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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Oh, Give Me a Home Where the Wild Monkeys Roam!

September 4, 2010
It’s Saturday and we’ve been invited to our new landlord’s birthday party up by the swimming pool in the shelter of the rancho. We’re all settled in with bags unpacked, groceries bought and our complex address memorized for use in calling taxis. Try this on for size: Barrio Los Angeles, Calle Capre Verde, tres cientos metros norte, mano izquierda. It translates something like: Los Angeles neighborhood, Capre Verde Street, 300 meters north, on the left. For us it translates into a resort-like home with a friendly neighbor upstairs and helpful and generous owners up the hill.
         Moving day on Wednesday was an adventure from beginning to end. Our friends from Pure Life Development, Gerardo and Nelson, picked us up and somehow stuffed all our bags into the back of their SUV. Upon our arrival, landlady Odie met us and provided the important information: our new phone number, garbage days, the cleaning lady’s name, schedule and cost ($10) and her own phone numbers. Odie is a highly educated woman who speaks fluent English and runs a Spanish language school in Atenas called Spanish Immersion. Her husband Eduardo is a charming Tico who is working on his English as we are working on our Spanish. We’re told he loves to sing and dance so we look forward to his birthday fiesta later today.
         Wednesday afternoon Odie kindly offered to drive us in to San Jose to PriceSmart, a Costco-type membership store, where we could purchase a few things we needed to set up house-keeping. At the last minute, our Texan neighbor Linda decided to join us and in a light rain, we all set off, chattering as we got acquainted. Shopping went well until Odie ran up to us, with alarm on her face, saying she had just discovered that somehow in all the bustle of our arrival there, she had not only locked her keys in the car but had left the car motor running! After a few phone calls and an hour or so wait, we were on our way back home, laughing at the small calamity. That evening, Linda fueled a celebration in our new home with a bottle of Spanish champagne and lively conversation.
         On Thursday, Layne and I set out to test the theory that we were within walking distance of town. It turned out to be a half-hour hike each way but we made it to the large grocery, Coopeatenas, and picked up a few things before heading back down the gentle slope to Los Angeles. Not too bad. The biggest challenge is our own street, Calle Capre Verde, a muddy, rocky lane with trenches cut across it by rain runoff. On our trip to PriceSmart, we learned from Odie that neighbors had chipped in to do the necessary gutter work along the sides of the road in preparation for the city to come in and lay down caliche topping to improve the street. But in a scenario all too typical of Central America, after the pipe work was done, they were informed by the authorities that the city had no money, so the road remains unimproved.
         There are other challenges to life here. One rather delicate issue is that of the septic systems and the disposal of toilet tissue. In hotels we’ve stayed at including the recent Vista Atenas B&B, many restaurants and even our current modern abode, visitors are asked to refrain from flushing toilet tissue. We have been told that the septic systems can’t handle the paper. Instead, we must dispose of tissue in a trashcan, a habit that takes some getting used to. We find it hard to understand such a limitation in septics, but nonetheless, when in Costa Rica, we do as the Costa Ricans do.
         Still the pleasures far outweigh the difficulties, in our opinion. On Thursday evening sitting on our front porch, Layne noticed a large odd-looking bird moving in the tall grasses below. With its long pointed beak, blue-grey feathers and stubby tail, to us the creature resembled a wild chicken. A Google search suggested we were not far off. The fellow is a Great Tinamou or Tinamus Major, also called a Mountain Hen. According to Wikipedia, it lives in tropical and subtropical jungles, rain forests and cloud forests, making its nest at the base of a tree where it lays beautiful blue-green eggs. According to Linda, these are the creatures that make a noisy ruckus in the jungle just downhill from our apartment.
         But Friday night’s nature presentation exceeded our imagination as to what this new home might offer. Not only were there fireflies flitting about (how long since you’ve seen a firefly?), but out in the big trees just yards from our porch we watched a half a dozen or more capuchin monkeys frolicking in the branches, stopping here and there to nibble on some tidbit and leaping across huge swaths of air from tree to tree. Often hidden by large leaves and limbs and moving fast, they were difficult to capture photographically. Still, even at twelve-time zoom with my hands shaking from eager excitement, my new Panasonic did a good job of snapping a usable shot. What a thrill to watch those creatures in their own environment and to know we can look forward to many more evenings of such wildlife entertainment.
         It’s now Sunday and I’m only just returning to this post after a wonderful afternoon yesterday at Eduardo’s festive birthday party. We had a fine time meeting new Tico amigos, learning new Spanish words and dancing to Eduardo’s hot DJ music. Too bad he was unable to dance because of minor knee surgery on Friday, but it didn’t stop him from entertaining us with his vibrant karaoke songs. What a great voice he has! The group included Jennifer, Odie’s business partner in Spanish Immersion, and her husband Rob, and several of Odie and Eduardo’s long-time amigos, Anna, Roseanna, Memo and his wife Annie. Proving himself to be a karaoke pro, Layne even chimed in on the Elvis Presley song, “It’s Now or Never” in English, joined by Memo on the mike.
         To finish off the evening, we “crashed” Linda’s family get-together upstairs, meeting her simpatico son Dillon and daughter-in-law Anna who live here in Atenas with their two young children, as well as her visiting sister and cousin. What an excellent end to a fine day of Costa Rican Pura Vida.
         Now the thunder is booming around us and heavy afternoon rains have begun, but not before I had time for a lovely swim in our pool under sunny and warm noontime skies. As the steady downpour rustles the trees and lightening flashes across the valley, we understand why the “green season” here is so very green. 
(Just a reminder: You can click on photos to enlarge them.) 

1 comment:

  1. I have a friend who looks like that monkey, but he doesn't live in Atenas.