Alone at last

Colored pencil drawing of woman standing behind pastry counter

I want the cake that makes me skinny

I’m at a café all by myself! Can’t believe I’m alone. I ordered a cake sight unseen. Was deliberating between one called Delicios and one from Chile and asked the waitress which was mejor (better) —she told me the Chilean one had more sugar and I said I’ll take it. Bring on the sugar, baby. Yesterday I worked at the Fabrica all day like the rest of the family. Finished the program though and I think they will love it. Yojida, Jose’s daughter is a dear. She’s very smart, beautiful too. She wants to learn to write programs with Access and I’m sure she will. In the evening Jose went to a meeting early, Stephie went out and Mirta and I did our own thing. Then Stephie came home and there was all kinds of excitement. More when Jose arrived. I couldn’t understand a word but decided Jose was having an affair and Stephie found out. Later I found out that one of Stephie’s friends had called her fat behind her back and this was what had bent the entire family out of shape. Great to know that I had my pulse on the finger of nothing.

Things to remember:

• Oso rides the motorcycle and the jet ski.

Receta:

• Arroz con pollo al a Peru.

• Put a little water in the blender, fill it with cilantro and a little red pepper (sweet).

• Brown two small onions and 2-3 cloves of garlic. Add tsp coriander or cumin (needed to smell both) as wasn’t sure of the translation. Salt and pepper chicken, brown with onions. Add one large cup beer to cilantro and I think some oil and bouillon cube.

• Pour over chicken and cook until chicken is done.

• Remove chicken, add same amount of rice as there was liquid—3 cups to 3 cups makes too much. Add another sweet pepper and some peas. Hmmm, may need to modify here—and cook for 20 minutes.

Booked an ART CLASS for 2 p.m. tomorrow with Francisco Chavez.

Fish Farm, Rain Forest, Oso the Adventuring Dog…day 23

Storm in the rain forest with a bull and some fish

Self-portrait as a cow fishing in a pond in the rain forest

Family is really important here. When William#3 heard that Carmen was going away for the day he came over to his grandparents place (an hour by bus one way) to hang out with them. He comes by every Sunday anyway, but this past weekend, he came by on Saturday too.

I went for a walk last night with Mari, Jose’s first wife. She told me she works in the plastic factory too. This morning their 2 year old granddaughter, Nicole, and Jose’s son Francisco came by early and sat on Jose and Mirta’s bed to visit while Mirta slept on. Everyone mingles continually. Mari’s boyfriend is probably only about 18—at least he looks it. She told me he was really young—still in school, so maybe only 16! Her oldest son just turned 25 so she must be 40, I’d think, but folks have kids really young around here.

Today is Francisco’s birthday so Mirta made a cake, put it in the oven, then asked Mari to take it out and frost it while Jose, Mirta, Nicole and I went out. I love this family too! Everyone wants to speak English, so we exchange words all day long.

We drove for around an hour today through gorgeous mountainous rain forest (horrendous roads) and then it lived up to its name and started to rain. We arrived at a fish farm/restaurant where we dropped a line with a ball of something on it—I didn’t even ask what it was—and within three seconds had a beautiful fish with a red stripe on the line. The bait man killed it in front of my eyes (I hate that), then took it to the kitchen and it was fried for me. Nicole caught the other two for Jose and Mirta. It then started to pour buckets of water. I figured we’d be killed on the way home because of the roads and the rain so ate chicharon (fried pork), fried yucca, 2 cups of agua dulce con leche and rice pudding. I hate the thought of dying when I’ve been resisting temptation. Mirta asked for raw onions and they brought us a huge bowl in lemon—must have been 2-3 onions. We ate them all. I had always thought I disliked raw onions, but obviously this is no longer true. Another cosa falls to maturity.

