Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Desperately Seeking Simon Bolivar

Some people, most people, when they visit foreign countries, go to museums, churches, cathedrals, palaces and castles, quaint little villages, night markets (foto left), mountains and waterfalls, stuff like that. I teach and ride around in cars. So you don't get stories about, you know, cathedrals and stuff. You get stories about riding around in cars.

The last time I wrote about riding in cars was in Shanghai, where, oddly enough, the taxi drivers seem to speak only Chinese, and the directions are all in Chinese.

So. I'm in San Jose, Costa Rica. Or at least, I was when I wrote this. I'm excited. I'll be able to read the street signs. I'll know where I'm going. I can even speak a little Spanish. I can say, look, there it is, the school we're looking for! Drive past it and I'll hit you in the cabeza with a stale burrito! Don't mess with me, hombre! I can read here! None of this Chinese character stuff. Real letters and real words. OK, not being culturally sensitive here, but cultural sensitivity means squat when you're being sold into white devil slavery in Shanghai.

I arrive in Costa Rica totally pumped. Street signs! Letters! Real words!

Hah! is what the driving demons say to that.

Here's the thing about San Jose. The streets have no names. 

Not, they have no street signs, though of course there are no street signs. The streets have no names, except for downtown and a few upscale neighborhoods. Nothing has a name, and nothing is written down in any language anywhere. Chinese would be a breath of fresh air. Klingon would be a breath of fresh air. (That's the Klingon alphabet. Of course there's a Klingon alphabet.)

So when you get directions, they look like this:

"Colegio Palabra de Vida, 300 metros norte de la Panasonic, San Antonio de Belen, (entrada opuesto de la entrada de la Panasonic, entre la venta de carros y el lava-car.)"

Here's what I think it says (I'm fractionally better at Spanish than Chinese): "Word of Life School, 300 meters north of the Panasonic building in San Antonio, Belen, (entrance opposite the entrance to the Panasonic, between the used car place and the car wash place.)" No address to anything, no street names, no house or building numbers, just landmarks. 

I was driven from my friend Michael's house to my hotel. He looked it up on Google Maps. His wife Beatriz said, go to Envio Park and drive around. It's there somewhere. Ask somebody. Sometimes the landmarks aren't even there any more. You know. Turn left where that big tree used to be. It's just across from where Simon Bolivar beat the barbarians and conquered Latin America and broke that poor girl's heart her mother was sooo upset.

It's like being on a roller coaster with blinders. 

My drivers turn right or left at every corner, going up and down steep gullies, just like they're secret agents trying to see if anyone is following them, for hour after hour. I think I've seen the whole town, and I don't remember any of it. It's very nice, very pretty, interesting. But it's like the movie 50 First Dates. Every time I drive in San Jose, it's like a brand new town that I've never seen. 

And of course, I never have any idea where we're going, because every time the driver hits a corner, he turns. And then we get within, like, a square mile of wherever it is we're going, and the drivers are stopping to ask people where it is. And they go, Simon Bolivar? No, that's the next block over, I think. This is where the Aztecs used to throw the virgins into the volcanoes. Those are gone now. Now it's the Panasonic building. 

It takes so long that if I had some virgins and volcanoes handy, well, I'm just sayin'. 

BTW, I'm thinkin' they call it "lava-car" because there used to be volcanoes. Right there.

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