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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sic Transit Gloria's Bar & A tale of two Jeffs

Sic Transit Gloria's

You’ve heard of the elephants graveyard - the mythical place where elephants are thought to head to when there time on earth is over.  Well it’s a myth.  One thing that isn’t a myth is that Yelapa is the Hippie Graveyard - the place where old hippies go to fade away.  When your in Yelapa there is a sizable population in their sixties who still wear headbands and “some flowers in their hair.”  Except in the case of the guys there isn’t much hair, and the women's’ hair are steel gray and bound in a long single braid.  A bra-less woman is her sixties is nothing to stare lustily at any more.  More like looking directly into the sun then screaming  “I”m blind!”

I met one of these at dinner the other night at Ray’s.  She noticed that I “was of an age” and wanted to know if she had slept with me at Woodstock.  I cagily answered I didn’t remember.
“Whether you slept with me or were at Woodstock?” she asked.
“Both,” I replied.

There is a pecking order for these aging hippies: those who first visited Yelapa B.E. or after B.E.  (Before Electricity).  You don’t even rate if you first visited after electricity came to Yelapa about ten years ago.  The lady beside us bragged that she had first visited Yelapa 35 years ago.
“I came down from the states in an old school bus,” she reminisced.  “Had to leave it at Chacala then take a burro into Yelapa.”
“What did you do with Owsley and the rest of the Merry Pranksters? Leave them on the bus?”  I asked.
“Who?” she asked.

Their discussions of the “Grateful Dead,” are no longer about Jerry Garcia (no relation to the Garcia’s in Yelapa) and the Grateful Dead, but more about their departed friends.  With their disintegrating hips and knees a major trek is now  the few hundred yards to Gloria’s or Mimi’s to  listen to bad Mexican bands attempting to belt out CCR and other sixties hits they think the gringo’s want to listen to.

You have to remember when it comes to the entertainment bandwagon - Yelapa is at the end of the dirt trail.  There is no place further down on the list. A band has to literally be on a police watch list to want to play here.  There are a lot of atrocious bands playing the sleazy bars in Puerto Vallarta that wouldn’t lower themselves to play here.  Hence we have people who wouldn’t even make a high school garage band playing in the few restaurants and bars here.  Last year there was a guy playing the accordion and singing working the bars here.  Not only couldn’t he sing, he couldn’t play the accordion.  I mean he couldn’t literally play three chords on it.  It sounded like a three year old playing a mouth organ.  Still he managed a run of several weeks here.

One of the reasons that musicians manage to last more than three minutes here, besides the fact that pot is  legal here, is the fact that Yelapa’s massive entertainment district is approximately 100 meters in diameter.  In that minuscule area you have Gloria's, The Yacht Club (which has nothing to do with boats or is a club), the Casino (which has no gambling or slot machines of any description) banging out music at full volume from eight in the evening till 3:00am in the morning.  On the weekends you can add the open mike at Mimi’s into the mix.  It's literally impossible to tell one band from the other.  It’s a take no prisoner battle of the bands with no winners.

Friday night is a combination open mike jam session  at Mimi’s.  I was there a few years ago  and it was a mind altering  experience.  When I arrived the “band” consisted of three guitars, a keyboard player, and five, count ‘em, five - guys playing various forms of percussion - from bongos to spoons.

Several of the old hippy types had left their walkers and walking sticks at the table and were up singing - I swear one of them was Janis Joplin.  The music was bad, but seemed to get better with the more beer you drank.  By the end of the evening I was playing along on my beer bottle xylophone.

The funny thing is that in the nine years I’ve been coming here  (I just missed the B.E. badge)I never saw a live band playing local music.   Maybe the guys who run the bars think that all the gringos want to hear is old sixties songs - and judging by the crowd last night at Glorias they might be right.  Sic Transit Gloria’s Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday…..)

In case you've been following I've been including some "Flash back" entries from a time before my blog.   This week's continues my "learning" expedition to Costa Rica.....

Costa Rica May 23, 2009

Three weeks have gone by quickly. School at times was difficult.  I had two teachers: Daisy was quite easy to get along with. Her teaching style was more laid back and often non structured - like attending a college tutorial.  My other teacher, Ilse  (who I dubbed the  she wolf of the SS [Spanish Senioritas])was the complete opposite:  she treated our sessions  more like a trip to the dentist.   It was drill, drill, and more drill.  

