I attended my first town council meeting.
I got thrown out of my first town council meeting.
Monday evening, some of the residents of Guacimo de Atenas decided to register their displeasure with lack of action to repair the road from Atenas to Guacimo.. They had already done an impromptu blockage of the road.
We decided that I should attend the meeting as a show of support for our neighbors. I wrote out a little speech to deliver in Spanish and everything.
They threw me out before I could deliver it.
I was wearing shorts.
The council meets in a typical government meeting room. Desks placed in a “U” shape with microphones for the elected officials. The public was seated in folding chairs and on benches around the perimeter of the room.
I arrived early and took a seat on a bench in the corner, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. The room quickly filled with officials and members of the public – 30 people in all.
The first order of business was to swear in newly elected officials.
They read their second order of business and voted.
Then the woman running the meeting (not the mayor) made a statement, looked at me, and every head in the room swiveled and looked RIGHT AT ME.
I made a goofy embarrassed face and stood. I said (in spanish) that my spanish was not very good and I didn’t understand. As per usual, she said the same thing – and everybody looked at me AGAIN. A woman in the back said
“El no comprendo.”
A young man caught my eye and said (in english) “You can’t be in the meeting wearing short pants.”
I would have been very happy if a sink hole would have opened beneath me and I disappeared forever.
It didn’t. I got thrown out.
I said in spanish “I’m sorry, I didn’t know. It is my fault. Please excuse me.”
Getting thrown out is hyperbole of course. Everybody was very understanding. They said I was welcome to sit on the bench outside and listen through the windows. A woman soon followed me out and pointed to her knee length pants and did the circle-the-ear gesture and said. “Loco.”
After I took my place on the bench, Carmen, a council member who spoke english came out and explained the reason I was thrown out. She asked if I was with the Guacimo contingent to address the meeting. If so, she could be happy to stand with me in the doorway and translate. Very very nice gesture.
The meeting continued and I could not understand ONE. DAMN. WORD. A combination of amplified spanish, cars, motos, and bus traffic, pretty much guaranteed that I was doomed.
BUT...As they say in the newspaper business, I’ve “buried the lead.”
Our road will be asphalted.
Not clear if the work will start in June or be finished in June. Like now, this year!
I’ll believe it when I see it. But everybody in the meeting seemed convinced that the road will be asphalt. I gave a ride back to Guacimo to seven Ticos and they were chatting and laffing and making plans for the improvement. They are already looking forward to getting pizza in Escobal!
There were ideas for fiestas and a tope to celebrate.
I will be there in shorts.
UPDATE: I guess we were flat-out lied to… an attorney that works for the municipality contact the federal highway commission (CONAVI) and they told him they didn’t know anything about the meeting… and had no plans to do anything. The attorney said he would make a request for road improvement.