Thursday, 16 August 2012

News from the Front

A pair of Costa Rican oxenA pair of Costa Rican oxen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)The Men having departed for three days in San Jose, I settle down to a cup of teabag tea and contemplate the possibilities before me.

The pile of assorted boxes occupying the bench in the porch...each containing something vital (according to The Men)  and not to be disturbed?

The ironing?

Throwing out tee shirts so holey as to qualify as righteous, snaffled from Mr. Fly's horde of working clothes?

Or blogging.

Just for a bit.

Blogging it is then....just for a bit.

Mother has surfaced after her Olympic stint in front of the television.
I don't know how the BBC organised coverage for the home audience, but she seems to have watched everything from archery - 'someone blind won' - to beach volleyball - 'disgusting!' - and hugely enjoyed the athletics.
She also enjoyed the sight of the Mayor of London, Beastly Boris, stuck on a wire with a flag in each hand - 'they should have left him there'......

She is now preparing for the Paralympics so I copped her order for shopping online to refill the fridge and freezer, only wishing there was a slot on the online form to indicate that her rib eye steaks had to be thicker than last time.....

We visited an American friend in the week.
He had wanted to take his Costa Rican lady friend on a trip to  Europe.....she wanted to see Paris and they were going to use our house as a base.
They were going to travel via Spain...even he can't stand travelling through the United States and, anyway, his lady friend will not be issued a visa - not even to transit the country.
She's not engaged in the narcotics trade, she doesn't want to work there, she's not a member of any terrorist organisation....but she can't get a visa.
Thus Europe via Spain.

Before booking his tickets he thought he'd check any visa requirement for France. visa.
But there had to be assurances that he and his lady friend would not become a burden to France while staying there.
The attestation d'acceuil.

This basically is a guarantee undertaken by people hosting visitors from abroad that they (the hosts) have sufficient means to cover the visitors at the rate of the daily official minimum wage for the duration of their stay.
He asked me if we could deal with this, so I downloaded the form.

Perusal made it clear that I could not help him out as the form had to be presented at the mairie (local council offices) in person.
That person to be armed with I.D., a copy of the tax assessment for the previous year, a recent utility bill and prepared to allow an inspection of his or her premises to assure the salubrity of the accommodation.

Faced with this news our friend grabbed the telephone and rang the consulate.

'This cannot be right!'

'Yes, it is.'

'But how do you expect to attract tourists?'

'Tourists go to hotels.'

So if you want to become an illegal immigrant in France, don't bother swimming the Med or bribing someone to smuggle you across the border in a lorry....just book a hotel.

We went to a garage sale in the town along the road....much more populated by expats than our own....where a family was returning to the U.S. and selling the stuff they did not want to ship back.
Garden tools had been advertised, plants and, irrestistably, books.

Danilo drove and I was in charge of directions so we arrived safely despite coming from the opposite end of town to that envisaged in the instructions by dint of firmly quashing any suggestions that we ask someone the way.

This is Danilo, pictured here with his wife. Tell there anything remotely frightening about this man?
No, I thought not.

So why, when he came to the gate with us did some stupid woman shout out

Here comes trouble!

And belt inside for assistance?

All too indicative of how some expats regard the people among whom they have come to live. Any Costa Rican woman must be of easy morals, any Costa Rican man a thug.
Perhaps if they learned some Spanish this misapprehension might be lifted.

These expats seem to live in fear....I remember telling one that we were going to visit Granada in Nicaragua and she solemnly advised me to walk in the middle of the road to avoid being dragged into doorways and mugged...or worse.
Preferable to be run over, I suppose....

Once inside we soon found the plants to be priced as if being bought from a nursery, the tools as if being bought new.....and the books dirt cheap.
Priorities, I can only imagine.
But I did buy a copy of The Golden Bough. I left mine in France and miss it greatly, so it was like taking an old friend home with me.

I have also had news of The Neighbour, who has been relatively quiet lately apart from firing a revolver outside his house in the evenings.
No one knows whether he is deterring visitors or warning people that he is not yet a spent force.

