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Ryan’s Great Adventures
Volume 25: Sun Dec 8, 2002
Some thoughts about my time in Central America.... I'd like to point out a few more things that never made it into any of my adventures for whatever reason. You may think you heard it all, but for every detail I included, there was something I forgot to mention, didn't have time to mention, or—in the case of a certain stripper I met—I was sworn to secrecy. (Sounds juicy, though, doesn't it? *smile* Oh, if only I could tell THAT story.... Perhaps, maybe, someday I will be able to tell that particular story.)
First, music. Many of the popular singers in the United States such as Britney Spears are also popular in Central America. It's a sad thing, but I'm convinced there's absolutely nowhere you can go to escape the horror of Britney. But for the most part, if it's a pop hit here in the US, they're probably listening to it in Central America too. However, they have their own latino stars that most of the English speaking world has never heard of.
For instance: Quiero Pussy. This little gem of a song I would hear all over Honduras, although I never did hear it in Guatemala or Costa Rica, only in Honduras. If your Spanish isn't up to par, "quiero" means "I want". It's a bizarre reggae song where in the chorus there is a call and the response is, "Quiero pussy!" You'd hear this song piped through sound systems while wandering around in the local mall or even in the Internet cafe where I sent many of my adventures from. When I first arrived in Honduras, my Spanish wasn't all that great and at first I figured I had to be 'mishearing' it. Surely they aren't piping "I want pussy!" throughout shopping malls. The entire song is in Spanish, except for that one particular word. Maybe they used an English word to get it past the censors? I'm not convinced that most of the people walking down the street really understood what they were singing to. But then I'm sure a lot of people probably liked the song BECAUSE they knew what they were listening to. It's not a song that's easy to forget, though....
Another song I heard to the point of insanity was Love Hurts by Nazareth. The song is in English, although I have to admit I've never actually heard it in the United States before going to Central America nor since I've returned. But being in English, I can't imagine it got airplay in Central America while not getting any in the United States. They probably just don't play it on the stations I typically listen to. But whenever I'd hear it, it would always conjure up images from one of my first nights in Honduras when a group of us headed to the strip club in La Ceiba, because I swear they played this song every 15 minutes until you just couldn't get it out of your head.
Speaking of that, the song Can't Get You Out of My Mind by Kylie Minogue was also a major hit in all the countries I visited. I can't ever remember hearing the song before I went to Central America, but I have heard it on a couple of occasions since returning. It's difficult in Central America to go an entire day without hearing that song playing somewhere—either on the radio, or from a car driving by, or from somewhere, and was probably one of the most common (if not THE most common) song I heard playing in Central America.
But back to the Spanish songs you've probably never heard of. Another huge hit in the Latino world is "Baile del Gorila", which in English means "Dance of the Gorilla". While watching Univision yesterday I learned the singer is actually an 11 year old girl from Spain named Melody. Can you believe that? Eleven years old! It's actually a pretty catchy tune and is a shame it never made it very big in the United States because it's one I'd love to hear more often. I can't really understand all the words, but in the chorus there's something about raising your hands in the air, lowering your hands towards the ground, then grunting like a gorilla "Hoo hooo hooo". I guess you'd have to hear it to appreciate it. I love that "hooo hooo hooo" part, though. =)
Yesterday I tried finding some of these songs on the Internet—particularly the two Spanish ones which I figure nobody in the English speaking world has heard. I failed, but if you're ever wandering through a music store where you can listen to the various CDs available for purchase, try looking for Quiero Pussy (Renato) or Baile Del Gorila (Melody) to hear what they're listening to in Central America. =)
One of the interesting things about trying to learn another language are some of the idioms you come across. An idiom, for those not up to date on their English terminology, is a phrase that means something other than its literal meaning. For instance, "It's raining cats and dogs" does NOT mean there are cats and dogs falling out of the sky, but rather it's raining very hard! Spanish has their own idioms, and you might find some of the ones I've come across (mostly in books I've read) amusing.
