We made our way down the narrow alley past tortilla shops, rustic outdoor cafés, tiny tiendas stacked high with canned frijoles and Pringles and the occasional woman sitting against a wall offering up banana bread in a manner somehow both pleading and aggressive. Eventually we reached our destination, one of the more popular bars in San Pedro, well known as an expat hangout and a great place to leave your troubles – and senses – behind on any given wild Saturday night. Of course, it was only 1:30 in the afternoon, the sun was shining high in the sky, and our search was not for obliterating drunkenness, nor the semi-coherent small talk of slightly off-kilter foreigners, but obviously the same as anyone’s would be in such a situation, the epic pursuit of frozen sausage. This particular bar, you see, is reputedly the one place in San Pedro where a person can track down Smokin’ Joe’s vast array of unforgettable spicy sausages. Hot Italian for spaghetti nights, some Jamaican Jerk when the palate needs a little tough love, and always a little extra Jalapeño for stir fries and date nights.
We entered to a dimly lit yet quietly boisterous scene where half a dozen white people crowded the small bar perched unsteadily on stools. All seemed strangely surprised and confused by the sudden arrival of unknown visitors and gazed curiously at us from faces showing all the tell-tale signs of long-term substance abuse and years of cheap cigarettes. As we paused to let our eyes adjust to the gloom, avoiding any sudden movements that might startle the inhabitants into involuntary cursing or tumbling from stools, Laynni surveyed the room in search of stockpiles of meaty treasure while I found myself shocked to see Saskatchewan’s beloved green and white running around in an aimless and ineffectual manner on the TV above the bar. I thought I was imagining it for a minute, considering it was a Monday afternoon in the middle of Guatemala, until I witnessed a dapper Italian fellow run in a couple of clumsy circles, pump fake, then opt to get absolutely creamed by the opposing defensive lineman. Well, that was certainly proof that this was, in fact, a real Rider game. Laynni snapped me from my reverie soon enough, however, with her discovery of a large, promising-looking freezer in the corner which turned out to be virtually bursting at the seams with all manner of frozen carne. We rooted through the jumble of protein like bargain hunters tearing apart a Walmart clearance bin, rapidly finding all our desired flavours and formats, plus even some surprising bonus bacon I was already picturing dripping grease from a toasted bacon sandwich a couple hours down the line. A short friendly man – middle-aged, glasses, welcoming smile, neatly dressed, but with a full square foot of grimly graphic tattoos where his hair should have been, came over to make sure we were finding everything we needed. Meanwhile, the crowd of curious bar patrons aimed random small talk in our general direction, likely in hopes of securing a new audience for the same old stories they’ve tired of telling each other. One woman finally got my attention to her satisfaction, at which point she happily offered up the explanation that “tocino” means bacon, apparently worried we had simply chosen several pounds of it based solely on its pleasing rectangular shape. The financial portion of the transaction, of course, needed to be handled by a competent Guatemalan woman who rushed out from the back, clearly lacking confidence in either the mathematical or social abilities of the current crowd. Mission completed, with our specifically and cleverly purchased beer cooler packed full of future sustenance, we struck a hasty exit, leaving the bar behind like a strange waking dream, only to be revisited when next we find our freezer lacking in tasty coils of entrails and spice.