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.

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. 

Feministas, Prayers and Panties…day 12

Woman with facets of indigenous people and caucasian people

Feminista

Attended a Feminista meeting with M and M on Tuesday evening.  Margo gave a speech on the internet in Spanish.  Very impressive.  Met many very interesting people including two women who print a Feminista newspaper, which I have casually left on the table for William’s family to read.  Almost left my shoes in M and M’s car, but knew they were there somewhere as I could smell them.  Mucho funky from the mud on the banana plantation and the Atlantic Ocean.  Carmen has somehow managed to get the smell out—unbelievable.  I figured I’d just have to live with every dog and cat in the city following me for the rest of my stay.

[Note from the future: I was wearing these same shoes to an event at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and they just fell apart on me. The soles crumbled into tiny little pieces, leaving a trail everywhere I walked. I wonder if this happened because of Carmen’s cleaning.]

Wednesday I spent half the day in an internet café—a different one than I was using as I pooped in the other one after days of one of the traveler’s curses, constipation, and the toilet didn’t work.  Feel sure they can’t pin it on me but am taking no chances—DNA testing and all that.

Today Carmen and I went first to a lawyer’s office where we met up with the pastor of her church and Carmen signed some type of testimonial about the church, I think to verify its existence so the pastor can go to the US to raise money.  Before we left the office we all put our arms around each other, kind of like a huddle, and the pastor prayed the loudest but Carmen and the lawyer (female) ran a close second.  They were all saying different things at the same time. Carmen and the lawyer said a lot of gracias and Senors and the other man, who drove us, used the word Padre a lot.  I didn’t say anything.  Though I heard my name mentioned by each of them a couple of times—they were probably asking the Senor in the Sky to watch over me carefully as I fell twice walking up the stairs to get there.  I think the stairs are different heights.  Carmen told me I need to watch my feet instead of looking around.  I didn’t tell her that I just recently quit watching my feet because William told me to stop looking at them all of the time.

Carmen and I then went to an exposition for computers that was supposed to be the largest in the world.  It was probably the smallest such event I’ve ever seen.  The computers were very expensive compared to Dell, unless prices have soared in the past two weeks.

Afterwards, we took a bus to San Jose where we walked into some art galleries and around town a bit and then took a bus to Alisia ’s (this would be Wm’s sister Alisia II, not to be confused with Wm’s mother, Alisia I) house somewhere in outer Heredia.  Also went to visit Alberto, Monica and Gilary—Patricia’s son, wife and 6-year old granddaughter.  I was amazed at what this little girl can make with only a set of dominoes.  Her mother also drew a picture on a piece of paper and this is what she used as a coloring book. There is no money for a real coloring book here.

Alberto made a pair of socks for me with my name on them at the sock factory where he works.  The first night I was here I thought I heard William III (this would be Rosabell’s son, Wm’s nephew, William III, not Wm’s son, William II…yikes!) and Beto and Alberto talking about the various merits of bikini underpants vs. other types and sure enough, they were.  William III works in a panty factory where he sews panties on a sewing machine.  Alberto makes socks using some type of computer. William III mentioned that they make gigantic panties for WalMart in America and he wondered what these gigantic women looked like to need such gigantic panties. By the way, I have never told William I (my William) that men don’t call their underwear panties. I get too much of a giggle out of hearing him use the term to tell him. [Note from the future: finally had to tell William about panties as we were at Sears and he stopped a store clerk and asked him where the men’s panties were! “Why you let me say that all these years?!”]

Carmen and Alisia II tried to convince me that the world is a much more dangerous place than it used to be, but I managed somehow to tell them that they think it is more dangerous because they watch shows that feature all the bad things that happen all over the world—including much blood—and that in the past, there wasn’t a camera focused at the site of all the bad events and even if there were, the media didn’t put it on TV.  Alisia looked like a light bulb had gone off in her head but I could tell Carmen remained unconvinced.  Had the same conversation with William’s folks and they looked like light bulbs had turned on too.  My next move will be to tell them to quit watching those programs as they are being brain washed into fear poco a poco.

Carmen went to a prayer meeting tonight.  She told me that she does this every week and prays for everyone in the family including me.  She’ll probably be spending more time on me after she reads the paper I left for her.  It has a long pro-choice article that’s going to flip her out.  Need to beef up on my Spanish pro-choice/anti-war terminology before that conversation.

