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Published: April 30th 2007
Yesterday, Monday, I contrived to get a spanking new passport, of this latest biometric type. Amazing, one day only. Thing is, I look like this now:
My new travel-head: not really my usual style.....(but for sure I feel better than wandering around with the mohawk; to be added to an entry as I back-track this blog)
So I hope in the future the biometric facial chip thingumagig permits an hassle-free passage :-) I also managed to get the police report written up, and I was amazed to find that despite not losing my camera or iPOD, there were over 2000 dollars worth of gear in my snatched bag; and there´s me only crying about my diaries. Oh, and I paid quite a sum to have an ad put in the national newspaper, La Nacion, which was headlined (en espanol) ´British journalist tries to get his hand-written reports back´ ! (See left here)
Anyway, since I´d not expected such a speedy turn-around on the passport, and today is a national holiday, I booked my flight OUTTA this place for tomorrow. So, all I need do now is try to plug myself back into the world of exotic travelling, for my last day in God-forsaken Costa Rica. Dave, a young man hailing from the Home Counties on London´s northern end, walked right past me in the hostel last night (he´s now done this about five times, in as many hostels or eateries and nearly as many countries). He´s got in with a gang of Americans here and they want to spend a day out of the city, possibly visit these hot-springs. Smashing. Let´s go. I just want to forget these most recent, nefarious events, and think about my next destination - Quito, Ecuador. Seems as good a place as any to reset, move from sad to glad. And I´ll be hooking up and staying a while with my old friend Antonia; should be just like my old Cambridge days (no, I don´t mean I went to that university; I just drank in the town´s convivial pubs). Central to South America: a transition I feel I need after what seems like outstaying my welcome in C.A. Though I know I´ve had a ball.
So after a couple of rickety buses, standing up on the last one after being ripped off by the driver (we later learned), we arrive at exciting er, whatever it was called. Oh, in-between crossing from one bus-stop to another we meet the two dogs from Magnum P.I., Zeus and Apologetic....
We eat in the main restaurant there and leave just as it begins peeing it down. No matter, soon we would all be in hot water. We take a cab to the spot above a crashing river, where we have to get out and walk through a coffee plantation. But we didn´t know that until we´d got directions from a very swathy local guy, who in fact was on his way to the Aguas Calientes himself to see his family. After a bit of a hike and picking our way down a windy path of rock and tree roots, we came upon two or three small pools that were about as impressive as so many concrete bath-tubs. However, they were pretty full of hot-spring afficionados (an impressive tanned, laughing woman surrounded by kids of all ages - all splashing as much as they were laughing), and the big river smashing along by the side of it a metre or so lower furnished a spectacle.
From the centre of the main pool a woman as hefty as she looked happy, with huge brown eyes, beamed a huge smile at the four of us sitting on the rocks and pleaded that we come in and join them. "It´s cold out there, and raining - here it´s hot and muy agreable!", said she - Maria as it turned out - with a look of mischief in her face that belied a certain desire to occasionally break out of her role of matriarch, and play the part of teenage tease. Somehow, there was no energy coming from the other three to get in the water, but I had no raincoat. Even though it was only spitting on me now, it was soaking into me so I decided to strip to my duds and take the plunge. As I did so Maria appeared delighted and started clapping, whilst shouting at the other three boys (the two girls with us had decided to go hiking instead of hot-springing) to get their kits off.
There was a noticable breeze now that I was almost starkers but the second I was submerged, right up to my neck, it was all but gone. Right away, after formerly introducing herself, Maria started rubbing two stones together which caused a sort of green paste to develop in-between. "It´s very good for your skin", and as I glanced around at her Martian-looking family members, she began painting my cheeks, as evidenced by the following photo!:
Maria was originally from El Salvador but said it was too dangerous to raise a family there. "And too many people!"...it´s true the El Sal is mega-dense, and I can´t say, as with Belize, that I am sorry to have missed it on my route through C.A. Her 15 year old daughter was taking English so I practised that with her a while, and two of her sons (I think in total she had six kids) were studying tourism, one having a bent in natural history. All life-affirming salt of the earth stuff. I´d made a slight grammatical mistake talking to one of her lads, though I can´t remember the details now, other than what was meant to be a casual remark about girls made me out to be a raging homo. This they found most amusing and I had to just take it. So, genuinely nice folks. They came at the right time for me and got me back on track. Just the anti-dote I needed from the strangers I´d most recently encountered in this land.
Naturally I couldn´t help but notice the woman nursing a severely handicapped boy in the water next to us. The woman was her cousin and wife of the guy who led us down to the springs. On the way back to the main road, his father carried the boy like a ruck-sack, who had about as much animation as one too. "Cerebral palsy" is what I think he said, but the kid was debilitated about as much as you could be. To disturb you even more the boy, dealt one of nature´s cruellest blows as it is, had a thumb which just flapped uselessly, attached by a membrane of skin alone as it was to his hand. I was afraid his dad would rip it off as he held him, but of course, he didn´t.
And there´s me with my problems.
We said our goodbyes eventually and took our buses back to San Jose. We dropped by an all-night store for cheap beers and snacks as a gleeful woman in her 50s stopped us in our tracks at the entrance.
"Goodnight!" she exclaimed, eyes sparkling and evidently pleased with herself. She had a very yellow uniform, with streaked hair tucked under a green baseball cap.
"I think you mean, good evening" I said, as she forcibly dragged me away from the cheesy empanadas I´d been eying and over to a fridge full of sandwiches. More English was coming...:
"Buy one, get one!"
Well, I´d hope so, but then looking at the pair of sarnies wrapped together I said in Spanish, "ah, you mean buy one get another free"....so together, we came up with a better line in English for this unbeatable offer. I still went for the warm and cheesy empanadas though. She was ever so thankful in any case and ever so funny, but I did my best not to laugh as she blurted various English sound-bytes at me. When I went to the counter to pay the guy there too seemed to have attended the same English course.
"Good night Sir, how do you do?"
"I´m very well thanks", I lied, still sore about my pinched bag, "how are YOU?"
"Oh, I am very good!"
I almost did, then didn´t bother to tell him that good night is for when you are leaving and that I am GOOD is American, not English. The folks of this past day seemed to have lifted my spirits - has there been a conspiracy to do this?
Now, I just wanted to get to the hostel and drink a beer. Which is what we all did.
So I´m in Quito already, a few days later, and Emma (northern lass - Sheffield!) from the British Embassy writes to me to say that The Beach Times, an English-lang newspaper in Costa Rica saw my ad in La Nacion thought that the loss of my ´work´ (remember I am a journalist!) would make a story for them. Hmm, could make up all kinds of stuff here with my new persona! So I replied to Emma saying it´s probably better to tell them I am an engineer really, but indeed, losing all my amateur journalist´s material collected over seven months stung somewhat. She replied to that saying they know that, so I´m going to send them these blog links now the entries are updated. Let´s see what happens.
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