After all of the flying we did this week, the helicopter needs a bath badly (not to mention some maintenance scrutiny). I had planned on doing that today. But we've hired these consultants/engineers...and wouldn't you know it, four of them wanted to come to Guanaja on the weekend to do their survey work. Which is fine, but they're a *little* high-maintenance, always needing this or that. (Doesn't anybody bring enough goddam water with them when they KNOW they're going to be out in the heat of the day climbing steep hills? Even when they're warned? Even when we have TONS of bottled water here. I mean, come on, what is this, rocket science?) And then there's the: "We need to run here, can you send the boat right now?" Yes, I'll come right over. "Actually, we need two boats. Can you have one stay with two of us while we do our work on the reef?" Yes, that can be done. "Oh, we need to go back to there now...can we get another ride?" They're testing my patience, but we need them, so they get what they want with a smile. A forced smile, but a smile nonetheless.
At supper I asked what they'd like to drink. "Do you have any wine?" the female consultant asked. Why, we sure do! I just happen to have! So I opened a nice bottle of Chilean red (our favorite Casillero del Diablo). As I set it on the table, she looked at the uncorked bottle and asked, "Umm, on second thought, do you have any Coke?" The other consultants nodded in concurrence.
Isn't it funny how, when somebody starts to get on your nerves, everything they subsequently do grates like screeching chalk on a blackboard? This one woman consultant is a nice enough person. But even Daniel our cook had had enough. He rolled his eyes and made some "comments," the nicest of which was, "Good God, she's sooooo picky!"
Roger thinks it's a big, personal imposition on me, which is nice. Little does he know that: a) I love to fly, especially on bright, clear mornings; and b) on weekends I keep myself and the ship ready for a medevac trip to the mainland because of what I call the "Friday Night Savannah Bight Machete Fight." A while back there were two weekends in a row where I took the (presumed) losers of machete fights down to the mainland. I got to thinking, Is this gonna be a normal thing? I am happy to report that it is not, thank God.
Anyway, I saddled up and flew over to the airport (still no place to land on the Cay) where I loaded the skinniest little 16 year-old boy there could ever be and his equally-skinny 16 year-old friend/escort/translator/support guy. Starving kids in Biafra would give up their sandwiches to these boys. Fashion models would envy these anorexic waifs, asking for their dieting secrets: How do they stay so skinny? (Simple answer: No fast-food and an active lifestyle. Think it would work for American kids?) Both of these kids together weighed less than one me.
It was kind of comical going into La Ceiba. I told the tower controller that I was an air ambulance flight and was requesting a taxi to meet us on the ramp so the passenger wouldn't have to walk through the terminal. I might as well have been speaking Greek (or English!) to the poor woman, who simply did not understand what I wanted, even when a kind-hearted bi-lingual airplane pilot intervened - or tried to. But the controller still did not understand. "You need an ambulance?" she kept repeating. It was sort of monopolizing the frequency, and it was pretty fruitless. I could almost hear the airline pilots muttering under their breath, "Mierda! Piloto gringo ...porque el pendejo no aprende a hablar espanol?" Which loosely translates to "Drat! That fine American gentleman should learn to speak Spanish!" Or something like that.
Sure enough, a big crowd met us with a stretcher when we shut down. I lifted skinny boy #1 out of his seat with one arm. I suppose I could have just grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, like a puppy. We laid him down on the stretcher. And the kid was lying there, looking like he was in a lot of pain. I made some lame joke, at which he laughed, and which point I found out that it's not good to make somebody suffering from appendicitis laugh. Oops, sorry. An airport stationwagon pulled up and they loaded him in. Okay, to the hospital now? Nope, the airport vehicle took the kid...as far as the line of waiting taxis at the terminal just outside the gate to the ramp. Why didn't they...? Why couldn't they...? Ah, just keep repeating after me, "This is Honduras."
I wish we had a better solution to our ground transport situation in La Ceiba. I mean, it's great to hurry people off Guanaja and down to the mainland, but whenever we get there, it's a hassle getting the person to the hospital. Ambulances are rare. The Red Cross will send over their ambulance if it is not otherwise engaged. They charge 300 lempiras for a trip to the hospital, payable up front please.
Coming back, I stayed up high where the air was cool and smooth. It was nice to just drive for a change...fly along without a photographer asking for stuff...fly along just enjoying the view. I wished I'd brought along my iPod.
Maybe I'll get to wash the helicopter tomorrow (Sunday) morning. Ah, but the consultants have already started in with their demands...er, "requests." I have a feeling it's going to be another one of "those" days. Almost makes me wish for another medevac. Almost.