Adventures of the Heart
Mary Zalmanek
Costa Rica - Romance in the Rainforest

Saturday, October 27, 2001

Hola Amigos y Familia, 

One afternoon around quitting time, 20-year-old Manuel gestured for me to follow him into the office.  He handed me a handwritten note and indicated that he wanted me to type it on the computadora and make it look pretty.  It was addressed to El amor de mi vida.  I knew enough Spanish to know that the letter was to "the love of my life," but not enough to violate his privacy (at least not without a dictionary).  I was absolutely delighted to help out with what I initially thought was a marriage proposal.  I went to work right away, stopping only when necessary to look up some of the juicier words like dueña de mi corazón (owner of my heart) and novio (fiancée). Without a doubt, the letter contained a pledge of eternal love.  I searched high and low to find the word "marry" and a question mark, but to no avail.  It wasn't until I typed the last line that I realized the letter wasn't from Manuel, it was TO him.  The letter didn't have the life-changing potential that I thought it did, but I was touched by the love expressed in this letter and the sentimental value of having it typed as a keepsake.

When Manuel got to work the next morning, I showed him the words that didn't make it through the spellchecker on the Villa Decary computer (their computer is bilingual, mine isn't), and then copied the file to my computer for a wider selection of fonts.  I printed the letter in four different fonts trying to determine his favorite, but he said he wanted all of them.  Not more than an hour later, he was back with another letter.  This one was to Mi único y gran amor (My only and great love) and it was FROM Manuel.  The perplexing thing was that both letters were in the same handwriting.  The only explanation I could guess was that her handwriting was less legible than his, especially to someone who doesn't know the language, so he transcribed it for me.  I really do believe that Elevinia is a real person and not just a figment of his imagination. 

Between Jim, Dwayne and me, we made two trips to Arenal to find some nice stationary, but came home empty handed both times.  Manuel and Elevinia now have four copies of each of their love letters (on plain paper) they can share with their grandchildren. 

Dwayne left on Thursday, but before he left we had some great adventures with him, many of them centered on food.  Jim and Dwayne drove to the Guanacaste coast.  They came home with some much appreciated and delicious marlin and fresh-water shrimp.  They thought buying fish on the coast made more sense than buying it from the pool hall -- such an American way of thinking! 

On another search for foodstuff, we visited a macadamia nut farm owned by an American woman who came to Costa Rica with the Peace Corps twenty-some years ago.  Dwayne and I split a 25-pound box of macadamia nut pieces (perfect for baking) for a little over $2 a pound.  Except for a couple of pounds I reserved to use here, my hunk of macadamia nuts is shrink wrapped in a large silver bag ready for the trip home.  If I make it through customs with this odd looking package, I may actually do some Christmas baking this year to use some of those macadamia nuts.

Dwayne and I went to Tabacon Hot Springs, and it was every bit as beautiful as I remembered from our April visit.  Lush gardens surround the pools of water heated by nearby Volcano Arenal.  The sky was crystal clear and we could see the steam coming out of the volcano.  Business was better there than I expected -- I couldn't even get an appointment for a pedicure or a volcanic mud wrap.  They were booked solid.  Instead Dwayne and I sat on a bar stool in the warm water and drank a tasty banana and coffee liquor frozen drink. 

The three of us walked down to the botanical gardens.  Michael, the American owner, rehabilitates injured animals, and then releases them back into the wild.  We met some caged ocelots and Spanish-speaking parrots.  Three tejons from the badger family, which we understand can be quite fierce if cornered, crossed our path.  The insect repellent we used worked for Dwayne and me, but Jim was covered with welts by the end of our visit.  Michael explained that Costa Rican mosquitoes especially like Colorado blood.  Michael also told us jugo de limon (lime juice) takes away the itch, and Jim says it really works.  

We have a slow week ahead of us since our next guests will arrive a week from Sunday.  We've had a lot of cancellations, due in part to the situation in the US.  The real test of our inn keeping skills will come next week when we have ten guests at once.  Just like it says on the Morton Salt box, "When it rains, it pours."  In a bed & breakfast in the rainforest, that many be true with the weather and guests, but it sure isn't true for salt!  Salt that flows freely in Colorado's dry climate is just one of the many things I miss.

Your emails are appreciated more than you will ever know.  Please keep them coming! 

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

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