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Life in the Campo - Verbal QuickSand

Started by crtreedude, November 03, 2005, 07:14:03 PM

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Since you all such good friends I thought I would subject you to some of my writing. If you like it, there are plenty more (perhaps too many) at our website. Any, this is one I just finished, I hope you enjoy it.

------------------ Verbal Quicksand -------------------

I have been informed that I have achieved a new personal best (or worst) in confusing and being confused. Just like all records, you need to have a witness, of which there were several in this case. In fact, I was not aware that I was setting a record until it wandered back to me from the grapevine. I suspect that the telling of it was accompanied by rolling of eyes and snorts of laughter.

Like many records of note, it required more than one day. It all started when I was down on Finca #1 and a worker named Greiven told me he might need to go to Finca #2 to work. He asked if I could give him a ride and if we could first stop at his home so that he could get a change of clothes, because he was planning on going back with me to the city afterward, if I didn't mind. All fine and good. I am fairly certain I understood all of this, but I have noticed that when I stop, often a tico will be very clear with instructions like "Stay Fred, stay." I suppose there must have been times when I have gone driving off when they wanted me to wait. I notice in these situations I only need two words, espero or voy ("I wait" or "I go"). I have a 50 percent chance of using the right one, so I think that's pretty good.

Honestly, my Spanish is coming along well. During normal conversation, I can understand and speak Spanish fairly rapidly. But the problem I'm running into is that when someone goes to ask me for something, because I am the patron, they are required to ask it as politely as they can. For example, if someone wants to ask me for a lift, it would be considered rude to say "Quisiera un raid" (I'd like a ride) so, normally it comes out like "Si se puede, me hiciera un favorcito si no tiene inconveniente -- por favor me da un raid cuando...." As nervous people speak very quickly, this all runs together. I might understand the por favor so I know I'm being asked for something. The rest is just polite noise.

Confused, I frown in concentration. More nervous, and afraid that perhaps they weren't polite enough, they wrap more and more words around it trying to make sure that I understand what they want and that I realize it is a great favor they are asking but perhaps I would be willing, etc. I have coined a phrase for what it feels like to sink under this barrage of roundabout phrases: verbal quicksand. When you find yourself in quicksand, you have to lunge for shore as quickly as possible or you'll be smothered. The verbal version of the lunge for shore is to smile and say "Sí!" -- not always a good thing, but this time, I did succeed in figuring out that Greiven wanted a ride, and we headed off together for Finca Leola #2.

Whenever I am with a person who only speaks Spanish, I make the most of the opportunity. Greiven is pretty shy, but I have managed to find a way to get him and the other workers to practice their Spanish with me. I tell them it is their job and they are to report the hours. Often we pay a little more for this, because teaching someone Spanish is considered a higher skill than chopping weeds. Perhaps in my case it is also considered more risky.

During the trip, we talked a lot about fishing, because I had been here for almost a year and hadn't been fishing much at all. And when I had been fishing, I hadn't been catching. Now, I like fishing as much as the next person, but there are times when I want to catch something. I figured talking to the locals was a good way to figure out how to succeed. What really had me interested is that Finca #2 has a very nice mountain river full of fish. We have about 1 kilometer of the Rio Cote there, very beautiful and exactly the kind of river I love to fish. It brings a smile to my face to be drifting bait through deep pools on a rock-filled mountain river surrounded by jungle with howler monkeys complaining that I'm in their territory.

I was fairly certain that Greiven had explained to me that we were going to the other finca to engage in moving pigs from a truck to the corral – I heard chancho mentioned a few times. Of course, being in the campo, the term for moving pigs from a truck to the corral is probably highly technical and only used in the Northern Zone. But, a few minutes after we arrived, Hector showed up in a pickup truck (not ours) loaded with two pigs weighing 200 kilos each and three good-size calves. I was pleased that I had had a pretty good idea of what was going on.

