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.

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. 

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.

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.