On the southern edge of San Jose's new and very beautiful city hall, there's a small homeless encampment. I approached this woman who turned out to be Maria. Since she could speak only a few words of English, we had to communicate in Spanish.
"I don't speak English."
Grinning stupidly, I asked, "You, Mexico?"
"Ah, how long? This country?" My pidgin confused her. I pressed, "This country. Five years?"
"No, no. Thirty-two years! And I'm a citizen."
"How come no English? Work?"
"Yes, I worked, worked and worked. I never learnt English."
Grinning stupidly, I asked, "Relatives here?"
"Ah, no help you?"
She looked confused. "I'm happy. I need nothing."
"Yes, I'm happy, and serene. I come here to sit. No one bothers me."
"Ah, you don't return to Nicaragua?"
"Relatives in Nicaragua?"
"Yes, and I have two houses in Nicaragua."
"Two houses! Here, you nothing!"
"No, no, I'm not homeless," and she took out her ID card to show me her street address. "I live on William Street with my son. I live near here."
"This," I pointed to the shopping cart. "Not you?"
It turned out that Maria just likes to sit there every day. It's one of her spots. Since she did have a baby carriage with all kinds of stuff on it, you'd probably think she was homeless too. Seventy-years-old, Maria's in good health. Sensibly, she said she'd rather sit outside among people than at home in front of the television.
"No one bothers you?"
"No. They speak English, so I cannot talk with them, but no one bothers me."
With animation, Maria told me about the new canal being built in her native country by the Chinese. There are lots of Chinese there, engineers and workers, and Chinese restaurants are popping up all over, she said. She thinks this enormous project is a good development, and she's not worrying about the huge displacement of people or environmental impacts. It will be completed in five years, she said.