Wednesday, June 15, 2005

In the beginning....

I have come to view this assignment as a "cosmic do-over" of sorts. I was in Costa Rica for three months in 1997. I went there with my roommate and the mildly psychotic boyfriend she had picked up on a community service trip to Nicaragua. Needless to say his psychoses were not immediately apparent, but with time, they blossomed with the delicate grace of the purple budded thistle. I moved there on a week’s notice at his insistence that the job he’d found me was only available NOW, when I arrived we traveled in Nicaragua for two weeks because “When will you be here again? Your job is fine. Don’t you trust me?” In all fairness, I cannot totally rule out the possibility that the entire episode could be chalked up to a translation mishap. Is it not plausible that “My father is an important government diplomat” could easily be confused with “My father is the night security guard in a government building?”

The unraveling of his web of deceit was hampered only by my own staunch denial that I had actually followed a psychopath into the third world with no backup plan other than relying on the kindness of strangers in a doe-eyed “she too dumb to be a threat” manner. It became apparent that the longer I was associated with him the more likely it would be to emerge from a language hangover* married to one of his cousins. I had been working* in the office of a Diputado (equivalent to a U.S. Senator) and his assistant ultimately took pity on me and let me stay with her until my visa expired and I returned to the states.

Now, knowing all of this… I would do it again in a minute. I learned some Spanish. I snorkeled. I navigated the bus system. I saw cockroaches the size of tennis balls. I learned to ask for references.


Language Hangover: involves understanding very little of what is being said but being too tired or generally uninterested in asking people to continually repeat themselves and/or engage in elaborate charades until you do understand. Symptoms include excessive smiling and nodding.

Working: In this case to mean taking drastic measures to look busy and not understanding that due to cultural and linguistic differences, there were never any expectations for actual productivity.

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