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Ship's Log: Entry #9 Sept 2-8

Sunday, Sept 2nd Day 7 of Mariposa’s heat. We have a routine now. Things are kind of normal.

Harry and Raoul work a bit on the cabin. The cabin used to be a tool shed. It was made in two adjoining parts, each with a door, but not connected inside. Odd. But down came the tin walls (to use on the pig palace) and with the original wood frame, Harry has started to rebuild the walls of the larger part in wood. (The other part simply came down, thus making more space outside under the outdoor roof).

He’s using wood we had from somewhere, some tree that got cut down and sliced into big, thick planks. The sides aren’t even, they still show all the contours of the tree. They wouldn’t fit together as you might think. So, he’s creating shingles with them. Massive wood shingles. Inventive. He says he’s doing an homage to Canada.

In the end, it is developing a very charming look.

Raoul is someone who has been quite interested in coming here. Insistently interested. I tend to be suspicious of such ardent interest. I can’t help but look for the ulterior motive.

He lives at his mother’s home (everyone who isn’t married still lives with their mother. It’s normal) which is lovely, really really lovely. The grounds (which are what I’ve seen) are quite special, the landscaping has a whimsy to it rarely seen here.

While I might have been a bit wary of his presence, I have to admit, I have warmed to him after seeing the meticulous way in which he cleaned up the unholy mess around the cabin and shed. Harry is a world class mess-maker. If Mess Making were an Olympic sport, I’d strongly urge him to try out for the national team. I think he doesn’t even see the mess. It has to be something like that. But Raoul went about sorting the junk into pleasing piles, sweeping, and generally creating an oasis of order where otherwise it was a sea of chaos. I began to realize that his mother’s home looks the way it does — lovely, inviting, charming, like a magical land maintained by fairies — because of Raoul. My whole impression of him changed at that moment.

It’s funny how we bring our shit with us wherever we go. Our cultural imperatives and assumptions. It’s all we have to go on, of course, until we learn otherwise. But where I jumped to the conclusion that Raoul might have been interested in something like getting close in order to ‘get something’ material from us (not an unheard of motivation in Costa RIca), it turns out his interest in us is because we are from somewhere else and he wants to know more of the world. We have experiences outside this small town, this close-knit community. He is looking for stimulation, he is looking to explore the bigger picture.

Monday, Sept 3rd day 8 Mariposa’s heat

These days I’m working in the yucca field at the top of our property. (okay, field is a stretch. There are 75 plants). The yucca has been responding to the manure I’m working into the soil. The leaves are greening up nicely. This is labour intensive, but deeply satisfying work. I can’t get over how much I love digging in the earth.

Mid afternoon, Felipe arrives for a visit bearing gifts of pastry and cake. Later, I will fail miserably at restraining myself from eating either pastry or cake.

Felipe is a friend Harry made years ago while working at the call centre. Later, when we elected to live in Heredia during my ‘sabbatical’ it was at Felipe’s suggestion and we got to hang out a lot. Young, dynamic, sweet and generous, Felipe is a good friend. It’s going to be a pleasure to spend a few days with him.

Felipe helps Harry put a screen over the pig’s pen because the poor things have been getting attacked by bats at night. Blood sucking bats. Yes. It’s confirmed, there are vampires.

The internet is down.

Tuesday, Sept 4th Spent the whole day hanging out with Felipe.

Because he’s such a connoisseur of Costa Rica and its wonderful attractions, we wanted to do something special with him. Harry contacted Raoul to see if he’d like to show us the caves he had been waxing on about. Apparently there are marvellous caves in this town, full of archeological artifacts, crystals, and – yes – bats. He was more than happy to oblige. Rudy was a key component to this excursion, it turns out he is the person who actually knows how to get to these caves, and he wasn’t available. Yet we go anyway.

We make our way to a house past a rickety bridge, behind which are the hills with the caves. We chat amicably with the people of the house before setting off on foot. It is, as always, breathtakingly beautiful. the fields are high, the Brahmin cows are grazing stoically, the view is perfect.

It’s about an hour of walking, as we progress, the nature around us gets closer. The density increases. A machete is used to clear a path. We continue to climb upward. Once we arrive at the caves, they are underground caves, and I remember I’m deathly afraid of underground caves. We descend into the mouth of the cave, affording me a look back up at the opening and that National Geographic lighting that is so dramatic. Felipe has brought a super-mega flashlight. Ever prepared, this thing could guide a 747 to a safe landing. I mean it’s searchlight large. It’s ‘looking for escaped criminals’ bright. But I forgot to bring a flashlight, as did Harry. I adamantly insist I will be staying behind and waiting for them. Happily But for reasons I don’t catch, they decide not to descend any further either.

