TAMARINDO, COSTA RICA – Leonard Palmer’s mission to learn Spanish in Costa Rica ended tragically on Monday when the 37-year-old Tempe, Arizona native jumped off a bridge after losing his mind trying to understand reflexive verbs.
Palmer, who had high hopes when he moved to Costa Rica to learn Spanish in January, was advancing in his beginner level classes and was a curious and engaged student, said profesora Cindi Arias Obando. That all changed when the class began the unit on reflexive verbs, she said.
Palmer’s frustration with reflexive verbs began when he announced to the class that he was going to brush his teeth, smiling and shouting out “Voy a lavar mis dientes.” Arias Obando corrected him, saying “Voy a lavarME LOS dientes.”
Confused, Palmer asked: “Why would I say I’m going to brush my own teeth? Who’s else would I brush?”
While the class laughed on day one, by day 22, Palmer’s inability to comprehend reflexive verbs sent him into a manic, depressive state, peers said. On his final day in class, Palmer, who originally wore board shorts and tank tops to class, was donning a black hoodie, pants and dark eyeliner.
“Te pintaste los ojos?” Arias Obando asked.
“Did I paint myself the eyes??!” He asked. “Yeah, I guess I fking did paint myself the eyes!”
When Arias Obando replied “No te enojes,” (don’t be angry) Palmer lost control, according to classmates.
“I shower myself? I put myself to sleep? I brush myself the hair? WHAT IS THIS SHT??!” He screamed. “That’s it, I quit! YO RINDO!”
After an extended silence, Arias Obando corrected him.
“Yo ME rindo,” she said.
Two hours later, Palmer was seen jumping off a bridge over the crocodile-infested Tárcoles River. When resuscitated by paramedics, witnesses say Palmer groaned “Quiero suicidar,” which was then corrected by a first responder who told him, “ME quiero suicidar.”
According to Palmer’s Facebook page, he is now back in Tempe, recovering, and studying sign language.