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Monday, August 27, 2012

Jungle Trails & Badminton in the Mango Grove

Layne and I are about to head out the door for a hike around the neighborhood and soon I'll be packing for still another trip to the U.S. My mom in Texas has had a few non-serious health issues of late and I leave tomorrow to spend a few weeks with her to help get things back in order around her house; Layne will join me there in mid-September. Meanwhile I owe my readers an update on our busy lives here in beautiful Costa Rica.

Back on August 15th, it was Dia de Las Madres or Mother's Day here and it was our good fortune to be invited to our neighbor Rosa's family celebration. Over a delicious lunch of pollo (chicken), steamed vegetables, rice and the delicious chicken soup pictured here, we practiced our Spanish and learned more about the big family on whose large traditional family estate we reside. Rosa and her sister Suzie live together in a comfortable home on the main road above us. In fact, it is Rosa's house that we give as a landmark to taxi drivers when heading home, there being no house numbers or indeed road signs in Costa Rica. "A la casa de Rosa Mora," we say, and they all know the place. The two sisters are siblings of Isaac Mora, our landlord who lives next door to us; Rosa's house is next to Isaac's, just up the hill. Across the road is Juan, a brother, and next door to Rosa's place is still another sister who lives with her son. A fourth sibling, Angelica, lives in Heredia and arrived later with her lovely daughter Maria. Maria spoke some English as she works at the airport as an industrial engineer so she was able to translate a bit for everyone. The fiesta was so entertaining that I neglected to take any more pictures once the food was on the table!

It is the rainy season here and as in all tropical countries, sometimes it really pours. During a deluge, the noise on our metal roof can be deafening. But most Ticos prefer this wetter time of year because everything is so green, the flowers bloom gloriously and the heavy rains clear the streets and gutters of trash and debris. Because of this, Costa Ricans tend to throw plastic bags and other litter on the ground, confident that when the rains come, it will all disappear. It does, of course, but they don't seem to realize that most of that garbage will end up in rivers, streams and eventually the ocean, contributing to a global problem. Fortunately, recycling of paper and plastic and other materials is beginning to catch on with a service that collects recyclables now coming regularly to Atenas and other communities.
The rains also wash away a lot of dirt from the steep hillsides here. On a recent walk, we passed a gentleman shoveling dirt from the concrete gutter where it had collected after a big downpour. Further along we crossed the usually small creek, now running fast and deep, a muddy brown from the runoff.

Seidy, Layne, Bonnie, Chris, Sue & Marcial
(Photo by Stephen Kopel)
Yesterday was overcast with a light sprinkle now and then but it didn't stop us from joining a group of good friends at Marcial and Seidy's house for a Tico feast and some badminton. The group, led by Marcial, had earlier in the day taken a long hike down by the river, down treacherous muddy slopes and up steep hillsides. Layne said it was a challenging walk but invigorating. I had to miss the outing in order to call my mom and let her know I was coming for a visit this week. It had been a worrisome couple of weeks for me, as we didn't know what was causing her to feel so bad. But after a trip to the doctor, she had learned it was not serious so my trip should be fun, not troubling.

By stretching elastic cord over the ground for borders and setting up a net, Marcial and his sons Felipe and Daniel had constructed a makeshift badminton court in the midst of the mango grove. Soon everyone got in on the game, with Seidy making some great shots and Layne giving it his all. New friends Chris and Sue got into the game, with Chris' height giving him a strong advantage. Meanwhile, the "fans in the bleacher seats" nibbled on local peanuts in the shell, chips and guacamole and sipped on beer or Seidy's delicious refresca drink, made from star fruit. 
Daniel and Stephen vs Layne and Seidy
Chris celebrates a shot
Seidy in action!
Eventually, a duel between "the old guys" of Marcial and Stephen and "the young bloods" of Felipe and Daniel got started with Layne on the sideline keeping score and correcting the teams on the rules of the game. It was fast and furious for a while, with the winning team uncertain. At one point, Marc's dog Bean decided to take a nap in the middle of the court and when Stephen gently touched her on the rump with his racket to encourage her to move away, she curled up in terror of punishment. With some gentle coaxing from Marcial, she was finally persuaded to lie down out of bounds and the game proceeded. With a final score of 15-13, the seniors beat out the kids and gloated appropriately.

Bean just wants in the game...
But she is banished to the sidelines
Stephen and Marcial vs Felipe and Daniel
The "peanut" gallery

Feisty little Bean (l), Yours Truly and Referee Layne
(Photo by Stephen Kopel)
Relaxing after the game
(Photo by Stephen Kopel)

Leftovers from the feast
Then it was back to the house for a yummy chicken and garbanzo soup, avocado salad, traditional Tico cabbage and tomato salad and Marcial's great Italian sausage and peppers dish, flavored with fresh basil and tarragon, served over rice. What a feast!

Don't expect many posts from me, dear readers, while I'm in Texas. But I'll resume my reports after Layne and I return on September 30th. Meanwhile, Pura Vida!

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