During my first week of lessons with Ilse, I attempted to maintain a positive mature attitude – after all I was actually paying for this.   But as the weeks progressed my “inner child” finally won out and I entered into a guerilla war with her.

“Buenos Dias, Jeffrey.” She’d proclaim as she marched into the room.
“No entiendo (I don’t understand)” was my standard reply.
¿Qué no entiendes? “(what don’t you understand?) She’d demand.
“Nada!”  (Nothing)  was my response.
I’d see her eyes dart around the room as she hopefully looked for a pointer or meter stick to whack me with.  Luckily for me all weapons had been removed from the room.

My denial of understanding anything Spanish didn’t deter Ilse as she launch into the days lesson of reflexive verbs, pronouns and vocabulary.

The problem for me when it came to learning Spanish, my brain is divided into two completely separate rooms: 

The first room consisted of “Orderly Jeffrey” who neatly processes all Spanish vocabulary and stores it in clearly labelled easily accessible drawers.  If I need to say anything in Spanish, the Orderly Jeffrey quickly opens the drawers and strings the words together for me to say.  Talking, and  reading aren’t really a problem. [As I read this years later and countless hours of Spanish lessons I realize NOTHING has changed!!]

The problem was in the other part of my brain – the other room- the listening, understanding and translating room.  The Other Jeffrey is not so organized.  Words and bits of phrases are strewn all over the place in no particular order.  When someone speaks to me, it is this “Jeffrey’s” job to try and make sense of it and the only two words this Jeffrey knows for sure is : “No entiendo”

When someone speaks to me in Spanish the spray of words pour into this room and the Other Jeffrey looks on in hopeless confusion.   He might understand the first few words, but then he falls behind.   Much like the famous I love Lucy scene where Lucy tries to keep up with the chocolates on the conveyor belt.

At times, Isle  would get desperate and haul out books of Children’s Nursery Rhymes and hand them to me to read and translate.  One of these was the “Three Little Pigs.” in Spanish.  To avoid translating I would fire back deep philosophical questions to Ilse:

“Why did the Pigs mothers throw them out?  Was she arrested for child abandonment?”
“Why didn’t the pigs just go down the street to the lady who lived in a shoe?   There were only three of them.  Surely she would take them in.”
“Were there no building codes where the pigs lived?”
“The pigs are forever getting building materials from a guy on the road?   Is there no Home Depot?  How did they pay for it?”

When all else failed, I pulled out the religion card: “As a Jew I find this story of eating pigs deeply offensive. If I were a Muslim would you try and make me read this?  I bet not!”

This would be met with a lot of eye rolling and huffing, and stony silence as we entered a waiting contest.  I wouldn’t proceed until my questions were answered, and she waited for me to give up and keep reading in Spanish.  Luckily it was just about recess and I could take the Jeffreys out for donuts.

The following day the nursery rhymes disappeared and a series of children’s games arrives: a version of battleship.  There are two identical units of people’s faces.   Each person picks a card from a deck and asks questions to see who can be the first discover who the character on the opponents card is.   It only took me a few moments to figure out how to cheat and win in only a few questions. I quickly win three games in rapid succession which doesn’t improve Isle’s mood..

The next game she hauls out is a tattered old Scrabble board.  At the end of each game she marks down all the words I created: words like “si” , “no ” “chilli”, “con,” and  “carne”.  These scrabble words were  then coupled with the vocabulary I had learned that week and I was challenged to concoct some long story.   To show me how it was done, Ilse went first and created  a long boring story about her friend who went to a house and borrowed a red dress,  (at that point the “other jeffrey” fell asleep from imbibing too many cervezas the night before).  Finally it is my turn.   This is roughly what I come up with.

(Roughly Translated).  “One day I went to visit my friend Willy, but he wasn’t home.The door was open so I went inside.   I couldn’t find her in the living room.  He wasn’t in the bedroom, or the bathroom.  Finally I looked in the kitchen.  He wasn’t there,  I decided to wait for him and have a beer and chilli con carne.  When I opened the fridge I found a body cut in four pieces……”

(Who would have  thought that the vocabulary from the “Three Little Pigs” would come in handy so quickly…

Isle stopped me there.

