Back in the Caribbean, the kids were happy to spend more time with their new friends again. We met some people who were able to tell us where the Hall was. And a good thing too, we never would have found it on our own as it is on a little lot at the end of a dirt road in Puerto Viejo, literally cut out of the hill across from the cemetery. The people were very friendly and I think I understood most of what was going on. The study was about pirates, right?
Aidan and I made a visit to a Bribri shaman to learn about the traditional medicine rituals of the people. It was interesting stuff, but I was sneezing and icky for two days afterwards. Could have been a coincidence, could have been the cleansing ritual; could have been the fact that he splashed water on me with an old bacteria-laden feather; it’s hard to say. The same day, our guide through the reserve took us out to this gorgeous waterfall that has a deep pool at the base. You get in and swim around, underneath and behind the falls and it is truly beautiful. We had no bathing suits, so we jumped in clothed. Sometimes it needs to be done.
I also spent another day with the Medicine Man, this time experiencing a traditional massage as part of my “class”. His treatment room? A circle of banana trees, with a large fig tree in one corner and a small fire burning in the middle. His massage table? A pile of banana leaves (they are clean and antibacterial which is why they can be used as plates and to wrap food as well), long enough to lay down on. Simple and lovely, though I will admit that it is hard to relax completely when you know there’s an ant crawling up your foot.
The best part of returning to the Caribbean however was the Jaguar Rescue Reserve, which is a private reserve run by a husband and wife team for animals that have been hurt or are sick. The idea of course, is to release them back into the wild. The star of their tour is a baby howler monkey, named Angelina Jolie (you were wondering where I was going with that weren’t you?) because she is the most attention seeking of the group. Not because she is dating Brad Pitt or adopting smaller monkeys all over the world. There are other young howlers there as well and they jump and climb all over you. One really liked Ezra and kept jumping on his head. It was a little disturbing. Then you get to hold baby sloths. Only the three-toed sloths though, they warned us that the two-toed sloths are more aggressive and will bite. Really though, it’s hard to imagine being afraid of a sloth. “He’s coming right for us…eventually.” Bright green tree frogs are docile enough to sit on your hand as well, staring at you with big red eyes.
The reserve is also home to a couple of jagurundis, a species of wild cat in the same family as a jaguar but smaller, and a morgay which is in the same family as an ocelot. They are all highly endangered and beautiful and I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to see and touch them. Of course, there were also animals there that have less universal appeal, but which interested Ezra a lot. We watched a baby alligator attack a piece of meat at feeding time and a wide variety of poisonous snakes go after the white mice dropped into their cages. I liked the eyelash pit vipers, especially the yellow ones, which hang out on the branch in clumps wrapped around each other with big eyes and little eyelashes at the corner. They look like snakes that Disney would draw – like they should burst into a song and interpretive dance about what a glorious day it is for biting farmer’s ankles at any moment.
That night when we got to the hotel, I told the kids I wanted them to have a shower and scrub their hair and they both said “why?” Really? You’ve had a monkey on your head all morning and you’re not sure why you might want to wash? Maybe that’s what the monkey was doing on his head in the first place – it was picking out the fleas and tics, like you see on the Discovery channel.
We rented a car. Aidan has wanted to rent one ever since we got here, but it has never made sense economically. The withdrawal from driving got the better of him however and the idea of being able to go back to the Central Valley area on our own schedule had some appeal. We drove into Paridiaso, Cartago Wednesday night, and then back to San Isidro. Back to the hotel with the bathtub. He he he.