And so began my adventures in Central America

by Hagan on January 17, 2009

After I was shitcanned by American Tower in October (stock price then – $35, today, $28 . . . you do the math), I was trying to think of things to do with my time off. Of course, you know that I had to look for a job, but I also needed to readjust and pump up my mojo. I hadn’t exactly lost the mojo, it was just a bit funky. I would describe it as being in kind of an upper-middle class mojo doldrums. Elevating my mojo to a deluxe apartment in the sky is my primary focus of my unemployment. I had a friend who took some paid medical leave from work and she used it to straighten a bit of her life out rather than look for a new job (which was the cause of some of her stress and had been her primary focus before she took leave), and I applauded that decision. That’s my motivation as I am using my time off to explore different career paths and live life to the fullest.

So as a result of those decisions, welcome to my Central American Photoblog! I found a flight for low cash in December, and decided to change my whole latitude. I landed, bought a motorcycle, I’m having an adventure, looking for career opportunities, making new friends, and shagging some Latin-American women (hopefully) in the process. I landed last week, and rocked my new moto (well, let’s just say my bike made friends with some rocks on more than one occasion) down to Panama and It’s my first photo upload today. The internet connections down here aren’t as sexy as the huge pipes we’ve got in the states, but they’ll work for what I need them for. You don’t have enough privacy to watch porno in most of these internet cafes.

Pre.S.: By the way, each of the pictures pops up in the window with a really cool zoom effect that I downloaded and installed myself without knowing a hint of javascript. It took me a few hours to figure out, so make my effort worth a damn and click on some of those mothers. You know what they say about a picture’s equivalent word value . . . hopefully my publisher won’t get too pissed when I short him.

We were over Cuba when I took this; the cloud cover was fantastic, but I don’t feel my camera captured the detail of the clouds. If you open this one in a bigger picture, you can see it a bit better. I flew US Airways: the flight over was only $160, but if you want to breathe when you’re on the plane it costs $10.
I shouldn’t say that, the stewardess hooked me with a free cranberry juice – I think I was flying US Air. Is that stealing?

My ride from Alajuela to Heredia in the cab. This one two lane road is ten kilometers long, and it was bumper-to-bumper the whole way starting at 5:00 PM, so the rush hour traffic is pretty bad around here. Now, with a motorcycle, you can drive between the lanes . . . More dangerous, of course, but you get to where you’re going faster, and in every country I’ve lived in, all the motorcyclists do it, so I am planning on being in the majority on this one.
See what I mean? I told you.
San Joaquin is a town between Heredia and Alajuela. I saw some motorcycle shops here and in my search for a moto usado, decided to walk there one morning to no avail. Good exercise, though, as the San Jose area is in a valley and the surrounding towns are quite hilly. I have a feeling I am not going to lose too much weight here as all they eat is corn, meat, and cheese. What’s a brotha gotta do to get a vegetable that on his plate down here, anyway?
I have yet to venture into one of these Chinese establishments, but they are all over the city. I had read up on how the country had a large Chinese population and aside from American restaurants, there are more Jhonguoren Fan Dien (that’s “Chinese Restaurants” in Chinese) here than those of any other nationality.

I was in downtown San Jose and met a guy working at a restaurant who was unmistakably from the PRC and started a conversation with him in Chinese. He was happy to help me along with my poor rendition and no doubt surprised to hear his native tongue come from some gringo.

I don’t know why, but I am amused by the minor differences between the languages. I get more of a kick out of the word “Muflas” (Mufflers) than any other . . . I’m always picturing some tough New Yorker saying it. “Eyyyyy, how many mufflas you need ova dare – I got some shit I wanna sell heah!”
HiperMas. The logo is a spouting whale – Eve (you’ll meet her later) told me that the “Hiper” is supposed to mean the place is huge, so the whale fits. She told me to come to “eeper mas,” and I had her repeat it three times, but I was still confused when I arrived, reading the sign “Hyper mas.” Then I learned Spanish.
This is a picture of the street that I stayed at in Heredia my first night here. It’s a fairly nice neighborhood. Pseudo-gated community (I almost took a picture of the unmanned, derelict guard’s outpost – I think someone is slacking on their HOA dues). There are these little markets that people run out of their houses, and the signs all say “Soda.” Of course, they sell a limited list of items you’d normally find in a convenience store. I guess it’s pretty easy to start one of these because they’re lax on the zoning laws. They could just all be fronts for drugrunning or money laundering organizations; they don’t tell us anything.

There’s a place called the Cloud Forest in Costa Rica. I can only assume that the clouds on the top of the mountains have something to do with it. The mist is there on all except the extremely clear days. It is definitely one of the mandatory stops on the trip.

