent. If you’re ever in Panajachel, it’s diagonally across the street from the Hotel California. Lots more happened – all of it good – and all because I lost my passport.
Synchronicity and serendipity go hand in hand. When a change of plans is an interruption instead of a surprise, it’s time to change your attitude.