Jose is a very interesting man. The second of 15 children (12 boys in a row, then three girls) with an alcoholic father—I thought drunks weren’t supposed to be able to get it up—he and one other brother worked from the time they were 3 or 4 to support the family. Every centavo they made was turned over to the mother, who by the way is alive and lives with the father still, he hasn’t had a drink in over 20 years. They milked cows and mucked out stables, picked coffee and other fruit/vegetables. He didn’t have a pair of shoes until he was 11. I will get the next installment on his life later. I believe it is another novella.

Things to remember:

• Alisia#1 was 14 and Beto was 16 when they married. Alisia had 4 children by the time she was 20.

• No car seats for children; 2 year olds climbing ladders; Nicole wetting her pants and saying, she “didn’t do todo (all) in her pants, just part.”

• No cars are on the street today, not because it’s Sunday, but because there’s a soccer game on TV.

Recetas:

• Peel yucca and the other two veggies before boiling in water; no need to peel the purple potato-like thing, but add sugar to it. Add garlic to all of them after they are cooked.

• Mirta prepares all the food as soon as she comes home from the grocery and puts it in the fridge to eat later. This is a very good idea.

No food is ever wasted, in fact nothing is wasted. It’s embarrassing that I could be humiliated by someone throwing a popsicle stick on the ground when I’m such a waster in my regular life. I justify it by putting my garbage in the correct garbage can!

Everyone is talking at once, including about ten dogs. They all want to visit my mother in Darlington—they’ll think they’ve entered a hospital. Wish my camera hadn’t broken as I really want pictures of everyone’s faces—yes, we all have more than one face.

I think we’re getting ready for Francisco’s birthday; need to find a clock for this room. Am very cansada (tired) by evening. Spanish is exhausting—much easier when I’m telling my stories as I can control the conversation then. Really difficult at parties and I absolutely suck on the phone. Jose asked me why I don’t own a house and I tried to explain my life philosophy, but now in retrospect I believe the real answer is I’m a grasshopper and never save for the future. My philosophical reasons sound so much better. Strong-armed Jose into letting me pay for groceries today—practically had an arm wrestle in the check-out line. Really need a cup of coffee—forget the “malo for your health” I’m in CR!

The fiesta tonight was really nice and I didn’t even need the coffee. Mari, Albert, Francisco, Nicole and I attended—Stephanie and two of her friends attended briefly. Jose and Mirta barbequed steaks and pork, but I didn’t eat any as, since I survived the ride back today and there is a large chocolate cake waiting in the wings, I need to conserve some calories somewhere.

Heard many stories of Oso the dog today. I’m going to make a children’s book of his life, though I think the beginning will have to be censored or aimed at an older crowd. Jose gave Oso’s mother to a girl whose father wouldn’t buy her a dog. The mother was a pure bred poodle. The father wanted to breed her with another pure bred poodle but couldn’t find one, so locked her on the porch when she went into heat. However there was a gate and she backed her butt up to the gate and did the do with a half Pekinese-half something else and had a litter of puppies that look much like poodles with a really bad under bite. I wonder if anyone has thought of dog orthodontia yet? Anyway, the father was so mad he threw the puppies into the street where they were all rescued by different people. Jose took one which became Oso.

Jose and Albert are trying to remember all the Oso stories for me:

  1. Oso followed Jose’s car for three kilometers and Jose didn’t notice until he stopped the car to get out and Oso jumped in.
  2. Jose and Mirta and Oso went to San Jose and Oso jumped on a bus by himself. Someone told Mirta that he had seen Oso jump a bus and so she and Jose chased after 3 or 4 buses before they found Oso, sitting on a seat like all the other passengers, looking out the window. Everyone on the bus was laughing when they stopped to get him. I wonder if he paid his fare.
  3. This is so weird, Oso just came scratching at my door and now he is sitting in my room looking at me and whining like he wants to tell me something—he’s never done this before. Maybe he knows I’m writing his stories and wants his side to be told, or probably he wants me to leave out the part about the bad under bite.
  4. Once they left him at a gas station in Puntarenas and didn’t notice until they got back to Grecia. They drove back to the gas station the next day—it’s a five hour trip one way—and were told that a taxi driver had taken him. They checked out all the taxis until they found the right one, but the driver had given Oso away as a gift to his mother who lived in a different town. They went to the different town and found the mother, but she had a Doberman who didn’t like Oso, so she had given him to someone else. Finally, at this person’s house they found Oso.