Meanwhile in my class with Daisy, she moved our conversations into controversial areas.  What did I think of abortion?   What about gay rights?

I had to stop her and tell her I didn’t think these were subjects I’d be discussing  very often in Spanish.   I was more interested in useful topics like  “Can I get fries with that Hamburger?  and “Excuse me, there is a rat in my room.”

On  Thursday they took me and one other student into San Jose to visit the National Museum, which on the surface,  seemed like a good idea.  After all, they wouldn’t  have to teach me that day.

After being dragged around the museum we finally arrive at  “the ritual area” which has a large display of penises of all shapes, sizes.  Both women seemed a bit uncomfortable around this display  and want to move on to the pottery display.  Sensing their discomfort  I decide to show some interest. 

“¿Qué son estos? “ (What are these?) I ask in a loud voice.

In hushed terms they try to explain (The “other Jeffrey “ missed the bus to the museum, so I don’t have a clue what they’re saying.)

“No entiendo” I reply loudly.

They try again.

“Hablar más alto. No puedo escuchar.” ( speak louder I can’t hear you.)  I respond.
“¿Qué más se les llama?”  (what else are they called?)
and finally, the piece d’resistance (not spanish)
“"¿Dónde van las pilas?" (Where do the batteries go?)

I am quickly ushered from the museum by the two beet red faced teachers and put on a bus home.  Luckily for me there is only one more day of school left.

So did I learn anything useful?  Well when my wife Michele now asks me to do something I  smile and reply:
“No entiendo.”
I just better make sure there are no pointers or rulers nearby

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Steven King meets Harry Potter: Attack of the Killer Ants...

Well it’s been an exciting week here in Yelapa highlighted by the attack of the killer ants.  There are ants and there are ants… and then there’s Yelapa ants. These ants travel in huge columns – like soldiers on the march – devouring everything   (Veni, Vici, Comi” (I came, I saw, I ate)…   and I mean everything in sight.

How scary are they?   Check out this on the internet.

I don’t mind the odd ant or two in the house, but when they are pouring in as if shot out of a garden hose,  it’s downright disconcerting.  Remember Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds?”   Instead of birds imagine ants.  Last Friday night as I was preparing dinner  Michele pointed to the kitchen window. Pouring through a crack in the casement was a torrent of ants – thousands of them.  In the few seconds they marched up the wall towards the ceiling.   The wall which is normally lime green in colour was transformed into a moving sea of black.  

Usually my first response to any life threatening  event is to grab my camera.  I remember when my daughter was three years old.  She was sitting on the kitchen counter dressed in her Hallowe’en outfit when she toppled off the counter and fell head first into a pail of water.  Did I immediately yank her out of the bucket?  Well, in this case I did; but before I did anything else I grabbed my camera.  

A couple of weeks ago when Michele was confronted by a  huge snake did I jump in front of her to protect her?  No.  I ran back for my camera.  But in this case I was so shocked by what I was witnessing I forgot all about my camera and grabbed for the can of RAID, which seemed like using a peashooter against an elephant.

As fast as I could spray them, more came in.  The floor was littered with dead and twitching ants.  After depleting an entire can of raid, Michele and I lacking gas masks,  retreated to the patio.  When we returned twenty minutes later the ants were in full retreat leaving piles of their dead comrades on the floor.  

Michele swept up dustpan full of the carcases while I went outside to see where the ants had gone.  To my dismay they hadn’t retreated back to the jungle.  Instead they were marching down the side of the house to the NEXT window.  Another full can of RAID beat back most of this attack.   The rest of the evening was spent fighting off subsequent invasions.  Luckily they gave up around midnight.  Good thing, though, since I was nearly out of RAID.  The rest of the subsequent evenings have been spent nervously scanning the walls to see if they’ve returned.  Several times a night I’d wake up grab my flashlight and do my own march around the house searching for “scouts.”  Any ant I came across  immediately got gassed. 

We couldn’t continue this way, so I asked some of the locals what they do when they encountered an ant invasion.  Many of them told me to do nothing.  They they told  me they take their pets and get out of the house.
“You can’t stop them,” said one. “You leave for three hours or so, and they’ll be gone.  They’ll take everything with them, though.  Any scrap of food, any bugs they find, even small electronic devices….   Of course the good news is that if they find any scorpions, they’ll take them as well.” 
Well it’s good to know there’s a silver lining to every cloud.

