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.

More Sugar Beach…day 20

Jungle, Beach, Ocean

Rompio is the word of the week.  The toilet seat now broke, while I was sitting on it.  The trip to Sugar Beach was a great idea.  I have never seen Alisia so excited.  She gets up before dawn each morning and walks to the beach (about 4 minutes). She doesn’t swim but she sits on the beach and lets the waves roll up to her. Sometimes they roll her over completely. She does this several times each day.

Alisia on the beach with the waves rolling over her

The kitchen area has four wooden barstools at a cute counter open to the living room. The kitchen area itself is good-sized with all the regular stuff…well stuff that’s regular in America. Every time I walk into the suite, Alisia is in the kitchen just opening things and looking…the drawers and the microwave and the fridge.  She gestures me over to show me some new wonder: Mira, Sara, mira. [Note: My Spanish has been so bad that at one time I thought “Mira” was William’s nickname for me. Then I heard him say it to someone else and found out it means “look.”] The hotel really is spectacular.   Iguana, sapos (frogs), birds for days…absolutely worth the money, though I would be broke if we stayed much longer.

Alisia and David on Sugar Beach

Playa Azucar – Sugar Beach

David doesn’t need to listen to my bad Spanish anymore; he has learned to read my mind. He tells me where things I’m looking for are when I haven’t yet asked and asks me if I want this or that when I do but haven’t felt like figuring out the Spanish to ask. Maybe I should concentrate on developing this skill rather than learning Spanish. It’s probably not my skill though; it’s probably David’s. Best press on with the Spanish.

portrait of young man

Portrait of a Mind Reader

The father of the Hungarian boy thinks Alisia looks like Golda Meir—I think it’s just her hair.  But I want to look her up on the net anyway to refresh my memory which seems to be worse every day.  I can’t believe I plan on studying Italian next, then French.  I’m going to start making lists of words to memorize every day—maybe every other day.

The bus ride home was a very long 6½-7 hours with NO stops for the bathroom.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone that long without going to the bathroom.  Am too tired to think, so will draw.

Everything is broken, my head, my camera, my pencil…Days 18 and 19

cartoon character with orange face and purple lips

Self portrait with everything broken

The mornings are spectacular here, it rains in the afternoons and the evenings are beautiful with clouds, but the air is fresh.  I swam in the ocean, or rather bobbed around like a cork for hours.  A Hungarian woman bobbed around with me, visiting, for a couple of hours. We didn’t have to move at all. Just laid on our backs and rolled around now and then to stretch our legs.

I have many wounds: everything is rompiendo (breaking).  My head, my camera, my bracelet, and now my pen.  Later: also my ankle…hurt but not broken.

I hit my head on an underwater ledge in the swimming pool while showing off to David, age 14.  David, not me, though who would guess by my behavior.  Have a huge knot on my temple—briefly worried about brain damage (10-20 minutes) but decided I couldn’t have damaged what I wasn’t using.

Also worried about cancer of the shoulder, but recalled incident a few years ago when was worried about thigh cancer and finally remembered I had walked up and down the front stairs 20 times the day before for put-out day.  Actually ruled thigh cancer out fairly early that day because I hadn’t ever heard of it, in favor of dehydration.  So, used my deductive reasoning this time to narrow down other possibilities to four hours of swimming, including but not limited to, the butterfly stroke and/or the fall I took with the backpack containing all the shells on Sugar Beach.  I am planning an art project with them…the shells, not my wounds.  Hope I can un-funk them.  My wallet, money and passport are all really malo from ocean water.

Things to remember:

  • Fat dog chasing owners in car down busy San Jose street with our bus behind beeping and flashing lights. Eventually they noticed us and stopped for their dog.
  • Hungarian boy’s stories: a) said he was in a bicycle accident, in hospital six months, only walking again for two months; b) said he was 11 years old—ha. Didn’t even have all his permanent teeth. c) said he had raced in a bicycle world championship…at age what, 7? When I started to ask his mother about his bike accident, he flashed his arms in front of my face and shook his head desperately to make me stop, the little liar story-teller.
Woman with red hair

Hungarian Woman

Playa Pan de Azucar…day 17

abstract representation of the beach

The Beach

I am waiting for Wm’s mother, sister Patricia and her son David to get ready to have a bite to eat in the restaurant. Incredible light show is happening outside.  I saw several lightning bolts touch down in the distance and could smell the electricity in the air.