I need to practice drawing dogs.

Return from Sugar Beach, ecological footprint, masturbation…day 21-22

Abstract image combining aspects of birds with aspects of human faces, representing ecological footprints

Ecological Footprint

I’m back with Jose and Mirta.  Yesterday morning was spent rehashing the trip with Alisia#1. Beto, who usually goes to bed around 7 p.m., stayed up until we returned around 9 p.m. on Friday night and even sat with us for an hour while we ate and Alisia#1 told him about our trip.  I think he’s a bit jealous.  Saturday morning Alisia#1 had a bowl of fruit set out with honey and whole wheat toast and my silverware wrapped in a napkin just like at the hotel—how cute is that.

Carmen went by bus to Heredia on Saturday to pick up Alisia#2 and Andrea, Alberto, Monica, Gilary and Estefan and then meet up with Edwin and Leda.  They all will take a bus to William#2’s home.  I’d like to see the looks on my family’s faces if I suggested 2-hour bus trips one-way to visit anyone.

I hung out with Alisia#1, Patricia, Beto and William#3 while I waited for Jose and Mirta.  Talked to William for half an hour with entire family in the room…no one has an extension in a bedroom.  There is only one phone, it is in the living room and it is not cordless. I speak in code, M for mother, D for dad, little bro for younger brother, etc.  Even though no one speaks English, most of them know the words for mother, father, brother.  Told him Carmen, Edwin and I want to seek out the half-brother none have met right in front of his folks.

Have I mentioned the CR habit of talking about how gordo (fat) or flaco (thin) everyone is?  They have no problem calling a person gordo right to their face.  When I eat something fattening, Beto holds his arms out wide and puffs out his cheeks and calls me gordita!  Poor Alisia#2 used to be flacita and is no longer so.  Everyone talks about it all the time and she just nods her head—I’d line them up and smack them!

Things to remember:

  • Carmen told me that when she was young and had a novio (boyfriend) at the house, at 6:30 p.m. Beto (her dad) would tell the boy it was late and time for him to leave. Good grief! No one even arrived to pick us up by 6:30 pm. I thought that folks in Latin countries stayed up late. Apparently not in all families.

Recetas

By Mirta

  • Ceviche – fresh fish cut very small, lots of raw onion sliced thin, cilantro, lemon and [different recipe] can include platanos and red pepper.  Also add pink potato-like veggie that is cooked first with sugar, not peeled.
  • Platanos: – chop very small and sauté with sweet red peppers, cilantro and potatoes.
    • 2 potatoes
    • 5 platanos, boil platanos first in water for 20-30 minutes

By Carmen

  • Chayote – boil whole in water for 1-2 hours, cut in half, scrape out inside and smash with grated cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla, add raisins.  Put back in skins, top with fine bread crumbs and bake 5-10 minutes.
  • Try same thing only use onions, cheese and chicken with chayote.

William’s mom has started folding napkins around our silverware at every meal. She is making a huge effort to make the food as pretty as it was at the hotel.  She was really enchanted with the kitchen. 

Carmen told me that her father was quite the looker in his younger days (as was Alisia#1) and the women were always after him.  Carmen tried to blame it 1) all on the women; and, drum roll, 2) on some myth that men don’t like to masturbate.  Bullshit.  1) Women have to tell men NO all the time; men can do the same thing. 2) Men love to masturbate whether they’re having sex or not and if they don’t like to masturbate, then oh well, lazybones. 

I think I actually conveyed these thoughts to her.  I don’t know the word for masturbate in Spanish and I don’t think Carmen does either. Or more likely she just doesn’t like to use it so we used rude hand gestures instead.  Can only imagine what her mom thought as I glanced up and saw her looking out the window at us as we moved our hands up and down in the age-old (well at least my age-old) sign for masturbation.  It’s kind of unbelievable that women would think men are so weak they can’t be blamed for not resisting a come-hither, yet we let them run the world. 