The mountains just shoot straight up from the valley that is San Jose. This was taken on my first bus trip to San Jose. I n the US, I despise buses and all but refuse to take them. I am just not a bus type of guy, front or back, it’s just not my thing. Something is more dignified about public transportation in train form from my point of view. Some weird type of social conditioning? Perhaps

If you expand this picture, you can see the houses in this valley bordering a the Pipi river (at least that’s what the bus driver told me it was). It just looked like such a decrepit place to live – a residential area surrounded by lots of industrial. If this was my Sim City, I would be hemorrhaging residents like crazy right now. My buddy read this quote before I posted it here and offered me some advice – build an Arcology.

The picture’s title is “Directo.” That means straight. I think I am learning more by typing these things out and asking my friends at the house what words mean than I have by trying to learn on the street. When I say “Right” and “Left” in Spanish, I feel like I am speaking some Baltic language. Izquierda sounds like Petr Sykora . . . is he Russian? Must be.

Hover over the picture to read the entire list of the safety precautions that these gentlemen are given for this dangerous task. At this point in the photoblog, I am just taking pictures of all the differences between the US and CR. I went out to bum a cigarette from a person I was staying with, and when they finished theirs, they went inside (turns out this person was just rude). Most people don’t say “Bless you” when you sneeze. The girl that I couchsurfed with the first night I was in town expected sex, because that’s what her friend the model (I met her – unattractive) got if she wanted when she had couchsurfers. This girl looked as if she’d been mainlining a strict regimen of Cheetos and peanut M&Ms through a PVC pipe for the last seven years.

So the women here wear revealing clothing no matter how much they weigh. Quite disappointing unless you’re a feeder. My dad calls them “Muffin Tops,” where the excess belly fat spills out over the side of the jeans. Makes sense . . . there are plenty of those here. The people I am staying with say that once you are outside of the city, the girls are more fit since they walk instead of taking the bus and aren’t eating the street food so often. Funny how that works the opposite in the US. The girls in the city are more well-maintained because they work out with greater frequency often and those in the country and most of the red states are addicted to Wal*Mart, mumus, and Jerry Springer reruns.

This is a drug deal going down. One of the Ticos (that’s the name for a Costa Rican) I met told me that he was going to do a big drug deal before but feared the consequences. Not the consequences of dealing illegal drugs, but the possibility of getting killed by the people that he was doing the deal with for the money he was bringing to the table.

This man is doing his part to help fight gravity. If he did some market research, I am sure he could find some type of higher volume ware to vend. Where would you try these on? What sizes does he carry? His selection looks pretty limited for that huge sign. 

Comment if you get the reference and I’ll send you a free ipod. This is one of those ‘tipping point’ kind of things. In two blocks in any direction, there were no shoes on power lines, but the kids of this block, they were spending more on shoes than their friends down the street. From the age of the shoes, this seems like a pretty effective way to tease someone. 

So the first day I have available, I went to downtown San Jose to look for a motorcycle. I walked around carrying my helmet, and if I saw more than one bike in front of a store, I went in and asked them where I could “comprar una moto usada” (buy a used motorcycle).

I was hanging around this motorcycle shop for a few minutes where there were some sales guys talking to some service guys, and one of their friends (the guy in the picture) told me to hop on his bike. He took me to two places that sold used motorcycles in Paseo Colon, but had closed down or were closed for the day. Then, he took me to the far Northeast side of town (we were on the southwest side) and dropped me off at a place that had several bikes that were the exact type that I wanted in the window. It was opening in an hour, so I went to an internet cafe for a sec and went back to look at the bikes.

Super nice people over here in Costa Rica. 

These are the cleanest, newest supermarkets in San Jose. This one had about 10 more acres of parking than was necessary, but it pays to think big for the long run, right? The place was empty inside and the prices were ridiculous.

But damn did the sausage look presentable. I would totally buy more sausage in the US if they were packaged as balloon animals and stacked up like the St. Louis Arch.  I mean, I already buy a lot of sausage, but I’d buy more. Mental note for my burgeoning consulting business.

Costa Rican Style. I haven’t tried it yet, but the American that tried it said that it tasted like a rum and coke. Go figure.  I guess it’s no different than our Zima or Smirnoff Ice (which I found out seconds later that they have down here, and weeks later that they love with all their little Costa Rican hearts). When I tried the rum and coke can, it just tasted like a bad rum and coke. I don’t know why I was expecting anything different.

Why don’t the mannequins in the states look more like this? I’ll bet they already test marketed it, rolled them out, found they did better, but some group like N.O.W. got to the mannequin producers and threatened to boycott stores because they would damage the self esteem of little girls. News flash, parents that let their twelve year olds that dress like sluts: it ain’t the mannequins.

