This weekend was the one moment of the year when a certain island full of millionaires “allows” garage sales. Once “allowed,” they do it up right.
If I were a millionaire I think I’d just give all my excess stuff to Goodwill rather than sit out in the hot sun (or rain; but this weekend it was sun) and peddle stuff for a few bux. Nevertheless, 147 households held “official” sales (there’s a map and everything, not to mention an entry fee just to get on the island) and dozens set up unofficial ones.
I have a friend who’s lived offshore for … I don’t know how long. Long time. Decades, maybe. He believes that any USSA freedomista who doesn’t quickly move off to furrin parts is doooooooomed and he plans to be shouting, “I told you so!” as various vast edifi of a collapsing state crush us into pulp.
Could be, could be.
Freedomistas who stay in the U.S. could be in as much denial as those German Jews who are cited so often today. Part of being in denial is not knowing that you are.
That’s one reason I went to Panama four years ago and Nicaragua this month. Perspective. Checking things out. (Getting to be warm in winter didn’t hurt, either.)
But I’m probably not going back. Unless something big comes along (e.g. a millionaire sweeping me off my feet and urging me to live with him forever in his seaside villa in Costa Rica — an event as likely as winning the lottery then being abducted by aliens on the way home with my multi-million dollar check) — it just ain’t happening. Reasons? Many and various.
Where? Granada, Nicaragua (as Shel guessed first, with a couple others close behind).
Nicaragua??? Yep. I was amused, and not at all surprised, that nobody even mentioned Nicaragua as a possibility until I gave those hints. After all, isn’t Nicaragua the land of Sandinistas and Contras? Isn’t it a socialist country? Isn’t it the place where former revolutionary Daniel Ortega has more recently done what all former revolutionaries do when they gain political power — declare the official language of the country to be Swedish declare himself presidente for life. (Well, effectively so) and plaster the country with his own “heroic” face?
(I didn’t get a chance to photograph the 2014 version of this billboard. Had to copy this one online, but rest assured the current ones are similar and even more grandiose.)
I’m not there any more. If all’s gone well, I’m on my way home as you read this. So it’s time to reveal the Secret Location.
Or rather, it’s time to start by giving some better hints than I’ve offered so far. A prize will be offered to the first person who names both the country and the city where I stayed.
Hint 1 is a photo you’ve already seen. It was the first photo I posted on my travels, in fact. I didn’t realize it at the time, but to anybody who knows this part of the world, that mosaic man isn’t just a design. He’s a specific, historic individual, well known in these parts. He is often depicted only as a dark, symbolic shape.
Here it is again:
Hint 2 is also in a photo I posted before. But that time, I cheated and altered one big detail. Here’s the photo unaltered:
A prize (not sure what, but we’ll work out something whether it be a tacky souvenir, an autographed book, or a small personal favor) goes to the first person who can name both the city and the country that I spent the last week in. If nobody gets it from this post and earlier ones, I’ll give some more hints.
Don’t just aim for the name of the country; that’ll only help the next person. Correct country and city wins the prize. Extra hint: These two photos would give a savvy person the country. City might have to be inferred from these and everything else I’ve posted (and will post later on if somebody doesn’t come up with the right answer immediately).
That’s David (Da-VEED), my tour guide. I had him all to myself, since I was the only passenger on the boat. Sort of a waste for the tour company, but good for me.
He was a really good kid, and ambitious enough to end up owning the tour company (if not a whole string of them) someday. He was the middle child of a farm family who learned English by taking lessons from a neighbor (over the objections of his father and older siblings) and is now in his third year of college, also over their objections, paying as he goes for his degree.
Eat your heart out, all my snowbound, windblown friends
This is where the tour stopped for lunch
Not a very good picture, but you get the idea. I ordered fish fingers, which turned out to involve actual fish (crunchy skin-on), not the processed things I’d usually associate with that name. They came with fried plantains, pico de gallo, and another sauce I couldn’t identify. Tasty! And you sure couldn’t beat the view.
Unfortunately some people still have to work
These guys were fishing. The one in the foreground was in charge of a net (which he had completely over his head, though it doesn’t show in the photo). The man in the rearground would furiously beat the water with a stick, then help the other man corral the discombobulated pescados into the net.
David took the opportunity to give me a Spanish lesson.
I can now say:
Tengo dos perros en mi casa. Uno es macho. Otra es hembra. El macho se llama Robbie y tiene trece años. La hembra se llama Ava y tiene ocho años.
Thanks to helpful Jorge in comments, I can now also ask for restaurant food to go (para llevar) without implying that major organs might be torn out of anyone’s body in the process.
David and I also had an interesting conversation about translating idiomatic expressions. I used “break a leg” as an example. He got the idea about using a special “bad luck” phrase as a good luck wish, but was bemused that it was mostly only for actors. I told him that the equivalent, in Italian, was in bocca al lupo (“in the mouth of the wolf”) — totally different expression but the exact same idea. He couldn’t think of any Spanish equivalent, though I imagine there must be one, superstition about luck being pretty universally human.
