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Published: April 28th 2007
So I called Tranquilo Backpackers (which I see has been included in the location selector here even), and got myself a room reserved. Without any complaints, the hotel receptionist at this soulless place let me check out. I HAD to go and meet people. Here´s Tranquilo´s funky recep area:
After my complementary pancakes, I met one man who proffered insights into the seedier, and well-hidden, side to Costa Rica. He cut a striking figure with his large belly, complemented as it was by a handsome head of curly grey hair and enormous silver eyes; his facial features were big in general and his mid-eastern look and accent reminded me of Omar Sharif (not that I can remember how Omar sounded). He talked in an easy-going way that was almost melancholic, explaining to me the rules here in this ´fucked up country´ in exasperated, though sympathetic tones. I had the feeling that he was forever dealing with fools. "At least you are unharmed" was his main point. His advice was as follows:
"You can go to this area called La Cava. All the shops there sell stolen goods. You can look around, and if you see any of your stuff, don´t react or try to negotiate, just go straight to the police." Smiling to himself, but then furrowing his brow to indicate seriousness, he said "And don´t go arranging anything with them, arranging to meet them anywhere. Ten guys could show up and beat you up, just for fun, and then rob you again. Don´t expect them to think like you. They are animals".
"So the police will help then? I guess they are happy to get a lead, so they can do their job, solve crimes", I then put in, naively as it turned out.
"No. They DON´T want to solve crimes. They don´t care......this is a fucked-up country"
"So why do you say go to the police?"
"Initially, even when you tell them what shop has your stuff, you will be passed off to the lowest level in the police. You must demand", he emphasised the word demand, "that they investigate the shop-owner and impress on them that you will be involving your embassy....it´s the only way"
"Well, sounds exciting, and good material for my new diary!" I added, admittedly hollowly.....I wasn´t really too keen on lurking around such areas and probing such people.
"Did you put an advert in the paper?" Omar enquired, now adopting a gladly less sinister demeanor.
"No, but I will on Monday - that was the advice of the lady at the embassy".
"That´s good, worth a try. Well, good luck" and with that, his large beefy palm inserted itself in mine with a handshake, and he went back to his pair of female admirers and settled his wide back into the cushions beside them.
I thanked him for his advice, and wondered and mused about his history.
I bought a coffee and thought a bit more about doing a bit of snooping around this La Cava. In the end, it was the sheer hassle and almost infinitesmal chances of procuring my diaries, rather than fear, which made me plump solely for the ad-in-the-paper option.
It was a Saturday night and I was glad for the light chats with various travellers, and even the yet-lighter beer. I met two girls who were friends of Roos (Saalbrink), a Dutch girl I met in Cuba and Guatemala (who will eventually find her way onto this blog once I have updated it). With them I talked to a Flemish guy, who that day had managed to rescue HIS bag that had temporarily gone wandering off the luggage rack on the back of a local dude, until he noticed. "Thanks for looking after my bag ", he´d said, as he forcibly removed the rucksack from the local Costa-Rican´s clutches (presumably). "This seems to be rife here", I said (well, attempted to say, in my best double-Dutch)
Naturally, I recounted my misfortune of the day before, accumulating quite some Dutch practice now given that they didn´t automatically switch to English as I´d expected (despite Dutch speakers all knowing excellent English, the sound of an Englishman spouting their throat-gargling words whilst they are OUT of their country seems to be highly amusing to them; I speak more Dutch with travellers from the Low Countries than when I lived in Holland.)
I soon retired though, politely refusing to venture out to prowl San Jose´s night-life, and my Sunday passed pretty much as tranquilly. I looked forward to Monday and acquiring a new passport.
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