Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sabado en Montezuma

HalloweĆ©n is not a tico holiday but in gringo pockets it´s celebrated with some enthusiasm. The gringos dress up, the ticos put clothes together differently or wear a hat backwards - somehow the costume part has been translated but not the significance.
There was a HalloweĆ©n party on Saturday, Saturday because there are more people here on the weekend. All day the talk in the town was of the party, from about 3pm children trooped down to Chico´s Bar for coloured balloons and candy: the kids were gringo and young.
Chico´s was hosting the party with prizes for the best disfraces. It rained hard on and off all night, we went down but not into the bar, instead joining the throngs of ticos outside watching. Occasionally a gringo in costume would walk through: there weren´t many costumes and I saw only 4 guys en disfraces: mostly it was girls wearing as little as possible to make the point; a blackcat, 2 witches, a mermaid (she won the prize) and 2 fairies. The local school was serving food, the arroz con pollo was good.
Ticos stand and watch. We bought our drinks at the supermarket and we watched too. There´s a lot to see in Montezuma on a Saturday night: people talking, drinking, smoking, the rain pouring, 2 of the local drunks lying wrestling on the street in front of the bar. One had fallen over and Loco, the other, was trying to get help to have him lifted. No-one wanted to help being more interested in watching them. Finally Loco fell over too and both grappled and wrestled for a long time. Cars drove round them, people circled, dogs sniffed. I asked Randal if no-one would pick them up. He said no, why should they, the men like to drink, they fall down, that´s their life. It sums up a lot about tico culture. A country of individualists who exist side by side, love gossip, but prefer to remain hands off.
Later the cops turned up in their postman pat van and manhandled the less cohesive drunk into the back seat. The cops here are old and fat and enjoyed pushing the drunk around. They then had a brief argument over which of the 5 would also get to ride in the car. The youngest lost out and had to walk the 50 metres back to the tiny station. The rest got in the van and sat with the lights flashing for a couple of minutes longer. The smell inside the car must have been bad: 5 grown men in a Tracker but I´m sure the light show made it worthwhile.
The music in Chico´s was awful - that commercial bump bump stuff that fills dead places. The dancers could do very little with it. A group of young men formed a mosh pit but that was squashed by DJ Ocean in his pirate outfit. Of the 4 guys in costumes, 3 were pirates, the other was a sailor.
We sat drinking, smoking, watching, I was waiting for something to happen but everyone else seemed content with sitting in the streets talking and looking. Ticos spend an enormous amount of time sitting and watching. Muy tranquilo. We left about 2 and walked back along the beach.
Now it´s Sunday morning. I´m downtown waiting for the internet cafes to open. The mermaid, who´s Canadian is sitting nearby, she works for a tour company. Loco is lying across the street sleeping and yelling " Estoy Loco, si, si" in turns. I´m a little goma but not bad, Randal is walking the dogs. It´s hot, later I´ll go for a swim. Life is good in Montezuma.


Last weekend I saw 2 robberies in Puntarenes. The first I didn´t know I saw: I was sitting across from the two English women who´s bags were taken. I was directly opposite them practising my sitting and watching - but I wasn´t watching with intent so I missed the moment their things were taken. I saw the before and after pictures - calm to frenzied hysteria, weeping and holding of heads. A tico family nearby were laughing - not maliciously but more of embarrasment from the intense emotional display.
The second robbery I did see. I was waiting for the bus at the beach. A cripple walked by, his left side deformed and contorted, a stump in place of his left foot. He was carrying a pair of Keen sandles. At first I felt pity for his condition, then I saw the sandles and thought he must be selling them for drug money. I thought it must be an obvious choice to become an addict in that situation. Just then two men came running by and I thought oh they must have stolen something. They ran to the cripple, took the sandles from him and the younger man put them on his bare feet. They shouted at the cripple then left.
Can´t always believe what your mind tells you your eyes are seeing.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I've been feeling a need to do something creative, school isn't satisfying that part. I found an interesting place online and have set up to visit them:

looks interesting huh? Looks like the kind of place one could disappear into.


