Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Guatemalan Poison Tree and Alfonso

To tell you about the rest of the day that we flew into Peten...
I have to back track a little.
It was the last Monday that Jack and I corresponded.
He mentioned that he cut a tree down while doing a service project.
A Chechen Negro tree to be exact.
Translated; Black Poison wood Tree.
And he had a rash all over his body. 
Did I know of any thing that he could use to stop the horrible itching.
I looked it up on the internet and found that there was such a tree indigenous to Central America and that the resin is extremely toxic to the skin. If left on for too long it will actually cause second degree burns to the skin.
As always Jack assured me that he was on the mend but when I suggested that I could bring prescription medication to him from home, he thought that would be a good idea.
Little did I know then what I found out once landing in Guatemala.
Apparently Jack's little rash became so bad that I think everyone around him was worried.
He showed me scars from the bad patches and the remnants of the angry looking pockets still left. He was constantly itching. He said that if I had come to Guatemala just a few days earlier I would have seen his face swollen and oozing. I thanked my lucky stars that that wasn't my airport greeting. Everywhere we went the next week the members would talk about his chechen negro rash. They had given him potions made of the bark of the antidote tree that I found in an old water bottle in his luggage. He had been given bark to rub on the rash. They were genuinely concerned and I realized that he was blessed that he was not any worse.
The mission made a new rule;
No more chopping down trees....
They probably call it the Winn rule now.
I tell this story because one of the first places that Jack took us to after getting settled into our hotel was Petencito Zoo. A favorite attraction for the missionaries on Pdays. Jack had told us in letters about the jaguar and monkeys and sent pictures home of him holding the hand of a monkey with a big grin on his face.
(That was for his dad's benefit. Todd does not like or trust monkeys and has always warned our children not to play with monkeys....really..... he warns them of the dangers as if monkeys will suddenly parade down the streets of our suburban town)
Our driver for the weekend was Alfonso.
Alfonso met us at the hotel with a the warmest smile. It was obvious when he saw hugged Jack that he was very fond of him. He talked to us with and tried to keep his Spanish simple using lots of gestures. I felt immediately comfortable with him and knew that we would be in good hands the next three days with Alfonso at the wheel.
We reached Petencito and entered the park. We were once again the only people visiting the zoo at the time. This became a reoccurring theme in Guatemala. I was never sure whether it was a good thing or not. Usually I am not one for crowds but this had an almost eerie feel to it.
We started down a dirt path.
This was not like any zoo I had ever been to.
And what was the first display that we encountered?
A Chechen Negro tree right by our walking path with a fancy sign which even gave it's scientific botanical category and name.
Did I mention that the locals there say that just by standing under it the tree get's angry and releases poison from it's leaves?
I quickly ushered my son away from the beast of a tree.
Well after I took this picture.
But in my defense I have never taken a faster photo.
We went on to enjoy the day at the zoo without further danger.....
It was built on a fairly steep hill and was more like a nature trail with animal exhibits ending in a beautiful lake view.

The only problem is that what comes down
must go up.
Straight up...
with slippery moss covering the pathway
 Oh boy was that a memory that will stay with me for awhile.
And what about the monkeys you ask?
I saved the best for last.

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