We weren’t keen on “the get out of the way” option.  What if they decided our place is great and they want to stay?  What if they decided they needed to come back for  the furniture and fridge?

The "strange" tienda 
I mentioned my problem to my friend Dave in Vancouver.  Dave told me when he stayed in Yelapa they had a similar invasion and the owner of the place put some special powder down and the ants  magically disappeared.  so  I asked the owner of the place they stayed where to get “the special powder.”  He told me it was only available at one place in Yelapa – a place with ominous name of “Gorgonias Tienda.”   A place named after a gorgon – the Greek Monster that had the head full of snakes?  I was beginning to feel I was in a Steven King novel.  What’s more interesting is that I’d been in Yelapa nearly ten years and never seen that store When I asked him where it was, here’s what he told me.
“It is down the hill from Trini's Juice Bar on your left just before Mimis.
It is just a window that you go up to, not an actual store”.

“My response was “Does the train to Hogwarts stop there?”  I wandered around the little paths behind Mimis and sure enough, there was a “window” I swear I’d never seen before.  It wasn’t big - maybe  four feet by three feet.  I looked inside and it was quite dark.  I could just make out a few cans of things in the gloom - but nothing that looked like ant powder.  Further I couldn’t see anyone minding the window.   I stared for a few moments until I heard someone say “Hola, Senior, Puedo Ayudarte?”  Startled, I turned around and there in the ally way beside the store was an old guy sitting on a chair.   Michele and I hadn’t noticed them when we arrived.  I told him I wanted something for the ants.  “Raid?” he asked.  I told him I wanted the “special powder.”  He looked at me for a moment then disappeared into a door way.  A few moments later he reappeared holding a silver pouch.  “Thirty pesos, senior.”  I gave him his thirty pieces of pesos and took the package.

When Michele and I returned to our casa the first order of business was to try and decipher the instructions on the package.  They were all in Spanish.  There didn’t seem to be too much information.  There was just a series of ominous warnings:
Secret Powder - Don't feed to Mogwai after midnight
1.       Don’t apply when it’s too hot out.
2.      Don’t apply when it’s too cold out.
3.      Don’t apply if it’s windy
4.      Don’t apply if it’s raining or looks like it’s going to rain.

From this I deduced that I could only apply this shit between the hours of 2am and 4am on odd days of the week in months that don’t have an “R” in them.

The warning continued:
 Don’t inhale the powder
5.      Don’t ingest the powder
6.      Don’t let the powder touch your skin
7.      Don’t let the powder get near your eyes
8.      Don’t use near pets
9.      Don’t use near children
10.  Don’t let the Mogwai eat the powder after midnight…(No, wait, that was from Gremlins)

Jeff in Yelapa biocontainment suit
Since I forgot to bring my biocontainment suit from home we had to concoct an  outfit and applicator for me to use so I wouldn’t gas myself applying it.  I worried if I did kill myself applying the powder the ants would carry me off into the jungle and Michele would have a problem claiming my insurance without a body.
“Why isn’t there any body?”
“He was eaten by ants.”
“Right, sure lady,” and where did this supposedly take place?”
“In Yelapa.”
“Okay, will you take a cheque?”

Using the same logic the French used during WW2 constructing the Maginot Line I only applied the powder to the two sides of the house the ants had attacked before.  (And how did that strategy work out for the French?)  Last night was the first night since I applied the magic powder.  So far so good…  not an ant in sight.  The other good thing is I haven’t heard or seen the neighbours dog.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Croquet – Yelapa Rules and A glitzy Star Wars Opening in Yelapa

Greetings again from Yelapa JANUARY 12, 2016

It’s been an exciting week here in Yelapa: A shipwreck and a glitzy opening of the new Star Wars movie.  Yes, Star Wars has come to Yelapa – just seven minutes after the first screening in China:  not only an opening, but an outdoor screening at the Oasis Entertainment Complex where you can not only watch a major Hollywood blockbuster, but listen to Mexican jazz and play croquet all at the same time.

