Friday, September 24, 2010


I have been volunteering at a tourism outfitter agency for the past two weeks. Patagonia Eco-MultiSport. The owner is one of my English students, and he asked me to help out with the tourists at the front desk for a few weeks while the regular gal goes on a vacation.

This is good experience, since I am renting bikes and snorkel gear and telling the details of boat trips in my improving Spanish. Or in English if the tourist prefers.

But the tourist season is slow right now. There are no big boats dumping hundreds onto the pier. Some visitors wander in and heartbreakingly ponder about a snorkel trip to Leon Dormido (San Cristobal´s natural wonder) around noon, unaware that the boats embark first thing in the morning. They try to negotiate, pleading that they leave San Cristobal tomorrow, etc.

I offer brochures and maps. I recommend agencys that offer the desired sport that we don´t: surfing, kayaking, horseback riding. I tell them where they should snorkel to see sea turtles and mantas, where restaurants and hostals and the Interpretation Center are located.

Some smile wearily and sigh, telling me it´s nice that I speak English, since they don´t speak Spanish. Others speak rapid Spanish and I must ask them to repeat more slowly.

And I have a co-worker. He is a finnicky orange and white tiger striped cat named Charlie. He wanders in and out of the office, even if we are closed and the gate is locked. He sprawls out of the sofa or lays on the books and schedules on the desk. When I arrange the magazines, brochures, and business cards, he watches me from a distance. When I have finished and have moved on to another task, or am distracted talking with someone, he takes the opportunity to scatter them about, or just push them on the floor. Then, after he´s made enough room, he lays down and stretches out one paw, lazily flexing his claws and slowly lolling his tail. He smiles and squints his eyes at me, looking quite pleased with himself and how much of a stinker he is.

But he lets me pet him. And if I am lucky, he will lick my fingertips a bit, without biting the fleshy tender part of my hand.

Another day at the office...