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Monday, December 28, 2015

Snakes and Crocodiles - Oh My!

Greetings again from Yelapa.   Remember that list of reasons why I love Yelapa I mentioned in my last post?  Well we can add two more items to it: snakes and crocodiles. 

"Tick Tock the Yelapa Croc"
The buzz here last week was about a crocodile (see pic) that had been spotted swimming off the tourist beach near the hotel.  Evidently crocodiles are a rare occurrence.  The current theory it was brought down by the high water in the river Tuito (pronounced Tweet-oh – named after the yellow canary Sylvester the cat was always chasing).

Crocodile sightings are rare here but not unheard of.  The locals tend to downplay the sightings as nothing serious.  After all, the last time a kid got snatched off the beach was eight years ago.  You have a better chance of being bitten by a shark in Hawaii then get chomped on by a crocodile here in Yelapa.  Still it’s better to take precautions: I tend to use the Wildebeest method – stick to the middle of the herd.  When crossing the lagoon I try to keep at least one person in front of me and one behind – not that I’m worried.

Game Wardens being outsmarted by Tick Tock
Today the "game wardens" from Puerto Vallarta showed up for the big Sunday Showdown.  Score after the first round - "Tick Tock" 1 - Game Wardens - 0.  I"ll let you know if they're serving croc tacos at "Tacos Y Mas"  - "Tastes like Pollo"

Bobby the Boa
The same day that “Tick Tock” the crocodile showed up, not to be outdone,  Bobby the Boa made an appearance on the path to our casa.  Bobby is technically a Rosy Tailed Boa, supposedly a very docile type of snake – but don’t tell that to him.  He slithered across the path and up into the trees where he’s waiting to drop down on me one night on my way back from Pollo Bollo (the restaurant).

About the same time the last reported “attack” by a crocodile occurred I was in Costa Rica attempting to learn Spanish by “immersing” myself in the culture.  The result was I sort of had to leave the country in a hurry with death threats made if I should ever return.

So without further ado, here’s the emails of the fateful trip…

May 1, 2009
 Greetings from San Jose in Costa Rica.  I have decided to give Scuba diving a break.   Now that I have pretty well mastered the skill of diving and good relax a bit and take my mind  and eyes off  my gauges and look around a bit I found I was getting bored – I mean how much coral and how many fishes can you look at??

I thought I’d like to explore Central and South America, and to do so it made sense to try and learn Spanish – otherwise I’d be forever relegated to the tourist areas.  This makes great sense except for one thing – the learning thing.

I have never been great in the learning a language.  In fact I suck it at it big time.  My parents sent me to Hebrew School after school three times a week for eight years. After the second or third day the teachers and I came to an understanding:  I wouldn’t bug them, if they wouldn’t bug me. My parents would drop me off. I would go in. Five later  I would go to the washroom and simply not return – until it was time to be picked up.  This worked well for all concerned for about six years when it became time for me to prepare for my bar mitzvah. At that time everyone (including me) came to the sudden realization that I couldn’t read or speak a word of Hebrew despite six years of education.
I did have a prestigious memory then and was able to verbally memorize all the passages I had to learn and repeat them by rote.

In high school I had a choice of French or Latin.  For some reason that escapes me today I chose Latin.  Latin had a lot of “sight translations” which I could memorize and feedback verbatim.   I scraped through with  a big 52%

In graduate school I decided to try and learn French.  The head of the French department was a friend, and despite my protestations that I couldn’t learn he insisted I take his introductory French course.   After three weeks he called me into his office and said,
“Jeff, I know we’re friends, but maybe you might want to think about taking Italian instead.”

I have travelled a great part of the world and manage to get by speaking a little of the language of each place I go.  I speak it, but I don’t understand it!  I’m like a large unfeathered parrot:  I have a working vocabulary of about 100 words in each language:   one hundred words I immediately forget the second the plane home lifts off the runway.  Also since I only parrot words I find in dictionaries my pronunciation gaffs are legendary.  My mispronunciation of  “Zebra” in Swahili nearly caused the driver to swerve off the road.  Only later did I learn I what I was calling a Zebra was the very intimate part of female anatomy!   At dinner the guides and waiters would call their friends into the restauarnat and ask me to identify animals in Swahili then collapse in gales of laughter.
IPEE language school & Prostate Centre
I searched the internet for a compatible Spanish School.  After looking at many I chose the one I’m currently enrolled in.  I used the Richmond Chinese Driving School method to pick the best one:  Pick one with a meaningful name.  Like the “The Lucky Lotus take out restaurant and Driving school” where they combine take out and driving instruction.  The Spanish School I chose was IPEE. It seemed to fit in nicely with my  current prostate condition.

I arrived in Costa Rica last night.  The “getting here” part was not pretty.   It took two hours plus just to check in at the Vancouver Airport and clear US immigrations  where  I qualified for the super deluxe strip search.   Conversely it took about five minutes to clear Costa Rica Customs and Immigration and claim my luggage. 

My San Jose neighbourhood
I was met at the San Jose airport by a nice middle age couple holding a sign with my name sort of written on it.  (Evidently in Spanish countries, Jeff has only has one “f” in it – who knew?   It was at this moment the totality of what I had done suddenly hit me:  These folks don’t speak a word of English!   They babble away at me in Spanish and I smile  at them.  They babble some more and I smile  some more.  As the ride wore on I began to improvise - I would nod when it seemed appropriate.   Smile and Nod.   Nod and Smile.  

I arrive  around 11pm at my new family’s home and make another alarming discovery.  They don’t use street names here!   There are NO street signs of any sort!!!!!  I manage to ask someone who spoke a little English how they find places.  They use “It’s near….”   

“It’s near the Taco Bell near the big plaza with three banks!  “It’s down the street from so and so Pharmacy!” I’m told to tell the taxi driver some landmark and he will magically deliver me to my home.   I’m near the corner of “walk” and “don’t walk”.

My host is a charming widow named Nuri.  She lives alone in a nice house (by Costa Rica standards) in the suburb about five minutes’ walk from the IPEE School.  Nuri is very nice, but also doesn’t speak a word of English.  Somehow we are managing to communicate.  I have a small bedroom complete with TV and my own bathroom. The house also has wireless internet, so I’m connected through my laptop.   Nuri made me a large breakfast and has been catering after me with drinks and sacks all morning. 

After breakfast I decide to go for a “little walk” by myself. Nuri gives me explicit instructions, and I immediately got lost.  After 15 minutes she takes pity on me and snags me the third time I pass by her front door. Tomorrow she is going to walk me to school - just like a kid in grade one! 

More mania!


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