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Thursday, May 15, 2008

The End of the Storm

Disclaimer: This blog entry was pieced together from three seperate half-finished entries from the last six months or so. It was commenced in early February and finished today, in mid-May. It's confusing. The tenses switch randomly. Lots of people do strange things and lots of things happen simultaneously. In short, this isn't the best piece I ever wrote. But hey... as I adviced a friend of mine a while ago: Publish anyway.

Northern Norway, early February:

I’m sitting staring, stunned, at the date of the last blog entry. The 31st of October? That can’t be! It’s just a few days away, it seems. Good Lord, but my life’s been a circus these past months.

The most obvious thing is to backtrack to the beginning of November where I stopped last time. But so many of the things that happened in these months are either very hard to explain or of a highly personal nature (or both). Well, I was never a fan of things being easy, I guess, so let’s give it a try and see if it the end result is even slightly readable.

Bread to the People

November passed in a pain of little work and, hence, very little money. I paid my landlady a sum of money in the beginning of November and told her I’d stay until mid-December. My flatmate had moved out by then, because he wanted to live somewhere closer to work. He found a place in Sabana Sur and is living happily there as far as I know. The third week of November I got a little more work, enough that I could stop starving, and enough to shave off at least the sharpest edges of the disaster(s) that followed.

All along this period I was plodding happily along in my relationship, trying hard to be a good boyfriend. We finalized our plans for her to go to Norway with me in mid-December and everything was set to happen.

The Arrival of Mr. Tall

Excerpts from my mail:

Tue, 27 Nov 2007
[Mr Tall] wrote:
> > Hey Ole hows things? I´m contemplating a journey
> to
> C.R with [Mr. Leadership], are you going to be there and if > so
> whats the situation with your apartment? Is it big
> enough to accomodate Mr tall?
> I hope to be travelling with [Mr. Leadership] on Thursday but
> Tica bus have´nt confirmed my ticket yet, we shall
> see....

Wed, 28 Nov 2007
> Ole wrote:

> There's plenty of room and you're more than welcome.


Note that in his first mail he referred to himself as Mr. Tall. And that he’s British, and that his written English is atrocious – worse than mine, even. In his defence, he’s been using Spanish a lot more than English for a while. But even so... tsk!

As you will no doubt remember, my flatmate had moved out and as such, there was tons of room in my apartment. Little did I know about the background of his arrival to Costa Rica...

One week earlier, on the border between Mexico and Guatemala – Mr. Tall. Everything is freely translated from Spanish to English. Note that the woman referred to here is not really Mrs. Tall, but his girlfriend:

“No, I’m sorry, he’s not here,” said the border guard, looking bored.
“Damnit,” said Mrs. Tall. “When will he be here?”
“Don’t know. Couple of days maybe.”
“Couple of days?!”, she screamed.
Mr Tall, after his standard five seconds of lag time between speech and comprehension, sighed.

A few hours later they had returned to the nearby little border town. It had all the charm of a decomposed hyena carcass. The little hotel-ish building they stayed at had far more fleas than guests at the best of days, and the mattress creaked alarmingly if someone even dared approach it closer than a few feet. Here they stayed through the hot, sweltering days waiting for Mrs. Tall’s relative to return to his job, so he could let them through the border without checking their nonexistent visa stamps. He had let them in a few weeks earlier without any visa, so they could stay as long as they pleased, then when they were on their way back to Guatemala he had vanished.

It was a damp, unpleasant evening when Mr. Tall ran into the people who would set the course of everything that happened in his life during the next two months. He never saw them. He never knew they were there – or had been, rather, before he returned to his hotel and found his pockets empty. He had chosen to carry with him everything except his passport and a few pesos, since the hotel was hardly safer than his pockets. His cash and, most devestatingly, his bank cards.

The details of what followed are unclear to me, as they are no doubt to him. He returned, by and by, to where he lived at the time, Xela in Guatemala, with the help of Mrs. Tall. She was on her way home to Honduras, however, and had very limited funds with which to help him. Mr. Leadership, his closest friend in Xela and the only one with the means to help him, was about to go to Costa Rica to see his girlfriend. Decisions were made. Within a few days, Mr. Tall closed up as much as he could of his life in Xela and went to Guatemala City with Mr. Leadership, who funded him all the way to San Josè, Costa Rica, with his limited supply of cash.

Early December, San Josè

He came, all right, broke as a gypsy and carrying everything he owned with him. Piece by piece I got the story from him. He settled into the room where the crazy Canadian had lived until the end of October, and we took stock of what funds we had between us. It wasn’t much. We went to Paseo Colon to look at options for getting him a bank card sent to Costa Rica (normal mail was pretty much out of the question, since it wouldn’t be very safe or reliable). A slick guy at the TNT office – Johnny Ace, we dubbed him, a slight adaptation of his real name, gave us a great deal and said the card would be in his hands in a few days. Mr. Tall and I walked away from the office, congratulating ourselves and making jokes about how Johnny Ace would hop on his personal jet and go to Northern England to get it.