Dona Mery's sister runs a caff by the main petrol station in town, frequented by The Neighbour when he has been unable to entice a woman to live with him and cook his meals. Left to himself he exists on whisky, rice and plantains.
He was in the caff with his daughter and her little girl, when a man came in for a takeaway.
The Neighbour waxed obnoxious.
The customer returned the compliments. Fists were waved. The tone rose.
The little girl started crying.
Her mother pulled The Neighbour out and into the car.
As he got in he made a remark ahent the morals of the customer's mother with the result that the customer lunged forward and planted a mighty blow on The Neighbour's face.
The Neighbour roared away, shouting that the customer could think himself lucky....had the child not  been there, The Neighbour would have torn him limb from limb.

So far, par for the course.

But a couple of days ago The Neighbour came across the customer while driving in the Three Valleys. The customer was alone.
The Neighbour jumped out of his car, drew his machete and went for the customer who was unarmed apart from a stout stick.
He managed to knock the machete from The Neighbour's hand, threw it far into the undergrowth and, as The Neighbour got back into his car and drove at him, he picked up a huge stone and lobbed it at his windscreen.
Luckily or unluckily it did not break, but it gave him time to reach the nearest house.


Said Dona Mery.

He won't do a thing where there are witnesses, but get someone alone and he's a devil.

So whats the customer to do?

Oh, he's borrowed his cousin's shotgun......

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  1. There's something oddly honest about all these altercations.

  2. I'd have snapped up the Golden Bough, too.Can't even get it from the local library; the twinkie-teen had never heard of it, but obligingly tried spelling variants of Frazer.Same with Bullfinch's Mythology.I shall have to try the 2nd hand on-line stores.

  3. Expats can be strange, taken as a group. I think it's often best not to get too close....

  4. The problem with groups of expats is that they have a tendency to stereotype the natives of the country where they've chosen to live..I've no idea what they base their prejudices on, but of course they don't realise that their behaviour just makes the natives stereotype them in return. Sad really, because if they could all look beyond that, there are potentially wonderful friendships to be made.

    1. It's a weird mix of a sense of superiority and inferiority I think...

  5. gee it's quiet in your neck of the woods ;-)

    Our excitement has been much more mundane - red deer hind intent on suicide shoots across main road in broad daylight yesterday. We swerve narrowly avoiding her back legs. Thankfully we weren't driving as fast as we normally do and were able to go home an recover by listening to TMS.

    Just don't get expats who live with that suspicious 'bunker' mantality. Do so agree with Aya!

    1. Puts your heart in your mouth when that happens!

      Ayak is quite right. There's an added layer here.....there's a certain type of American expat who thinks of the locals as 'natives' with all the baggage that goes with that word....and they've never heard of Rousseau.

  6. Never a dull moment, it seems. Do arm yourself efore you cross neighbour, even if it's only his path.

    I don't know how groups of expats behave in the so-called third world, but a single expat, not living in the safety of a cocoon of others of her nationality, is occasionally seen as an animal not to be trusted by the natives, even in the 'first' world.

    I can't work it out, where do you currently reside?

    1. Here!

      Not too worried about loony armed neighbours...I had la chasse while in France......

      Were, it must be said, the Front National were always very pleasant to me...

      Not much difference between worlds where it comes to meeting up with the shock of the new, I think...

  7. My English Anglo Saxon Christian ? Family have lived in Hong Kong, Singapore And Malaya during the 50's and 60's. I remember well the indigenous Malaysian people(Muslims) as friends and neighbours in particular who were helpful and outgoing socially and with whom some are still in contact with us after all these years. we have returned to visit these people, but most are aged and in their seventies.
    My family now live in Australia within 300klms of each other in New South Wales, It was 41 years ago when we arrived. My wife and I cannot disguise our U/K accents, however, our five sons sound like real Aussies.
    The simplest way to arrive in Australia nowadays is to arrive by boat without any Identification(papers) if you are unaware how to do this, you simply fly to Indonesia with about Two thousand bucks and hop on a ramshackle boat(take a life jacket). Google Illegal immigrant boat smugglers Indonesia,for more info.

    1. We looked at living in Australia and came to the conclusion that your advice was the only thing that would have worked!

  8. Depends on your perspective. Nothing scary looking about either Danilo or Mrs Dan at all from my viewpoint, but I suppose if I was an expat citizen of the good ol U.S. of Paranoia I’d have to say Danilo looks decidedly somewhere between Che & Fidel from way back in the days. He definitely has the calm gaze of a dissenting poet. A lethal pen injector then. The devils in the prose and all that. Not good. Politics and poets don’t drink well together. Those ganja plants behind him look pretty jolly dodgy too. You know, on closer inspection, I’d have to say he does look a lot like trouble, but then…hmmm… on second thoughts… maybe the stupid woman was simply referring to.. ‘you’ Flyrica??

