The rest of the story

A few entries back I mentioned that I saw a guacamaya flying in the city and that it was very rare. As sychronicity would have it, we spent the last weekend of our stay in Guatemala at Lake Atitlan with some friends we met through the American Guatemalan Society. Over cocktails, I mentioned to one of the other guests, whom I had never met, that I had seen this guacamaya flying toward me near the airport. He looked at me and said, “I may know who that guacamaya belongs to. My dad lives just behind your apartment building and his neighbor lost her guacamaya and she is very distraught over it.”

What are the odds? I ask you. What are the odds?

When we parted ways on Sunday, I gave him my card. On Monday evening around 8pm, while packing for our 6am flight, I got a phone call from someone who was very excited and speaking very rapidly. I couldn’t determine if she was speaking english or spanish, but finally was able to pluck out the words, “American Gautemalan Society…guacamaya…” and I knew who was on the other end of the line. It was the woman who was looking for her guacamaya. Again, there was a hemmorage of words delivered at a fever-pitch. I told her what I knew about the bird and that I thought it was possible that it was roosting on the top floor of my building, but that I was leaving the country bright and early the next day.

What could I do? She had been to the store and bought all the bird’s favorite foods, peanuts, mini-banannas, granola, Maseca (corn tortilla flour). I told her she could come over and I’d take her to the top floor to check it out. Of course, she had to pass two security guards to get in the building. I am still wondering what they thought.

The odessy began. My doorbell buzzed and when I opened the door, there stood Charro. If you are too young to know who Charro is, I’ve included a picture courtesy Wikipedia. There is just no better way to describe this woman from her appearance to her energy.

She was a perfectly delightful, flaky in a new age sort of way, 49 year old “Charro.” She buzzed around my apartment, pausing only to hug me again and again, and spoke in perfect english. She explained to me that she had rescued two guacamayas from a pet store in zone one. They, like most guacamaya, were in small, smelly cages and had their wings hacked off. I don’t know what she paid for them, but I know they ‘aint cheep. She took them home, never put them in a cage and began to nurse them back to health. Her idea was to let their wings regrow and to release them somewhere along the coast of Belize. I don’t know for certain how long into this process she was, but it was more than a year.

During that time, she always let the birds fly freely in her back yard as they tried out every millimeter of their new wing feathers. As the months went by, the birds flew farther and farther, but would always come home to roost and eat…until they didn’t. She shared with me that her greatest fear was not that the bird was gone, but that she would be captured and put in a cage again. She had actually recovered one bird that one of the workers in the area captured and sold. This woman is quite the detective and had tracked down the bird through random leads and talking to the maids at nearby houses.

It was an hour before I could get her to go up to the roof with all the little prepared bird treats. We hid the food so the bird could find it but the maintenance guys would not. As I said, these birds are worth a lot of money and the temptation to capture and sell the bird would be too great for most workers to resist. After we placed the food in just the right spot. I turned to her and said, “This is my last night in Guatemala.” I looked up at the diamond studded night sky, then turned to the hulking shadows of the volcanoes. I considered the simple beauty of all the little lights up the mountain and watched them twinkle at me for the last time. Then, I walked to the edge of the roof and looked down at the city below, an ever bustling, never ending cauldron of activity, boiling over with people. It was a peaceful moment and I took a deep, deep breath to take it all in. To take it all with me. I closed my eyes and felt the breeze lifting the little hairs on my arms. Reflex created goosebumps on my arms and I felt deeply present in that moment that would not have happened if Charro had not lost her bird. Charro seemed to intuit that I was in my own space and she fell silent, too. I thought of my mother, I felt intense gratitude at my own freedom and I cried silent tears.

I don’t know if Charro ever found her guacamaya, but I will never forget my last night in Guatemala City thanks to her.


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