Told David not to kill anything unless it was necessary.  He was stung by a bee in the pool because he picked it up and decided to crush it in his hand.  Good for the bee to get in one last sting.  I told him he deserved it and that all life was important.  He thinks I’m insane and I overheard him telling Patricia and Alisia#1 about my saving a cricket and a spider, but now they are all very careful not to kill anything in front of me.

I was horrified when Alisia#1 reached over me to throw her trash out the window of the bus. I almost dove out the window after it.  However, after she saw me put my trash in my purse she started to do the same.  Heard them talking about me when I took all their popsicle wrappers and sticks and put them in the garbage can at the bus stop rather than flinging them over my shoulder.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  They may throw the occasional popsicle stick out the window, however, they use very few throw-away products.  I probably produce more garbage in a week than their whole family in a month.  Same with energy.  Dishes are washed in cold water that is collected in rain barrels and strained.  Dish soap is a semi-solid hunk that is used sparingly.  Paper towels are not used at all.  No electricity is used for drying clothes.  Lights are turned off when not in a room ALWAYS.  Hot water in the shower is really just slightly warm.  There’s only one car among all the people in his family I have met…Patricia owns it. Beverages are made from fresh fruit on a daily basis. Everything that can be re-used IS re-used.  Things that break are fixed.  Beto has been working on an iron for a couple of weeks. The ecological footprint of this family is practically invisible. Mine on the other hand…well mine is improving.

Family Histories…day 16

Chubby woman with green body and purple and red hair

Self-portrait fitting into tight pants



 

Things to remember:

  • Alisia#1 (Wm’s sisters and father call her El Jefe…the boss) asked me what I normally had for breakfast and when I said cereal, she and Carmen went out and bought chocolate flavored corn flakes for me—they’re actually quite good.
  • When something is papaya-colored, it is the inside of the papaya, not the outside.
  • All dogs hate David—I think he has ADD.  Don’t think the two are related.
  • We always keep the plug in the drain in the shower when we’re not using it; we always keep the toilet seat down, we always keep the bathroom door closed.  These things worry me slightly, as the only reason I can figure out why we do these things is to keep something from crawling in.  Kathy Gould once had a rat jump out of her toilet in Milwaukee so she kept 4 or 5 phonebooks on the toilet all the time after that.  We’d flush the toilet twice before lifting them off, then “go” like lightening and slam the books back down.
  • Rice is served at dinner (almuerzo as it’s at noon) every day, even when we have spaghetti or potatoes.
  • The salads are delicious and all Beto and I use for dressing is a fresh squeezed lemon.
  • I am not actually gaining weight.  I can fit into my tightest pants.
  • Someone from the family stops by to clean about twice/week.  Today it was Alisia#2; a couple of days ago it was Monica.  And I mean they really clean.  Everything is always spotless, limpia, limpia, limpia.  They’d be horrified if I was willing and able to tell them about throwing confetti all over my floors for six months instead of cleaning them. It was actually quite cool…sort of a colorful version of sawdust on a bar room floor. I only allowed metallic confetti…no paper. I had my standards.

More exciting historical family drama as heard from Carmen:

[Note 1: I don’t say “told by” Carmen because we must take into consideration that Carmen’s Spanish is being translated by me.]

[Note 2: I told William I would know more about him and his family than he knows and it sure looks like I was right.]

[Note 3: Carmen tells me to write all these histories in my journal as she tells them…escribe escribe. She thinks this will be a grand book.]

Found out that Guillermo was an alcoholic and also that he didn’t want Patricia’s son Alberto around so either kicked him out or he ran away at 12.  When Carmen asked Patricia where Alberto was, Patricia didn’t answer, just hung her head so Carmen asked again and again until Patricia told her Guillermo didn’t want him.  Carmen had a fit, told Patricia that there were tons of men in the world, but Alberto was blood.  Carmen went looking for him and found him working in some type of cargo place and took him to Alisia#2’s home.  Alisia#2 kept him until he got married, but Carmen made Patricia pay for psychological help for Alberto. They are all very close today, by the way, so it must have worked. Guillermo and Alberto even seem to get along. But then again, Guillermo doesn’t drink anymore.