For instance, "Cuerpo de Coca-cola". Translated to English, this means "body of Coca-cola", and refers to a girl with "nice curves", just like the curves of a Coca-cola bottle. Cute, huh? =)
It gets better, though. While discussing this rather amusing idiom with one of my teachers, she also told me that there's another idiom based on this one that goes, "Cuerpo de lata". Translation: "Body of can". This would refer to a girl without any curves, just like a Coca-cola can!
But wait, it gets better still! =) Later I discovered there's another phrase: "Cuerpo de bolsa". Translation: "Body of bag". As in a BAG of Coke. (There's a picture of Amanda in my pictures drinking from a bag of Coke, if you need visuals.) This, obviously, would refer to girls a bit on the chubby side. Very comical idioms, but my teacher warned me that you never, ever say such idioms to the person they refer to. Even the "Cuerpo de Coca-cola" would be like walking up to a girl and saying, "You've got one hot body! Can I jump into bed with you?!" Which, while some girls might go for crude, you'd most likely end up with a slap on your face. And if she has a boyfriend, perhaps worse. They're the types of idioms that two friends walking down the street might use with each other about some girl they see on the other side of the street.
Some other idioms:
- To go where the king goes along (i.e. to go to the bathroom)
- It's like a Chinese dream to me (i.e. it looks Greek to me!)
- To know how to swim and keep your clothes on (i.e. To sleep with one eye open)
- As the burro plays the flute (i.e. By pure luck)
- To rain pitchers (i.e. to rain cats and dogs)
- A bird in the hand is more valuable than 100 flying (i.e. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush [but I'd rather have two in a bush than 100 flying!!!])
- Enter on horseback, leave on a donkey (i.e. Don't start something you can't finish)
- In less time than a rooster sings (i.e. faster than a speeding bullet)
- To have more wool than lamb (i.e. to have money to burn)
- There is a locked-up cat (i.e. I smell a rat)
- I have an aunt that plays the guitar (i.e. What's that got to do with the price of tea in China?)
- Speaking of the fall of Rome (i.e. Speak of the devil....)
- Everyone has their own way of killing fleas (i.e. There's more than one way to skin a cat)
- To walk with feet of lead (i.e. to go with caution)
- To breed crows that poke your eyes out (i.e. to bite the hand that feeds you)
- To drown in a vase of water (i.e. to make a mountain out of a molehill)
- At the singing of the roster (i.e. at the crack of dawn)
- Before you marry, look at what you do (i.e. Look before you leap)
There's a wonderful book I picked up called "Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish", and it has a useful warning anyone traveling to many Spanish-speaking countries might do well to heed. Because it's so darned fascinating and rather funny, I'll quote from the book below:
"Dum dum da dum dum, tump tump! A non-verbal trickster of the most dangerous sort. It's hard to convey the sound pattern in writing (one rendering, perhaps from vaudeville days, is 'shave and a haircut—two bits'), but the pattern is familiar to everyone. Imagine yourself knocking it on a door or tapping it out on your car horn. Got it? Now consider that in certain Latin countries, Mexico especially, what you've just said is, essentially, "Fuck your mother." Knock that on a door in Mexico and be prepared to see someone with a shotgun open it; tap it on your car horn and you'll have twenty vehicles gunning for you. Tap it on your car horn when there's a police car in front of you and you've got serious problems."
Those silly Latinos. *shaking head* =)
But enough about Central America and all things Spanish.... on with my slightly more current adventures....
The two months after the Yellowstone trip, life suddenly got much less interesting. I spent a couple of weeks in the Seattle area hunting down letterboxes and visiting friends (I do know people other than Amanda in Seattle, you know). I watched The Princess Bride on DVD several times in Spanish (and once in English) which was a lot of fun. But mostly, life was pleasant if not perhaps a little dull.
