Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Que? " No habler Espanol, we speak Spanglish, love"

En route to our host family, Andreas points out various San Jose landmarks whipping past outside as the blue sky turns to dusk - the university, theatre, church, mountains, whilst we sit like drugged nodding dogs in the back seat attempting to process and compartmentalise our cattle-class travel ordeal in order to now put it behind us and start afresh. We may need counselling for PTSD upon return to the UK, but for now we're determined to embrace this new and exciting country...

 We are brought back from our daydreams as he begins talking again, explaining the fact that in Costa Rica there are no house numbers, postcodes or proper addresses as we know them,  the Costa Ricans instead favouring a basic system of description. For example, you might see on a letter "The yellow house behind the post office, " or someone will direct you to the "third house from the tallest palm on the right."
(At this point we find this quaint and endearing, but fast forward 12 hours as a bunch of sleepy-eyed, disorientated gringos attempting to navigate a new and bustling city and it quickly transforms into utter disbelief and incredulity at such a vague and archaic system).

our host family

As we pull up to what will be our home for the next week, we are suitably surprised and impressed - it's a warm but breezy evening and the house looks large and well-kept, with metal gates and a pretty, smiling Costa Rican senora waiting to greet us, who we recognise from the picture in the brief notes the driver had handed to us upon arrival at the airport. She looks well-groomed and serene, and to her credit manages to keep the smile fixed on her stunning face as three unkempt, traumatised and back-combed Brits clamber from the van.

At this point, she starts babbling her welcomes and the penny drops that we are going to come seriously unstuck with our lack of Spanish skills.  I attempt to recall the little Spanish I have tucked away in the recesses of my tiny pickled mind, but discover to my horror that I have become mute and can barely converse with her, so mum dives to the rescue with the most hilarious rendition of pigeon Spanish I have ever heard.

Andy and I are resisting the urge to roll on the floor in hysterics as De Mama gesticulates wildly, loudly praising Nancy on her lovely house in slow and deliberate English with a Spanish accent. Comedy gold. And this is how we know we're going to spend the next 2 weeks, in character as Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses, uttering a Spanglish version of his various Franglias "Mange tout, Rodney" type comments.

We see from Nancy's expression that any expectations of animated conversations around the dinner table have just turned to dust, but being the middle-class pro that she is, she regains her composure and silently curses herself for expecting more from a bunch of uncouth foreigners.

The rest of the family gather around to get a closer look at these curious specimens babbling incoherently in their front room, their heads cocked in wonder as we attempt to communicate. They are the perfect example of an identikit wholesome Catholic family: Nancy the stay-at-home mum, Pablo the banker husband and the equally wholesome-looking fruits of their loins, Carolina and Maria, the university students.

The healthy Costa Rican diet must be doing them good, as they are all a picture of radiant, glossy-haired health, like they just stepped off the cover of a lifestyle magazine. Oh, and I mustn't forget Chiky the chihuahua, a tiny bald thing with a classic case of small-dog syndrome who attempts to rip us to shreds as we stand there pretending to like him, tentatively reaching out to give him a stroke as he yaps incessantly, eyes bulging and teeth bared.

Chiky, our not-so-welcoming host dog

We are promptly shown to our living quarters, and the giant crosses, bibles and religious symbols everywhere mean that Andy resigns himself to the single room with a sigh, as Mum and myself are directed to a double room. After an icy shower (we're too shattered to follow her explanation of operating the boiler), we stumble back out to the dining area for more Gestapo-style grilling, which is relentless and involves lots of flicking through dictionaries, nervous laughter and plenty of frustrated silences.

We almost cry with relief when Nancy and Pablo notice that Andy is face-down in his rice and salad with exhaustion and allow us temporary respite in the form of deep, dreamless sleep - our first glimpse of a bed in 2 long and stressful days.....

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