Friday, March 24, 2017

Costa Rica Diaries, Part 7

January 31, 2017

Last night Nick (Halverson) and I discussed the many similarities between rural Costa Ricans and rural Southerners in the US.  Regardless if there is a change in income, many remain in their same tiny houses; you only know their fortunes have increased because they build an enormous electronic front gate, buy a more expensive car or a much larger flat screen TV.   They also burn their trash in barrels.  I laughed as my nephew asked for and received his very own burn barrel for Christmas his sophomore year in high school.

Our retreat is in a beautiful private home well off the beaten path.  A location like this wasn’t unfamiliar to me as most of my childhood and almost all of my Christmases even now have been in houses outside a tiny town in the rural South and Texas.

After dinner tonight, we were discussing haiku after I told a story about meeting one of my favorite authors, Douglas Coupland, at a book signing/reading in Anchorage, Alaska and he quite cleverly read from John Grisham’s The Client instead of from one of his own books. While reading a passage he stumbled upon a haiku about a hushpuppy.  This led to Zach Roz teaching us how to write haiku and each of us trying our hand at the five syllable-seven syllable-five syllable poetic structure.

My offerings:
Practicing Haiku
After watching Mickey Rourke
Seems beside the point

A Brita Bottle
Costa Rican water source
No diarrhea!

February 1, 2017

Today we had a jaunt in the jungle after our morning writing class.  I had to turn back relatively quickly as did Tom (Shaw).  I couldn’t seem to catch my breath and felt slightly dizzy from the oppressive humidity.  Tom had to go to the hospital because of his blood pressure due to the humidity.  Tonight on the way to dinner, we stopped at a beautiful waterfall then had a delicious dinner at a tilapia farm where, oddly, not everyone ate tilapia.  You could catch the fish yourself and they’d cook it if you wanted.  I chose to eat what had already been caught and cooked by others.  Far be it from me to be an immigrant taking someone’s job from them.

We stopped for ice cream at the local tiny store, their version of a quickie mart.  It was very small and they had one of every item manufactured in Costa Rica, China and other countries.  You couldn’t fit an additional whisper on the shelves.  I felt very much at home, remembering the tiny store down the road from my grandparents’ farm in Alsatia, Louisiana from my childhood.

 We later watched  one of our instructors Will (Viharo’s) dad in the movie “Bare Knuckles” and everyone made funny comments about the acting, the clothes, the choreographed fights and , of course, the flute.  John Kapelos did five years at Second City Improv (the home of talented Canadians) and can riff like a pro.  He is hilarious!

 My jungle-themed essay from our afternoon class:
I know the definition of intrepid and I know it doesn’t apply to me, but I decided I couldn’t come to Costa Rica and not at least wander into the jungle, even if only by accident.  I had been instructed on which rubber boots to buy from Amazon (the website, not the river) and I borrowed a jungle hat from my truly intrepid friend Jamie.  I was feeling rakish having written a haiku about my ensemble:  Washable silk shirt, lovely linen pants I wear, Costa Rican Prep.  I wasn't dreading this event as I had been assured the terrain we were to traverse was flat.  A motley crew of poetic wanderers in the capable hands of mostly silent native Costa Ricans, we set off at varying speeds.

I’ve lived in north Louisiana.  I’ve visited south Louisiana, farther south than New Orleans, in the summer.  I thought I knew humidity.  I did not.  Imagine touring the French Quarter in August wearing an angora bodysuit, jogging everywhere you go.  The air was so thick you could almost grab a handful of it.  Imagine trying to walk through a memory foam mattress over loose rocks in ill-fitting rubber boots trying to keep your spirits up by throwing out what you intend as witty asides comparing the jungle stream to the Bogue Chitto River in South Mississippi.  I’m not sure if that’s the reason the most adventurous of our group (Zach and John) strode ahead at a quicker pace, but I don’t blame them.  I was being so absurdly chipper I was starting to get on my own nerves.

I began to have trouble breathing in the soupy air and noticed my fellow slow-traveler (Tom) had taken a seat on a rock to catch his breath, too.  I seized upon the chance to rescue us both by suggesting I could be easily convinced to return to the villa without further ado.  Tom, God bless him, concurred.  I admitted to Tom and our consummate host, Nick, that although I grew up in the country and had hiked and explored the woods and rivers of Louisiana, Mississippi and East Texas, it has been more than twenty-five years ago and it feels almost disingenuous to claim that history.  It’s like I’ve co-opted someone else’s childhood for dramatic effect, however accurate it may be.  I keep saying I am not that guy, but I must come to terms I have become that guy; City Slicker, Gringo, Greenhorn, whatever you call it.  I’m soft, people.  Soft like a down pillow.  But I’m okay with it because at least this down pillow agrees to leave the couch and be thrown into the wild (be it woods, plains or jungle) from time to time. 

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