I tried getting a Spanish equivalent for “on the fly.” That concept he couldn’t get at all. He first suggested immediato, then suggested something to do with making mistakes from hasty judgment. I said, “Close but no banana.” Which didn’t help matters at all.
I don’t make a habit of that. Not in the usual run of things. I’m pretty sure it’s because of this verse:
A man walks down the street
It’s a street in a strange world
Maybe it’s the Third World
Maybe it’s his first time around
He doesn’t speak the language
He holds no currency
He is a foreign man
He is surrounded by the sound
Cattle in the marketplace
Scatterlings and orphanages
He looks around, around
He sees angels in the architecture
Spinning in infinity
He says Amen and Hallelujah!
Precisely. Except that instead of cattle in the marketplace it was goats in the park. Definitely lots of angels in the architecture. I don’t think gringos hold much currency here in the philosophical sense. Whether I should be trusted to hold currency in the literal sense is another question. By tomorrow, every vendor in the town square will probably have me in his or her sights.
Not up for a big post today. Just thought I’d introduce you to my neighbors here at the B&B:
They’re from New Orleans. They flew down here one day after being part of the Skull & Bones Gang that wakes people up early for Mardi Gras. Um … that’s when the photo was taken. They’re dressing considerably more casually here. :-)
“Your bathroom has an electric shower head,” my host explained.
“Huh?” I observed wittily.
“They’re very big down here. Don’t touch it.”
I took one look and knew I’d be taking that advice very, very seriously. Yes, that’s an electrical outlet — a non-GFI electrical outlet — there above the shower head, poised to commit shocking mayhem to the unwary. (I don’t know what that sticky-outy thing is on the right. Don’t ask me; all I know is I’m not touching it, either.)
Furrydoc emailed after reading yesterday’s post and asked if the B&B where I’m staying has a “suicide shower.” I’d never heard the term, but I knew instantly that, yes, that’s exactly what it has. It’s a small, wildly unsafe, on-demand water heater.
Besides being a threat to life, it heats water only to the temperature of tepid tea.
This post is titled in honor of LarryA’s observation that one thing worse than a rambunctious toddler is a “grownup” tourist who goes to furrin parts, then grouses the whole time that, “This isn’t the way we do things back home.”
I’m not grousing. What, me grouse? But one of the things you certainly notice in furrin parts is that they do things in furrin ways.
Yes, Americans are famously and notoriously surprised at this. One reason I travel even though (have I mentioned?) that I hate traveling is to reality-check myself on how the other — and really much larger — half lives.
Anyhow, since the U.S. is slowly headed for third-world-dom, the knowledge might come in handy at home someday.
Cheers and thanks to Texans, Wyoming Mamas, and all who extended invites to stop by while “on the road.”
But I now confess that “road” was a slight misnomer.
I am in furrin parts. The only “road” portions of the trip were the three-hour drive to the airport in the dark in a storm (have I mentioned before that I hate to travel?) and the hair-raising drive from the airport to a B&B with a driver to whom my language was as furrin as his was to me. (“Donde you?” “Vengo Washington state, USA.” “Ah, Barack Obama, El Presidente!” “No, el otro Washington.”)
I had the opportunity to come here for next to nothing, checking out another potential “offshoring” destination. So here I am.
That’s the view from my room at a B&B.
Of course, there’s a resident dog.
Actually there are two resident dogs, but the second is hiding — horrified by the hyperactive toddler* belonging to the other guests (a very nice family determined that all their children will travel to Latin America and start learning Spanish before they’re two).
This is my room, where I’m also hiding momentarily from the toddler (and from more socialization than my hermitty heart is ready to handle, despite everybody being very interesting).
That first photo, with the fountain, mosaic, and miniature pool, is actually the middle of the house. Outdoors, but still basically the living room. The guest bedrooms border it, and we guests have actual walls, though not actual glass windows. The family that lives here comes up short in the wall department. Their bathroom and al fresco kitchen is at one end of the courtyard, and there’s a shady sitting room with a hammock at the other, both wide open to the atrium.
I’d find it rather weird to have strangers swimming between my TV room and my kitchen, but everybody here seems to consider it quite the usual thing.
I haven’t been out of this deliciously cozy courtyard home since arriving yesterday so sleep-deprived and travel weary that I could scarcely remember my name.
I intend to remedy that situation shortly. And will keep on reporting as long as the slightly iffy wifi holds up.
As I did last time, I’ll reveal the Secret Location after I return to “Barack Obamaland” next week. Meantime, you’re welcome to guess and I’ll probably drop some pretty obvious clues without even realizing I’m doing it.
*Is there such a thing as a non-hyperactive toddler?
Thanks also to the near neighbor in these furrin parts who offered to meet up, hang out, and tour around with me. I didn’t mean to snub you, as I hope you understand. You’ve been more than helpful. But I’m mainly here to rest. It’s been nearly a year since my life has felt like my own & I just needed a time without commitments.
Oh. And being warm. In March. You know, that’s a glorious thing.