This cruise has an appealing itinerary. From Long Beach straight to Costa Rica—4.5 days at sea (the ship sails in the afternoon. I love the sea days and the “ScholarShip@Sea” program. They offer several classes that appeal to those who want to learn or try out a subject.
If offered, spanish, is taught by a member of the cruise directors staff . The classes are designed to provide “los viajeros” (travelers) with a few basic expressions—i.e. How to count from 0 to 10 (cero, uno, dos, tres…etc.) ask for directions to the restroom, “donde está el bano?”, ask for your restaurant check “La cuenta, por favor”, you get the idea. The decision was a no brain-er for me this time. Since the classes were only on sea days, we had four classes before we stopped in Puntarenas, Costa Rica.
The classes on this trip were taught by Patricio Gonzales from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Patricio speaks four languages and is learning a fifth (Russian). Since I had taken 16 weeks of beginning spanish @ Santa Rosa JC, I have a elementary understanding of the language. I am able to read and understand at the level of a three year old —maybe.
It turns out that these classes were exactly what I needed. Patricio based his approach on speaking the language. No hang ups on the punctuation. Just speaking spanish with the proper pronunciation. The classes at the JC are only 1.5 hours long which does not leave enough time to actually speak spanish. I am to the point that I need to speak it daily to keep it fresh in my 63 year old brain.
Included in this blog post is a story of over confidence and my awareness that I will attempt to communicate with any one who speaks the language.
After four spanish lessons at sea, we docked in Puntarenas. I believe Zenetta briefly told the story of the “glue stick” to her friends. This is the other side of the story…my side…it goes like this…
We had breakfast and waited for the tours to leave the ship, then embarked on a leisurely day of shopping. There is a long berth there, so we strolled along the pier into town, trying to decide which way to turn when we got to the beach.
At the beach, we spotted a few local boys, showing their sand art to get tourists to take photos (and of course asking for a dollar in return). The 3D sculptures of turtles (“tortugas”), crocodiles (“cocodrilos”) and a young woman (“mujeres atractiva”) sunbathing. These kids know how to market their art. They always had people stopping to take pictures. We finally chose to turn right (“derecha”), directly to downtown.
Our shopping list included “crafting supplies” (scissors and a glue stick) toothpaste and tweezers. Before we left the ship, I had turned to my trusty iphone and looked up two of the words “en espaniol”. glue =”pegamento”, scissors=”tijeras”. I was feeling confident that we could locate and purchase at least two of the four items on our list. We had been to Puntarenas in March and felt familiar with the area.
I was declared the official interpreter by my wife (mi esposa). The pressure was ON!
Zenetta studied latin (in high school) and has the ability to interpret spanish signs faster that I can! (Not wanting to discourage me, she allowed me to try first, then inevitably correcting me when she felt it necessary for my “educational growth”—my words, not hers).
It was December 20, (Era 20 de diciembre) Some of the stores were closed for the Christmas week. We walked until we located a pharmacy open for business “farmacía albierto”.
Here is where the story takes a big turn!
We looked behind the counter, and saw one of the items on our shopping list! You guessed it, not one of the two words I had looked up— tweezers. I reached in my pocket to find nothing. Listen… I said I found NOTHING. In my haste to leave for town, I forgot my iphone! CRAP!
It has my spanish to english translator. I immediately felt like Linus without his blanket! I lost my confidence. The sweat began to appear on my forehead. Now the clerk was asking what we wanted (in spanish).
Zenetta gave me that look (it basically said…“well, here’s your chance to prove that you have learned something in spanish. Now is your chance big guy…(these are my words— not hers!).
I failed. I had no spanish word for “tweezers”.S
SomehowZenetta was able to communicate through sign language. Visualize pinching her fingers together on her eyebrow like some kind of crustacean! Finally, after what seemed like minutes, the clerk pointed to the “tweezers”. Trying desperately to recover, I asked the “Cómo se dice en espaniol?” (What do you call this in spanish?)
I think Zenetta heard the response. I didn’t. I was a nervous wreck. No iphone to look up the word “tweezers”. I still don’t know the word for tweezers in spanish.
Listen… This story gets even more humiliating for me...
Through the fog in my brain, I remember standing at the cash register asking what the exchange rate was. The guy looked at me like I was crazy. Unfortunately I was asking the pharmacist the exchange rate for PESOS! Much to his credit he politely responded by informing me that the exchange rate for Colones is 490 to one. (OOPS …Costa Rica currency is in Colones…NOT PESOS! CRAP AGAIN! Strike two! Senior moment big time!) I was able to recover somewhat by repeating what he said in spanish “quatro cientos y noventa colons” to the US dollar. He smiled. Wish I had a penny for his thoughts , NOT.
After licking my wounds, I gathered enough courage to continue shopping. I asked the pharmacist if he knew a store “con papel y lapiz” (with paper and pencil). He said that three blocks down, there was a store which might have what we were looking for.
We continued down the street and found the store, but it was closed. We continued on our adventure. We had secured two of the four items on our shopping list. Then we discovered the mother load! A grocery store (mercado) that was open. We purchased eggnog, diet coke, lime flavored peanuts and hot (picante) tortilla chips. Snacks? Does this make sense? We were buying food to take aboard a cruise ship! What’s that all about?
To prove that even dumb squirrels find acorns, we stumbled onto a large store with decorations and craft items. With the help of the clerk and the spanish word “cola” we were led to: the area of the glues.
Finally, THE GLUE STICK STORY
The young girl who waited on us tried her best to help. She took us over to the counter and Zenetta spotted the glue sticks. Whoo hoo! We found them! According to the girl, they were priced at “one dollar” . I got a little suspicious when she brought the stick out and mimed putting the glue on her arm as if it were a deodorant. I had no idea how much our clerk understood us. Z needed a single glue stick. Problem # 8 or 9 by now (I lost count)…we had no change…no dollar bills… no 490 colones…only a twenty (that’s almost 10,000 colones!) Benetton, meanwhile had asked if they take credit cards. They said yes. So, we felt a little guilty charging just a dollar; so, like good “norte americanos”, we proceeded to shop some more. That’s when I turned to the Christmas row to try and increase the amount we were about to charge. While I was looking at colorful Santa decorations Zenetta had spotted a larger yellow colored box which had the same look as the box that had glue sticks. Always the bargain shopper, she took the box from the clerk to purchase. After picking out the best Santa, we took them to the counter and paid for them with our card. Terrific! Our adventure had ended. We now had three of the four items on our list, and we had stories to tell about our day in Puntarenas.
Back to the ship with our bounty. Toothpaste, tweezers, eggnog, diet coke, chips (picante), lime peanuts, a box of glue sticks and pictures of Santa Claus to hang in our state-room, we celebrated our return “home”. You can imagine the surprise we had when Zenetta opened the box of glue sticks and found a tube of unknown glue. We then realized —- the young clerk hardly understood a word we had said.
Laughter is the only balm for stupidity….Hasta luego!