Week Fifteen – Spanish lessons and street vending

Getting this apartment was vitally important.  It is a proven fact that, no matter how much you love your family, if you are stuck together in a hotel room for too long a period of time you will go insane.  It’s so nice to be somewhere where the kids can have their toys out for more than a couple hours, where we have our own kitchen, and, perhaps most importantly in the efforts of preserving sanity, where we have bedroom doors that can be closed on occasion.

Our landlady Roxanna is pretty great too, despite her over-confidence in her family’s renovating skills.  She likes to feed us.  We brought her flowers the other day and I think now we’re family and she is constantly bringing us plates of cookies and various Costa Rican sweet treats.  It occurs to me that in some ways, Ukranian isn’t that far from Costa Rican; I’m sure if I could understand everything she is saying in her rapid-fire Spanish, I would hear the words: “you’re too skinny!  Eat!”  She has a puppy that is roughly the size of a well-fed rat that the kids really like too.  The puppy is small enough to fit through a hole in our screen door and so is always bounding its tiny way through our kitchen.  I think it’s afraid to stay still too long – the ants could carry it away.

After buying coconuts from the farmer’s market, Aidan busted out the long-dormant machete to open one for us.  But these are much drier than the ones that still have the green husk on them that we were eating on the coast, and he was having trouble with it.  Roxanna saw this, came into our kitchen, turned on the gas stove and used it to burn the husk, turning it with one hand so it would char, but not actually light.  When it was totally blackened she brought it outside and threw it down on the cement, splitting it open nicely.  It has a nice toasted taste that way too!  No-one teaches you things like that in Canada.

We took a series of four Spanish lessons with a private school called SEPA.  The idea was to get past the “I Lexi, you waiter” Tarzan-esqe Spanish we had been using up ‘til now and actually learn a few grammar rules and verb conjugations and the like.  It was very helpful.  I know that the Spanish is starting to sink in for the kids finally: Aidan had to wake Ezra up in the wee hours a couple nights ago and in his sleep-addled state, the boy said, “Que?” much to our amusement.  After our lesson on Tuesday we went to a public park/playground with our instructor and her daughter (also seven) so the kids could have some playtime all together.  The playground scared me a bit – made me long for a park like Ben Lee (in Kelowna) where it is reasonably clean and well-maintained and you don’t have to think the word “tetanus” every few minutes.

As we were walking down the street yesterday, I started thinking about how many things you can buy from street vendors here.  Some are things that you would expect, but some are really odd to see people carrying.  Like hammocks.  Can you imagine being a traveling hammock salesman, walking around in the 30 degree heat with a bunch of the big cloth monstrosities over your back?  And it’s not just here, I’ve seen walking hammock salesmen in all of the larger towns we have been in and I’ve never seen anyone actually buying one, but someone has to be to keep them doing it, right?

A quick list of things you can buy from street vendors in CR: hammocks, area rugs, socks, shoes, pencil crayons, purses, underwear (seriously, little tables of bras and panties in the street and it’s not just dirty old men looking at them either), glow sticks, sheets, blankets, lottery tickets, various remote controls (not universal ones) postcards of Jesus and gooey looking shaved-ice and condensed milk concoctions.  A quick list of things I’ve actually purchased from street vendors: paintings, jewelry, fresh squeezed OJ, fruit, bundles of herbs, ice cream and meat on a stick cooking over a flame.  You can see I’m more of a traditionalist – street ice cream is ok, street underwear is not.  I have to admit that the portable-fire-carts are my favourites, though that seemed to be more of a Caribbean thing.  So, if you carry enough cash on you, you don’t ever have to go into a store or a restaurant, you can do walk-through shopping everywhere you go.  Anybody need a hammock?

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