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.

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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.

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?

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.

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.