Found out that William#3 doesn’t want Rosabell (his mom and Wm’s youngest sister) to have a boyfriend. When she invited a man over to her house to watch TV, William#3 came home, found him in the living room, and hit him over the head with a broom….fwhap (Carmen’s sound effects). The man left, never to be seen again. 

Found out that William#3 was dating a woman his mother’s age, who has 3 or 4 children.  Think there might be issues here? 

Found out that my Wm’s father had an affair when Alisia (Wm’s mother) was pregnant with Edwin, the 4th sibling.  Alisia packed up Daniel, Wm. and Carmen and left Beto (Wm’s dad) and when he came home (he worked up near Nicaragua at the time and only came home every couple of months) there was nobody living in his house.  He went looking for her and finally found her, went down on his KNEES, and begged her forgiveness and she told him he could only have one woman—good for Alisia. He told her he would only have one woman if she would come back to him and they have lived together ever since.

The reason we know this story is that Edwin told us that last year a man came by his house who claimed to be his half-brother.  He wasn’t home at the time, only one of his step-daughters was there (Edwin married a woman with 9 children…which is another big history), so nobody in the family has yet met the new half brother.  Edwin told Beto and Alisia the story and asked if Beto had another son. (Maybe all families have exotic stories happening but we just don’t talk about them so they get lost to the ages.) Beto denied the entire story, but Alisia said, si, es VERDAD (the truth).  Perhaps this is why she almost fainted when she saw William#2 for the first time…maybe she thought Beto had been up to his old tricks. 

Carmen and Edwin and I are going looking for this man after we return from Panama. Leda’s daughter said the guy looked a lot like Edwin.  Carmen pulled her lower eyelid down with her index finger and said we would see.  She calls us the Costa Rican Interpol.  We think he lives in the north near Nicaragua.  Our plan is to stop in different towns along the border, point at Edwin and ask if they know anyone who looks like him.  This is our plan? We are keeping our plans secret from both of Wm’s parents. 

Edwin also used to be an active alcoholic.  He told me he drank every day and had six accidents before he got a grip.  Leda helped him, gracias adios.  He didn’t go to AA, Guillermo did.  Just before they left, Carmen got out the bible and read something and then everyone started praying out loud; everyone said something different at the same time so I couldn’t really understand exactly what anyone was saying. We stood in a circle, Leda, Edwin, Carmen and me. Then they all focused on me.  Leda stood in front of me and placed her hand on my heart and Carmen and Edwin were behind me with their hands on my shoulders and everyone prayed out loud. 

Because I don’t say anything during these praying circles, I have a feeling they might just be realizing what a heathen is in their midst.  I have started closing my eyes to try to blend in a little better, but I don’t think anything less than praying out loud will satisfy here.  I keep trying to recall my grouping theory in these moments but it’s difficult.  I must say that it feels good to have people praying over you, though, so I am just enjoying the moment…sort of a group psychic, spiritual and mental massage.

Daniel…day 13

Face that is half man half woman

Family Dynamics

Spent the morning on the internet and the afternoon sleeping. Having fun is exhausting.  Tomorrow we take a teleferia through the tops of the trees and Sunday we go to Irasu Volcano.  Learned mucho about William’s family from Carmen tonight.  Daniel was apparently a loner when they were young and yelled at Carmen all the time until she cracked him over the head with a broom—I think it was a broom; it might have been an iron but I hope not.  He was forced to marry his first wife by her parents (mama?) when he was 21 and she was 15.  They separated when he met his second wife who already had a son and then Daniel and the second wife had a daughter together.  Due to some family disagreement, no one has seen the current wife in years, nor has anyone been to their house.  Daniel comes by his parents’ house by himself on the major holidays.  His wife apparently had “incidents” with both Carmen and Alisia II. So they don’t associate.  I believe Carmen was busted by the second wife for chatting with the first wife and that started a bit of the problem, but I don’t think Carmen and Daniel have really been great buddies ever since the broom/iron incident.

