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Young, Naive and Stupid

                                                                By Diana McLeod                                        from about 1983

        Dear Reader, I am preparing to publish many of my travel stories in paperback form, and so I am dusting off my memories and writing up some of my favorites from our earliest travel adventures. This one is from our very first trip to Mexico, in 1983. I remember this day like it was yesterday.

        HOLY CRAP! I was in a fishing boat, in Mexico. I was down in the cabin, with the brawny, mustachioed captain. He grabbed me, stuck me on his lap, and wouldn't let me go. When I pushed him away, he just grinned. I was alone and defenseless. If I had slapped him, he would have simply roared with laughter. No, I was going to have to talk my way out of this situation. But how could I possibly do that? I had only been studying Spanish for two weeks!

        OK, let me back up and explain how I could possibly have gotten myself into this much trouble. It was on our very first trip outside of the U.S. We were staying at a beachside village in San Blas, Mexico, and we planned to have a beach barbeque with some of our friends. Dave and I went to buy the fish at the big market and beer at the local store. But, when we got into town, the main market was already closed for the day. He sent me down to the pier, all by myself, to see if I could get fish from the boats, while he went to buy the beer. I did not like this idea, because I didn't think it was safe for me down there. Dave told me I'd be fine. And, because I was young and naive, and on my first foreign adventure, I believed him.

        I encountered a young man who spoke a little English and I asked him if any of the boats had brought in any shrimp. He asked the fishermen, who pointed out one boat that had just come in with a catch. It was lashed to several others. I was going to have to climb over several boats in order to get out there. My "guide" helped me cross the slimy, stinky decks and step aboard the boat on the end.

        My "friend" hollered down below, and the captain, who was a husky, handsome devil, invited us in. I explained that I needed to buy a load of shrimp, but that the market was already closed, and I was looking for something fresh. He took one look at me, swept me into his arms, and said something that might have translated like: "But there is no need to buy any fish. You are welcome to have dinner with me, my dear."

        The captain gestured to a large pot that was boiling on his greasy stove, with unnamable tentacles, fins and fishheads squelching around inside it. He set me on his lap and winked at the other guy. I panicked as I realized what they were thinking. I was the catch of the day, and they were going to share me, along with the stew.

        As I said before, this pirate was built like a tank. If I had struggled, he would have found it adorable. I had to use my words to get out of the situation. But I only knew about two hundred Spanish words! I said a quick prayer to the God of Spanish vocabulary.

        Luckily for me, he asked me how old I was, and that was when I got an idea. I told him that I had seven children, and that I had left them waiting for me at the hotel, while I went to buy them dinner. I also told him that I was Catholic (another baldfaced lie, but I hoped that Jesus would protect me from randy sea captains) I waggled my finger under his nose and said "No no no!" (I did not tell him that my "children" were really a bunch of traveling hippies having a decadent beach party.)

        His mustachios drooped in disappointment. Being a "mother" changed everything. He set me down reluctantly. "I don't have any shrimp," he said, "But I have mackerel." He opened the hold, and - holy mackerel, there were a lot of mackerel in there.

       "That would be perfect, thank you" I said. He got out a very large plastic bag and stuffed it with mackerel. There were at least two kilos of fish in the bag.

        "How much do I owe you, sir?" I asked.

        "There is no need to pay me," he smiled.

        "But I have money. I'll be glad to pay you!"

        He considered, smiling. "No," he said, "This is for the children. But you may pay me one kiss, (he pointed demurely at his cheek) one kiss for my friend, and the flowers from your hair."

        I pulled the little sprig of wildflowers I'd been wearing out from behind my ear, and handed it to him. He sniffed them and sighed theatrically, and we all laughed. I gave him his kiss, and the one for his friend, and then I got the hell out of there before they could change their minds.

        As I left, he gave a great belly laugh and called something out after me, which I couldn't understand. I think he was trying to tell me that I was the one who got away.

        The mackerel were delicious. The "children" enjoyed them.

        Ladies: don't ever, ever, do anything this stupid when you travel. If I hadn't come up with the right words, I'd still be on that boat!

        Thanks for reading, Diana McLeod

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