No Hablo Español….Road Trip to San Jose….The Men above Us

Published: June 23rd 2005
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My friend Randy asked in an email recently how I was dealing with communication issues here. In other words, how are we getting along given Beth and I don’t speak much Spanish (that’s a huge understatement!). Well, so far we have been getting by okay. What I try to do, right or wrong, is to listen for key words I understand like “trabajo” (work) or “precio” (price) or “bano” (bathroom!) and then haphazardly put together what a Tico is trying to explain to me. This method seems to work for me but it certainly isn’t enough to be a full time resident of Costa Rica. In fact, to become a citizen, you have to take a Spanish test. Okay, I’ll probably never become a citizen (not that I would ever give up my U.S. citizenship). I don’t just want to get by; rather, I want to really understand the subtly of the language. So, all and all, we’re getting by okay, not great but okay. We have a roof over our heads, we eat meals almost regularly and we can email people so I guess all is not lost! We’re getting a tutor soon though!

Tuesday was a big day for us. We took our rented SUV and drove to San Jose to find a fairly upscale store/mall for household shopping. I sort of knew where we were going having been in San Jose many times, though I’d never driven to San Jose. In all honesty, Beth did the driving because I never learned to drive a standard transmission car. I’ll need to learn and Beth has offered to teach me (and I’m sure that’ll be a blog entry all by itself!).

I knew generally where the “Multiplaza” shopping area was because I had been there with a local friend the previous Sunday to see a movie. But figuring out where it was in relation to downtown San Jose (it’s not quite in San Jose) took some effort. We did eventually find it. We bought several nifty household items such as placemats, runners, candles, candleholders, etc., a nifty wood room divider that we love, though I’m not sure our new friends here think it that great. I guess we cannot please everyone though.

Two mistakes on this trip: we left in the afternoon for San Jose and drove back in pouring rain at night, and Beth isn’t fond of night driving—wish I knew that ahead of time—but we muddled through fine. However, in addition to her skittish-ness for driving at night, her view on her right side was partly obscured by the room divider that sprawled across our pequeño (small) SUV. She’d drive along and each time she wanted to go right, or get in the right lane, I’d have to be her mirror by essentially looking right and back—not an easy chore from the backseat (we had to fold the passenger side front seat down) in a small car loaded down with stuff.

One of the other things we learned on this road trip is that it is very hard to find phone cards here. The one card we did find after asking in several stores seemed expensive and it was only good for 20 minutes, with no refills. I imagine some of my friends could barely get through the “hello” part of their conversation in 20 minutes! :-) Apparently Ticos don’t use them much. Why you ask? Because they all have land lines or cell phones and don’t need them!! We need them because we don’t want to use our land line for costly international calls (please call us!) and there’s a waiting list for cell phone numbers. I may have to ask some one to send me some. I’m hoping will have cell phones in 3 to 6 months.

For those of you interested, Jack our stray dog, did come back. Being a bit randy, he takes off at night. We’ll tame him somehow---“snip, snip” probably!

This morning I awoke to the loud sounds of tearing and hammering and to a host of people outside of the house and on top of our roof. I had forgotten the roof repair guys were coming today. I guess they don’t bother to wait until you wake up to start working. Yes, along with the purchase price of the farm came a few leaks in the roof. The particularly troublesome leaks were right in the middle of the kitchen and in the room Beth is, or I should say, was using. Funny, it has rained almost every afternoon here since we arrived, and I was waiting for rain this afternoon to see how the repairs went, but alas, barely a drop today.

So I woke up and checked out what the roof guys were doing—not that I could communicate with them at all—but it just amazes me what roofs are like here compared to the United States. Basically, they are the same material used on the top and bottom of a can of tuna—and you peel it open just like a can of tuna to repair a roof. And, when you walk on a roof like ours—I did last week—you always feel like you are going to fall through as the metal bends and creaks as you walk on it. Thankfully, it is not a very high house like I had in Washington.

After seeing what the roof guys were up to, I noticed 3 or 4 Ticos mulling around outside. Not sure who they were or what they wanted. Eventually, we determined that the contractor handling our roof sent these people to discuss landscaping since we had asked about this. So, after they realized it was me and Beth that owned the joint, not the guests having their morning coffee al fresco, Beth and the guests left in about five minutes, off to view gardens and plants and other stuff that just doesn’t interest me. I’m sure it’ll all turn out beautiful though. For me, I stayed behind for the relative serenity of the hammering and tearing above me, hoping the roof wouldn’t come crashing down on my spiffy laptop computer.

That’s it for now!

Pura Vida!



23rd June 2005

Gulliver's-oops--I mean, Andrew's and Beth's Travels
Hi Andrew and Beth, I write to you from sunny, humid and noisy Washington DC. I'm so jealous of your "pastoral" surroundings. :-) Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I enjoy hearing about your Costa Rican adventures. Have you thought of writing a book? You have a flair with words, and I enjoy your descriptions. The "can of tuna" analogy was a riot! :-) Anyway, I am looking forward to my husband and I making a trip to Costa Rica in the future. I'm bring plenty of books so that I can stretch out in a hammock and vegetate. Hey, Beth, do you make pupusas? I think it might be an El Salvadorean culinary item, and they are quite delicious, especially with a side of homemade salsa. Now, I'm making myself hungry! Beth, Doug and I went to the Capital Jazz Fest at the Merriweather Post Pavilion, and I was able to get some great closeup photos of Kenny G. I have decided that I enjoy his music much better in person. Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing more pictures of the hacienda. Peace and joy, Cheyenne
23rd June 2005

Sounds like you are getting acclimated the hard way - do or die!! Some of your scenarios soud like they could be candidates for an old I Love Lucy show!! Way to go. Once the rain stops, get ready for the heat!! It will be coming! Keep these updates coming - I enjoy getting the updates
23rd June 2005

Sounds like fun, Andrew!
Thanks for sharing your blog with me. It's like reading a novel with a new chapter every once in awhile. The challenges you face are very basic -language, transportation and building repair. Sorta puts things in a different perspective. When you are ready to talk further about our PR proposal, please email me a time to call and I am happy to call you. All the best - Nance
24th June 2005

Jack is Back!!!
Good title for the Book - I think Under the Costa Rican Sun would not be original....I love your Blog! I can just see you cussing up a storm in the BACK seat of the SUV being a MIRROR for Beth! Hysterical! xoxo Debi
24th June 2005

I love your blogs! Steve,Laura, Jody and I had dinner at Coppi's tonight and talked about how much we love hearing about your adventures. Will call soon - miss you! Keep writing.

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