Saturday was an exercise in learning how out of shape I’ve become. If the day had been a physical fitness challenge, I would’ve gathered together all of the other athletes at the end of the challenge and molded them into a very comfortable pillow upon which I would’ve laid my very weary head. There probably would’ve been some confusion with me not actually speaking Spanish and trying to explain to my amigos why I was trying to make a pillow out of them. But that’s how I do things. Awkwardly. Still, probably worked out for the best that it wasn’t, in fact, an actual test. I would have passed but with a C-.
And I know I’ve mentioned this more than a couple of times now, but really, it’s almost comical how bad my Spanish is. My attempt to quickly learn Spanish via Rosetta Stone was brought to an embarrassingly quick halt by everyone actually speaking Spanish to me and NOT speaking English. At least in Herradura.
Don’t say, “No hablo español.” Don’t say, “No hablo español.” Don’t say, “No hablo español.”
“No hablo español.”
Dang it! Sigh.
“Café con leche, por favor. Gracias.”
Yes! You did it, Scott!! Even though you’ve successfully been saying that for the past five years, yay, you! Sigh.
It’s actually pretty fine. I’m happy with the state of this language situation. I mean, obviously I’d like to be fluent. But I’m not. So that’s that. Everyone that I listened to before arriving to Costa Rica said that you don’t need to learn Spanish to get by. And really, so far, I AM getting by. But just barely. It’s embarrassing. If I was residing in a small town that wasn’t entirely Costa Rican, I might not feel like such a fumbling and stumbling boob. (Although, I think most would agree that my boobery is language-independent.) Up until tonight though, I’ve not met one person in Herradura who speaks English. So yeah… looks like Spanish by immersion.
And I am most definitely the only gringo in this neighborhood (which is awesome!!) of families. And I am the gringo-iest of gringos. (Actually, not true. After spending some time in Jacó, I felt MUCH better about my level of gringo-ness.) But I stand out. The only way I could stand out more would be if I were to dress myself in a sweatsuit designed like an American flag. Small girls make cute smiles at me. Small boys give me a daring “What chu talking ’bout, Willis” look. Adults seem indifferent. “There goes the neighborhood,” I imagine them exclaiming to themselves as I pass by. Not really. Eventually, everything will be dandy like lions with this language barrier I’m facing. It’s just a matter of time.
Which brings me back to this wonderful shape I’m in! I estimate that by the time Zach gets here at the end of the month, I’m going to be in phenomenal shape! Relatively. P90X? Pssh! I’ve been feeling “the burn” from the moment I got off that plane and toted all of that luggage everywhere. And then all of the walking. And all of the cycling. It’s awesome! I’M awesome!!! Roadhouse!
After waking up bright and early in the hotel in Jacó, I grabbed some breakfast, checked out and caught a taxi to the place I’m staying. And here, at least, I managed to do okay in giving the taxi driver directions in Spanish. I fumbled my way through them, but we both had a solid grip on what I was trying to communicate. It turned out, though, that we miscounted the number of streets before we were to turn left and so got completely lost. With there not being an actual named street or house number to the place AND not being able to pick the house out of a lineup of every house in the are AND not being able to communicate anything else worthwhile in Spanish here, the situation reached an impasse. But aha! I gave the taxi driver the phone number of Jorge, the caretaker of the house, and the driver got directions from him. A woman stood outside of the home as we pulled up, greeting me as I exited the taxi. (Jorge is the one person I’ve met who speaks English here; we met tonight.)
Pointing to the keys, she indicated which key opened the front gate as we walked into the yard and again for the house key as we entered the house. Neither one of us spoke enough of the other’s language to have a meaningful communication beyond the keys. But I did thank her. Gracias!
I moved my bags to the bedroom and began to familiarize myself with my home for at least the next month. Everything looked exactly as pictured. Couldn’t find the coffee maker. Will find that later. Bicycle, awesome. The tires are flat so I’ll need to get that fixed. Shower looks good. Hot water, check. Fans, awesome. Alright then. Super!
So two tasks for the day then: 1) get air in the bicycle tires and 2) get a phone with cellular service. Mentally ready to head out, I locked the house, locked the gate, and began walking under the hot midday sun toward the plaza at the main intersection of Herradura. I found a bicycle repair shop halfway to the plaza. I continued on to see if I could find a place to get the phone. At Radio Shack at Plaza Herradura, I was able to grasp from the sales associate that I would need to go to Jacó to get set up with Kölbi, the major service provider. Okay.
I stepped into the mega supermercado next door to see what sort of items were on the shelves. Looks comprehensible. Manageable. All of the basic grocery items, just manufactured and packaged and sold by different companies. But this is definitely the soap and shampoo aisle. Will have to come by here later after Jacó. I walked the couple of kilometers back home under an even hotter sun, cooled off for a few minutes, and then got the bike out of the utility room to begin the trek BACK to the bicycle repair shop. At least it’s a dry heat. No, really.
When I arrived at the bicycle shop – a handful of various bicycles situated under an 8’ X 8’ tin roof over dirt with a small store behind; the bike being worked on hung suspended from the ceiling by a hook and an inner tube – I was, as best as I could tell, fifth in line as everyone stood around waiting to get their bicycles fixed. It took a pretty good while but there was only one other item on my plate for the day. So I enjoyed the wait, watching the people, watching the interactions, watching the mechanic work and talk to his customers, watching the girl at the panaderia next door sweep out front.
Eventually, the mechanic turned to me and asked me what was wrong. In Spanish. I grabbed the tires to try to indicate that they were flat. Communication successful. He replaced the front inner tube and put air in the back tire and less than $5 later, I was on my way. The mechanic initiated a simple exchange about how inexpensive the tires were. I concurred. And, of course… Gracias!
The one-speed cruiser fixed, I pedaled my way back up the slight hill, over the bridge, and up and down the dirt road to my casa. I grabbed my camera, put it in my multipurpose laptop/camera/beach bag (gracias, Kevin), and began pedaling my way back into town and then 5 more kilometers over to Jacó. Hotter now. Sweating more. Up and down the small hills, over the bridges. When I arrived in Jacó, it became obvious to me exactly how close I had been to my residence as the hotel where I stayed was on the outskirts of town. Didn’t matter. Never would have found it in the dark and in the rain the previous night.
Riding into town though, approaching Avenida Pastor Diaz, a massive condo complex stands alone, reaching ten or more stories into the sky. Vacant. Run down. Abandoned? Never finished? I don’t know. Outside of the complex, though, the walls are covered with this beautiful eye-catching and altogether pleasant art in the form of graffiti.
Found a cellular store, got a phone, got a plan. Called the folks to let them know I was okay. Voicemail. Back on the bicycle, I rode a little bit through town before stopping off at Jacó Taco, a bar/restaurant that seems to be an expat hangout, judging by the conversations and the fact that yesterday and today, I saw some of the same familiar faces there. Got a coke and grabbed a bite to eat before getting back on the bicycle to head back to Herradura.
Stopped at the supermercado. Coffee, filters, shampoo, soap, leche, sugar… where’s the sugar? Ah, there it is. Juice. Check out. God, I love the money here! I mean, it’s just beautiful. Every denomination is a different bright assortment of color.
I put my groceries in the basket of the bike and made my way home just before dark. Exhausted. But feeling comfortable here in mi casa. Had I not left a message with my parents saying that I would call them at 10pm EST, I would’ve gone to bed long before 9pm CST. But I didn’t. I waited. And I left another voicemail. Doh! But hey, at least they knew I was okay.
And then I went upstairs and passed out. So ended day two.
Pura vida. 🙂