It took 5½ hours by bus to get to Playa Flamingo and then another 20 minutes by taxi to get to Playa Pan de Azucar.  The bus ride was beautiful, though hot.  The driver had music on so the whole bus could enjoy it.  At one point everyone sang a couple of the songs together.

I should back track.  Yesterday Patricia, David and I went shopping and asking questions about how to get a bus to the coast.  We walked from bus terminal to bus terminal to bus terminal to find out our options.  Weird that they don’t all depart from the same place.  Ours ended up leaving from the Coca Cola Center, another mystery in that name. I am not sure why, but no one wants to use the phone to find things out—let your fingers do the walking is not a common move around here.  No one would call to book a hotel. I finally did all the calling and even managed to get us the Tico discount.  I think Wm’s family was impressed with my business like performance on the telephone.

Patricia and David were supposed to pick up Alisia#1 and me at 7 a.m. but didn’t get to us until 7:30 a.m. so we had a nerve-wracking time hoping to make the 8 a.m. bus.  The driver kept saying we would never make it by 8 a.m., but Patricia directed the man like a pro and strong armed him into taking the route she wanted. We made it there with four minutes to spare.

Our room is the size of William’s parent’s house and Carmen’s house combined—maybe larger and right on the beach.  There is a kitchen, living room, and two bedrooms.  Patricia and David have one bedroom and Alisia and I share the other.

We had a great time in the ocean which is as warm as bathwater but not as clear as the Atlantic.  Then we went to the swimming pool.  When we had dinner tonight, everyone was stunned to see a napkin folded in a special fold in front of them and they very carefully set them aside so as not to disturb the fold.  It turns out they were that fancy paper we find in the bathrooms of expensive restaurants in SF and this really blew them away.

There’s a big problem with mapaches here (raccoons) which of course there would be as they follow me all over the world—am waiting to find pigeons breeding in my window and the circle will be totally complete.  [Note from the future: I was given a mapache bone as a talisman for good luck with love and money and I carry it everywhere.]

Observation:  No one seems to fart out loud in CR, including me!  And I would know about others because the toilets are not exactly miles from the other rooms.  Not sure what makes this process quieter than in SF—do U.S. toilets echo more? Is it the air? The food?  Also do not need to use much toilet paper—hmmm. What’s it all about, Alfie?

Mamonchinos and Anonas…day 15

Woman with the head of a mamonchino

Self portrait as a mamonchino

Awoke to a sky so brilliantly blue I thought Carmen’s prayers had whisked us to heaven.  The first few days I was here I thought she was saying, Gracias Adios (thank you goodby) to me and I wasn’t sure why—finally realized it was three words gracias a Dios (thanks to God).  I am picking up on everyone’s facial expressions, if not their Spanish.  I now say “si” with my mouth pushed out like I’m French and a furrowed brow many times a day. This is how William’s mother says “si.”

Had a great breakfast, incredible fruit plate, juice, café con leche, bread, fried cheese and fried toast with jam.  Forget not fitting into my clothes, I probably won’t be able to get up my narrow-assed stairway in San Francisco.

After desayuno, we walked through a mariposa farm with the most butterflies I’ve ever seen.  There were huge brown ones with eye-like patterns on their wings eating bananas with 1½”-2” proboscises.  The flowers and plants were from some other planet or possibly just a different dimension.  One was as big as Carmen’s 10 lb. papaya with a cream and purple outside and a deep maroon center that looked like a huge mouth.  It resembled a giant orchid. 

We went to the Lancaster Botanical Garden—Carmen in a skirt and high heels because she was hoping to catch a German man.  It is a huge place where I would like to spend hours wandering around with William and sketching plants.  Enormous bamboo forest and another wilder forest where I had to help Carmen climb under some trees.  I don’t think William’s family think I’m very feminine, though I’ve always seen myself as fairly girly.  However, the time to be girly is not when hiking is involved, Carmen. It was actually pretty funny to see her trying to duck under a low branch in high heels and a short skirt screaming for my help…or more likely for the help of the German man who never appeared.

