Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I think I saw a bullet ant today working its way down a tree. It fit the description –solitary, over an inch long and shiny black. I wanted to touch it. What is this compulsion to touch everything? I wanted to touch it to see if it really was a bullet ant. I manage to resist. Short of snakebites, (and sharks), a bullet ant bite is the worst bite in Costa Rica. People say they got their name because it feels like you’ve been shot if they get you. Somehow I doubt that, but I do believe it’s bad.
Rain stopped work in the garden today. I did manage to harvest some bananas this morning and I’m quite proud of my growing banana experience. It was a beautifully controlled fall and did not damage either a single banana or any of the surrounding plants. The chopping was clear and I used the downed stalk to make a bed border with the leaves as first layer of mulch. I kept the flower for supper and have now devised a way to clean and cut the flower without staining everything black, including my clothes, chopping board and knife, or covering everything in that incredibly pernicious glue that oozes from the plant. The flower is soaking in a salt and lime water bath and will be ready to cook tonight. The bananas, red ones (very delicious), are hanging in the banana box safe from fruit bats and most bees.
As I missed my garden work exercise I washed clothes and made bread – both excellent upper body exercises. The washing machine I have access to – an ancient twin tub at school, is broken and so I have resorted to bucket washing. There are places around where I can take laundry, but at $6 a load it’s expensive. The advantage of bucket washing is that I can heat water; all machines are cold water only. Washing in a bucket also means I can control where the soapy water goes. It goes into my grey water system and will be used in the garden. My soap is biodegradable and the chemicals it contains are much the same as those used in fertilizer. Not bad for the soil but terrible for river systems and the ocean. It’s raining which means that my clothes hanging from a line on the deck will take a long long time to dry. In Costa Rica clothing dies fairly quickly: clothes are washed but they are never really clean. Cotton stretches and loses its shape, colours fade in the sun and mold and mildew take their hold in everything. Even sending clothes out to be washed is no guarantee: things get lost fairly often and clothes can be returned with more stains than they went with. This last is very true: the only laundry I had access to in Guanacaste more often than not stained my clothes with red or brown streaks. Insects eat or nest in anything that lies dormant for any length of time, and daily clothes and towels need to be shaken away from the body and carefully inspected for scorpions. I have almost nothing left of the clothes I brought with me from California, instead I’m dressed in simple hand me downs which now have really seen better days. I’ve washed two loads today – enough clothes for the work week and a couple of towels. We’ll see if I have anything dry for the morning.