After only one week, I was already at the top of my class! To reward my rapid advancement, I was going with my Canadian friend, Marcus, to do a hike up a volcano. It wasn’t an active volcano—boring.
We met at the local market where I purchased the necessary rations of Oreo cookies. Marcus bought biscuits. But because of our emerging Spanish and from the taste, it was clear that they were dog biscuits. Oh well.
On the bus ride out to the Volcano park, Marcus and I discovered that we had both been brought under the wing of the same street dude, Miguel, who was helping us with our Spanish while playing pool all in exchange for tacos.
“So, you are the other man?”
“Whatever, old balls.”
See, Marcus the 18-year-old Canadian had earlier enjoyed watching my face process the fact that I was almost double his age. So, you can surely understand how pleased I was when our tour was joined by a retired expat. Now I too had someone double my age.
The plan for the day was for all of us to do the 5-hour hike around the crater of this dead volcano. Team Life Stages headed off with our rapid speaking tour guide.
I wanted to go at it without the guide but I guess Senor Double My Age reminded me about some pesky fact…something to do with why the park was called ‘Puma Jungle Park’. I suppose he wanted to be more protective of the last 5% of his life.
We headed out with our guide rambling off in real Spanish. I punished myself by pretending that the guide was explaining how much more fun the hike would have been if we had been men enough to go without a tour guide. He would go on to explain how much quicker I would have learned Spanish as I would have had to beg for my life in Spanish as the extremely rare albino black panther held me by my sunburned and quivering neck.
“Break time?” Asked Double My Age.
But I don’t see the long saber tooth puma here while…I can still see the Visitor Center that we just left.
As we sat in the shadow of the Visitor Center, my guide pointed out some leaf, a piece of dry bark and a forgettable pile of dirt. As I couldn’t understand a single lick of what he was saying, I translated to make it more exciting. See, our guide felt a cosmic connecting with us like no one else ever before in the history of documented and undocumented cosmic connections. Seriously, with the risk to his holographic life, he would dare to share with us that the leaf when chewed would close the distracting portal of reality allowing us to experience the tangible Latin American Feng Shui world that was constantly surrounding us and at that very moment was recharging the vibrating energies in the chakras flowing deep in the ‘for reals’ lobes in our dynamic brains.
Our guide looked over his shoulder.
He went on. And…this innocent looking, but obviously, ancient bark when placed on our tongues, would allow us to not only communicate with the Pumas, even now surrounding us, but would also grant the enlightened user the ability to converse in fluent and fluid university-level Spanish. I was totally listening to my guide now.
The guide sipped from his drink for dramatic pause.
He continued. And, this so called 'dirt' here…Wait I really shouldn’t. Okay, I’ll tell you. He slowly crouched down and called us closer to share secretly what he knew he shouldn’t. We huddled up.
Our guide checked his back once again and went on. Look, this dirt was the most powerful substance in this and in any other world. For, this very dirt had the inconceivable power that when sprinkled on any food dish in Central America could, with its power of food alchemy, actually turn the dish into something palatable.
Whoa...I was mesmerized. The rest of Team Developmental Stages was bored.
For his own safety, our cosmic guide decided it best to move on.
After three more steps, “Break Time?” asked our fastest to tire member.
At this rate our youngest member of Team Examples of Aging would be dead before we even got halfway around the crater. Our guide went on to share more cosmic facts about some bird, an orchid, and a river that looked like it was flowing forward but was really a brain-teasing mystical reverse flowing river stuck traveling backwards in time. Dude!
Senior 3-steps-at-a-time realized that it would be best if he got a head start on us. Our guide continued to speak in too-fast-for-me Spanish as I translated it into an award-winning fairy tale.
Later in the Puma Jungle Park, we caught up with Senior Gray Panther at an open look out. He then left for another head start. Marcus and I looked out across the wide expanse of land before us. And, in perfect English, I asked our guide if we could have all the lands that rolled out before our eyes. He nodded. And, in all fairness, I let Marcus select which half of the Kingdom would be pleasing for him to rule.
“Fair enough, Sir Marcus. I will then take the territories to the left of that river. We shall both rule our respective lands in complete harmony.”
Hands were shook. Our guide asked us if we were ready to continue so he could show us where he knew a real Stargate was located. Sweet! Youth continued to haunt old age at the next look out. Old Age only stayed with us for a little pause and not wanting to slow down the progress of Team Life, again left for a head start.
“Marcus, do you think Miguel is seeing more than just us?”
“It hurts to think about.”
“Maybe, maybe it would be best if we confronted him. Hmm?”
As we were alone at the next viewing station of our kingdom, it was clear that Hombre Older was actually picking up his pace and getting some distance from Senor Midlife Crisis and What-will-I-do-with-my-life.
As we finished the loop in the Puma Jungle Park and approached the Visitor Center, our spiritual guide reminded us about the very powerful secrets he had shard with us. In return, with the deepest respect, I promised to be a gentle, humble and fair leader of our kingdom.
Ah, what a totally pleasant way to spend a safe Saturday afternoon. I was looking forward to seeing the pictures Older-than-me had snapped as he had shuffled ahead of us.
“Ah, Marcus, Older-us isn’t in the Visitor Center.”
“But the path we were on was the only way back to this Visitor Center.”
Three go into the mystical jungle—two return.
With the death of Mr. Golden Years, Team Life transformed even more into a metaphor—uncanny!
So, Mr. Guide, yep, I loved all the transcendental facts out there, but time for me to be totally square with you, my cosmic bro’.
“Yeah, so, are there really Pumas out there?”
He nodded his head.
We had confirmation.
“What about scorpions with poisonous claws?”
“So, Senior Retired Early is totally dead out there in the Jungle, huh?”
“Hey Younger Me! We got a problem! Oldest Us is totally being defensively attacked by blood thirsty Pumas!”
And, like any good leader of a peaceful kingdom would do, we started whittling down twigs into spears in order to retrieve the limbless torso of our dead compadre.
After twenty minutes of being understandably distracted by Gremlins 2 on the TV, Senior Dead walked into the Visitor Center.
“Whoa, you’re resurrected!!!”
“Huh, no. I just found a shortcut back to the Visitor Center.”
“Really? A shortcut you say?”