Safest/easiest intro to riding in Latin America?

Discussion in 'Latin America' started by Meter Man, Jun 7, 2015.

  1. BobinBahia

    BobinBahia Lifelong M.I.A.

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2014
    Oddometer:
    233
    Location:
    Peninsula de Maraú, Bahia, Brazil
    Without the basics of the local language, very good strategies. Strategies to get practical information you'll need to get along. Where to stay, what time the border closes, a good place to eat, buy gas, etc etc.

    Unfortunately, they are of very limited use to understand the place you're passing through and the people you meet.

    Language is a door to a culture, not just the best, it's THE major access. If you don't speak at least a little of the local language, through observation alone you will be able to open the door a crack. At most. You'll never reach the other side. Your understanding of what you observe will be little better than that of a small child's. Analogous to trusting your own observations when visiting Peruvian archeological ruins, you'll 'get' at most 5% of what you can learn from a good guide. (Unfortunately, many guides you'll find won't be English speaking. Although sometimes you can piggyback on an English language group.)

    On the other hand (there always is one)...

    If you're not fluent in the local language, it's probably better NOT to spend a lot of time with the majority of English speaking locals. (I can hear it already, I'm gonna get sht for this...!) On a typical trip spending no more than a few days in each place, you'd be very lucky to avoid the cross-cultural 'noise' imposed by locals' motivations for 'spiking Ingrish'. These are usually irrelevant to your interests in their culture. I think it's also a mistake to depend on the language ability of a riding partner. If you speak English, only, your language buddy will be very useful. Useful for practical day to day necessities. But speaking with him constantly in English, he will shield you from real contact with locals, the culture, the people.

    So what to do if neither fluent or reasonably conversant? Take a book on the history and cultures of the country. Learn a few basic words, phrases. I've never used them, but electronic translation gizmos and phrase books may also be worth a look. You MAY run into an English speaking local who shares your interests. It's a long shot, I'd say. But stay open to the remote possibility. Then head for the door if you're seen only as an opportunity for 'English practice', a chance to be seen with an exotic visitor, a source of info on American pop culture (movies, Hollywood stars), etc.

    To know, you gotta go. But by all means take along a few basic language tools.
    #41
  2. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,030
    Location:
    Kentucky-Eastern that is!
    While I'm generally OK with the above post- I will use the language skills of a ride partner as they are useful at the moment. Otherwise it's my trip too and my total focus is not to learn another language. My bucket list for travel is longer than my pockets are deep-and my lifespan too:D!
    As for the notion that I'd, to a certain extent, stay away from Inglish speakers-that plain old silly. I interact, to the best of my very limited Spanish or whatever ability, as best I can. If my server, as an e.g. I experienced once in Oaxaca, has great English and is both friendly, not that busy and wants to talk some English for various reasons(on his part)-we are in fact exchanging culture!
    My oldest son has a Colombian GF, speaks Spanish only-thats a whole new ballgame folks. I've met some very interesting people that spoke almost no English in Mexico and that meeting was made possible by people that had no need to have me on "display" locally. As a 71 yr old they are usually mature people and much like seniors here in USA too, we are not into ego games, posing, that's quite prevalent in pour society.
    Another difference in cultures that promotes exchange, in my experiences is my license plate. That simple sign, with KY on it, combined with fact that I don't present a sensation of threat(I suppose I look like their grandpa of sorts?) makes for a good many interactions. Some are short and quick but in a nice friendly way, others become an exchange of personal information, time spent socially with their family and so on.
    I guess part of my point is the attitude you take with you when traveling. Are you in a hurry to get to next spot on the map? Are you open to time & effort to know one another better-no matter the language sometimes- other times if no English and they don't want to be embarrassed or make the effort for whatever reason it doesn't culminate in anything more than a nice smile.
    I/we did have a Frenchman (9/14 trip) take distinct advantage of our lack of the language-he clearly sent us on a long goose chase of wrong directions! Not my kind of senior citizen:eek1:wink:
    Age matters in this whole thing. A lot! Languages become much harder to learn-I'll not go into more on that one as it takes lots of typing! How long is your trip matters a lot too. You can have the best of intentions, so on but many don't have the time or money or family back home considerations matter too- to make it into a long term immersion.
    make the best of every chance to meet their culture head on. I often apologize for my lack of their language and move on to make the best of it.
    If they get pissed cause I'm in their country w/o their language, they are probably not a candidate for me wanting to know them better anyway.
    I have found in much travel that there are all kinds of people in many places.
    if there's one thing I enjoy about many of the Mexicans I've met, it's their open, friendly culture.

    FWIW, there's still a place in North America where they don't go nuts over you smiling at their kids or decide yer gonna kidnap them!:clap
    Kind of like the old days in USA when more folks trusted each other?:D
    #42
  3. BobinBahia

    BobinBahia Lifelong M.I.A.