With Hector was his brother-in-law Francis, and it turns out that it was required that we show off the finca to him. At Finca #1, this is easy, because we have horses and at times we can actually drive it. But, forget it on Finca #2. We'd just bought it, so we didn't have horses yet, and there is no way to drive it. So we walked. Unfortunately, our guide was Justiniano, who weighs only 40 kilos and is as tough as nails. Have you ever been walking up a slope that looks like the Matterhorn while someone in front of you is whistling? Welcome to my life. I thought I was in good shape until I came to Costa Rica.

We had a great time just walking the finca, but after unknowingly committing myself to all of this, I had received a phone call saying that Ana, our assistant and housekeeper, wanted to go to Guatuso the next day, where Finca #2 is located. "Fine," I said, "I'll come back out here again tomorrow, and perhaps Ana can look over the house at the new place and give me an idea of what needs to be repaired." Supposedly, Hector and Justiniano had already done this, but they said the roof was fine, for example. It rained while I was there, and the kitchen resembled a shower. Men just don't know kitchens.

On the way back to the city, I stopped at a gas station to buy an ice cream bar for me and for Greiven. While there, Greiven saw his uncle, so he decided to go with him (perhaps being exhausted from trying to talk with me and looking at another 30 minutes of the same). Greiven worked at making sure that I understood he was going to stay with his uncle and that he didn't need a ride any more ("Go, Don Fred, go").

Hector was expecting Greiven to spend the night with him, so when I arrived back at the house, I got a call from Hector wondering where Greiven was. I explained that he had stayed with his uncle. No one believed me, so they went ahead and called Greiven to check out my story and make sure that I didn't just leave the poor boy somewhere. Yes, I was correct; however, they found out for me that Greiven was planning on riding out with me to Finca #2 again the next day. Interesting. I had missed that somewhere. Of course, since it was a request, I'm not surprised.

Ana normally translates for me at our office, especially over the phone. I explain to her what I understood, and she tries to figure out what the other person understood from me. Ana speaks only Spanish (though she is working on her English) so I am not that bad. So Ana arranged with Greiven for us to pick him up at an intersection near his uncle's place and take him to the finca.

The next morning, Ana and I and a bunch of stuff for her parents headed down the road for Guatuso. Ana was under clear instructions from my wife, Amy, to practice Spanish with me, so we spoke Spanish all the way there. We collected Greiven at the intersection, and when he and Ana started talking, she discovered why he was with us – he was expecting the two of us to go fishing together! If I had understood that, I would have brought my fishing gear.

I expected that when we arrived Ana would take a quick look around the casa and then she would leave, but when we got there, the sister-in-law of the family asked if I could bring her to Guatuso. I figured it would give Ana plenty of time to look at the house, and Guatuso is only 4 kilometers away. I took her to Guatuso and returned. Then Ana and Greiven informed me that they were ready to go look at the river – the same trek up and down the Matterhorn that we did the previous day! Okay, so off we went for about 2 hours. At least Jusiniano wasn't with us that time, so we didn't have a repeat of the previous day's death march.

After we returned to the casa, Justiniano's wife, Odelva, asked me for something. Since I am a man and the patron, she is required to ask very, very politely, which means that I started off neck deep in verbal quicksand. Something about would I like to visit her son's home some day.... "Sí. sí," I said, and wondered why Ana had a look of consternation.

I had just agreed to take Odelva to her son's place after she got ready, which could take an hour, but Ana needed to leave right away to catch a cab that would take her the rest of the way to her parents' house. Thankfully, Ana straightened it all out for us, although it cost her some grief to have to disappoint Odelva. While I was taking Ana to the taxi, she explained that perhaps it isn't the best idea for me to answer "Sí" to things I don't understand....

The next week, I did take Odelva and Justiniano to their son's place, and we all had a great time.
So, how did I end up here anyway?


