Friday, April 4, 2008

San Jose

Not a lot to do here in San Jose so I'm going to head out of here this afternoon. In the week I've been in Central America I've only stayed in one place more than one night. But I have to stay moving to cover all of it in only 6 weeks. Nobody really spends much time here's more of a weigh station for people on their way out to the wilderness areas. I spent the day wandering about the far I've seen very few street signs in Central America...maybe one in 10 intersections will have one sign somewhere if you look long enough. And occasionally, you'll see the random sign on a building telling you what street you're on, but mainly you have to navigate with landmarks and by counting blocks...or just keep asking directions.

As far as asking directions goes I take a different approach down here. At home I almost never ask for directions. I generally have a map with me, or a pretty good idea of where I am going so to have to ask directions seems a failure on my part...thus I do not do it. Also I like to figure things out and since the layout of the roads usually make sense one should be able to figure out where they are going without too much trouble. Here, on the other hand, I cannot count on the road grid making sense and more often than not have no map, so I ask directions. Furthermore, it is an excuse to talk to someone and practice my Spanish. However, the help I get is generally very limited in its value. Oftentimes, the locals will not seem to know what the name of the street we are standing on is or will reference points or buildings that I am unfamiliar with. And they generally give directions by saying -go up 3 blocks- or -at the corner go down a block- without telling you which corner or other point of reference from your initial location. But you normally can determine which way is -down- or -up- since a lot of these cities are near the ocean, other body of water, or mountain. I tend to have a hard time with the directions, in any case, and generally just head off for a ways in the direction they point and then ask someone else.

At any rate, the only thing of note I did here was visit the embassy to get more pages in my passport. Surprisingly I got that accomplished in a little over an hour despite the hordes of people inside. Turned out to be an entertaining hour as an older, retired gentlemen sat next to me in the 'US passport help' line and began by asking me with a smirk..."What did you lose your passport?" I informed I was there to get more pages and he mentioned that he had to do that 4 times with his last passport and that it was as thick as a dictionary when it expired. He also apparently fought off armed Mexican bandits with a wrench when they attacked his 'convoy' when he was moving down here, rode 36 hours non-stop from Reno to Omaha on a 600cc motorcycle, and was involved in the creation of a water-powered dune buggy. The head man on the dune buggy project was apparently poisoned by the government because the government is in the pockets of the Saudis. Entertaining if nothing else, although I think the information he had about retiring in Panama was at least half accurate. I also talked with two other guys that had had ALL their stuff stolen (which is definitely something you pray doesn't ever happen); one of them said he didn't have a police report because the incident happened right in front of police so he didn't see the point. CR seems fairly safe but if you don't watch your stuff someone will most definitely relieve you of it.

The photos are of cows...what passes for art down here... They are all over the city in different parks and tourist areas. The park with this particular cow is home to a large memorial to the defeat of William Walker. Mr. Walker and his private army tried to make several different Latin American coutries/regions into US states during the mid 1800´s. He was actually tried and acquitted of ¨conducting an illegal war¨ in Baja. In the end, he failed in all attemps obviously, and was executed by the Hondurans at the behest of the British in whose interests his ends were at odds . The Nicaraguans (whom he actually ruled over briefly) apparently celebrate his defeat every year, although I´m not sure why the celebration given Nicaragua´s status as the poorest country in the hemisphere save Haiti. But then a win is a win and national pride is a funny thing...¨it may not be that great...but it´s ours!¨

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