Saturday, November 24, 2007

Shopping is a complicated business. Even though I try to have more non-spending days in a week than spending days, and even though I live simply, shopping takes a long time. There are many things to consider:

  • Is it local? I want to support local farmers and the community I live in. The average piece of produce in a US supermarket has traveled 1500 miles from farm to store. That’s a lot of fossil fuels and that’s not taking processing, sorting, cleaning, packaging and distribution into account. I’d rather my food didn’t come with a high carbon bill. Also local equals fresh.
  • Is it native? It just feels better eating food that would grow naturally in my area: my gut feeling is that native foods have a stronger connection to the soil, to the animals and insects in this environment and are therefore healthier for me. (I found a tahini made from Nicaraguan sesame!) Also, is it in season?
  • Is it organic? Obvious, even better Biodynamic. But read ‘Omnivores Dilemma’ for industrial organic versus local farmers.
  • How is it packaged? Can I recycle or reuse the container? While we can recycle plastic bags here, we can’t yet recycle tins. Bioland the only organic producer in Costa Rica uses a lot of packaging that cannot be recycled, and they use a lot of packaging.
  • Can I afford it? This question has to bring in all of the above – do I balance price and recyclable packaging against organic?
  • Do I actually need it?

I sometimes wonder why I’m living here. Why Costa Rica? I came here on the flimsiest premise: that I might meet some friends a year after moving, of course that didn’t happen, yet I came and I’m still here and I love it. I knew nothing about the country, except it was beautiful and didn’t have an army. I knew no Spanish at all. Today I translated my first meeting. This is an achievement for me, and I give myself a pat on the back. It was an all school parent meeting and I translated the Spanish into English. I’m actually proud of myself. I did a good job, not only did I get across all the points, I used humour to enliven the points. Okay so it wasn’t direct word for word translation, but it was good. I had no idea I could do this, and when asked, at the beginning of the meeting, I was very hesitant. But it worked. And then I gave another parent meeting in English afterwards. I’m tired, that was a lot of concentrating at the end of a school day. Hurrah!


It’s rained straight for the past 4 days. And by straight I mean straight, with maybe 2 hours rest and that at 5 am this morning. The first two days I couldn’t stand it, the noise of the rain drowns out conversation, makes me groggy as I return to the endless rainy weekends of my childhood, stuck in the house or the cabin nothing to do but watch the puddles grow. I’ve been moving away from the rain (so why am I in a rainforest?). Yesterday I finally began to come to peace with it – a little anyway. As I sat in the Mate Latte coffeehouse giving a math tutorial sipping an extremely wonderful latte flavoured with cardamon, it began to feel like November, I began to think how cosy it was indoors with the rain lashing down outside (even though the only thing separating indoors and outdoors is a wooden lattice). Pictures of Christmas trees and toffees kept drifting into my mind, busy shopping streets filled with umbrellas and bulky bags. The momentary annoyance and quick relief of shaking off wet clothes as one enters the steamy, brightly lit shops full of people intent on consuming.

I’ve been thinking about Christmas a lot recently. I didn’t celebrate it last year, I was in a silent retreat, making this my first Christmas away from winter. Maybe I’m homesick? For where? For a season? But it’s not just the season, it’s all that comes with winter: the retreat inwards, the self reflection, the sharing, the preparation, the bundling up and eating extra fats. Ah-ha! Perhaps this is why I’m craving fats so much just now, perhaps my body is trying to prepare for the winter? How does one celebrate Christmas in the tropics? Why do I celebrate Christmas? What is my relationship to this time of year, solstice, christianty, darkness?

It’s cold, this morning I put on socks. I’m sitting with a steaming mug of milky tea and some biscuits wrapped up in cosy sweats and hoodie watching the rain. It’s coming straight down, has been for the last 5 hours. I went out to feed the horses and pick up a sprouting coconut (delicious). There are many banana trees down, they really have no discernible root system and fall over easily when the ground gets waterlogged. Shame, because three of them had bananas which aren’t quite big enough. I picked some, hopefully they’ll ripen. The horses will eat them I’m sure. I cut some flowers to give the deck colour – big orange, red, pink ones, now that I see them sitting in the corner they look like a fire – winter again? Tonight’s lentil stew is beginning to smell good in the kitchen.

I find myself wanting to nest, to surround myself with homey things. This must be a seasonal thing too. This morning I caught myself looking longingly at some white tin IKEA lanterns on Vanessa’s deck, last night I rearranged my room trying to make it look as though someone lives here and isn’t just passing through. On thurday I dreamt I was pregnant. What’s going on?