Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Aimless Reading: The D's, Part 35 (Fyodor Dostoevsky)

Dostoevsky, Fyodor
Crime and Punishment


Purchased at the English language bookstore in Panajachel, Guatemala. I wrote about our stop in Panajachel in an earlier post, so I'll write about some other highlights of our trip to Guatemala in 2004-5.

On our second day, we flew north to visit the ruins at Tikal, which are some of the most spectacular Mayan ruins in Mesoamerica. We flew to an airport about an hour from the site and arrived at about nine in the morning. The hotel where we were staying had two buses that drove guests from the airport to the ruin site. We loaded into the first bus.

Our driver and the driver of the bus behind us began playing games on the road, one passing the other, waving, honking, laughing. After a while, the second bus passed us and drove off down the road. About five minutes later we saw the second bus pulled off to the side near a field. A man with a scarf wrapped around his face and a rifle in his hand stood in the middle of the road waving us over to the side. I remember looking out the window, seeing the gun, then instinctively ducking behind the seat.

Then, for no apparent reason, the man with the gun waved our bus back onto the road and let us pass. As we did, I raised my head up above the top of the seat to see the all of the males from the other bus being led out at gun point with their hands clasped behind their heads.

Several of the other riders on our bus were from Texas. Once we were out of danger,their fear quickly turned to aggression. They started scolding the driver, telling him he should not have slowed down and that he should have run over the man with the gun. Then, one of the wives started making fun of me for ducking behind the seat. Apparently, the men were supposed to have done something courageous in this situation.

Fortunately for everyone on the other bus, it was just a robbery, most likely by local kids who were looking for cash so they could party on New Year's Eve, which was the following night. They arrived at the hotel safely about an hour later and we heard the whole ordeal through their stories as we wandered on a guided tour of the park. Apparently they took cash, electronics, and a few pieces of jewelry. They assumed that only the men would be carrying cash and that they wouldn't have permitted the women to do so, so none of the women's purses were taken.

A pair of little boys, who were obviously somewhat sheltered, spent the tour asking their father more and more fearful questions. One of them kept saying, "Daddy, I can't stop thinking about what happened. Is that normal?" Their mother, on the other hand, seemed completely unfazed, almost proud of the experience. The only thing that bothered her was that she was carrying a very expensive cellphone that was stolen, and what could they possibly use that for? She was very put out. She talked endlessly throughout the day about how one of the problems with Guatemala was that they hadn't developed a "business elite." That, apparently, would fix everything.

At one point a truck drove up to our group in the middle of the park. It was the minister of tourism for Guatemala, who'd come to apologize for the incident. He was actually an American, from Texas, visiting the park with his wife and kids. We ran into them again later on top of a pyramid, where he took a photo of me and Lori.

Anyhow, lot's of Dostoevsky I haven't read, so I'll continue with more from the Guatemala trip tomorrow...

To be continued...

from Crime and Punishment

On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge.

He had successfully avoided meeting his landlady on the staircase. His garret was under the roof of a high, five-storied house and was more like a cupboard than a room. The landlady who provided him with garret, dinners, and attendance, lived on the floor below, and every time he went out he was obliged to pass her kitchen, the door of which invariably stood open. And each time he passed, the young man had a sick, frightened feeling, which made him scowl and feel ashamed. He was hopelessly in debt to his landlady, and was afraid of meeting her.

This was not because he was cowardly and abject, quite the contrary; but for some time past he had been in an overstrained irritable condition, verging on hypochondria. He had become so completely absorbed in himself, and isolated from his fellows that he dreaded meeting, not only his landlady, but anyone at all. He was crushed by poverty, but the anxieties of his position had of late ceased to weigh upon him. He had given up attending to matters of practical importance; he had lost all desire to do so. Nothing that any landlady could do had a real terror for him. But to be stopped on the stairs, to be forced to listen to her trivial, irrelevant gossip, to pestering demands for payment, threats and complaints, and to rack his brains for excuses, to prevaricate, to lie—no, rather than that, he would creep down the stairs like a cat and slip out unseen.

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