Week Two: Settling into Life at Punta Banco

Many people interested in health and life enhancement have read the book The Four Agreements.  One of the Agreements is: Don’t make assumptions; the idea being that if you don’t jump to conclusions about a thing, you are less likely to make mistakes and cause conflict with those around you.  I have tried my best to live by this since reading the book a couple years ago.

But this week, the idea of not making assumptions has traveled to whole new levels.  For instance, I no longer assume that just because I washed a cup ten minutes ago, it will be free of spiders or small lizards now.  Just because you had power this morning, does not mean you will this afternoon.  A road when it’s dry out and a road when it’s raining are not the same thing.  Reading a phrase directly out of the Spanish/English dictionary does not mean that anyone here will be able to understand it.  The list goes on.

I want to say a few words about food.  The diet here is very simple.  Every meal basically starts with beans and rice, then whatever scraps of meat or vegetables that are lying around get added to that.  At first it is delicious.  Then you hit a point – let’s say hypothetically speaking that it’s around day 6 of your travels, when you think you will be ill and guilty of a full-on white-girl-spoiled-brat tantrum if you have to eat one more plate of beans and rice.  But then, the kids say they are hungry so you go to the fridge and prepare what’s there, which happens to be… yeah, you guessed it.  I think I’m over the hump now and back to liking it again.

We have (we being Aidan) discovered how to hull and bust open our own coconuts, using only our handy dandy Leatherman tool (thanks again for that!).  Coconut that you pull off a tree and eat the same day is really different than what you would get from a store.  I have a new recipe which is the kids’ new favourite that goes like this: pick one ripe starfruit from your tree and peel the edges.  Cut into chunks and throw into the blender.  Add fresh coconut milk, orange juice and a touch of honey.  Puree.  Absolutely decadent.

The other day we decided that we needed to connect with the outside world – to send off the previous week’s ramblings in an email and let our families know that we are, in fact, alive and well.  The nearest centre to here is Pavones, which, according to my guidebook is 3km away.  We grabbed our backpacks so that we could bring my laptop along and bring groceries home from the larger store there and set out in the morning.  Not too far from home I spotted a flash of red landing in the canopy. Then out of the jungle appeared a guy about our age on a bicycle, who apparently works for the Tiskita Jungle Lodge monitoring the scarlet macaws.  He helped us see the three of them that were there.  They are huge, beautiful and have one of the most annoying, harsh bird calls you can imagine.  Later on we saw a family of monkeys playing in the trees – got a little video, which I’ll upload if we ever run into an internet connection that can handle such things.

As it turns out, Pavones is NOT 3km from Punta Banco, it’s 6, which is a big difference when you have two tired-butt-draggin’ seven-year-olds with you and 25lbs of groceries in a pack on your back in the sweltering heat.  In all fairness, the kids were troopers.  It helped that we found a soda (what they call the little open air cafes here) that made pizza before our journey home.

Other than the trip to Pavones, we have settled into an easy routine.  We have intentionally been taking it easy these past few days, mostly out of compassion for the kids who seemed to be in serious danger of losing it completely on the schedule we were keeping on the journey here.  We get up, make coffee and breakfast while the kids play, eat, throw whatever clothes are the least dirty and damp on, go for a walk somewhere, usually up or down the beach, have lunch, go back to the beach for swimming and body surfing.  Whenever the rains come (this area of the country gets six meters of rain annually on average!), we hang out in our shelter and read, write, work on Spanish, clean, bash open coconuts, etc. Sometimes we wander down to the store for any supplies we need, other times we chat with our neighbours.  After dinner we have been playing crib.  This is the time that we carved out for ourselves to recover from the pace of the past few months and acclimatize to life here.  I am almost past feeling guilty for my sheer laziness.  Almost.

Let’s go back to the “assumptions” things for a moment.  I had made the assumption before leaving that home that we would probably be ill for at least a little while as we adapted to the food, water, climate, etc. here.  The only problem we have had at all is in getting used to the sun, which really is different here, so much closer to the equator.  We have also discovered that my ‘all natural, aloe based, containing citronella!’ sunblock is absolutely useless in the face of the Pacific Ocean’s four foot tall waves.  As a result, we have all been fairly consistently sunburnt since we arrived in Punta Banco.  I’m fairing better then the Irish-blooded among us.  It’s alright though – as the kids are peeling across their noses, I just told them it’s part of shedding their Canadian skin.  We belong here, for now.

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