I'm moving into Sabine's sometime within the next month. It'll be better - more room, more light, more life. Thirteen horses, chickens, ducks, quail, a parrot, 3 dogs, 3 cats, 7 rabbits and 2 guinea pigs; banana, mango, coffee and avocado trees and sugar cane; three fields, stables and a pond - long sigh.

hallowe'en do

John and Clayton had a dyslexic hallowe'en party on Friday the 13th, these are my mofogos (mother freaking gringos).

developing nation

what does that mean? Developing from what to what? Aren't we all developing nations? The Costa Rica of today is very different from that of 2 generations ago: isn't that true of most places though?
My school teaches english, it also teaches the cultural norms, expectations and lifestyle of the US. I've been concerned at the cultural imperialism since I got here, but is that fair?
I think so: last week we held a large school assembly, the parents clapped dutifully after each performance, but the most enthusiastic and genuine applause was for the 2 pieces (out of 15) which were tico. The relief at seeing something familiar was palatable.
The two kids in my class who have the healthiest homelife are also the most racist and resistant to change.
People send their kids to the school so they learn english, so they make more money, so they have better lives. That's not wrong, it makes sense. But what is the cost of developing a nation? How much of the culture gets lost along the way?
We just celebrated Culture Day - it marks the anniversary of Columbus' 'discovering' Costa Rica, but Columbus himself is not celebrated, rather the tico way of life is. It's not a big holiday, there's indigenous costumes, campesino costumes and that's about it. I can't see what the tico way of life is, they don't seem very sentimental about their past or their heritage. The guidebooks say there's not much culture here, rather a shocking thing to say of a country, but in a way it seems to be that there is very little emphasis on culture. Perhaps it's that the dominant racial mix is of Spanish origin and therefore still fairly new (Columbus landed in 1502). Perhaps it's that much of the population still lives a fairly campesino lifestyle: exsiting on a small parcel of land with chickens and cows, cold water and no phone. Culture is a luxury reserved only for developed nations?

back to it

Seems like I got stuck on the phantasy of Montezuma for a while there. Isn't it strange how tropical beaches have the unerring ability to capture your energy and send you into sleep? But life continues.
I've been sick with some sort of flu this week and haven't enjoyed it at all: something about the idea of having to walk while sick and drenched with sweat frightened me. I'm okay now, it's become grippe, a plain old cold.

The weather is marvellous today and has been for weeks. This is the rainy season, the dreaded October but there has been very little rain. Wonderful for us but not so very good for the forest or for the farmers. The wind has been coming from the north, the Caribbean, pushing all the rain clouds back over the Pacific. From my classroom one can watch the daily tussle between the ocean winds, the kids and I cheer for the north wind because it means outdoor recess. What shallow ecological beings we are. December 1st marks the beginning of the dry season - or at least the transition to dry, I wonder what will happen then if it doesn't rain now? The top of the mountain is bathed in clouds, I think that's called horizontal precipitation, so there's moisture but that's not enough. I'm sure most species can survive a dry wet season: one does think a lot more about climate change when living in an endangered zone.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It's been a month since I really wrote on this, and you know how that gets: too much to say and none of it relevant to the moment.

We had our first week off and went to Montezuma. I want to live in Montezuma. Not only is it incredibly beautiful, but it's a tiny, friendly place dominated by hippies. I spent the five days there with a delicious array of locals sitting on the beach eating coconuts and gazing at the ocean. It was paradise. It's very hot there and one sweats constantly. Anything is too much to wear. The locals don't wear much. There are monkeys in the trees, there are waterfalls, there are fantastic banana milkshakes. There is a small 2 roomed schoolhouse on the beach. I have to say it, the place really needs a waldorf school. I considered moving there to begin a non-profit organisation dealing with the horrific amounts of plastic trash on a couple of the beaches that come from the cruise ships. I'm still thinking about that. Montezuma was so lovely I went back the following weekend. People recognized me, I loved it.

School began again and it was much more pleasant: the kids and I seem to have established a baseline of expectations and behaviour. The curriculum is more interesting this block too, thank dios. We at last began the reforestation sessions, I'm grateful for these albeit short classes - after all that's why I came here. I'm experiencing the ideal versus real quandry I seem to experience everywhere. Seems a bit early this time.