Most of the past two days can be summed up in a series of pictures, but since it takes five minutes to upload one, I guess I’ll try to write several thousand words.
All of the breakfasts I’ve had in Costa Rica have been the same, and I’m not complaining about it. The local dish is called gallo pinto, and it’s rice with a little cilantro and onion, then cooked with beans. Both times it has been served with eggs and ham, and the combination is pretty awesome.
Anyway, that’s what was served for breakfast at Francisco’s, and because of my standing around, they made me help cut up papaya and avocados. Francisco speaks very little English but has a huge personality, so it more than makes up for the language gap. It’s also funny since he has a huge sense of humor, so I often understand the words he speaks but not the sentences.
Around 10 a.m. yesterday, Ken, Alan, Manuel, and I piled into Francisco’s funky car. It has this tendency to not function at times for odd reasons. Also, the alarm likes going off.
Once we were in the car, ready to go, Manuel turns the key for the ignition, and the engine turns over and dies. After a dozen attempts, he trades places with Francisco and lets him try. Still no go. We roll down the hill in neutral and try again to no avail. Then, after opening the hood and messing with something, they announced that the alarm, for some reason, was not letting the car start. They fixed it, and we were on our way.
The cities in Costa Rica are janky in a cute way. As we traveled beyond them, the land became greener and the air warmer. We were going to the western side of the country, so before too long, we passed over the continental divide. Pretty much at that point, the temperate weather became more humid and sticky.
After a while of driving through the color green, we arrived at Doña Nelly’s, an older, very enthusiastic lady. She used to own a plantation that produced heart of palm, so her garden was very extensive. She also lived in the US for 5 years, so her English was decent enough to mix well with my Spanish. After our lunch of chicken, assorted vegetables, and the usual salad, the workers went to rest while I explored the garden.
Right outside her door, she has a cacao tree with plenty of ripe fruit. I talked to her about it, and she pulled one down to try. The chocolate comes from the large seeds inside the plant, but they’re coated in a gooey film that’s also pretty nice to eat. It has a slightly sour taste, which I have no problem with.
Among the many other interesting plants were several orchids that grow straight from the ground, a spiky palm tree (porcupalm tree), and a live cinnamon tree.
After the rest, we all headed over to Simeon’s place, which was more shacky than housey, but it was charming nonetheless. The housing situation there consisted of prefabricated houses with additional rooms tacked on as needed. Walls existed solely for privacy and not at all for insulation, which is a similar purpose for bedsheets.
The house itself was on a hill, so I got to walk down and investigate the plants and other assorted life. Before too long, it was time for our study, so 11 of us crammed into a room no bigger than 10′ x 10′ and attempted to sweat it out. Halfway through, Nelly broke out her fan and tried to cool the room down. It was a helpful experience anyway.
After the study, we all sat around like old men waiting for dinner. Apparently, most of the neighbors are relatives, so everyone was stopping by, coming in and out of the house. One little boy came over and showed us these very interesting grasshoppers that are black with red highlights.
Dinner, as many dinners have been, was arroz con pollo with sides of beans and salad. Still, pretty tasty.
After dinner, Alan entertained us with his harmonica, making me feel even more like I should expect Clint Eastwood to ride up on a horse.
Once we were all ready, we piled back in the car, this time including Heladio (Simeon’s son) and Rosme, a younger couple, about my age. Slightly crowded, we made it over to their house. Their house, while very primitive, was incredibly charming. The inside doors were simply curtains, as were some walls. The roof was entirely corrugated metal, and the one bathroom had walls only up to your eyes. A cement island in the kitchen served a dual purpose as a well, and there was a large pump and pipe coming out of it to prove it.
Since we were both fine sleeping without fans, Ken and I shared one room, the room closest to the river. It was a river that during the high season would come up nearly into the house, and year round has howler monkeys who shout their territory around 5 in the morning.
That evening, we all sat around trying to cool off, talking on the porch, sitting in a rocking chair literally made out of rebar. They had two dogs and one young cat, and they were very playful.
It was an interesting experience that I wouldn’t mind having again. With barely enough electricity for lights, there were no computers, internet, or TV. Everyone sat around keeping each other company, and we all went to bed fairly early (around 9, I believe).
One of the main reasons for going to bed early, aside from the fact that the sun sets around 6, was that Heladio has to get up early for work. Really early. Around 3:30 a.m., every day. With that in mind, we all went to bed, and the workers let me sleep in until 6. I woke up a little after 5, and thinking that I had slept in until 8 or 9 because of the light, checked Ken’s clock and went back to sleep. Of course, I also missed the howler monkeys. However, when I did get up, everyone was out on the porch looking in the trees at the toucans. Exciting wildlife sighting!
After showering under a spigot attached to the ceiling, I met Ken down by the river. I explored the area for a little bit and took lots of pictures, then we walked upstream a few hundred feet. There, we found a huge tree trunk that had gotten washed onto the rocks from further upstream. The top part had been cut into pieces and hauled away. Ken told me of a saying in Mexico that went something like, “When a tree falls, everyone chops it up for firewood,” meaning something along the lines of, “When someone makes a mistake, everyone tears them apart.” Thinking of this saying, he requested I take a photo of him with it.
When we returned to the house, we were served a breakfast of gallo pinto, had some nice chats, and then got ready for our journey back into the city.
The journey took much longer the second time around, since Manuel took us on the scenic route. I feel like I need to sit in a red room for a few hours to balance out all the green I’ve experienced.
For lunch, we landed at Isell’s, Francisco’s sister-in-law. We picked up Olga, since they are sisters, and we had a lovely meal. Isell has two young boys, the older of which was in school. Kevin was shy at first, but turned into the expected little boy he is. After our lunch of arroz con pollo, Alan entertained Kevin and the rest of us with silly stories and characters made out of his handkerchief. A talented entertainer, that Alan.
Not too long after that, we went back to Francisco’s for the second study, which will be at 6. I don’t imagine much will happen before then, so I’m going to get off the internet and relax a bit.