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2014
    Oddometer:
    233
    Location:
    Peninsula de Maraú, Bahia, Brazil
    Too much going on in that post for me to follow! Bottom line: it all depends on what you want. A beer, lighthearted conviviality, smiles - that enough? Ok! Superficial it can often be, you can pick up at least something despite lack of the language. I'm all for it. But I'm sorry to say most of your post sounds like excuses for not making an effort before the trip to prepare to communicate better. Afterall, one of the main points- maybe THE main point- to travel is the people you'll meet. Can't talk with them at all? I'm afraid you're missing out.
    No such thing as being too old to learn a few words, phrases. At least carry a translation device, phrase book and try. Not when you're making all the effort it takes to prepare and ride your route! Age is just a number. In March I completed a 6 mo. solo ride to Ushuaia. Without benefit of interpreter. :-) I made the effort to do more than smile and nod. Instead of expecting them to speak MY language in THEIR country (?!), I communicated as well as I could- in theirs. I'm 74. In all sincerity and good will, get the lead out! :-)
    #43
  4. BobinBahia

    BobinBahia Lifelong M.I.A.

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2014
    Oddometer:
    233
    Location:
    Peninsula de Maraú, Bahia, Brazil
    Don't mean to sound harsh. You have a good attitude, except maybe for expecting locals to speak your language. :-). You sound like someone who gets along well wherever you go, you like people, they like you.

    As far as 'getting the lead out''- try pencil lead? Write in a small notebook the words and phrases you think you'll most need. Memorize them. (Since you may find numbers tricky, keep pencil and paper to write down currency & value of what you are interested in with the local in front of you - Hostal cost, liters of gas, miles to next gas station, to the border, time it closes, time it opens, etc etc). Start with a few words like>>
    Please?
    Thank you!
    Water?
    Gas?
    How many kms?
    Hotel/Hostal?
    What time open?
    What time closed?
    Pharmacy?
    Doctor?
    Food or Restaurant?
    Police?

    You know the drill, you've been there done that. Prepping communication can take up a fraction of the time you devote to prepping the bike, farkles, itinerary, maps, documents, funding, personal effects, tripadvisor, GPS, etc etc. How hard can it be? :1drink
    #44
  5. WhicheverAnyWayCan

    WhicheverAnyWayCan Deaf Biker

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,775
    Location:
    Seven Springs NC
    As a deaf rider that has ridden in Colombia (Cali->Armenia->Pereira->Manizales->Honda->Bogota) and been to good part of the country without bike (Barranquilla, Cartagena, Medellin). I can tell you this that it doesn't matter where you go, it is good common sense to know your presence of where you are safe or not safe.. you can even get robbed in safest place (I have heard some get robbed in wealth & safe neighborhood of Medellin). It doesn't matter where you go in Latin America, there will always be somebody who will take advantage of you.

    Example, I know how to get from one place to mall (Centro Comerical in spanish) and the taxi driver will try to take "shortcut" but really he is taking longer route so he could roll his meter up high on you but when I get to the mall, I would pay him less than what is on meter and yes we will argue about it but what can he do? I pay attention to where we are going and I will point direction where I want us to go and if he ignore me then its on him when he gets underpaid after we arrive at final destination.

    Example 2: I was at Barranquilla carnival with a date and we wanted to buy cream sprayer can.. it is $5 USD for two bottles and one turned out to be bad.. my date tried to chase him down but I told my date to let it go because for me $5 was not a big deal, but for her she felt ashamed it happened to me. But hey, shit happen and I didn't think being upset over $5 is a big deal.

    So what I am trying to say is that although I am deaf and have very little spanish skill (I can read spanish better than I can write) I am able to travel around Colombia comfortable but at same time I never let my guard down.. I am always looking over my back (I am deaf so I cant hear if anyone is walking up behind me). I often use the window on storefront as mirror to check who may be walking behind me and I use anything that could help me know what/who is around me. My eyes are moving around a lot. I haven't been robbed (knocking on wood) yet. So it doesn't matter where you are, always be aware and be prepare.. then you will be fine be it Mexico or Ecuador or wherever! Good luck!
    #45
  6. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,030
    Location:
    Kentucky-Eastern that is!
    My Brazilian friend missed some of my points. Especially the one where I'm "expecting locals to speak my language"-that's flat wrong and not something I'll accept here in a discussion of cultures. Don't give me credit for a good attitude then go on to belittle me otherwise. In a cultural discussion I've been made out to be a shallow person. Me, the guy that cared enough to try to say something more here.
    The "get out the pencil thing" is honestly speaking, ridiculous. What is there that tells you how I adapt or function when I travel?
    FWIW, I was a counselor for 20 plus years(human beings) and if there's one thing I did in those relationships it was respect for the other person and their value system, etc.! Culture looms large in that thought.
    I have no interest in further explanation(especially sense I seem to have wasted my time?) but will say that I'm a much deeper person than being given credit for in the last few posts. and , I dislike being talked down to as much as the next person, I tried...:D
    gotta go mow my yard
    #46
  7. BikeMex