Oasis Entertainment Complex
Outdoor movies at the Oasis aren’t a rarity; but a screening of a major Hollywood Blockbuster just a week or so after it’s opening is noteworthy.  The Oasis has spared no expense for this screening.  They’ve hung the big king-size bed sheet, and dragged out the big nine inch bookcase speakers to give the audience a true monophonic audio experience.

Michele and I have opted to miss the star studded opening here in Yelapa even though it meant missing  some of Yelapa celebrities march down the red burlap carpet.  We were worried about The "Yogamists" picketing the event, but they’ve been busy with their latest campaign to ban noisy fireworks here in Yelapa – like the spectacular three minute  New Year’s Symphony of Fire claiming the noise  upsets the local animals (as in their  dogs and cats).  Of course they’ve not mentioned a word about the local animals that are loaded with bags of concrete and marched to and from the local construction sites sand five times a day.  They are planning a crowdfunding website to provide earplugs for the dogs and diapers for the burros.

This weekend’s beginning of the NFL playoffs is being overshadowed by the beginning of the Croquet season here in Yelapa.  It may be NFL in the states, NHL in Canada and the World’s Cup in Europe, but in Yelapa everything stops when croquet season begins here.   The whole thing ends in February with a huge quadruple knockout tournament  where teams of expats compete for the Yelapa Cup while amused locals bet pesos on their favourite teams. 

Michele and I dropped by the Oasis earlier in the week to scout some of the local teams.  There was a lot of action on the croquet pitch and we were treated to some spirited banter between the teams.

“Who’s turn is it?”
“I don’t know.  Who went last?”
“Is that a green ball or a blue one?”
“That’s my foot!”

Well you get the idea.   I’ve edited a “highlight reel” of the exciting action.  Make sure you’re seated when you’re watching it. 

"Before" shot of Canadian Yacht
The other big news is the “shipwreck.”  Earlier this week an expensive Yacht flying the  Canadian flag showed up in the harbour.  For a couple of days the boat zipped in and out of the harbour then suddenly disappeared.  The next day we heard it had run up on the rocks around the corner from the Yelapa landmark romantically known as “Shit Rock” (because of all the colourful bird droppings).  Rumours are the owner had one too many Molsons when he put it on the rocks.   Before it could be salvaged the boat was smashed to bits by the heavy surf.    For the next week bits and pieces have been littering the local beach. 

No sign of “Tick-Tock the Yelapa Croc” or “Bobby the Boa” for the past week, Michele spotted an Iguana the size of a small pickup truck in the tree above our patio. He’s a “second generation herbivore” (definition: an animal that eats the animals that eat leafs (as in Toronto Maple Leafs).

More from Yelapa next week.  Below you’ll see another excerpt from my trip to Costa Rica a few years ago that culminated in my fleeing the country with a price on my head.  


the Arenal Volcano  - Is it paper mache?
Well after a week of school (being taught by the dynamic tag team duo of Ilse and Daisy) I opted for a much needed weekend getaway.   One of the premier places to visit in Costa Rica is the Arenal Volcano, so I signed up for an overnight tour.  The drive is part of the Pan American Highway that runs from Alaska to the tip of Peru.  In theory you CAN travel the entire length of this highway, you might want to think twice before doing parts of it.  You might want to consider safer alternatives like taking a leisurely cruise off Somalia in a luxury yacht flying a dollar sign for a flag.  The Somalian pirates send their trainees to Central America for lessons in piracy.   No problem on the Costa Rica section though - the highway is safe except for the massive amount of trucks moving up and down the highway.

As we approach the volcano we are told it is very dangerous and that we should not go anywhere close to it. We are only to observe it from a safe distance.  Evidently people have been killed by “invisible” gas flows from the mountain.  If the clouds stay off the volcano in the evening we will   be driven somewhere where we can see the red magma – not visible in the daytime.

Local attraction at the Hot Springs
In the meantime are driven to a huge hot springs resort where we while the afternoon away being alternatively boiled and chilled.  The complex has twenty different pools - each a different design and temperature.  Several of them even have waterslides and wet bars.   After being boiled to the consistency of a well done egg I sidled up to one of the bars to order a beer.  When I was quoted a price of seven US dollars for one I apologized and said there must be some mistake.   I simply asked to buy a beer, not the entire bar.

