Apr 11, 2007

Queremos comprar muchas cosas...

So, I have these Pimsleur language tapes that crack me up, because while they are good about teaching you some really useful phrases and doing so in a manner that aids memory, they also tend to teach you things, in stilted language no less, that will either get you mugged, laughed at, or slapped.

Some examples. For starters, both the Czech and Spanish lessons spend an awful lot of time trying to teach you how to pick up women, including women that are reluctant to talk to you. It also teaches a woman (need to be equal opportunity and all) how, upon meeting Juan, who asks her out to a bar and orders three beers for breakfast, to go about discussing his drinking problem ("Bebe usted demaciado!" or "Sir! (formal) You drink too much!"). Yes, having an intervention with a stranger in a foreign country in a language you aren't fluent in is a great idea. What could possibly go wrong?

Also, the translations aren't always spot-on, and they tend toward the lofty. For starters, referring to Spanish as "Castillano" in Mexico or Los Angeles seems vaguely insulting.

With Spanish, at least I have enough training to somewhat moderate the language tapes as in "Hey, wait a second." In Czech? No telling. I can't WAIT to get my ass kicked in Prague. "Please no! I just wanted to know how to get to Voditchkova St!!"

I do like Slappy's idea of learning how to say "Pardon me, but my language tapes have made me inexcusably rude" in every language I plan on attempting with native speakers. Come to think of it, I should have employed that strategy when coupling cognates, training, and Babelfish (ah, Babelfish) at Annexcafe.

But what does this have to do with the cost of piranha teeth on Margarita Island?

Well, we'll start, as is common (unless you're in a Tarantino movie), from the beginning.

Something you should know about Margarita Island aka an island off VENEZUELA if you do not want to end up like the pissed off Ozzies at the end of the trip frustrated that no one spoke any English: They speak SPANISH, people. They will TRY to meet you halfway, but start with an "hola", would you?

Flew in via Conviasa, which is apparently the new official airline of Venezuela, which I thought would mean new airplanes because I'm a moron; however, having flown Southwest MANY times, old rickety airplanes do not bother me, and the service on them was good.

Oh, and note to little Grrr... grabbing for the drink cart to read what "Sprite" sounds like in Spanish is muy malo!!!

Getting through Point Salines airport (Grenada) wasn't too bad. They don't have a Conviasa counter well marked though, because the flights only leave once a week. They also wanted some little form they gave us when we got here, that we were allegedly supposed to hang onto.

I laughed at this assumption, since I'm the most disorganized person on the planet (thus perfect to be a doctor), but laughed again at thwarting myself since as it turns out, I DID have said form... why? Because I haven't cleaned out my passport case in 3 months! I trumped lazy with lazier! It all goes full circle someday, babies. Found the voucher for my laptop import tax too, since I thought my dumb ass had lost it and would have to pay 50 bucks again when I come back to the country.

Boarded the plane and had relatively uneventful flight. Of course, the fact that it was a 40-50 minute flight jazzed me, because I STILL can't believe that I'm only an hour away, tops, from such an exotic place. The entire time, I insisting on annoying fellow passengers by sing-songing "going to Venezuuuueeelllaaa".

Plus, I got a stamp on my passport, BOTH entering and leaving and a new Grenada stamp when I re-entered, and that kind of insanely geeky stuff appeals to me.

Landed at the airport and went about the process of trying to secure an ATM since I haven't had US dollars since a week after I got to Grenada and the Venezuelans are so very uninterested in our pretty Caribbean money.

The conversion rate is around 2200 Bolivar to the dollar. I mention this to make brief fun of ATM paranoia, which I have previously only experienced in Mexico, and hardly to the same degree. ATM paranoia is when you are standing in front of an ATM having a panic attack at the prospect of taking out $200,000 from ANYTHING, as if it's going to fake out to American dollars and your bank won't call you saying "did you authorize a charge for 195,000 more dollars than you've ever SEEN?"

So got a taxi and that is when we discovered the relevance of those language lessons I mentioned above. You see, the only word of "English", the cab driver knew was "Hotel", which is cheating since "Hotel" in Spanish is "El Hotel" (love me, love my cognates).

