Which is more dangerous? Running from a raging bull, or the Ferris Wheel?

20 Dec

Last night, I took 7 virgins (6 adultos and 1 niňo) to the Fiesta del Toro in Esperanza.  I promised these gringos and their only child an authentic Tico cultural experience—complete with disgruntled bulls, amateur matadors, mystery meat-on-a-stick, dancing, drunk locals in cowboy gear, cotton candy, and carnival-esque kiddie rides.  I knew what to expect from the actual “rodeo”:  a few matador-wanna-be’s with red flags and several visibly intoxicated hombres, trapped in a wooden ring, taunting an already pissed-off bull, and then running for their lives—much to the amusement of children, grandmothers and enthusiastic fans.

The first time I went to a Costa Rican Fiesta del Toro, I commented to a local friend:  “This is insane!  I mean, they save the ‘meanest’ bull for last, when no doubt the bull-agitators are most drunk. That dude cannot even stand up! Furious bull and drunk people cannot be a good idea–ever.”

My Tico friend: “Your people jump out of planes.”


Thinking perhaps we may star in the next episode of “Faces of Death”, I drag these innocent people (and their 13 year-old son) out for a night of local Costa Rican “culture.”

Me: “OMIGOD!  A Ferris Wheel!  I have not been on a Ferris Wheel for ages.”

Marcia:  “Kelly, look at that thing!  That is not a Ferris Wheel.  That is a Tico human rotisserie machine.  It took them one hour to set it up, at $1 a hour.  It has rust on it. Death-trap.”

Me:  “What?!  Look everyone is riding it!”  (“Everyone” being Tico children under the age of 14.  No gringos or adults in line—this should have been red flag # 1.)

Marcia:  “Do you see the smoke coming off the engine? And it sounds like it is being run by sick horses.  Deathtrap.” (This should have been red flag #2.)

Joshua and his teen son, Brody, needed no convincing (this should have been red flag # 3.)  Within 2 minutes, they were back with 500 colones Ferris Wheel tickets in hand.

Marcia (flipping out): “500 colones for a ticket?!  That is less than $1!  What does that tell you?!  You are going to die!” ((This should have been red flag #4.)

Me:  “Great!  I can afford it!  I am getting in line—whose is with me?!”

Murmurs of “crazy”, “no way”, something about these exact same Ferris Wheels (that do 360 degree turns) being outlawed in the States (this should have been red flag #5.) Regardless, I convince Stephanie to join me.

Marcia (still harping): “You are all going to die and then miss the fishing trip on Monday.”

Me:  “Well, I think dying by Ferris Wheel would actually be a pretty cool way to go.”

Stephanie:  “Well, I am not worried about dying—I am more worried about the maiming-for-life thing.”

Several friends walk by, and all say the same thing, “You are not seriously going on that thing, are you?!”  Of course.  Pussies.

Joshua and Brody crawl into the first cage; Stephanie and I cram into the second cage.  As the rest of the cages are filled with young Ticos, confidently, I start rocking the cage back and forth.  I have tried Ferris Wheels on 4 continents thus far, no fear.

Stephanie: “Um, there are no seat belts.” (This should have been red flag #6.)

Me (shrugging my shoulders):  “Well, I never wear seat-belts in my truck.”

What did not occur to me (or Stephanie) at that time– amidst the smoke puffing from the Ferris Wheel engine; Cumbia blaring at 900 decibels; people cheering on drunk people running from bulls in the ring; and general festival chaos—was the effect of GRAVITY.  So that if we were to flip all the way over, with NO SEAT BELTS, all 130+ pounds of my bodily weight would land precisely on my head, into a metal bar. (There was no padding in the cage– This should have been red flag #7.)

So the first time the Ferris cage flipped fully over, both Stephanie and I completely fell on our heads with a CRACK sound.  “What the F…?!”

Our screams were real—but perhaps muted by others on the Ferris Wheel also experiencing head trauma (over and over again.)  Stephanie, clinging to the cage like a rapid monkey:” Get me out of here!”

Me:  “Am I bleeding?!!!”

Stephanie can only scream at this point and is actively trying to escape (not a good idea.)  I am trying to calm her down while checking my own head for a gaping wound and blood, and trying to keep the cage from flipping over again.

Stephanie: “Stop rocking it!”

Me: “I am not doing anything!  It’s going to be OK…um, am I bleeding?!”

Luckily, Stephanie and I were the first to be freed from the Ferris Wheel.  The first words out of my mouth, “Anyone know about concussions?”

Needless to say, last night, in our group of 7, three people experienced head trauma (Stephanie and I on the Ferris Wheel) and Ashlee, attempting to pee in the bushes, hit her head on a barbed wire.  Brody complained of back pain, from landing on his back every time the Ferris Cage flipped over.  Joshua—well, we are just going to wait to see the true damage.

Stephanie and I went to bed wondering if in fact we would wake up in the morning.  I am waiting to see which of my prized motor skills has been dismantled (Will I start to drool?  will I have lost my ability to determine left from right?)  I have a huge goose-egg bump on my forehead.  Therefore, in conclusion, seeing as no one got injured from the raging bulls, perhaps the REAL Vaqueros ride the Ferris Wheel at Fiesta del Toro.

PS– If you are wondering why all my photos are fuzzy, that is because I took them after the concussion and 2 beers!


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