I went to the wi-fi place at Hacienda Cusin and ran into five frustrated American tourists. They'd just finished a three-week guided tour of Peru and Ecuador, including the Galapagos, and they decided to stay here an extra day after their group broke up. There are rose plantations nearby, and they went on a tour. The tour was entirely in Spanish, and they learned at the end that the fee for a 15-minute tour was $15 a person. They were short on cash and the people at the plantation locked them in until they could come up with the money! One of the men climbed the fence and made his way back to Cusin's Reception. He complained about their treatment, saying that neither Cusin nor the plantation had told them about the cost before the tour.
I thought about guided tours. We've been on some ourselves, and they have their advantages. Nearly everything is taken care of, and, if in a foreign country, guides on the tour speak the native language. On the other hand, reliance upon a guide can be detrimental once the group tour ends. The frustrated Americans hadn't had to pick up Spanish words as they became necessary. They hadn't had to figure anything out. Had it been me, after 18 days on my own here, my first question would have been "cuanto cuesta"? Probably spelled wrong, but I've used it and I understand when the other person tells me how much the cost will be. I've learned to ask first. Without a tour guide.
We took our last walk into San Pablo this afternoon. We were looking for a taxi to take us to a weaver's shop. No taxis. Carnivale this weekend. We figured we weren't supposed to see the weaver. I said, "I've spent enough money." We stepped into our favorite panaderia and bought two cookies. We told the young proprietor we're leaving tomorrow. He asked how long we have been here and we said 18 days. All in Spanish. His was good, mine not so much, but good enough. We found a tienda that was open and bought bagged milk and Trident gum. Milk in a bag or a box seems normal to us now. We said "buenos tardes" to the dozen or so people we passed, and they returned the greeting.
We've invited Venancia to join us for dinner tonight. She'll fix a soup using the chicken breasts we have left in the refrigerator, plus the giblets and broth from our chicken dinner on Saturday. We'll give her a $40 tip for 14 days of service to us out of the last 18 days. For washing our sheets and towels, vacuuming, cleaning up the kitchen, cooking our meals, correcting our Spanish and laying our evening fires.
San Pablo has been our third restful place this winter. We spent ten warm, sunny days on the Big Island of Hawaii in December. We'd been there before; the best part was the company, for three days, of our daughter and son-in-law. We spent 14 cool, sunny days in Sedona and three warm, sunny days in Tucson in January. We'd been to Sedona before; the best part was the seven short hikes we took. And discovering a place to spend two months next winter, in Tucson, was very good.
We've spent 18 mild days in San Pablo. We've never been here before. We don't speak the language. We don't have our cell phones. But we have explored every other day or so and grown to love the area. I read five books: The Time Traveler's Wife, the Memory Keeper's Daughter, Water for Elephants, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and Under The Dome. Art has read as many. We have slept listening to outdoor sounds and listened to a CD course on personal growth.
When we left Seattle on February 1 I was feeling discouraged by physical issues: the long, slow healing process of a back injury, difficulty seeing well enough to drive at night, and ear issues causing mild dizziness. I was feeling limited in the amount and kind of exercise I was getting and by the way my nighttime schedule was changing because of the driving issue. My concerns weighed on my mind.
In the last 18 days I've gotten just the right exercise - walking and hiking and maneuvering in the cobblestones in the streets and walkways. I've been home every night, reading or talking to Art. I haven't been in traffic, with the glare of headlghts, to bother my vision. I was given some exercises before we left home that have significantly helped my ears. I feel good now. I've had time to get away from myself! And now I'm looking forward to cataract surgery sometime in the next couple of months - and also to the longer light that's coming to the Pacific Northwest, and the resumption of my evening schedule.
Being in San Pablo has been exactly what I needed. I feel refreshed and ready to go home, taking my restored self along.