This piece is a slightly edited version of the original post at: http://scotttraveler.wordpress.com with the author’s kind permission.
Part 1: I get…
This story is about the owner of this hotel and the (unnamed) owner of the hotel I was staying in. When we arrived in Moyogalpa we immediately wanted to stay at the Bahiha (on the right painted in pink in the pix) as the owner was so friendly but he was all booked up…We ended up at another hotel with rooms that were bare but at least the beds were comfortable. There were no mosquito nets to be found and with no screens on the windows we were literally mosquito bait while sleeping. I tried burning a mosquito coil in the room but the next morning we woke up green and probably had toxic poisoning. After that experience, I always travel with a tiny “Defender” mosquito net; it weighs almost nothing and takes up about as much room as two pairs of socks.
Our hotel lobby area was an outside garden with hammocks, a restaurant and some plants. It looked nice enough. When we arrived at the desk to check in a portly man wearing only some boxer shorts, flip-flop sandals and a “wife-beater” t-shirt glanced up at us from his hammock with a look that showed his annoyance that we disturbed his nap. He rolled out of the hammock (with great effort) and yawned as he walked up to us. I noticed that he had a hole in his tank-top t-shirt right next to his belly button. He stuck his finger in the hole and scratched, wiped the crust from his eyes and asked for our passports. He filled out our registration with about as much attention as a dog resting on a porch on a hot day in Alabama. He asked how many days we were staying and after we told him he quoted a price. We paid and then watched as he dragged himself back to his hammock and began to lay down. I asked him (in my broken Spanish) if there was somewhere that I could buy stamps for my postcards. Without looking up as he adjusted the hammock he informed me that this hotel was the post office and he was the post master. He never did look up but instead laid down on the hammock, closed his eyes and went right back to sleep.
Later, I learned that his name was Humberto.
Jeff and I dropped our bags in our room and returned to the Bahiha for lunch and a cold beer. As we walked out of the hotel I was about to ask Humberto if I could buy some stamps but he was snoring away in his hammock so I left him alone.
When we came back to the hotel in the afternoon he was behind the counter tending to some hotel business. I could see that behind the left side of the counter there were some mail slots, a postal scale and a separate cash register. I walked up and asked Humberto if I could buy some stamps. He let out an audible sigh, put away his papers and slid a few feet over to the “post office” side of the counter and then took out his official “postmaster” hat and put it on. And then as though we hadn’t just spoken he said, “How can I help you?”
I thought he was joking but I played along, “I need to buy some stamps please.” He asked me how many stamps I wanted and I said that I needed 3. He said that the cost was 27 Cordobas. I took 3 ten Cordoba notes from my pocket and handed them to him. He punched a button on the “post office” cash register and when the drawer opened he announced that he did not have any change.
Me: Ok, can you give me change from the hotel register?
Me: Why not?
Humberto: That is hotel money, this is post office money, they can’t mix.
Me: That doesn’t make sense.
Humberto: That’s the rules.
Me: Ok, forget I’m buying stamps, as a hotel customer, as one of your customers, can I get change?
Argh! You have to be kidding me!
I stepped away from the counter and stood there for a minute. I watched as Humberto removed his postmaster cap and returned to his work on the “hotel side” of the counter. I walked back up.
Me: Hola. Can I get some change?
Me: Why not?
Humberto: Because you want to buy stamps, the hotel and post office money is separate.
Me: No, I don’t want to buy stamps, I just need change.
Humberto: No, I know you need stamps, I can’t give you change.
…I looked around his hotel lobby and restaurant. Aside from the cat purring on the counter and Humberto’s Mom washing sheets in the back, it was empty. Every guest of Humberto’s was over at the Bahiha having lunch. Hmmm, go figure, the Bahiha owner is friendly and he gets all the business.
I went over to the Bahiha and asked for change to buy stamps, “Sure Amigo, coming right up. Care for a cold beer or some food while you’re here?
Wow, what a difference.
I went back and watched Humberto mystically transform from slovenly hotel proprietor to officious public servant and then he dispensed my 3 stamps.
(To be contd.)