Adventures of the Heart
Mary Zalmanek
Costa Rica - Oh Daisy, Where Art Thou?

Saturday, October 06, 2001

Hola Amigos y Familia,

We arrived in Costa Rica two weeks ago yesterday, and we are still finding Jim and Mary in Villa Decary's dining roomthings to delight us every day.  I have started to look beyond the big showy tropical flowers like ginger and birds of paradise to the smaller, more delicate orchids and irises.  Jim has come to recognize the song of the toucan and can usually spot them in the treetops.  We keep the bird book handy so we can identify the brilliant red and yellow birds that eat our leftover watermelon and papaya.  Today we saw a solid red summer tanager and a green olive-throated parakeet.

When Daisy came with her vegetable truck last Wednesday, the owners had only been gone a few hours and the refrigerator was fully stocked with produce.  As you know, I was quite thrilled with the bag of groceries I bought for $4.  I assumed we were living in the land of plenty and vegetables would always be that fresh, available and cheap.  What a fool I was!  Two days later we had run out of lettuce and some other essentials were running low.  Jim went to the small grocery stores in Arenal to replenish our vegetable supply on Friday, Saturday and again on Monday.   Each time he came home empty handed.  Except for pineapples, papayas, and watermelon used for the breakfast fruit plates, for the refrigerator was nearly empty of produce by the following Tuesday.  You can imagine how much I was looking forward to Daisy's Wednesday morning visit.  You guessed it -- now it's ten days later on Friday afternoon and still no sign of Daisy!   

Bill and Jeff had told us Adrian takes his vegetable truck to town on Fridays around 11:30 or 12:00.  Our hearts sank as we drove by his vacant spot shortly after noon on Friday.  As a last resort, we went into the little grocery store and bought the less overripe of the two papayas on the shelf. By the time we came out of the store, Adrian had arrived.  Adrian speaks even less English than we do Spanish.  I tried asking "how much?" (cuanto?) and to see the avocados before he put them in the bag, but finally decided I would take them at any price in whatever condition.  His prices are probably close to Daisy's but I didn't get any big-ticket items from her.  A bag of grapes was $4.  I have no idea what grapes go for in the US, but they were about four times the price of anything else we bought.  In any case, we are delighted to have lettuce and green beans in the house again.

The coconut trees caught Steve's eye.  When a coconut fell, he hacked at it with a machete until he successfully freed the tender white meat from the shell.  After he demonstrated such determination, the least we could do was to make coconut macaroons.  Jim shredded the coconut and I made the macaroons.  They were not quite as sweet as some I've had in the US, but I know I've never had fresher coconut.   

The workers did, in fact, clear the trail that borders the seven acres of Villa Decary, and only a day or two after "manana."  Steve, Sandy and I hiked through the jungle on this trail.  I doubt if anyone who has ever hiked that trail spent more time looking for snakes than I did, and I am very happy to report I didn't see one.  I was amazed at how quickly we went from beautifully landscaped gardens to dense jungle.  Sections of the trail were very steep and sometimes muddy.  I was just behind Sandy as she started up a particularly challenging section of trail.  I heard her yell and looked up just in time to see her sliding backward, butt up in the air and hands in the mud.  I stopped her from sliding further by reaching up and bracing my outstretched hands firmly against her rear.  What a missed photo opportunity!

Somewhere along this trail several days later, the neighbor's cows found a break in the fence.  Jim, Mainor, and Manuel tried to guide them back to their side of the fence.  Not only were the cows munching on some of the beautiful ginger plants, but they were also destroying the grass.  Heavy rains struck just as the cows started resisting all efforts to get them back where they belong.  I was inside and unaware of our trespassers when I heard some commotion coming from the front yard.  I went out on the deck to see three grown men, soaking wet, holding sticks and making some very strange noises, doing their best to herd cows.  Now I know why real cowboys use dogs for that sort of thing. 

Steve and Sandy left this morning.  We will be without guests for a few days unless we get some drop-ins.  We've been told that the writer for the Lonely Planet Costa Rica Guidebook will be stopping by sometime soon.  I'm glad I had a week to practice on friends!

Our Spanish is slowly improving.  Jim is able to joke with Mainor.  (At least I think Mainor is laughing at what was said rather than the attempt to say it.) I am starting to do my grocery lists in Spanish.  However, I found that even though I can ask how much, I don't always understand the answer, even though I thought I knew numbers. 

We love getting your emails -- our touchstone to reality.  I also enjoy seeing which of my stories you comment on.  The only two stories that more than one of you has said anything about is the ball of snakes and Jim hanging laundry -- both rare occurrences. Ann, we are always thankful for your headlines.   

Como siempre (as always),
Mary & Jim

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