    1. Well, I had wondered....but i was behind the two chaps, distracted by a gringo laden with pillows trying to open his car door.

  9. And by the way, re: Niall & Antoinette’s comment concerning their suicidal deer incident a day or two ago, perhaps you could forward this link here onto them to an article concerning a Moose, a Bear and a lone woman driver from Norway…

    Made me chuckle.

  10. I agree with the commenter who referred to this mess of a country as the US of paranoia, a problem that continues to worsen. I have long wished to escape these shores, something I may do yet...

    1. Try to find somewhere where they can't impose their own paranoia on the government....

  11. hum... living in fear hein..; what's the point ?

    1. None whatsoever!
      There are problems in Costa Rica...just as there are problems everywhere...but to shut yourself off from daily life and all the pleasures of real contact from some idea that local society if dangerous and primitive is totally mad.

  12. Plenty of bunker-mentality expats here in southern Normandy too, but thankfully others who have made good French friends and live comfortably among their French neighbours. The main difference as far as I can see is language. Those who have made a real effort to learn and use the language in everyday life do well. The others live in a strange monoglot ghetto which i find very unreal.

    Glad to know The Neighbour survives and yet his schemes don't.:-)

    1. I've never understood why you want want to live somewhere without getting at least a grip on the language. I've had quite a struggle starting again with Spanish...but it's been well worth it.

      Word has it that The Neighbour has been lying about his lung cancer....indiscretions from the local clinic indicate that it is a TB patch and responding well to treatment.

  13. Luckily, living in the stick, the ex-pats I meet are ones that really want to immerse themselves in the country, but when we head back to Bodrum in the winter we come across a number of bigoted twits. We've also got gun fire in the vicinity, but it's just the end of drunken wedding parties - firing into the air (I hope)

    1. I don't meet the local expats...we've already been sent to coventry by them....but these were in the next town down the road to the capital.
      What used to sdtartle me was the 'mortar' fire which announces the start of local fiestas...

  14. There was large ex pat community in the Alps where we were this summer - thankfully no one with a machete though. In that part of France though the ex -pats seem to live an odd life , as if permanently on holiday and waiting for sun or snow.

  15. Yes, that seemed to be a feature of expat life in France in my time, but I think that's changing...people now seem to need to earn money.

  16. *sings* ... an everyday story of (Costa Rican) country folk

    1. Unmasked! This blog is a source for the plots of The Archers....

  17. A very enjoyable read. I can relate to the problems in France. Although I did experience similar problems when I came to live in London. You can't do anything without a utility open a bank account or rent an apartment. you cna't get a utility bill without a bank account or renting/buying somewhere to live.

    1. I rashly closed my U.K. bank account years way can i open another!

  18. Danilo and his wife look like people I want to meet - and in a wee way I feel as though I have.
    The frustration at ex-pat 'splendid isolation' is shared. I despair of those who fail to even attempt to integrate and who treat indigenous populations as though backward savages - patronising and suspicious and racist in equal measure. My Spanish sister-in-law was just as guilty when living here mind - she certainly treated us with a wry patronymy...Argh!

    The Golden Bough.... why can't I get beyond the third chapter?

    I am so glad that blogging won over the rolecall of tasks...

    1. Danilo and his family are really nice people...and we couldn't run things here without his never failing it infuriated me to hear that stupid woman bawling for help when she saw him.

      The britpack in France had a similar mentality.....though the French were 'quaint' rather than dangerous, but they didn't get round to learning enough French to get to know any of them....

      The Golden Bough was one of my father's favourite books, and he would continually point out the likely background of ceremonies and holidays with reference to it.
      Just keep thinking to yourself 'Wicker Man' and that will take you through to tne end where they appear!

    2. Thanks for the tip Fly - I've dug out my old copy and am girding my loins for the read! Yx

  19. Great post and photo...they look like lovely people. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. I'm glad you're feeling beter and arfe in control of your own computer agin...looking forward to more photographs!
      Danilo and his family are first class hiuman beings...we're so lucky to have him helping us.