    BikeMex Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Oddometer:
    305
    Location:
    Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
    It seems that many of you agree the fact that speaking some Spanish in Latin America could be a good thing :clap

    If you come to Puerto Vallarta, you can stay in our house and my mexican wife can teach you some Spanish. She has a lot of experience and much more pacience than me :evil

    Maybe see you here in Mexico

    http://www.bike-mexico.com/home/where-we-are/

    Saludos Jürgen
    #47
  8. BobinBahia

    BobinBahia Lifelong M.I.A.

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2014
    Oddometer:
    233
    Location:
    Peninsula de Maraú, Bahia, Brazil
    Dude, take it easy, you're gonna have a heart attack! I'm wondering how "a counselor for 20 plus years (human beings)" can get so easily riled. And feel I "don't give (you) credit for good attitude" when that is exactly what I said? Better reread!

    Lack of Spanish doesn't seem like the real problem: Often feel easily "belittled", "(dis)respect(ed)", "made out to feel to be a shallow person"? Encouraging you to list a few words and phrases you well know might be helpful since, as I said, "you've been there, done that" and just give it a try: THIS made you blow a gasket?

    Then there's the English problem, WTF? Words are supposed to mean something. You claim you're not "expecting locals to speak my language" ...and, "What is there that tells you how I adapt or function when I travel?"

    You do, that's what. >>>

    "I will use the language skills of a ride partner.... not to learn another language.... If my server has great English and wants to talk some English, we are in fact exchanging culture!" Leaving aside a rather vacuous idea of "culture", the self-justifications and excuses NOT to use anything but English continue to pile up:

    "Age matters in this whole thing. A lot! Languages become much harder to learn. (Can't) make it into a long term immersion." Anyone suggest this? What I did suggest is that BEFORE your trip you might consider dedicating a tiny fraction of the time necessary to prep bike, farkles, documentation, ride route, etc etc- and prep a few basic language tools. Why take offense?

    Not that it matters, but please don't refer to me as "My Brazilian friend" (snicker, sneer). First, I am not Brazilian. Second, we haven't had the pleasure. Sorry, the nearest I plan to be to the great state of Kentucky is the "Tail of the Tiger" ride, and the gothic novels of Cormac McCarthy.

    No one is demeaning you. Everyone here is trying to help. If I were you I'd take Jürgen's exceptionally kind offer of language lessons with his wife in PV. But then, I'm not you. Too many reasons not to, right?

    Meanwhile, don't forget to take your meds, :1drink And for your sake, lighten up? Jesus loves you!

    Attached Files:

    #48
  9. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,030
    Location:
    Kentucky-Eastern that is!
    I said I was out but your comments were/are condescending! Which continued on & on? I'll admit to adding my two cents to what had been said but no need to go off the chart digging up "senior cartoons"?
    I'll be there soon enough Mr Latin American travel expert, meantime
    I'm not as riled as you must think:D
    I do have my morning coffee w/ADV and after reading your post I felt it was worth saying that I do enjoy the friendship & culture of places we travel too. I'm sure not into learning all those languages either as Spanish is but one!
    Mexico travel and Spanish or not was the lean of the discussion and I was out to make it clear that me & others travel there w/o the language and that much is possible in spite of the language handicap I operate under.
    I don't need your instruction on notepads and all that crap:lol3 lots of schooling here my man.:deal
    Senile huh?:rofl
    Language is hard for me for several reasons-age is one and as an educator I know full well the time when your brain's ripe for learning such. My age isn't in that equation:rofl
    Another factor is hearing-mine is a 35%/40% high freq loss on both sides. Those that understand hearing loss know that certain sounds are critical to understanding any language-even my wife using English , as the female voice is more difficult, as are consonants and on & on. Spanish speakers in social settings often talk fast! Machine gun fast!:huh
    I lost my hearing fair and square from guns-big, little & in between. It doesn't get much help from my HA's either.

    Jurgen has a great suggestion as PV is a nice area, indeed!!! I've been there, done that! Easy fly & rent destination that places you near great riding and also a great meet yer lady spot if on a direct ride. The rides from the sea to the highlands in that area (and many others in Mexico on the Pacific coast) are worth going! For those with safety concerns , note that my snowbunnies from all over the North American coast, California to BC,Canada head there to PV in the winter.
    If anyone needs to calm down it doesn't happen to be me?:lol3
    #49
  10. BobinBahia

    BobinBahia Lifelong M.I.A.

