by Max Brown
The town is bisected by a highway, which peels off from the nearby freeway to allow multi-coloured, hand-painted buses to pick up and deposit visitors. The buses, all invariably blasting music from enormous speakers, their windows wide open, congregate at the point where the highway is met by the town’s sandy main drag, which meanders northwards from the bus stop down to the harbour, flanked the whole way by cheap hotels and seafood restaurants. On the other side of the highway is the southern part of town, somewhat more rundown than the northern part, itself not in the finest condition, which we were advised not to walk around in after dark. Here, a few streets away from the bus stop, is Andre’s posada.
It stands behind a large metal door which one must bang on vigorously in order to gain entrance; once inside, a small path leads to a courtyard filled with swathes of overgrowing foliage, small piles of rubble and tortoises. On one side of the courtyard is Andre’s house, in which the man himself is to be found most of the time, lolling in an immense hammock, one of the finest I’ve ever seen, strung across the de facto living room. Whenever I called on him, which admittedly was only a few times, he and his friends were always in that room, in various states of recline, watching Eddie Murphy films on a big TV. Andre is tall, long-haired and big-bellied, with that weathered appearance possessed by all people who’ve spent most of their lives exposed to sun and sea.
“Where are you two from?” he asked Jess when we first arrived.
“We’ve just come from Caracas,” said Jess.
He looked at me and laughed heartily. “He’s not from Caracas.”
The posada itself faces Andre’s house from the opposite side of the court yard. It’s got two levels; three bedrooms fronted by a rather grand balcony on top and at the bottom a kitchen, three-walled and open to the elements. The back wall of the kitchen is covered by a mural which depicts Andre scuba-diving surrounded by various underwater creatures.
One night, a warm night like all the others, Jess and I were sitting in the kitchen eating dinner, both of us liberally doused in mosquito spray which, in my case at least, was only ever marginally effective, when Andre walked in carrying a plastic bag. He nodded good evening, strolled to the counter and unpacked a small loaf of bread, two brown paper parcels and a beef tomato. He then proceeded to make himself a sandwich.
It was a splendid thing to watch. Andre opened up the two parcels, one containing cheese, the other ham, unfolding the paper with slow deliberation; he then sliced the loaf of bread in two, laying the halves out flat on a plate and gently drizzling them with oil, and cut thin slithers from the tomato. He paused and regarded the ingredients sitting in front of him with reverence, then began to unhurriedly assemble his sandwich, draping slices of cheese and meat on the bread and carefully placing pieces of tomato on top. I felt like I was seeing a cherished part of his daily routine, something he’d done every day for a long time but still always looked forward to, always enjoyed. When he had finished he paused again and contemplated his arrangement, then, apparently satisfied, he closed up the sandwich and pressed down on it lightly. He picked up the finished product and looked at it fondly, tenderly, then began to eat with an expression of complete peace. The sort of peace one could base a symphony on. I’m not joking.
Max Brown is studying Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen; he’s also having a go at doing a food-blog here.