I told Carmen a story William told me about how Daniel was extraordinarily strong as a young man and was lifting weights in front of a crowd and everyone went “oooh” when he lifted a really heavy weight off the ground.  Then when he brought it to his shoulders they all went “whoaaa” as his private parts fell out of his shorts. I would have liked to have seen that.

Beto finished his first puzzle, with a little help from Patricia, David and me.  He almost had it finished when he decided he was missing some pieces—falta falta!  However, it all turned out fine and now he will glue it to plywood, frame it and varnish it.

Ha! More and more Spanish all the time. 

I’m in big trouble—the operative word here being BIG!…day 7

Colored pencil drawing of woman with big butt, boobs and hair

Future self-portait in my soon-to-be-purchased red boots if I continue to eat like this.

Jose and Mirta arrived and we went for a “typical” meal after picking up Mirta’s daughter, Stephie, from her father’s house.  If this is typical, I’m in big trouble—the operative word here being BIG.  Corn bread, corn tortillas, corn cake, fried bananas, chicken with melted cheese and refried beans. I think I gained more just writing it down.

There is another novella in this compound.  Jose is turning his house into a bed and breakfast and is building 12 apartments in a square around the main house.  There will be a park in the middle.  There are several other apartments already built—4, I think.  He took me through a couple of them.  One houses his ex-wife (the mother of his three children) her boyfriend (novio) and one of Jose’s sons; another houses his daughter.  Working in his plastics factory are his brother, his brother’s wife, his nephew, and his two sons.  Everyone seems to get along well.  Miri, the ex-wife, walks in and out of Jose’s house as she needs to during the day and appears on the best of terms with Mirta…Jose’s current woman. 

Stephie, who is around 18, lives here with Jose and Mirta.  Stephie and I danced for an hour today and we’re getting up tomorrow to do another hour at 7 a.m.  She can really move.  Jose took us all with him to deliver plastic toys for piñatas all over two Costa Rican provinces.  I’m going to write a database for him tomorrow.

The biggest cockroach I’ve ever seen just ran in through the open door—probably pushed it open.  Like it has places to go and people to meet.  I hope I’m not one of them and he’s just passing through.  [Book recommendation: The Roaches Have No King] We keep most of our things off the floor; I have a theory that it’s because the insects are too heavy to climb.

Stephie told me she doesn’t have a tattoo because it says in the Bible – Matthew (though it would have been cool if it had been Mark) – not to mark your body or you won’t go to heaven.  Hmmm. [Note from the future: I have heard this many times in the past few years, probably directly attributable to the popularity of tattoos, but this was the first time I had heard it. What’s the reasoning behind this…need to research. Is it just a rule or is there some specific reason it was banned.]

The Papaya Vendor’s Joke…day 6

Self portrait as a coffee up

Self portrait as a coffee cup

The papaya William II gave us is not ripe.  Beto told me about a papaya vendor who was missing a finger. He would hold up a papaya and tell you it was so ripe his finger went right through it, when actually his finger was missing–ha ha ha. I get another joke in Spanish, a chiste. 

I am waiting for Jose and Mirta.  No idea what happened to them, but I seem to remember they ran a bit late.

We did laundry today.  The washing machine is outside under a roof with no walls, but it is kept spotlessly clean and covered with plastic when not in use.  There is no dryer.  We hang everything on a system of clothes lines that crisscross the yard.  We move the clothes along the lines as the sun changes position, then, when it begins to rain, we move like the lightening that streaked across the sky to take everything down. I can’t believe people wear clean clothes all the time. I would wear the same thing for days on end if I had to go to this much work to wash clothes. Before William moved in and forced a washer/dryer into my life, I had someone pick up my laundry, wash it, fold it and deliver it…and it still took me a week to put away. I am very lazy compared to these people.