The Arenal Vacancy viewing spot
That evening we went to a restaurant for dinner and to wait for it to be dark enough to observe the volcano.  While we were having coffee I noticed an employee uncoiling a huge extension cord and heading off in the direction of Volcano.   It was at that moment I realized the Arenal volcano was actually a fake – made of paper mache and would not survive close scrutiny – which is why they would not let us get closer to it.  The Arenal Volcano was, in fact, the world’s largest grade three science project.
When our guide decides it is dark enough we travel to a vantage sight and stand around and take pictures of each other taking pictures of each other.   After twenty minutes of seeing nothing we return to the café for coffee and dessert.  It is at that moment I notice I had accidentally kicked out the extension cord from the outlet which is why we didn’t see anything at the Volcano.   



Monday, January 4, 2016

Besieged by the Yelapa Yogamists and New Year's Eve in Yelapa

Happy New Years and greetings from Yelapa. 

I seem to have got myself into problems here with the local Yoga group.  They’ve put a contract out on me.  It’s unsafe for me to go out here late at night in the off chance that I find myself confronted by a group of  radicalized Yogamists who have been instructed to fold me into a pretzel and leave me for the scorpions behind one of the local eateries.

Is it just one croc.... or are there three?
It all started with the crocodile I mentioned in the last post.  It came to my attention that at one of the recent Yoga On The Beach mornings several of the group reported seeing not one – but three crocodiles swimming by!  I commented on the Friends of Yelapa Facebook page I found the reports somewhat suspect given that they were all a bunch of raving vegetarians  bent into weird positions that starve the brain for oxygen.  I would tend to believe the report if I saw actual pictures.  Some how some of them were offended by that.

 "I don't find it proper to go around bashing what doesn't suit you...I hope you stay the hell away from Yelapa from now on and go vacation in a spot where no one practices Yoga. … It's completely irrelevant to have this guy bash the people that practice yoga. He is poking fun at those that choose to participate in something spiritual and healthy”

The ever popular Yoga on the Beach
I have been tagged as a “Yoga hater” and asked why I chose the Yoga group to “disparage” (had to look that word up).  I responded stating that I did not choose their group lightly – but only after careful thought and consideration did I come to the conclusion that if I was going to pick any group to piss off a yoga group might be the safest.  I figured there was little chance that I might get waylaid by a group of Hells Grannies behind the local vegetarian restaurant here in Yelapa.   Seems I was wrong.

Don’t get me wrong: I highly respect and admire the practitioners of Yoga.  Yoga is one of the world’s great spiritual and ascetic disciplines – along with Tai Chai, Tai Chi, Tai Kwon Do and Simon Says.  I did not realize that it could also harbor fanatic radicalized individuals I’ve labeled “Yogamists” – think of Islamists – only more limber.  Maybe I should send their comments to Charlie Hebdo who have a lot experience dealing with fanatics who believe it’s their way or the highway.  If you wish to weigh in on the debate here’s the link to the page.

Thursday night was New Year’s Eve here in Yelapa, complete with live entertainment and a dazzling three minute firework display accompanied by a “banda band comprised of three tubas and trumpet.

The Tuba is a much maligned instrument in Canada and the US.  When we think of tuba players we think of  “Tubby the Tuba” or the fat kid in the marching band.  In Canada and the US the tuba simply isn’t a cool instrument. 

You don’t hear many conversations like, “Hey we’re having a cookout this weekend.  Think you could bring your tuba?” or “We’re thinking of putting a band together.  We’ve got two guitars, a bass, and a string section, but we’re missing the tuba.  You interested?”

 “Why did the chicken cross the road?”
“To get away from the tuba recital.”

“What do you throw a drowning tuba player?”
“His case.”

But that’s not the case here in Mexico.  In Mexico, the tuba rules - they can’t get enough tuba.  During any live performance (and I’m not making this up) you can hear people screaming “Tuba! Tuba! Tuba!”  - begging for a tuba solo. 

Here in Mexico the tuba players are cool dudes and you don’t want to mess with them – especially if they’re playing narco tunes.