We took a cab around the lake to Orosi, Cachi, back to Cartago and on to Llorente.  Another great cab driver – he spoke more slowly than Eduardo so I understood some of what he said.  Bought a hand-carved woman for William’s folks from El Sonador and have this strange feeling that William and I bought almost the same thing for them last year.  I can’t wait till he gets here—we’re definitely spending a few days on our own to relax, draw, tour, etc….mostly etc. 

When we returned, I went to the veterinarian’s to buy dog food—do vets sell dog food in the U.S.?  I don’t think so.  Then delivered a big bag of something we bought there for some animal (unclear what this animal is but I think it is for a hamster) to a neighbor.  The neighbor and her daughter-in-law both think I am very pretty—I thanked them, of course: one can never be told this too many times.  The daughter-in-law came right up to me to look more closely at my face and touch my hair.  The mother was absolutely adorable.  A little sparrow of a woman with a wonderful tinkling giggle, which I heard many times as Carmen related all the mistakes I have made in Spanish. 

I have developed a passion for a fruit called anona. Beto told me this word is also used to describe someone who is crazy, though I didn’t really understand why, probably like calling someone a turnip head. I am also enamored with mamonchinos, a type of lychee with little hairs sticking out all over the outer skin which you don’t eat (see my self portrait above). I’d like to sneak into the house and grab some, but it’s impossible without being seen as there is a window from the bedroom where everyone is watching TV, to the kitchen.  I remember this window well from when William and I stayed in that room.  Talk about inhibiting the “etc.” in one’s life. No one would care if I ate the mamonchinos, but I’ve already had a lot of them and Beto puffs up his cheeks when he sees me eating and calls me gordita (supposedly a cute word for chubby but there really is no cute word for chubby in any language), so I am going to restrain myself.

Teleferico, Walking Trees, Orosi Valley, Irazú Volcano National Park…day 14

Character derived from looking at Volcan Irazu

Portrait of Volcan Irazu

Photograph of Irazu Volcano
Irazu Volcano…the real deal

Carmen and I were taken by a man from her church, Carlos, to the teleferico. He has a bad marriage and wants to divorce—I think he’s interested in Carmen.  She says he’s too young and not German.  I told him to divorce first, then look. He is the same guy that drove us to the testimonial. The teleferico is in the Bosque de Lluvia (rain forest) and boy did it lluvia. The teleferico is a six-seater cable car that goes through the treetops.  Absolutely gorgeous, a never ending story of plant and animal life, insects and birds.  There is one tree with shallow roots that throws out vines from high up and when they reach the ground they take root, the old part of the tree dies and the new part becomes strong, eventually throws out its own vines and so the tree “walks” through the forest.  

At the moment I am sitting in an outdoor restaurant on a cliff overlooking the Orosi Valley.  There are jungle and crop covered mountains, a large volcanic crater, Irazu, towering above us and a river meandering through the valley below.  Carmen and I have a room with this same view and a bathroom downstairs also with this view from the toilet—I want to return with Sweet William.  We took a taxi to Irazu because it turned out there were no buses on a Sunday, which you would think would be the busiest day of the week at a National Park.  Still, the taxi there from the house and then on to our hotel on the other side of Cartago was only $35—so it was probably the way to go anyway.   

Carmen and the cab driver, Eduardo, humiliated me by pulling plants up by their roots in the national park to take with them.  I tried to pretend I didn’t know them but they kept shouting “look at this one.”  We’d probably be in jail in the U.S. right now.  

The crater was filled with brilliant green water and the sides going down into the crater were rocky, moonscape-looking terrain. Actually, the whole volcano looked like a surreal moonscape, except for the plants that Eduardo and Carmen were stealing.  

Eduardo would say something to me in Spanish and then when I didn’t understand he would turn to Carmen who would repeat it in Spanish.  It actually worked most of the time.  For some reason I can understand Carmen’s Spanish, but almost no one else’s. Maybe I’m reading her mind and don’t understand any Spanish at all. Carmen is napping at the moment.  I walked to the Mirador—a lookout and beautiful park with views of a lake in the distance.  I already used up all the calories I burned on an agua dulce con leche—basically hot whole milk with enough brown sugar to make it taste like creamy maple syrup.