Photos with the BriBri

Photos of the family whose home we invaded for lunch. I took no photos of people’s butts as they were getting in and out of the canoe, unlike my cousin Margo whose butt is now fair game.

I don't think this young man is going to stay home on the farm.

Multi-Mono Culture, BriBri, Spiders and Bananas…Day 9, 10, 11

colored pencil drawing of woman with leaf as a head and cherries and leaves as hair

Self-Portrait as a Multi Cultural Goddess

Margo and Madonna met me in front of the church in Grecia and off we headed for Puerto Viejo.  Torrential downpour through the mountains, then an obstacle course of potholes, in the dark, from Limon to their beach house.  We could have been lost forever in any one of them…maybe dropped into the bowels of the earth, met up with those folks who are living in the center of the earth…but we made it there safe and sound.

Madonna and Margo are incredibly interesting.  They have traveled all over the world covering human rights’ issues for a Central American radio station. I shall say no more as I think that should be their story to write.

On Sunday we drove to the center of the BriBri’s (an indigenous people) land and then were taken on a 3-4 hour ride between Costa Rica and Panama in a canoe that had been carved out of one log.  We went up-river through rapids that were probably 3’s in river rafting terms with one guy poling in the front and another in the back.  Eight of us were in the canoe in total.  These were skinny little dudes doing the poling…I say this because we weren’t “skinny little dudes” doing the sitting.  We hiked up to a waterfall and swam in the pool beneath it.  There were two Italian guys with us and one fell and bruised his face pretty good.  We told him it made him look macho…which he was not at all if you know what I mean. 

Madonna fished the entire way. When she didn’t catch any fish on the right side of the boat, she threw her pole into the left side and announced that she was going to try the fishing in Panama. The BriBri said that even though Madonna was actually raised in Puerto Rico, she was more Costa Rican than rice and beans. They did not say that about Margo and me and I am still to this day puzzling over that one.

We hiked to an area that has about 30 BriBri families, though you’d never know it as you couldn’t see one house while at another.  It takes anywhere from five minutes to one hour to go between houses.  They prepared a wonderful lunch for us in a thatched house with bark floors. You had to climb a ladder to enter.  Guillermo took us on a tour of their organic, multi-culture banana and cocoa plantation.  We slipped and slid through mud up to our ankles, but it was incredible. 

Colored pencil drawing of a banana tree with a face and a nipple

Mono Culture (aside: mono is monkey in Spanish)

The banana trees can live 20-25 years in a multi-culture setting, but only five years in a mono-culture setting.  The BriBri also raise many medicinal plants, one of which Margo takes for depression rather than pharmaceutical drugs and says it works great for her. All in all, it was an unbelievable adventure.  Margo and I kept looking at each other and saying “we are a LONG way from Wisconsin.”

That night we went to hear some music in Puerto Viejo, which is like a mini-Jamaica, very different from San Jose and the Pacific Coast which have hardly any black folks.

Monday we went fishing and snorkeling in the Atlantic and I saw unbelievable fish and coral and snails.  By the way, the beach house is on stilts and huge (over a foot across) crabs live under it and all around it.  Madonna catches them sometimes and puts them in a cage, feeds them till they’re fat (how do you know when a crab is getting fat?…could they be skinny inside their shells?), then eats them. 

 

Colored pencil drawing of spider with face and woman's body

Portrait of My Sister Patsy as Spider Woman (checking to see if she reads this)

I walked smack into a huge spider web the first day on the way to the toilet, which, by the way, is outside. And by huge, I just want to say the body of the spider was around 1.5-2 inches long and .5-1 inch wide. This is not counting the LEGS. So you can imagine the size of the web. I don’t mean to be a wuss about this, but it was something out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. There was a point in my life when I thought I might become a naturalist…Indiana Sarah and the Temple of …. Incidents such as this have convinced me that I made a wise choice in not traveling that path.

Everyone kept warning me how dangerous Limon and the Atlantic Coast are, but M and M said Costa Rican’s think this because there are black people there.  Racism is pretty rampant – boo hiss.  Even I might have been a little leery of the men walking along the road with machetes, though, if I hadn’t seen Madonna gardening. Madonna gardens with a machete.  It seems to be an all-purpose tool on this side of the country.

M and M’s regular house near San Jose is gorgeous—lots of windows, lots of wood, and a bathroom that is totally cool.

