"South America on $320" story # 13

Speyside, Trinidad & Tobago           July 7, 2002

On Tuesday during Sailing Week in Tobago, I'd just finished a snorkel in Speyside when I stumbled upon a stone-paved path in the woods. I ventured in.
     Immediately, I spotted a bright green-backed bird with an orange bottom, perched not too far from a dark, Godzilla-colored lizard. I embarked upon a nice walk. I passed beneath forest, over fallen logs, and beside wise, dark trees like in a hobbit's shire. Later, I saw my first vivid-green iguana while in Trinidad.
     This event was significant. Because, five years ago when I began college, I made my first non-American friend: Lester Kelvin Joseph "Fu" "Octopus" "Johnny" "The Caped Avenger" "A Girl's Best Friend" "Ike" Chang Foung, from Trinidad. He had many names - and a HUGE octopus-like fold in his head. We also called him "Fu the Iguana Smuggler" because he used to tell us stories of people catching iguanas in his homeland to sell as pets in Venezuela.
     Being an ignorant American at this point, I was of course under the assumption that the United States was better than every other place that I knew nothing about, in the world or universe, in every possible way - including simplicity of people's names - and the fact that Trinidadians made a living by smuggling iguanas to yet ANOTHER second-rate country, Venebrazilombiastan or whatever, just served to prove that. In an especially humiliating way, too, I might add. Ha! Stupid "Winnebagonians!"
     Of course, now I'm smarter than that. Much smarter. Through years of travelling, I've developed into a communist long-haired hippy. And I know now that if I lived in peaceful Tobago and smuggled iguanas for a living I could be happy. Happier than if I got a job in New York, U.S.A., making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year doing something I actually studied for. Ha! Stupid filthy-stinking rich New Yorkigaggons!
     I thought I'd try out my new life. The iguana had run up a tall bamboo branch. I remembered the advice of Johnny Chang Foung, who I could barely understand when I'd first met him.
     "You gotta shake dat tree, boy, and you gotta GRAB 'EM! Because, da' second dat 'guana jump frum de tree, his legs 's already runnin', 'an if you don' grab 'im before 'e hits da' groun - zoom! - he off!"
     I shook the bamboo and watched the spike-backed iguana - legs spinning like Roulette wheels - hit the ground and take off. I-d barely had time to move my neck to watch, let alone GRAB 'EM! That "Fu" must've been fast. It's amazing a skill like that couldn't be put to use on Wall Street.
     It seems iguana smuggling wasn't the breakthrough career path for me. Even if I could've caught the iguana, I still would've had to take him by boat to Venezuela, dodging gun-fire all the way from the South American country's protective fishing industry.
     Imagine what a disappointment I would've been to my Trinidadian parents. "Man, dred," my dad would tell his friends, "you should see 'dis son o' mine. Can't even catch a damned 'guana! Looks like nobody's going to support me in my old age."
     Of course, even as an American with access to the world's greatest economy practically just there for the taking, I'm still never going to have any money to support my dad in his old age. Ha, ha, ha! Sorry, Dad.
     There are other options, though. Now that I think about it, I remember "Stonewall" Chang Foung saying something about monkeys being in the trees in Trinidad. EDIBLE monkeys! If only I could find a slingshot and a rock, I might have a future in this country after all ...
     Incidentally, it was "The Grand Ol' Game" Chang Foung who originally got me saying "Later" when saying good-bye. So ...

"Later." - Fu's iguana-smuggling apprentice, the Modern Oddyseus

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