Adventures of the Heart
Mary Zalmanek
Costa Rica - Tico Tact

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Hola Amigos y Familia, 

Our Tico friends are very polite and tactful.  Elkin stopped in during breakfast one morning.  I had made gallo pinto for the first time without Nuria's supervision.  I asked Elkin to taste the native beans and rice dish and give me his expert opinion.  He said they were just right for him, but his brother would prefer more rice.  As Dwayne pointed out, Elkin cleverly invoked referential authority to suggest that the brother of his brother may also prefer more rice in his gallo pinto. 

During a cooking lesson last week, I asked Nuria how long she and Mainor haveMainor, Nuria, Mary and Jim been married.  She pointed to October 21 on the calendar and said, "un ano" (one year).  Well now, there's a reason to celebrate!  Jim and I talked about how we could honor their anniversary.  We decided to ask them to be our guests for breakfast on Monday morning.   

Naturally, my initial inclination was to surprise them when they arrived for work as if they had won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes, lead them to a beautifully set table and serve them a gourmet breakfast.  Fortunately, Jim remembered what we teach in the Couples Romance Weekend.  One of the twelve habits for planning romantic and fun adventures is to "accommodate your beloved's (or guests of honor's) surprise tolerance."  You would think since I was the one who came up with these twelve habits that it would not be so difficult for me to remember that not everyone likes surprises as much as I do.  Not only could a surprise be uncomfortable for them, but also the anticipation of the event could add to their pleasure.  It would also be good to let them know not to eat breakfast before they come to work.  Jim and I asked them in broken Spanish if we could help them celebrate their anniversary by serving them breakfast.  Their looks of surprise and wide grins left me anticipating the event as much as they were.

I picked birds of paradise from the yard for a bouquet for the dining table and several varieties of ginger for a large bouquet for a side table in the entry way.  I even wore my only dress and put on a few flicks of mascara for the occasion.  We served a fruit plate with papaya, pineapple, watermelon, tangerines and star fruit and honey-pecan baked French toast.  Dwyane arrived a few days ago bearing gifts, which included, among other treats, a two-pound bag of pecans.  Tangerines are abundant here at Villa Decary, and a large bag of star fruits were a gift from the owners of Chalet Nicholas, close friends of the Villa Decary owners and their only competition in the area.  After breakfast, we gave Nuria and Mainor a hand-painted butter dish from Monica's gallery.  They seemed to feel a little awkward being served at first, but by the end of the meal I detected an unmistakable twinkle in Mainor's eyes whenever Jim would jump up to get him more coffee or juice. 

Annona is not only the most exotic-looking fruit we've eaten, but also the best Annona fruittasting.  The annona varies in size from orange size to cantaloupe size, and it's covered with soft horn-like spikes.  A tall annona tree next to the Stairmaster has only given us one ripe annona fruit since we've arrived.  We shared it with Dwayne on his first night here.  (I needed to atone for the beef tenderloin I served that was the texture of boot leather; not all the food here is the quality we have come to expect in the US.)  Annona is sweet and creamy, not as sweet and creamy as a can of sweetened condensed milk, but it's the closest thing I can think of to describe the rich flavor and smooth, velvety texture.  Since annona is a delicacy for monkeys and birds as well as humans, we are keeping a close watch for hints of yellow in the tree.

John and Cathy, owners of Chalet Nicholas, invited us to hike in the jungle near their house.  Dwayne and I accepted the invitation (it was Jim's turn to guard the fort).  Cathy and John gave us a great walking tour of the garden and the orchid house.  As we hiked through the jungle, Cathy pointed out a walking tree (roots hold the trunk of the tree high enough off the ground for a person to crawl under; the tree can "walk" if something grows in its way), a couple of buttress trees (a single cut of wood from the "buttress," which protrudes eight to ten feet from the tree, could cover as much as 100 square feet of floor in some of the old mansions), and many tourists trees (the bark peals like a sunburned tourist).  None of this surprised me as much as when one of their three Great Danes sat on my lap.  I never considered a Great Dane to be a lap dog.   

Appreciated even more than the pecans was the news Dwayne brought from the US.  While we are troubled by the war, saddened by the recovery efforts, and worried about anthrax, we are proud to be Americans. 

Un abrazo y un beso (A hug and a kiss),
Mary

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