Can’t ‘Fraid The Gators

By: Kelsie Wright

There are people who have lived their whole lives in Pearl Lagoon and never even put their toes in the Lagoon because they fear the gators. We have heard stories about the huge gators, seen the glaring eyes, but never Actually seen one. Every panga ride we take there is an effort to look for these gators with no success. Our first month here we were in the same type of situation but with people. We had heard stories about the ‘not-so-great’ people in Lagoon, seen a few small instances of ‘violence’ but being able to find and pick people to stay away from was difficult.

Our first month started out rough when our one sincerely great friend left a few weeks after meeting him to work in a call centre. After that, we made daily goals of making friends with locals. Which kind of felt like we were jumping into the lagoon without even checking for gators. We didn’t really know how to check and ended up jumping anyways, relying on faith and trust that everything would work out.

But it didn’t. Some of our first friends/acquaintances came with some warnings and advisories, and some ended up getting arrested and put in jail. This definitely made us realize that gators can show up at any time. But does this mean we shouldn’t swim?
Having and keeping an open mind has not always proven to be an easy task. After our first few fails with friends we ended up slightly afraid and closing ourselves off more to people, resulting in us coming off as ‘proud’ (a term used here to describe rude, or not friendly people) and even when good people would try to approach us we hesitated and kept a distance. Eventually we ended up realizing that taking the good with the not so great was fully worth it and we have ended up with a pretty great group of people who we adore and have created great connections with.

These connections and whole web we have here in Pearl Lagoon was really shown to us when an incident occurred when we were spending the night in BlueFields. We ended up getting a call at 12am from one of our closest friends saying he was on route to BlueFields because an incident occurred in Pearl Lagoon and he had to help transport two men to the hospital. Before our friend arrived we heard from a few other people that something happened and the culprit was actually the guy who drove us in the Panga (small boat) to BlueFields at 7am that vary morning.

There are a few issues that arise when incidents occur in a Pearl Lagoon. The first is that the panga that belongs to the heath centre isn’t currently functioning and hasn’t been for a while. This means they have to send someone to find a boat, a driver who is willing to wake up, go get gas and then drive to BlueFields in the dark. The second is that the driver then has to hold a flashlight in his mouth while driving to be able to see, but the light doesn’t last the entire trip so the driver only uses it when it gets really curvy and relies mostly on the light from the moon – which on cloudy night can be really dangerous. Not being able to see much makes the ride much slower as there is tons of debris and even when there is not and the panga driver goes faster the patients end up in too much pain from the boat slamming against the water that its in humane to go at a fast speed. The panga ride to BlueFields generally takes and hour but under those conditions it took about 2. The third is the difficulty of having patients on a panga with one nurse. Our friend spent the entire trip standing, trying not to fall, while holding up two I.V. bags and making sure they drip continuously.

Upon arrival at the Bluefeilds MENSA (hospital wharf), there was no one there and no ambulance so they had to go to the municipal wharf and call for an ambulance and wait. Our friend then had to go to the hospital help carry and move the patients around, witness a doctor shove his finger in a mans stomach searching for a bullet, and then find his own way home.

He shows up at the hostel where we are staying with a blood stained shirt and explains the whole story. By this time it is almost 4am and he has to catch a panga back to Pearl Lagoon at 6am so the pangaro (panga driver) can make it in time for work and pick up the people he needs to pick up at 7am. This is life in the Lagoon – where people who can’t scrape two pennies together give up a nights sleep, risk their lives, their own boat and still have to go to work in the morning. Sick days are a privilege they can’t afford but no one complains.

The culprit has now been released as the incident was claimed to be an accident and instead of jail time he has to pay for the heath coverage of the two people he injured.
We returned to Pearl Lagoon later that day and during our panga ride back everyone saw 2 huge 6 foot gators on the banks of the lagoon… but the four of us Canadians missed them completely.

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