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At the End of a Long Drive

Shreesh and Neena Taskar

We didn't make the decision, the decision made us. On October 20th, 2007, we left our comfortable city of San Francisco to follow a simple algorithm - go North till the road ends then turn around and then go as far South. In between those two points was the stage, the timeline, the space, where we made things happen and things happened to us.

The past is fleeting and the stories, the sights and the feelings are perishable. One sees what one wants to see, and perhaps we are not capable of more. We saw that people are kind and helpful even if they were not materially rich. Some we could understand even though we didn't speak the same language, the motivations of others were incomprehensible even though we did. In the end fragments remain - the smell of roasting chocolate, a flock of snow Ptarmigians on snow, the creaking of the rainforest, the rough feathers of penguins, and the intoxication of Curanto.

So these are our stories. Every time you visit the site you will see a random post below. Each starts with Lo que pasa es que...

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Me Grumpy!

A beautiful palapa beckons. Roman asses. Bad Spanish.

Learning another language is always an adventure. Not being able to communicate clearly can be quite frustrating, but the rewards of sticking with the native language are great. One gets to speak with people with whom you would not normally speak and overall people are quite touched that you have at least tried to learn their language. In Campeche we had an hour long conversation with a tough looking no-neck guy who was the owner of a private security firm. In Villahermosa we talked with an aerial photography team – about their work, their lives, and how one hails taxis in town (it was counter-intuitive).

The mischievous beginner can use his imperfect understanding for humorous purposes. During an evening out with our Italian teacher and an acquaintance from Rome, where the gentleman, having had entirely too much to drink, blathered on and on about the greatness of Rome to the point of tedium. I saw my chance when he used the expression that Rome was the cradle (la culla) of western civilization – I restated his statement but substituted the similar sounding “il culo” (meaning ass, rump, bum) for the word for cradle. “I know that Rome is (il culo) of western civilization, but there are many other great cities in Italy”, was the phrase I used. An innocent beginner mistake :)


Is it possible to have a bad time in such a pretty spot?

The location was stunning – next to a turquoise blue ocean and simply constructed palapas. We prepared ourselves for an amazing seafood experience, but alas it was not to be. The smug waiter was entirely too full of conceit and needed taking down. Here is a transcript of the postprandial conversation:

What I said/heard What I intended/understood
Mesero: ¿Como te gusta? How did you like your food?
Yo: Se puede decir… ¿Uniformamente horribile? Can one say… Uniformly horrible?
Mesero: ¿Como? What!
Yo: El pulpo era muy salato. ¡Era tanto salato che es como comer una bolsita de sal! The Octopus was very salty. So salty that it was like eating a bag of salt!
Mesero: ¿Porque no me indica? Yo te revuelvo… Why didn’t you tell me? I would have taken it back
Yo: Las camarones gustan de medicina. ¡Me sento in una farmacia! The shrimp tasted like medicine. I felt like I was in a pharmacy!
Mesero: Disculpe… Sorry…
Yo: No es todo. Las tortillas gustan de jabon. ¿Sabes che es jabon? ¡La cosa che se usa para limpiar el piel! That’s not all. The tortillas tasted like soap. Do you know what soap is? It is that which you use to clean the skin!
Mesero: Lo siento… I’m sorry…