I needed to go to Quepos to give a Christmas present to my host family there, and Mr. Tall wanted to go as well. At that point, I had enough money to float it, so I said yes. He went a day before me and managed to get mugged again, losing everything I had given him (basically our budget for the stay in Quepos). Needless to say, he was pretty upset by the time I got there.

And from here on out things get very fuzzy in my memory. My landlady showed up and told me that there had been no deal made, and she wanted more money. Maybe I would have given it to her if I had it. I didn’t, so I hegded and stalled, and eventually staged a (if I must say it myself) quite devious get-away. I was broke as a rat, and during December (while dodging my landlady), mr. Tall and I lived on creativity and a few colones a day. Things were relatively under control until my girlfriend went to the American embassy and had her visa application flatly refused (apparently they have a lot of Ticas coming around wanting to supposedly visit their Norwegian boyfriends, because they didn’t believe she wouldn’t stay in the US even after she showed them the return ticket to Oslo). Things got hairy. I begged a bunch of money from friends and relatives and we got the ticket changed to passing through Cuba instead of the US. Somewhere around there I taught my last class in my school. And finally...

Northern Norway, December 23rd

We arrived at my parents’ house after much debacle. I had waited for a few days in Oslo for my girlfriend to complete her round-the-world circuit to get to Norway (Cuba-Amsterdam-Hamburg-Oslo). She had had plenty of issues and, having never travelled before, crossing the Atlantic had been very scary. But at long last, we had arrived in Tromsø and gotten in a car with my two brothers to drive the three hours to my parents’ home.

My girlfriend’s itenary:

San Jose-Cuba (24 hours wait in Havana) – Amsterdam (five hours wait in Amsterdam) – Hamburg – Oslo (36 hours wait) – Tromsø then finally to my home town.

This was her first time travelling! And all this because she was denied her US visa to visit her boyfriend in Norway.

Her first week and a half in Norway was rather hectic, since all my family and friends had gathered (as is usual around Christmas in this country), and she had to meet all of them. Right away. Now, all my friends and most my family are above average or fluent in English so communication was no problem. My parents stepped up and polished their rusty skills. Hell, even my rather shy uncles threw all they had at her! She had, all in all, quite a hectic first period here, but as warm a welcome to this incredibly remote part of the world as could possibly be wished for.

We celebrated Christmas in my home town with my entire family (i.e. my parents and my two brothers, plus one uncle). From later talks with her, I understand she was switching between horrified and enthralled in intense waves. Norway is, after all, quite a capitalistic country, and the level of consumerism we have in the country is far cry from most of Costa Rica. A far cry indeed. Because of the nature of the beast during Christmas time, she met my friends in batches of ten (at least). Lots and lots and lots of impressions over a short period of time. We went to Tromsø and celebrated New Year’s there (fireworks! Woo!), and finally, when we returned to my parents’ house (me being broke and all, we needed somewhere we could stay for free), it was 2008 and we could at long last relax somewhat.

I needed a job, but I was already called in for an interview with a small private school in the area. I went there the second day of January and talked to my current boss. She was cool, the job paid well and had a very high challenge rating. How could I refuse?

My girlfriend and I spent three more weeks together, but without any great adventures. We had a lot of fun, though. She left during the third week of January, when I had been two weeks in my teaching job.

And here we are. It’s the fifth of February, and I’m looking back over the past two or three months of my life thinking “Geez”. However I survived (literally) those last weeks in San Josè is anybody’s guess. I distinctly remember sitting on an internet cafe with my girlfriend, planning and getting the tickets she needed in half an hour or so. I guess that my back was against the wall, so I let the bullets fly.

[Long, long interlude]

15th of May, Northern Norway

Well, this only took me a million months to get back to. Not much has happened since last, though. My girlfriend is coming back to Norway in a month, and in mid-July we’re both going to Costa Rica. I’ve worked as a primary school teacher since mid-January, and it’s been a fucking fantastic experience. I’ve learned so much it’s not even funny. Living with my parents have gone suprisingly well – we’re all adults, and that, I guess. I even got a part-time gig as a lifeguard in the local pool, which was nice to complement my very demanding day job. One of my closest friends died tragically in January – you are deeply missed, my friend. I’ve started going to the gym. My brother and I drove to Trondheim to visit our third brother in Easter. We forgot to bring a map to bring us through Sweden, so we found ourselves asking Swedes for directions at 1.30 in the morning. I love travelling like that.

And now it’s May, two days before the Norwegian independence day. I’ve roughly a month left before the school closes. I was offered to continue working there, but it wasn’t possible to get my girlfriend here, so I chose Costa Rica instead.

That should cover it. God damn long overdue update, I’d say.