The butterflies have been unbelievable—huge iridescent blue ones; red and black ones were mating right in front of my nose.

The cats were also doing something in front of my nose.  One male and one female youngster in a 69 position nursing on each other…and the male had an erection.  The female was kneading her paw into him very, very near this erection, too.  Hmmm…decided to draw outside to give them some privacy.

Mouse, Karaoke and Tight Clothes…day 8

cartoon rat

Self portrait as a mouse

Today I wrote a database for the Plastics Factory, a very simple one, but at least it will track orders and payments.  I hope I can find enough Spanish to teach them to use it.  I enjoyed having a day to think about otras cosas than Spanish. 

It’s raining cats and dogs, well dogs anyway.  No cat would dare to rain anywhere near this place.  Mirta has a phobia about cats and all the poodles have been trained to chase any cats away.  I still haven’t figured out exactly how many poodles they have, but it’s a lot.  There are two 3-week old poodles in this house and five 2-week old poodles in Jose’s daughter’s house.  We contact her by shouting through the kitchen window. 

Tomorrow I go to the Atlantic Coast with Margo and Madonna.  Jose thinks it’s dangerous because people are poor and there isn’t any work there.  He also said that gringas like it there because they can get drugs and sleep with black people.  There are plenty of black people in the U.S., why travel so far? that’s what I want to know.  I’m pretty sure Americans like it because of the music and diversity—at least that’s why I’d like it.  The drug part might be correct, but again I have to wonder: why travel so far for something readily available in the U.S.?

Later that night: I was drawing, but had to stop to record this.  I was unhappy about the enormous roach that was here last night, but now a mouse has just run across the floor– not that I haven’t had them in every place I’ve ever lived. I thought at first it was a REALLY big insect, but no, I now have a regular zoo in here.  It must have been all the rain.  I’m trying to keep a good attitude about these things, after all, at one time I was considering a career as a naturalist. I do wish nature would hang out in someone else’s room, though.

Went to a Karaoke bar/restaurant with Jose, Mirta and Stephie.  I had two coconut drinks and so much food it’s getting ridiculous.  Tonight it was a huge platter of fried chicken, fried pork, fried fish, fried cheese and fried unidentified vegetables, along with ceviche with bananas and lots of orange lemons.  I thought they were green oranges, but they are lemons with green peels and orange insides, whatever happened to lemon yellow?  Both Jose and Mirta sang songs.  I didn’t have the nerve.  We really had a blast, though.  Jose knows everyone.  I’m so lucky to know these people. 

Mirta made ceviche for lunch today and it was out of sight (ha! I have dichos tambien…William’s family, especially his father, Beto, is teaching me many Costa Rican sayings. Twanis, Mahi [can’t find it in the dictionary, so unsure on spelling] translates to cool, Dude.).  Mirta is Peruvian so all of her cooking is Peruvian and WOW can she cook.  The mouse is making noises in the corner.  Maybe she has a family and is nursing, it sounds just like the two puppies nursing.  I don’t have the nerve to pull back the curtain to look.  I remember thinking I could catch a mouse with my hands in college and pulled open a kitchen drawer to grab it. I was so startled when I saw it actually in the drawer that I ran in place and screamed—which I almost did just now as it ran out from behind the curtain again, darted across the room, saw me jump and ran back behind the curtain.  I’m going to brush my teeth and give it a chance to settle into my bed.

Well, I’m back from the bathroom and I can still hear it behind the curtain.  Am going to sleep with my socks on—I don’t know exactly how this will protect me, but I feel more secure with them on. 

Observación 1:  Costa Rican women are much sexier than I am.  Their clothes are much tighter and lower cut.  I look like a 50-year old woman in a 14-year old boy’s clothes.  Well, actually I am a 50 year old woman.  Still, I don’t think I shall change my style soon as I didn’t have to suck in my stomach all evening (thank God, considering what I ate) like all the other women.

Observación 2:  Americans are so much more wasteful than Ticos.  More on this later.  Forgot to mention that Jose came home with a new second hand car, a Range Rover or something like that—big anyway.  It broke down on the way to the Karaoke place.  He called one of his sons on his cell phone, who came and towed us back with a Suzuki Sidekick about 1/3 the size of the Rover.  Even though the Sidekick was smoking when we got back, we hopped in and continued with our evening.  No one was bent out of shape about this.  I want to own this attitude.  Maybe I could bottle it and sell it to gringo commuters in the US of A.