On my language lessons, I was bemused when it stated "Yo tengo demaciado dinero. Yo quiere comprar muchas cosas." Supposedly this literally means "I have too much money. I want to buy many things." I always translated this phrase as: "I am a complete frigging idiot, aka an obnoxious flamboyant American tourist. Please mug me. Leave me for dead in a ditch. No one will miss me."

Until... leaving out the first part, you realize you want to go somewhere to shop, but you have no idea WHERE. The largest city on the island is Porlamar, which is a proper city in its own right. Unfortunately, it is such a proper city that it has an airport, incidentally, the one we flew into, thus saying "Queremos ir a Porlamar, por favor) (we want to go to Porlamar, please) when you are already IN Porlamar, is confusing.

We settled on "queremos comprar muchas cosas in la ciudad, por favor" (We want to buy many things in the city), and were whisked off to the shopping district, though unfortunately, not the big time shopping mall, since none of us could remember how to say "mall" in Spanish.

The drive was pretty darn cool, and though this segment is desolate, in places really reveals the area around Porlamar as being quite developed:

You know what isn't a wildly good idea? Going shopping in a Catholic country on Good Friday. Observe:

If you press your ear to the screen, I think you can hear crickets chirping. Or perhaps not, because they were probably also in Mass.

BUT it gave us a cool chance to wander around the city without being packaged in huge crowds. Fortunately, I insisted on dragging our luggage around a little longer so that we could explore (since our hotel was 40 minutes away on Playa El Aqua), thus we not only found an open shopping district with stores and living breathing people selling things (like sandals! Beautiful beautiful, I haven't worn socks in three months level sandals!), but check out this beauty!

Booyah! It was gorgeous inside as well, but there was a service going on, and while I felt comfortable enough (the locals are REALLY NICE) to go inside and stand in the back for a little bit, I was not about to start snapping pictures.

Then it was time to hail a cab (which is really easy, and tends to run 30 thousand Bolivar, or circa 15 bucks, for a 30-40 minute ride for three people combined) and hit the hotel:

I was thinking the price on the hotel was a bit steep, not realizing that not only was it all inclusive with some surprisingly decent food (particularly compared to the on campus fare), BUT was a pretty decently sized resort that came complete with at least 5 pools, a stage with nightly entertainment, a playground, a little garden, and a pathway that involved crossing ONE road and you're on the beach! Dang!

Plus our hotel room was really nice, not only sporting a killer bathroom (don't ask):

But also, a sweetass balcony that wrapped all the way around the corner.

Our first course was to check out the beach, which had vendors galore as well as bars and restaurants that are usually COMPLETELY slamming (still were, to a lesser extent), but had been quelled to some extent by the Easter alcohol ban.

Then sunset:

Then DINNER!! This sure beats the hell out of Pearl's!

I'd read on Virtual Tourist that the Jeep safaris were pretty cool, so wanted to arrange one for the next day. Managed to convey that in broken Spanish to the desk clerk (though actually a good number of them spoke functional hotel English and were very accommodating), and the guy called up someone, put me on the phone to a man that spoke excellent English, and offered us a 8-9 hour jeep safari including full circuit of the island, ride up to the rainforest, boat cruise through the mangrove swamps, lunch, trip to the beach, offroading across the desert, and another trip to the beach for sunset. This, he told me almost apologetically, would cost 40 US dollars a person.

Oh. Baby. I love this country!!!! So booked that ASAP and bedtime. Rest of the story (and the best pictures!) come later!!! And you thought you'd find out the origin of the parrot picture. Silly readers!


Anonymous said...

Actually, Castellano is exactly how Spanish is reffered to in Central and South America. Nothing insuting about that.

Anonymous said...

u know, how does ur blog get keywords like beach,venezuela and margarita island...while mine ends up with hooking, cannibalism and parrots? (don't believe me, look it up on there)...the tables should totally be reversed on this one...

nina (aka Little grr)

Anonymous said...

Wow! O_O *oogles at pictures*

$40 for a grand tour. That almost makes me want to cry. What a wonderful place!!

- Patrick