Behind me were some walking streets with lots of street food. I bought some chiccarones (fried pork skins) and didn’t like them, so I threw them away and this kid that saw me do it stopped dead in his tracks. I walked away and he went straight for the trash can. I stopped him and got him some chicken. There are a good amount of homeless people in the city, and I stopped giving to the homeless a long time ago, but this kid was starving and wasn’t begging. He couldn’t have been fourteen.

The baby next door to where I am staying is adopted from a mom who was on drugs when she gave birth. He cries all through the night. These kind of human services issues happen in America, I’m sure, but for me to experience two in the two days that I have been here tells me that it’s a lot bigger problem over here. 

They have the Angry Whopper over here, too, but they don’t call it the Angry Whopper. They have the metric system over here, they don’t know what a whopper is.

I think the rice in the picture substitutes for the hash browns? The McDonald’s over here sometimes have a special Ice Cream window at the front of the store; their soft serve business is pretty solid over here. 

They can’t sell McNuggets over here? WTF? I got a fever, and the only prescription is McNuggets.

Two stuffed horses sitting alone in the park. No one seemed to own them . . . it looked like they were just there. I might need to re-investigate the phenomenon.

You can’t see it in this shot, but there are two homeless guys dancing around another guy laying down and a fire next to them, and they’re singing. As we drive buy, the guy on the right turns around with the biggest toothless grin that you would ever see. It was beautiful. They looked happy. 

EXTREME SALE!
Limited time only!

OK, so where is the sale? I’m not retarded, my Costa Rican friends have told me they thought this ad was pointless as well. 

Kind of a weak skate park, but these guys looked like they were having fun. Couldn’t smell any weed from the bus, but I’m sure they had some. It’s the polar opposite of the US down here: The weed is awful and the coke is amazing (not that I experimented, although I had plenty of opportunity to).

Bummer dude.

Trash cans, Central American style. They’re everywhere.

I walked into this place expecting the menu from the roadkill cafe and was terribly disappointed. 

$2 gets you rice, beans, salad, and fish. It’s fantastic. From Left to Right: Andres (fellow couchsurfer), Ricardo (helped me get my bike), and Eve (we were all staying at her place).

The clientele play foozeball all day long and they smoked me, but I know a few Phi Tau brothers that would hose every one of them.

Pictured from left are Andres, Ricardo, and Eve. Yeah, that’s right. I use the oxford comma without fail. Andres knows the founder of couchsurfing.com personally, Ricardo helped me buy my motorcycle, and Eve helped me buy some insurance for my motorcycle last week. I stayed at her place for about four days – she was awesome – not like stay-puft over at the other place. She’s trying to get back to the States and get some kind of customer service job there.

Buying a motorcycle in Costa Rica is not difficult, but it is difficult to find the right one. The Dirtbike I got is a Freedom Hercules ZS200GY. It was just about D-Day for me buying the bike, and I walked into the place, sat on a bike, the guy told me the price, and I pulled out my credit card and told him the price I wanted to pay. We looked at a few different motorcycles and this one was the most suitable one near my price range. I negotiated the price down to $1,700 and when it was time to pay the bill, it was $1,536. Find a car dealer in America where that happens. Ricardo was there to help with the translation, so I bought him dinner. He kept telling me how jealous of my freedom (no pun intended, he actually used that word) he was going to be. I think I convinced him to get some kind of transportation in the future – he had told me the only thing stopping him was the Costa Rican Drivers. These guys are librarians compared to the Chinese.

There are no street signs in Costa Rica, so I will need a GPS. I bought one and had it shipped to Wilkens; he’s hooking me up big time with an installation of Costa Rican maps and shipping. To get the same GPS over here would cost me almost $600 and this one is going to run me $300. My only choice at 5:30 when the transaction was finished was to follow the bus home from San Jose and take a year off my life sucking the exhaust (the tailpipe on the buses over here is on the bottom).

Just for posterity’s sake. I’ll try to remember to take another one of these at the end of my trip.

As the title says, this is a park in downtown San Jose. In the video, you don’t quite get the feel of exactly how loud these birds are, but when I went under the tree, it drowned out most of the city noises. I might have got some bajaro guano on me if I had been there any longer.

Tune in later on this week for some more Costa and entry into David Lee Roth’s favorite developing Central American Nation.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

cyberwaste888 December 12, 2009 at 12:49 am

I work for http://www.lvmannequins.com which is a mannequin company in Las Vegas. We have been selling sexy mannequins like the girl in the orange for years. They are all over the place. Not sure if you had seen them but they are not cheap and do bring a lot of on-lookers to stores. You can check out all the ones we sell online.

Karen Martinez May 30, 2011 at 4:40 pm

I liked it. I’m from Costa Rica but right now i’m living in Texas

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