Weeks Six and Seven: Futbol Fever, Jungle and Traveling

If a gecko gets trapped in your refrigerator, it gets too cold and will die.  I won’t tell you how I know this as I’m still feeling a little traumatized, but I will tell you that I’m checking the bottom shelves of my fridge ever time I close it now.

On to other subjects.  Soccer, or more accurately, ‘Futbol’, is a pretty big thing in Central America.  You know how in Canada we get die hard hockey fanatics?  The kind of people who go to every game, yell obscenities at the referee, identify with the players, put their kids into a league, yell obscenities at their referee, etc.?  Those people will always and forever seem tame in my eyes in comparison to Costa Ricans and futbol.

Small towns in Costa Rica are built, literally, around a futbol field.  Punta Banco has about 200 people in it.  The town consists of a field, a church and a store, with the residences and tiny sodas spread out around that center.  Punta Banco also happened to be the host for the regional futbol finals last weekend.  So, they mowed the grass and set up a couple big beer tents and people rolled in, sometimes literally a dozen people in the back of a pick-up, to watch the game.  And to play.

The weekend started with the little kids playing.  These kids are born head-butting a ball.  They can kick before they can walk.  The concession table on the side is selling beer for 800 colones each, which works out to about $1.50 and is the same as a Coke, so it’s flowing pretty freely even at 10:00am.  The men are playing as the sun sets in the evening and some people have been there all day.  Kids sit in the road and on the side of the field that leads on to the beach to rescue the ball when it goes out of bounds.  Because there are no actual stands there are people sitting everywhere, even on the sides of the goals.  Fortunately, the ball didn’t get too close to me, so I was spared the embarrassment of shrieking at it while using my patented duck-and-cover strategy.

There is a big fiesta at the pavilion down the road to celebrate.  We had been told that the party started at 8:00pm, so we walked down.  Remember that there are no street lights and few cars, so this means making the trek in the pitch black with a flashlight through the mud.  I was getting concerned as we neared the location though – shouldn’t we be able to hear music by now?  Did I get the place wrong?  As we turned the corner and saw the lights, we knew this was obviously the right place.  We saw a neighbour and he explained that the music hadn’t come yet.  When the bedraggled taxi arrived bearing the DJ/band from Paso Canoas they came in to a mess of cat calls and whoops as they quickly set up their equipment.  The music was a surreal mix of American style dance remix (have you ever heard the song “California Dreaming” done with a techno beat?  It’s wrong on several levels) and the band playing meringue local favourites.  We had to make it an early night however as the kids were so tired they were literally falling asleep on the table, pulsing beat notwithstanding.

We did a tour one morning at Tiskita Jungle Lodge with a guide, spending about 3 ½ hours walking through the jungle trails and learning about the plants.  It is breathtakingly beautiful and we saw stunning waterfalls, birds, snakes, frogs and sloths as we went.  Clyde also showed us a termite nest and ate one of the little beasties live.  Fortunately for me and my “Yes Man” policy, he didn’t offer me one!  I was invited to go back a couple days later and spend some time with his parents, the Tico couple who own the land and have been running the conservation project there for the past 30 years.  They are amazing people, she spent a lot of time talking to me about the plants and some of the remedies she knows.

Our last trip into Pavones we hitched a ride into town with the local “guy with a truck” down the street in order to send out emails and the like.  We had lunch at a little place near the internet bar (not café, bar) and saw our first toucan.  Ok, these are big birds.  You don’t realize just how big until one lands on your table, steals a French fry off a plate and nips at your son.  And a toucan’s beak doesn’t look like it could possibly belong on its’ face, they seriously look like there should be a string around the back holding it on.  We went to the store to do our grocery shopping and started walking back when people we don’t know pulled up in their truck, asked if we were going to PB and said we could hop on.  So we joined the others in the back of the pick-up, making eight of us sitting back there amid grocery bags and huge sacks of rice, and as we bumped along down the road I had to laugh ‘cause I don’t think I’ve ridden in the back of a truck since I was 16.

We met a couple of women who have just started a library after-school program for the local kids once a week where they bring in books and do crafty activities.  This might not sound like a big deal, but there are literally no books here – they mold and melt.  I’ve already thrown one of mine away since arriving.  Paper just disintegrates in this humidity.  So these women pack books into the school in big Rubbermade containers and the kids can borrow them, or they read all together.  We have participated the last two weeks – this last time one of the women brought an oven to the school, parked it outside and we all made cookies.  Tiny little outposts like this don’t really get the same government funding for education that the cities get.  There are only 18 kids in the school and a third of those are kindergarden students, so they tend to get overlooked.

We made a trip into Ciudad Neily and San Vito, partly so that we could see the area and get an idea of whether or not San Vito was a place where we might want to stay for awhile, but mostly to visit the famous Wilson Botanical Gardens.  The gardens are part of the Los Cruces research station which is a major centre for biology and botany students from all over the world.  Of course, it is beautiful.  I think I’m now up to 500 plant pictures or something obscene like that.  Fellow health fanatics: I’ll show you later!  We had to backtrack to the research station halfway through to get better bug-spray though.  There are mosquitoes in that park that could hold their own in Prince George, they’re that big!  There were a few agoutis following us around as we walked.  Agouti look like someone crossbred a pot-bellied pig with a rat just for kicks.  I had heard someone say before that you can tame them and keep them as pets, but now that I’ve seen one I have to say, ‘why would you want to?’  And I’ve had pet mice and scorpions!  As lovely as the gardens are though, I don’t think they are where I want to be doing my research.  They are just too well organized.  Clinical almost.  I like tromping through the wilderness better.

By the way, as I was writing this today, Aidan was cutting his own hair with his beard trimmer.  I just told him that he looked like a mangy puppy, but in reality it’s not too bad.  It’s really the best beard-trimmer-hair-cut I’ve ever seen.  He shaved too, for the first time in about three weeks, so at least we can find his face now.  The down-side is that all the skin that used to be covered by hair is now out there in the sun and it is pasty white.  Should make for interesting sun burns over the next few days.

The people who run the Petroma Turtle Protection Program are now gone and this morning on impulse I told the kids they should go check the nests.  When they came back they were very excited; several nests had hatched.  We brought over 170 baby turtles down to the water!  Went for breakfast afterwards and the woman who runs the soda came out and said that she had something to show the kids, so we followed her to the back of the house were several squirrel monkeys were hanging out in a tree.  They are so used to being fed there that they are basically tamed.

So here is the “plan” for next week as it stands right now.  We are having the village over for cervasa y bocandos on Sunday to say goodbye to everyone.  We will leave here on Monday or Tuesday and go to Zancudo for a couple days to hang out with other people that are working on an aromatherapy project that we met in San Vito (yeah, things actually work like that here, it’s crazy.  I started talking to someone in our hotel and we have an invite to stay with them and learn about flowers now).  We will then take a water-taxi into Golfito and then head up to Uvita to relax for the holidays.  Because we need to relax, what with the hectic pace of life here!  It’s really hard to believe that we have been here this long already; everyday just flows so softly into the next that you never see it coming.

Right now, we are working to condense our luggage – basically cut what we are carrying around with us in half – leaving the other half with friends here.  We are thinking that we will reserve a cabina and come back here in April before we head back to Canada.  Anyways, we’ll figure it out over the next few days.  We’ll let you know once we have a place to stay; be that Uvita or Ojochal or wherever.

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