One particularly unusual thing happened on one of my hikes where I met a naked hiker. Yep, butt naked. I've hiked many miles on many trails, and I've seen a lot of strange things during that time. I didn't think I could be surprised on the trail anymore, but I'll be darned, the naked hiker proved me wrong.
It was at Denny Creek—maybe 50 or so miles east of Seattle. This is a very popular trail used by people of all ages, and although it was the off-season in the middle of a weekday, there were still half a dozen or so cars in the parking lot. It's not like this was a highly secluded place where nobody was around. A mile or two along the trail, I could see a lone hiker around a bend. Between us there was a lot of brush, so I could clearly see that the hiker had no shirt on—which wasn't a big deal since I've seen lots of men hiking around without a shirt on. But then we went around the corner where I could see the rest of him and OH MY GOD! There were his jewels hanging out for all the world to see. He had nothing on but shoes, socks, and a backpack.
He's still maybe a hundred feet away by the time I noticed his distinct lack of clothing, and so I had time to think. Should I say anything? Pretend not to be completely astonished at seeing a buck-naked man walking down the trail? What's the proper etiquette for beginning a conversation with a naked hiker? But then again, should I even BE talking to a naked hiker?! Well, at least I could be sure of one thing—he didn't have any weapons hidden on his body!
Finally we reached each other and I said, "I think you forgot some of your clothes up there," while pointing back up the trail from the direction he had come. He laughed and thanked me for my astute observation, but kept walking. The last sight I had of him was his bare butt as he turned the next corner on the trail.
Yeah, well. This was definitely going to be one hike I would never forget. My hopes rose that perhaps there were cute, naked women hikers further along the trail, but alas, there were not. But for now on, whenever I go hiking, I'm keeping my eyes open for them! ;o)
Eventually I left Seattle and headed to Portland where I spent a month (more-or-less) painting Nancy's basement. She's the wonderful person who has kindly been storing all of my worldly possessions while I'm homeless, so I've helped with some painting in return. I may not have gotten paid for it, but it was WORK! Ugh! If all goes well, I'll never have to see another paintbrush for the rest of my natural life.
I usually spent the evenings wandering the streets of Portland, reading Winney de Puh in Spanish at Barnes & Noble, or something equally interesting. On a few days I was even able to get out long enough to find some Portland area letterboxes.
And speaking of letterboxing, ever since I've returned to the United States you've probably noticed that darned near every one of my e-mails mentions the hobby. I explained it briefly in one of my Central American e-mails, but they're far more common here in the states consequently I do it (and mention it) much more often. But I've had something like a dozen people asking me, "Okay, what is this letterboxing thing you're always talking about?" And I figure there's probably a couple dozen more who are thinking it but haven't asked. So I'll answer it now:
Letterboxing is like a treasure hunt, where you have clues that will take you to the hidden 'treasure'. Usually they're hidden in forests and parks. In trees, rocks, logs, or wherever there's a good hole to stick the box in. A few are hidden in more unusual locations such as taverns, coffee shops, people's backyards, and most recently, even inside of the Smithsonian. (That last one seems kind of risky to me, but it's only there temporarily and at least one person from there has okayed it being there, as I understand it.)
Inside the letterbox is a stamp and a notepad. When you look for them, you're supposed to bring your own personal stamp and notepad so you can 'stamp in'. You stamp your own stamp into the letterbox's logbook so anyone finding it after you can see that you've been there, and you stamp an image of the stamp in the letterbox into your own notebook so you can show off all the wonderful boxes you've found.
And get this—most of the stamps are hand-carved which makes them particularly interesting. Some are extraordinary. Others, well, aren't. But they're all fun to find. Just find some clues and start hunting down letterboxes! You can learn more about the hobby and find clues for letterboxes hidden all over the country at Atlas Quest. =)
After three months of wandering around the Northwest, I said goodbye to Portland and headed south in search of more adventures, but I'll save that for the next installment of Ryan’s Great Adventure.
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