 8)That was very well written was it in spanish? :P


:) :)Fred's taxi service learns to not say si,I get it.Did you ever get to catch any fish?
LT 40 woodmizer..Massey ferg.240 walker gyp and a canthook


So very humorously true. About ten years ago, on the spur of the moment, I took a consulting job in the south of Chile. The guy that hired me asked how my Spanish was, told him I could order a beer and find the bathroom......... When I got there I learned that somehow, someway, in two weeks I had become bilingual??????? Customer took it well, but I had many a day like Fred's. I ended up turning a 60 day assignment into two years, one more and I WOULD have been bilingual, thats what they told me anyways ;D
Brian - 2004 LT40HDG28 owner.


Hey...what I want to know...did you ever catch any fish in that river?   ;)  Great post--I enjoyed reading it.
Y'all can pronounce it "puh-SKOLLY"


We have been catching a few fish recently. For the Doubting Thomases among us (Furby!) I have pictures! 

Thanks for the compliments - I don't really write that well, at least grammatically, my wife is an editor so she polished it for me.

Yeah, bilingual just always seems to be just over the hill doesn't it?! We have been here about 16 months now and I can communicate fairly well - but I have a LONG ways to go. I just hired a junior program who works with me in the office and his English is a little worse than my Spanish but he is very good at Spanish, so I expect to improve a lot now.

Here is a picture of me on the river - probably listening to the complaints of the howler monkeys...

So, how did I end up here anyway?


Tell ya what Fred, I'll come on down and you can show me how to fish.
Then I'll have proof! ;)
I REALLY like the looks of that river...... ya may never get me to go home!


Any time you want to come on down you can - someone has to be bait for the boa...  ;D  You can help off load for Harold.

Seriously, in person the river is even more beautiful. It is so clean that you could probably drink out of it.

I can see the story now... Furby does Costa Rica!  8)
So, how did I end up here anyway?


By the way, I am surprised none of you have commented on that log I am on - we are going to haul it out and saw it up. It is probably REALLY hard wood - we won't know exactly what until we cut it up. It is about 80 feet long. You are only seeing the bottom of it.

I am starting to hoard wood now. Time to get a lathe...
So, how did I end up here anyway?


Now wait one DanG minute!!!!!
You go showing/telling us how nice this river is, and then tell us ya are gonna pull one of the best looking sitting/eating/fishing spots out of it to cut up ???
You just leave that DanG log alone and go find another!!!!


You have a very sterile existance if you think that is the best spots.  :D

You won't believe some of the other ones...  :o

Besides, if we don't remove it, it will just move down stream eventually. We are a rainforest after all and we get a lot.

So, how did I end up here anyway?


Sólo un pregunta.

Necesita usted más ayuda?    ;D
If you're going to break a law..... make sure it's Murphy's Law.


Need all the help Fred can get, Murf  8) ;D
All truth passes through three stages:
   First, it is ridiculed;
   Second, it is violently opposed; and
   Third, it is accepted as self-evident.

-- Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)


So, how did I end up here anyway?


Well, let's see, bi-lingual pontification? Baiting hooks?

I know, keepin' FDH outta too much trouble .........   8)

I'd bet that would be a full time job, mebbe even some room for overtime on dat one ........   :D
If you're going to break a law..... make sure it's Murphy's Law.


So, how did I end up here anyway?


i Know where you are coming from with the spanish there fred, around home anymore you need to know it to get anything. :o

new challenge though, learn arabic!

i thought i would learn it pretty easily knowing some spanish and french :), yeah right, the sentence structure is all backwards from what we know :P, a really good time.  And with the quicksand, all of these guys talk 90mph with no breaks, and there are different dialects everwhere you go! ::)  One universal thing though, they all seem to know what   :o BOOM! :o means, when they say that and throw thier arms up in the air pay attention.  You just learn to understand some of what they say and repeat it back changed a little till it is what you need!

awgaf te-ra ar-mee= figure that out

tiS-baH aala khayr= Good Night
Right now i am playing in the sandbox


I think I would prefer no having to learn how to say that! (Bomb)

By the way, a gas station here is called a Bomba - which means bomb - or pump.

Sure makes you wonder sometimes...

Countrysaw - our thanks for you being willing to be where you are.
So, how did I end up here anyway?

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