3.Camp Life

Chapters: Meeting Damiana | 1.Going Fishing … or Not | 2.Exploring | 3.Camp Life | 4.Trips to Town | Looking Back

One day there were ten kids in camp and for several days there were none. Then five more children and one mother arrived with another great load of food. That night the treat was fresh flour tortillas with thick cream and salt or sugar.

Laundry Day

When the younger grandchildren were in camp, they often joined Damiana when she hunted clams, each wielding a battered tablespoon. The clams were so abundant that some areas the beach were composed of more discarded shells than sand. Sometimes, the younger kids ground a hole in the middle some of the little clamshells and strung them for jewelry, which they charmed the passing tourists into buying from them.

In the evenings, we sat near the kitchen fire and chatted. Damiana was especially interested in our families and religion. As a Catholic, she had many questions about my liberal Unitarian faith, but in the end, we found common ground in the desire for strong families and communities and peace in the world.

Every night we watched the stars and listened to “Kaliman, el Hombre Increible” on our radio until we fell asleep.


Sunday morning started slowly. There was no fishing trip that day due to high winds. After a hearty breakfast we all helped to pull the heavy fiberglass boat further up the beach. We watched Alejandro and Jorge take the hood off the motor and then mumble and point at some problem. The men were usually able to maintain the motors, but there was something that stumped them.  Robert could fix most anything, so he wandered over to consult. Pretty soon, he returned to the tent for his tools to remove a part so Alejandro could take it to town for repair.

The rest of the day, everyone was more relaxed than usual. I did a little washing and Damiana dug clams. Shiny cars and battered pickups loaded with people, Mexicans and Americans, drove by us on their way to Sunday picnics and hikes in the bays further along the road to the north. We could see a gringo giving a church service by some overturned boats down the beach. A man standing beside him translated. Then a bunch of the younger kids piled into his Cadillac and he drove off. I asked Damiana and Jorge where they were headed. No one knew but they didn’t seem worried.


On another afternoon, we discovered Jorge and Lingo tying knots in monofilament, trying to stump Rosalio, who could untie any knot in netting and most anything the other two devised. He managed them easily until Robert tied a fisherman’s knot with two half hitches on either side, certainly not something a net would do on its own and Rosalio had to admit defeat. I grabbed one of the boat ropes and tied a bowline knot with one hand, a trick I learned while mountain climbing for use if hanging by one arm on the side of a cliff. Luckily, I have never had to use it under duress. The men recognized the knot but did not ask for lessons and did not seem particularly impressed. I guess they didn’t think they would have a use for it in a boat.

Jorge was the net weaver and Lingo’s specialty was making the three or four inch wooden “needles” needed for the net making. He used the sharpened tip of a machete for the carving and it was amazing how he was able to manipulate the enormous blade on such a small piece of wood. Robert tried to buy one of the net needles from Lingo, but couldn’t get Lingo to give him a price. Lingo just wanted to give it to him, but since Robert had asked, he felt he should pay something. Finally, Jorge said five pesos was fair and they both were happy.


Later in the week, the black missionary Cadillac drove up behind the palapas and doled out armloads of goodies to the faithful. The daughter in residence that day got bags of flour, beans and a huge plastic bag of really awful animal crackers. The children ate them by the handful.

Later, I was watching Damiana and some of the children dig for the jewelry shells. Suddenly, all the children jumped up and ran down the beach. I asked what was happening and she motioned, fingertip to palm – “Americano”. Down the road, a large pick-up camper rolled slowly in our direction, with several children running behind or riding on the back bumper. The truck stopped and Mr. Americano got out and took a picture of a woman washing clothes next door to us. He gave her some money and drove on. She tucked the bills into her pocket and resumed her chores. The couple in the camper passed me and gave a wave and a smile. After crossing the dip in the road near our tent, he got out to chase the children off. The scene was a bit of a mystery. Did the children harass everyone or just certain ones? Were they given candy or something else that attracted them? If this couple visited often, why were they taking photos? I wonder what they thought when they waved at me. I knew I stood out in my orange nylon jacket but could they tell I was an American?

Go to the next chapter: Trips to Town