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Friday, April 6, 2012

Oh, the Days Dwindle Down....

As the day nears when Layne and I must leave Costa Rica for California, we find it harder and harder to say goodbye. Every day brings another reminder of just what a wonderful life we have found here in the land of Pura Vida. As Layne puts it: Our dance card is always full!

Our Costa Rican home
Yesterday we joined a group of some fifteen friends at Antaño's Restaurant in downtown Atenas for brunch. Organized by Nancy and Mark Van Patten, the event was designed to cheer Nancy up after the last few days of unseasonable rain. Relative newcomers to Atenas, Nancy and Mark suffered through a pretty rough October last year, when they had only recently arrived and were still in the midst of construction on their home when the worst of the rains came. With most of their goods still in boxes and their house incomplete, it was a rough introduction to Costa Rica for Nancy. Like Ticos, most of us who have been here awhile take the rains in stride and appreciate the way they freshen the air, bring out the flowers and turn the hillsides emerald green.

This being Holy Week, or Semana Santa, as it's known here, the weekly feria was held on Wednesday instead of today, which is Good Friday. The week before Easter is about the biggest festival in Costa Rica, with most shops closed all week long, buses on a holiday schedule (or not running at all, as is the case here in Santa Eulalia) and no alcohol sold on Thursday and Friday. On our morning walk today, Layne and I happened upon a typical community observance of the season: a small parade of local people in costumes re-enacting the Christ story, including children dressed as angels and one man carrying a white cross. Preceded by a loud speaker on a van playing religious music, the group slowly traveled down the road, gathering neighbors as they went along, to a spot where the priest offered prayers and blessings on the group. 

Purple-draped crosses are on display in most front yards and families gather before hand-made altars to offer up homage to their God. Ticos seem to enjoy the holiday as much for the family celebrations as for the religious intent.

The grand Ficus tree next door
When we got home from brunch yesterday, we had a call from Marcial inviting us to come over to our neighbor's backyard just across our street to pass some time under a huge Ficus tree, sipping beer or whiskey. The host was Juan, brother of our landlord and long-time resident of Santa Eulalia. Juan told us his family had owned this land for over sixty-five years. The old estate is quite large, encompassing the sugarcane field and cornfield below us as well as our house, the landlord's house and several adjacent homes where his sisters live.

Pejibaye fruits
Marcial's wife Seidy soon joined us, bringing delicious homemade empañadas filled with a sweet jam that she and her sisters had made from a gigantic squash-type fruit using traditional methods. This meant roasting the whole squash over an open wood fire until the outer shell was darkened, making the inner pulp easily removed. Juan talked to us - with Marcial translating - of some of the other old ways of feeding a family off the land, as we nibbled on pejibaye that he offered, a first for us. This is an odd fruit from a certain type of palm tree with a taste, Layne and I decided, similar to garbanzo beans. It was quite pleasant. One recollection Juan shared was of another old tradition, practiced only before Easter, of going deep into the jungle to find a particular huge palm tree, which they would cut down to harvest a four or five foot length of heart of palm hidden inside. He recalled what a massive crash the tree would make as it fell. These days it's illegal to cut down such old trees to obtain heart of palm, another nod by Ticos to conservation of their natural resources.

Today our social life continues unabated, as we expect a couple of friends to come over later to play some music, with me on keyboards and Layne and the others on guitar. Just a light-hearted jam session. Then tomorrow we are hosting the first meeting of the Santa Eulalia Tiger Woods Fan Club, as a big group of neighbors joins us to watch Tiger play in the Masters.

Our life in California, rich as it was, was never so busy with entertaining activities as our life has been here. It will be a sad departure on Wednesday as we head back to the States. One thing is certain: We will return.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, me and my wife were in Costa rica for 5 month, and we are back in tx. and we miss it a great deal, we are going back on september... ADIOS Y PURA VIDA !!!!