The music is actually known as “Banda” music and is said to have derived from polka music – one of my other favourite types of music.   The think with the tuba, is that the low frequency sound rattles windows and loose dental filings for miles.  There is no way to block it out.  You either have to learn to block it out somehow or embrace it.  On New Year’s Eve Yelapa featured two dueling tuba bands – and the music went on till six in the morning!   When it comes to celebrating New Year’s Eve  little Yelapa can teach the big cities a thing or two.

This week I’m continuing my misadventures in Costa Rica from a few years ago.  That trip culminated with letters to the editor in their national paper calling for my  expulsion from the country and not just a few death threats.  We’ll get there – eventually.  So here’s the second instalment.


San Jose - address unkown
 Well it’s now Wednesday or Mercedes or something like that in Spanish. I have been here four days now and I’m beginning to settle into a routine.   My first day was a bit strenuous.  I was quite worried about getting to school the first day, so my host, Nuri agreed to walk me there – like a six year old going to school for the first day (or any Asian kid under the age of 30 in Vancouver). 

In retrospect even a two year old couldn’t get lost.  You simply walk to the end of the block to the main street, turn right, walk to the corner with the big cell tower.  Turn right again and walk about 8 blocks till you get to the school.   Never the less I wasn’t taking any chances.  As Nuri walked with me, I would stop every fifty paces and carefully map where we’d just been - marking down store names and landmarks.  I continued doing this much to Nuri’s annoyance until she deposited me at the school’s front door and went back home.   
Advanced Spanish Studies

After school, I carefully followed my map home:  down the street to the cell tower; turn left and continue to the stairs in the park where I turn into Nuri’s subdivision.  I should be fifty feet now from home (or mi casa as they say here).  But suddenly I’m hopelessly lost.
Obviously someone has MOVED Nuri’s house!   I retrace my steps and then try different side streets in the subdivision and become even more lost.  Finally after 40 minutes I stop a kid and ask for directions.   Oh did I mention they don’t have street names?   Not even main streets! I am really tempted to change things!   I’m thinking of making some street names (GROBERMAN Street) seems like a nice name for the main drag, and late one night nailing them up and see if I can start something.  

Anyways I digress -  I tell the kid I’m lost and hand him my emergency information Nuri pinned to my shirt, and he calls her and tells her I’m lost and roughly where we are.  In about 5 minutes Nuri comes puffing up the street clucking like an angry hen.  She thanks the kid and takes me by the hand and drags me home. 

You’ll be pleased to know that I’m the best student in the school!   In fact I’m odds on favourite to be the school valedictorian.   This is not due to my brilliance as a student; but the fact I am “Thee” student.   There’s just me.

Tag Team teachers Illse and Daisy
My teacher for the past three days has been Ilse.  Ilse is another widow – they seem to grow a lot of them here in Costa Rica.  I don’t think Ile likes teaching me a lot.  I hear her grinding her teeth a lot when I smile and say my two favourite Spanish words “No Comprendo!”

In our conversations which are 20% Spanish, 30% English and 40% pantomime, Ilse tells me she isn’t impressed with Canadian students – she says we’re all too shy and introverted.   I have a sudden urge to leap up at her and squeeze her left boob twice and say “Honk!  Honk!”   I’ll bet that would change her mind about Canadians.  Instead I smile and nod.

Today Ilse wasn’t there.  I evidently wore her out.  So I had Daisy instead.   Daisy is like her name -  nice and bright - and I get along well with her.   I don’t know if she’s permanent or I’ll get Ilse again when she’s released from the sanitarium.

Breakfast at Nuri's
 At home Nuri is great:  she caters to my every need – well nearly every need.  All I have to do is look up and smile and food and drink magically appear.  There’s a lot of variety: some days we have rice and beans, and the next beans and rice.  Dr. Atkins never visited Costa Rica.   Carbs rule here!!  Did I mention she serves the meals with BEER?  

All meals at Nuri’s are proceeded by prayers:   Nuri covers her bases in about three minutes mentioning all relatives, living and dead and sick friends.  I notice I’m included, but I’m not sure in what context.    She looks up at me and I smile and nod.

With no other students to interact with there isn’t much to do here except drink beer and watch TV.   Wait a minute!   That’s what I do at home.  On the weekend I’ve signed up for a tour of the Volcanos.  If thinks don’t liven up, I might jump in to see what happens.

I’ll report back after that.   Until then 


Senior Jeff

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