Friday, October 9, 2009

La Chula: Impounded!

Mike wants his motorcycle back but can't get it back because he can't pay a ticket that someone else incurred while driving his motorcycle without a license, BECAUSE the transito system that registers tickets and is tied in with the national banks where you can pay the fines, as well as the judicial building in Filadelfia that issues a specific vehicle document key to reclaiming a vehicle, has been down since 23 September when the new transit law was supposed to go into effect but was delayed, AND it's a three day weekend here AND no one knows when the hell the system will be back up so that he can pay the fine incurred by someone else, get the key document from the Juzgado, give it back to the Juzgado, get the "get out of jail card" and return to Liberia to get his Chula back!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Los nicaragüenses

The Nicaraguan's. There's a commercial building being constructed nearby my restaurant where the vast majority of day laborers are poor Nicaraguans. Our proximity to the border with Nicaragua together with Nicaragua's grinding poverty (2nd poorest nation behind Haiti in the western hemisphere where 80% of the population survives on $3 or less a day) and job opportunities in construction here in Guanacaste, mean that my area has a substantial "Nica" population.

Ticos (and Gringos), in general, look down upon Nicaraguans. They're considered whores, thieves, and illiterates. Ticos refer to them as "paisas", or "paisitas". This word is derived from the word paisano, or peasant. It's not a nice term and is tantamount to being called "nigger" in English. Used amongst their fellows, it's OK. But if it comes from a Gringo or Tico, the gloves might come off.

A few of these day laborers on the site, Carlos Manuél, Luís, Gonzalo and Claudio, frequent my restaurant for beers in the evening - especially on pay day, which was yesterday. Carlos was drunk when he arrived: happy-drunk, but descending rapidly into melancholy drunk. Luís was in a better state. Carlos immediately ordered a round of Imperial's and included me in the round. He often buys me beers, which is atypical of either Nicas or Ticos in these parts. He desperately wants to learn English so he can more effectively communicate with and understand gringo foreman on construction projects. So I mix it up in Spanglish and we have a good time.

As Carlos skidded into melancholy-drunk, he requested I put on some romantic Latin music. So I went directly to Marco Antonio Solís and got two-thumbs up. Luís began to sing along, and was really quite good. Smiles around the table and Carlos ordered another round for us. But he began to hang his head in sadness. Something was on his mind.

After the second round, a third was ordered and Carlos asked if he could use my land line to call Nicaragua. He had a pre-paid calling card so I gave him the nod. Luís had to do the dialing. Carlos, at this point, was wobbly and needed the support of the wall shelving where the phone was located. After connecting, Luís returned to the table while Carlos talked on the phone.

I asked Luís what the problem was. At this point Claudio arrived to give some support and he also bought me a beer. It turned out that Carlos' daughter was in the hospital for an appendix operation. It sounded serious and Carlos could not be there for her and his wife. Luís didn't volunteer details and I didn't pry. But it was enough to explain Carlos' mood.

Here's a guy who is poor as poor gets, probably cannot read or write (based on the blank stare I get when I give him a menu and the fact he can't operate the keypad on a phone, drunk or not), is far from his wife and sick child at home, is working for 1500 colones/hour while living out of a hammock in a tin bodega on a construction site for two weeks at a time with 3 or 4 days off in between to travel back to Nicaragua on a bus to visit his family...

...And HE'S buying ME beers!

It really moved me. I don't think I'd be doing as well as Carlos if I were in his shoes and it was my daughter. I hope his daughter gets well soon. I really hope so.

¡Pura vida!