TRAVELS IN COSTA RICA 2 - Being perceived old and a gringo - & why I started a journal
02 February 2009 | San Vito, Costa Rica
Part 2 Settling in. Being perceived old and a gringo - why I started a journal. Rum and coke and the one-table restaurante.
Image: picture of The town of San Vito, completely hidden behind an unnaturally spherical rock, said to be a meteorite that narrowly missed the town on this day, 1791.
You know we choose everything that seems to happen to us. So that means I have just entered 72 hours of self-chosen exile in San Vito, Costa Rica, in a cell of a room at $14 US a night, with a bus being washed - its radio thumping away with the local pop songs- outside my room, and I have decided to drink rum-and-cokes lying on my bed and write down everything.
I pass for¨old¨now, and, at 68, probably belong in that concept. Being an outsider here - a gringo - unable to speak Spanish (I use drawings or mime) is similar to being perceived as ¨old¨. I don´t care, but I notice the only ones I directly relate to are very small children; most others are very successful at making believe I am not there. Music has stopped. It was happy and simple and rhythmic and the lyrics can´t bother me. I have the fan going, cooling the three litre cola bottle, which I bought for one thousand Colones or two bucks American.
When I got here I had a shower, I see there is a small electric heater above and attached to the shower head and you turn it on with a knife switch (remember the knife switch in Frankenstein?) which is immersed in the homejob wiring. Afraid of electric shock I wore my fip-flops (thongs) into the shower.I had slept in my clothes during the 7 hour bus ride to the frontera, starting out at midnight (they loaded us at 11) - so a shower was the first thing I wanted. Then I bought corn chips and cola to mix with the rum, but wait - this was not enough!! So I walked out past the bored-and-lonely young men (¨beunas!¨) to buy an exercise book to write my journal in. I forgot paper, I forgot to bring books to read and - yes! - I forgot to bring the ships papers! Just a copy of A Course In Miracles, that´s all I brought, with a can of tuna, several drinks, rum and lots of chocolate. And some apples. Don´t know why.
Now. When you look out through the curly steel grille - starting at the top, you see blue sky, and if you are Australian it looks just the same as home: blue sky and clouds. Further down, you see a weathered old painted wall, could even be gum trees over there, rooftops, a tank and a big TV arial, the electric wires too could be Australian but the poles lean and the wires sag low. The restaurante is in the back of the shop counter and has one table and no menu. Will I go there for dinner tonight or will I open that can of tuna?
The rum-and-cokes don´t seem to have cheered me, put me In The Zone, or affected me at all. I want to tell you what it´s like, without boring you! The room is a small box - ¿hey! is that a clothes line over there, strung with BARBED WIRE? --- IT IS!! The owner-manager keeps popping in - I think he likes me. The breakthrough moment was when, instead of box #1, I wanted ¨a room with a view¨, and went through all kinds of antics to explain - mountain (in español similar word), then I mime ¨looking¨ with forked fingers moving from eyes outward, I draw a window and me, complete with beard and a big smile (he laughed here) looking through the window to the mountains! No, he says, no other rooms. He has as little English as I have Spanish, but we knew each other better now and shared a laugh.
The tiled floors here are cool to your feet but look like the carpets in the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, that is, they appeared to move. My mobile doesn´t work here so I feel all the more cut off. This morning I was able with it to involve Adrienne in the USA, ultimately to no avail, but it felt good to have help, so few speak English and the bureaucracy seems madness.
Going out to buy my Walt Disney High School 3 Musical exercise book I saw a man on a horse - more a pony, with fine trappings! - he was very upright. We are out in the country here, farms carved out if the hills. And the boredandlonely young men had doubled in number: I tried a few¨beunas¨broadcast left and right, but this culture prefers to hide behind a poker face (so does the Aussie!) can´t take a risk on the gringo.
The shopkeeper was different - very cheerful, daughter very pretty and open, next to mumma. 500 colones to the US dollar, that means one-fifth of a cent = one Colone! These Colones have no cohones!
More in part 3: Manager makes blowing gestures with mouth to indicate fan - (I finally catch on). Vincent Van Gogh´s room, without the chair. Will I put on my best crumpled shirt and try the restaurant? (I do) and peace finally finds me.
Future entries: A bicycle passes by. Rice and beans, with vino tinto. Costa Rica vs. Panama, The Game. A motorcycle passes by. I am perceived as a millionaire!