Back in the grazing pastures we have a picnic.

Raoul has one other cave he wants to show us. Why not? Off we go, in another direction, through more bramble and dry rain forest, up yet another hill. We come upon massive cacti. We come upon stone that has been dislodged by earthquake. We come upon a recently cleared field, full of fallen trees and stumps and debris yet where new corn stalks are visible. So they don’t clear the land like farmers in Ontario. They just get the big stuff down, and then stick the seeds into the ground and let it grow up past the debris. So interesting.

Our route begins to get a bit ramble-y. Raoul is making noises like he might not be sure where these caves are. We are definitely no longer following a path. There’s some backtracking. I’m the first to ask, but not the only one who had the though, “Will we be able to find our way back out again?”. We are warned of a particular bush that will ‘sting’ you if you touch it. It’s everywhere. Eventually Raoul has to concede the route to the cave is lost, and we turn back. I get stung by this bush, and it is a bitch. Imagine a whole nest of wasps stoning you at once. It burns. I’m pissed, I’ll admit it. My North American sense of privilege rises to the surface and I’m pissed that I was brought here. the burn passes, I get over myself.

Once we’re back on the road again, we go and visit Raoul’s house and chat with his mom Doña Sarah. She’s a spry 90 year old and talks about the old days, her husband (gone these last five years) and what it was like to live here as a girl. I can’t really follow, but enjoy entirely the peaceful yard, the beautiful shade, my rocking chair, the view of my friends in front of me. Sarah shows us pictures of her husband. It’s nice.

We learn of the gas strike. Felipe worries because he has to drive back to San Jose. Actually, the strike was about the fuel truckers. They were on strike. Apparently the government recently passed a law that fuel trucks needed to meet certain road worthy standards and because many of the truckers were making ends meet with old, less than road worthy trucks, they felt discriminated against. And in order to show solidarity, the drivers who owned newer trucks that weren’t going to be subject to penalty also joined in the strike. So no gas at the pump.

Day 9 of Mariposa’s heat Internet is still down

Wednesday, Sept 5th earthquake. I wrote a bit about it here:

Felipe was preparing to return to San Jose when it hit. After, we are all excited, unable to stop chattering, glad he hadn’t left before – because it would have been worse if he were on the road. But he does leave after about an hour, to be sure he can make it back. Apparently there’s gas in the gas stations again. But who knows how the roads will be?

Harry and I clean up the mess and chill for the rest of the day.

Thursday, Sept 6th Day 11, Mariposa is in heat She learned how to open the screen doors today. The funny thing about that is, when she got free of her house arrest, she ran right into my arms. Not that effective an escape strategy, but entirely charming.

We go to Nicoya because we are low on supplies. I get to talk to folks from North America who call to see that all’s well after the quake.

While in the car, chatting on Skype with my friend Mia from LA, one who knows earthquakes, a kid from the local pulperia checks in at the window to say hi. I introduce him to Mia (who is on my computer – I’m sure it doesn’t entirely compute, but he hears her voice and responds). When we ask him if he was scared by the earthquake, he offers a completely classic Tico reply, “No Hombre” complete with facial expression of ‘get real, this didn’t scare me, what are you talkin’?’ Funny. Internet is still down. I tell Harry again. He seems not to have understood when I told him before. Acts like this a news. I don’t’ know, is it me?

Friday, Sept 7th Harry and I have a Discussion. This is my shorthand for the married couple’s periodic conversation about whether it’s all worth it or not. (So far it still is).

Day 12 Mariposa is in heat. Willie has pretty much given up trying to mount her. So I begin to wonder if maybe the things has passed. I look it all up online (again) to see if I can find anywhere any sort of possible confirmation that she’s finished and we can go back to normal ( Dogs outside, the inside free of pee). I’m sitting under the lemon tree scouring the internet when Mariposa starts to whimper and I look over to see Mincho’s dog is back. Yeah, okay, she’s still in heat.

I continue the task of fertilizing the Yucca. Flea bathes for both dogs. Fumigate for fleas Harry goes to his friend’s hotel to do laundry. Without a machine, it’s been piling up (the bucket a day method can’t keep up with sheets, towels, guests). We book ICE to come and fix the internet More calls from friends asking how we are. Fucking Mariposa pees on the bed! Thank god for the plastic bed cover.

Saturday, Sept 8th working in the morning on the blog planting Yucca and get an invitation to a baby shower.

Our friend Mincho’s wife Mailene is due any day and the baby shower is set for the 15th. It seems like it’s cutting it a bit close. Getting back to the invitation, it is wonderful. A small rectangle of construction paper with the details printed on it inserted into an equally small envelope. I shall keep this forever. I’m so happy to have been invited.

Originally published October 7, 2012

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