Monday, December 14, 2009

Las Escalones

I was watching Stars Wars Episode 4 yesterday afternoon and when the part came on where they get trapped in the trash compactor on the Death Star and Han Solo complains about the smell I didn’t feel bad for him. They were in a trash compactor filled with metal and stuff like that; I am still living next to a trash chute filled with diapers. Maybe if there were babies on the Death Star I would have some pity, but everyone knows that Storm Troopers are clones of Jenga Fett and never have to go through the potty training process. Anyway, on the subject of smells, I started running the past few days with a neighbor. The first few days he bluffed and said he would wake me up at six in the morning and didn’t, but eventually he did and we went for a run to Las Escalones. Escala is the Spanish word for stair; Escalon is the Spanish word for Big Stair. Apparently, there are some big stairs outside of town that people like to run to at six AM. When we first went two days ago I thought we would be the only ones out there but instead there was a small parade of middle age men and women walking and running to the Big Stairs. I thought it was interesting because this culture doesn’t seem particularly fit and so I assumed they would not be running and walking that early, but they were, so good for them.
We ran all the way there and I was pretty impressed because I almost died trying to run a 6.5K on Thanksgiving (when Malia kicked my ass at running and Kathy beat me at the bachata competition (but for the record, I could outrun Kathy easy and out-dance Malia with a broken foot… actually I could probably outrun Kathy with a broken foot too)) and the run to Las Escalones is supposed to be between 3 and 4 K. I realized it could be the 30-degree temperature difference between Constanza at 6 AM (probably 60 degrees or less) and the capital at 9 AM (probably 90 degrees or more), either way I made it to the big stairs. As it turns out, the big stairs are attached to a hydroelectric dam as a maintenance walkway, and were not originally designed to be climbed by people who just ran 3-4 kilometers. They were about the width of my shoulders, there was no railing and plenty of rebar sticking out. The stairs deserved the name “big stairs” and were extremely steep and the last 100 or so I used my hands to climb because they were literally within arms length from my upper body as I was standing. The stairs were tough but then we climbed a wonky rebar ladder to the small reservoir at the top. Normally when I think of reservoirs I think of the nice one in downtown Portland in Washington Park, this one however was about a 100th the size and smelled vile. “What is that smell?” I asked my neighbor. He told me that the water used for the dam comes from the Rio Pantufla (i.e. the very same river that my dirty diaper and black water canal leads into). The water was actually black. He also pointed out to me that the slaughterhouse that was about 20 yards away also produced a big stink. I thought the Slaughter house was closed months ago because of a meeting I went to in the little town where all the neighbors were trying to get it closed because of the stink and the waste that they were leaving outside but my theory was quickly abandoned as we heard the unmistakable sound of a pig being slaughtered (which is a sound equally awful to the smell of a reservoir of black water). Who is slaughtering a pig at 6:45 in the morning anyway? We walked back up the hill to leave with our sleeves over our faces trying to catch our breath from the stairs. When we made it to the top of the hill we ran back to the barrio and I was so impressed with myself that I did they same thing when he knocked on my door yesterday at 6 AM. My neighbor told me that the first two days where always the hardest, maybe that’s because he didn’t wake me up this morning for day 3 and didn’t get up when I knocked on his door. I did the run by myself this morning and realized as I passed a couple people who were walking by themselves that they were carrying baseball bats. Apparently when you don’t have a friend to go with you, you are supposed to bring a baseball bat as en escort. I brought my iPod instead, oops. I ran into one of the garbage men I know from the trash clean ups and walked most of the way back from the Big Stairs with him, not because I was scared but because he owes me fifteen bucks and I was hoping he would mention it… which he didn’t. Instead he talked about how I should be careful about who I trust in the country because people are always trying to take your money, yeah no kidding GUY WHO OWES ME 500 PESOS.

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