WHITE RUSSIANS IN COSTA RICA

Trip Start Dec 14, 2011
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14
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Trip End Jan 05, 2012


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Where I stayed

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Cartago,
Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It is a little after 7 AM and I am sitting looking out from a different balcony this morning---the balcony of the breakfast room of the Orosi Lodge. I have a gorgeous view of lush green hillsides under blue skies. It looks more like a spring day in the foothills of the Swiss Alps than Costa Rica. A German family runs this lodge; maybe that is what attracted them here.

During this trip, Linda has topped her previous efforts in mastering the Spanish language. You may remember from previous postings her effective use of adding an "o" or an “a” to the end of an English word; well she now has come up with a refinement. She now rolls the “r” in English words. Very effective. “Garlic” and “Green Peppers” in Spanish? Simple, just roll the “r’s” ---oh, and add an “a” to the end of “garlic”. And here I have been taking Spanish lessons the last six months---if only I had known how easy it was.

After our one beer and wine at Vallecito last night, we came back here to the Orosi Lodge to call Ernie of the Cristina Finca about seeing them this morning. I had called him Tuesday evening while sitting in the beach bar of La Palapa to make an appointment to see their organic coffee farm and operation today. Ernie, who originally was a farmer from Ohio, has been farming here in Costa Rica since 1980. He said he thought they were too busy harvesting coffee to give us a tour. I told him to never mind the tour, we will help harvest for a while! We left it that I would call him back last night to see how things were going. I got through to Ernie’s son and told him we would just stop by this morning; if they have time for us, great, if not, we will just drive on and let them get on with their work.

After the phone call, we walked back to a little bar on Orosi’s main street that was really active earlier when we walked by. It was less active when we got back to it, but still full of locals having drinks and chatting, some of them boisterously. You know when you have walked into a locals’ bar when everyone in the bar stops talking and watches you walk in. The curiously sexy young lady working as bartender may well have explained the predominantly male crowd; not that it was a big crowd, maybe a dozen or so men and a few women. Juliana (that would be the sexy young bartender) will get to know us quite well before we leave.

We walked up to the bar, sat down and Linda started her process of trying to figure out what to drink. No one spoke English, including Juliana, and I warn (beg?) Linda not to get too fancy with her drink order. Silly me. She ordered a White Russian. The whole bar was listening. Juliana looked at Linda with a stone face; no recognition whatsoever. Linda tried again, this time rolling the "R" while saying "Blanco Russkio". Not surprisingly, this got the same reaction from Juliana. Undeterred, Linda tried saying the same thing with more flourish and, of course, more volume, but this time she added her pantomime of a Russian Cossack dance. Poor Juliana---and poor me. I am dying from embarrassment and frustration.

Seeing that nothing she was saying or doing was working, Linda decided she would simply tell Juliana how to make a White Russian---even though she has no idea herself! She started by telling Juliana that the drink starts with rum. Whoa, whoa, Linda! I don’t really know, but I would think something called “Russian” would be made with vodka. "Oh yea", she says, "Okay, it is vodka and, oh, let’s see….." Oh my God, I am dying, and Juliana has this adorable look of complete wonder on her face as she studies Linda trying to figure her out. The rest of the bar watches the interaction as though watching a slow-motion car wreck.

By now, Linda has decided to change to something simple: a Gin and Tonic. No matter how much we travel Linda will never understand that things, which seem simple to us, aren’t to everyone. Sure enough, they don’t understand the words “gin” or “tonic”. I scan the limited liquor shelf looking for a bottle of gin and see none. But I do spy a bottle of vodka, which looks like it has been sitting there for a while; clearly not a popular alcohol in this part of Costa Rica. Linda agrees to have a Vodka Tonic, instead.

Okay, we have the alcohol, now we need a mixer. By now, the whole bar is engaged with Linda’s endeavor to get her drink of choice, which has changed three times already (I have spared you the story of her second choice, which was red wine and which tasted like red vinegar---because it was). One man, bearing a huge cowboy hat and looking like Hoss Cartwright with darker skin, says, Senor, can I help you? He helps Juliana and the male owner (maybe Juliana’s father) understand we want tonic water (which for future reference, Juliana later points out is “agua tonica”). The male owner runs out of the bar and comes back in a few minutes with a purchased can of agua tonica (there are a lot of trips by restaurateurs to the grocery store in Orosi). Juliana puts the vodka, tonic and a glass in front of me and motions for me to make the Vodka Tonic. When she sees me mix the drink, she makes a face like, who could ever drink that? As everyone quietly (tensely?) watched, Linda put the glass to her lips, took a sip and said "Perfecto!" We were both shocked when the whole bar crowd broke into applause and cheering!

During this whole process, none of Linda's antics had been greeted with anything but unamused looks, of which she is totally oblivious, but on which I am totally focused---and anxious about. Who wants to be that pain-in-the-ass Gringo? But, when it was all done, and I witnessed the roar of applause from everyone in the bar, it dawned on me that people weren't displeased with Linda, they were only concerned that she be pleased and were focused on trying to figure out what she wanted. Once they could see she was satisfied, they were elated and, suddenly, we were the toast of the town. Free food, free drinks free love.

The moral of this story for us is that while Linda could be more aware of her surroundings and the ruckus she causes, I could be less concerned about causing ripples and pleasing everyone. That evening in that little bar in Orosi will live in memory as one of our best, and all of it because Linda wasn't afraid to be herself.

Soon after we had solved Linda’s drink challenge, “Hoss” insisted on buying me a raw turtle egg shooter, or Huevos de Tortuga in Spanish. We had watched Juliana making them for others, but I really hadn’t planned on having one myself. With everyone in the bar watching the Gringo to see how he would do with gulping down a raw turtle egg, I was determined to do so without any reaction. The raw egg was fine, but I didn’t expect the red sauce the egg came in to be Costa Rica’s version of tabasco sauce! I was somehow able to limit my reaction to watering eyes, but it took everything I had to do so.
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