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2014
    Oddometer:
    233
    Location:
    Peninsula de Maraú, Bahia, Brazil
    You are ABSOLUTELY right. OK? :clap

    P.S. No need to belabor the challenges languages cause you. Pretty obvious.
    (Also age, hearing, sight... did I leave anything out? :-).
    About "educator... a counselor for 20 years", what's the "lots of schooling here my man", you feel you must emphasize?
    Don't want to misjudge you! Also curious ....
    #50
  11. jimmex

    jimmex Guero con moto Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    4,237
    Location:
    West Texas/Rico
    OP long gone probably. You guys remind me of these two Italians in Milan whom we asked for directions. They were arguing about the best route to the Duomo and we just had to walk off.:rofl
    #51
  12. BobinBahia

    BobinBahia Lifelong M.I.A.

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2014
    Oddometer:
    233
    Location:
    Peninsula de Maraú, Bahia, Brazil
    Hahaha, perfect! We're just two old farts on the corner spittin' 'n arguin' over checkers. :D The more whining & self justification, the more encouragement given, the more whining & chest-beating 'senile agitation'. Go figure.

    I'm also sure OP is long gone- his tank filled with reassurances, great contributions and suggestions (Ecuador, Mexico, Chile, etc). He's off to dither somewhere else about "third world 'safety & easiest'".

    Takes all kinds? :huh
    #52
  13. Reaver

    Reaver How Did I Get Here?

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2008
    Oddometer:
    18,587
    Location:
    Zona Sur Costa Rica
    Someone stole the limes off our tree. Next it'll be the pineapple. I'm outta here, it's not safe.

















    :hide
    #53
  14. BobinBahia

    BobinBahia Lifelong M.I.A.

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2014
    Oddometer:
    233
    Location:
    Peninsula de Maraú, Bahia, Brazil
    "Pura vida my ass!" Ha! Stealing fruit always a no-no. Found it great living on Poás, raising kids, the early '70's. :D The only constant is change.n :cry
    #54
  15. Tricepilot

    Tricepilot Bailando Con Las Estrellas Super Moderator Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2006
    Oddometer:
    11,026
    Location:
    San Antonio
    I call BS. Nobody has a pineapple on their lime tree.
    #55
  16. trailtrick

    trailtrick goat trail rider

    Joined:
    May 14, 2008
    Oddometer:
    3,399
    Location:
    montrose colorado
    easy intro with no surprise is stay home in the hole safe usa,but not go to the cinema in colorado they may shoot at you,same with the school in another state the i can remember ,no go to chicago o east los angeles.and off course vagas is unsafe they have hookers,thief and casinos .
    wath is a adventure with out the risks:rofl
    #56
  17. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,030
    Location:
    Kentucky-Eastern that is!
    No shit!
    As the guy that never hung a diploma (if I say how many that'll draw another retort?) on a wall in his life (never attended a college graduation ceremony either) and a greasy fingernail mechanic ( I'm prouder of that and my kids than all the other paper I earned to get certain jobs) had and having had 5 total careers, my ego is intact and my education needs no posting or "posing" to bore people!:rofl
    I'm not Italian either:lol3
    It has gone on a bit too long and was obvious the OP left long ago. I simply pulled myself into this BS-which was well intended in the beginning :wink:

    Came across as a "one-upsmanship" to me in the beginning then escalated into mostly BS. :D

    Bahia in Brazil guy- FWIW & as (I'm a nice guy too:D) you asked in a sincere manner: In KY, to work as a school counselor, you must teach a few years-with those credentials- then a masters in counseling with practicum,etc., then within 10 years (to keep yer job)you must complete a "terminal degree" program. The missing link there is that many school counselors lack "real world of work experience" which I have , I say this proudly, in spades, as the guy that's been around the block a few times. Another aspect is inner school politics as many get that masters to use as their ticket OUT OF! the classroom and most spend their time focused on seniors going to college and testing, sometimes "problematic" students not pure counseling. Personally, I worked in mostly tech education where the focus is typically career counseling and sometimes testing. Having taught juvy's(delinquents) and also super. of a juvy program, and some years in correctional tech school I have also run treatment group counseling of several kinds. Your welcome!
    #57
  18. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,030
    Location:
    Kentucky-Eastern that is!
    #58
  19. BobinBahia

    BobinBahia Lifelong M.I.A.

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2014
    Oddometer:
    233
    Location:
    Peninsula de Maraú, Bahia, Brazil
    Pineapples? Limes? Education?

    OFF TOPIC! I think we need a new thread.... :huh

    See you there. :D
    #59
  20. Reaver

    Reaver How Did I Get Here?

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2008
    Oddometer:
    18,587
    Location:
    Zona Sur Costa Rica
    Hell, they took the whole Coconut tree this morning! :eek1

    That escalated quickly. :rofl

    (packing up bike now)

    Adios Muchachos.
    #60