Adventures of the Heart
Mary Zalmanek
Costa Rica - Shortage of electricity, not ants

Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Hola Amigos y Familia
,
 

We had a social rite of passage last night.  Lynne, an American woman we've befriended, came for dinner.  As Bill and Jeff (Villa Decary owners) said in a recent email, they are comforted to know we are socializing with the elite of Nuevo Arenal's society.

Although we are starting to feel like part of the community, I can tell you there are some things I will never get used to, like those annoying sugar ants (so tiny you can't see their legs even with reading glasses).  I've made some progress in accepting their right to be OUTSIDE, where they belong (spoken like a true environmental bigot, I know).  Inside, however, is another matter.

I mentioned to Lynne the mistake I made by putting a box of opened cereal in the pantry without enclosing it in a sealed Ziploc bag.  Bill and Jeff put ALL food after it has been opened in a sealed Ziploc bag, in the refrigerator, or both. For someone who lives at 7500 feet in Colorado, last saw a cockroach in 1971 and had never seen a sugar ant, it's easy to forget the importance of this practice. 

One morning when we had no guests, Jim and I were going to have a simple bowl of cereal for breakfast.  In the second or two it took to walk five feet from the pantry to the countertop, I could feel the tickle of those tiny ants crawling all over my arm.  I threw the granola and the entire community of ants into the compost pail.

Upon hearing this Lynne said, "You could have eaten the granola.  The ants were just a little extra protein." 

Ants make pejiballes look down right appetizing.

You would think after 33 years in the electric industry that Jim would at least know how to report a power outage.  One morning around 7:00 we heard a pop and all the lights went out.  Jim called the electric company and said, "I'd like to report a power outage" five times to three different people. 

Having failed to find an English-speaking person and reluctant to try a conversation that may require some technical terms over the phone in Spanish, he tried to pass the phone to Mainor, but Mainor wouldn't take it.  We didn't understand Mainor's reluctance since he is always very knowledgeable and helpful with everything that happens.  At first we wondered if calling to complain may be considered rude, but at the very least it was premature.  It seemed like the neighborly thing to do was to drive to town, find someone else with the same problem and commiserate about it.  A more likely explanation is that he was driving around to determine the source of the outage to know to which of two offices to report the problem.

Several hours after the initial outage, Mainor determined it was indeed time to call the electric company.  In mid afternoon, a truck arrived to replace the blown fuse in the transformer at the bottom of the driveway.  Knowing the local customs is way more important in fixing electrical problems than knowing how to build substations or run power plants -- just ask Jim. 

Vultures, or zopilates, are not the prettiest birds, but they are the prettiest fliers.  As I watch them soar in the air currents, they are the only birds whose flight I envy.  They are silent and graceful.  I want to fly in a vulture's body. The frantic, hurried flight of the hummingbird holds no appeal for me, although their diet of nectar is far more appetizing than dead animals.  The loud squawking of the parrots passing overhead reminds me of a fleet of taxicabs in San Jose.  Toucans have beautiful beaks, but flap about in the treetops with the grace of a 6-year-old in ballet class.  Toucans and 6-year-olds are captivating nonetheless, but not for their athletic ability or grace.  It's the flight of a vulture that soothes my soul.  As I watch one circling nearby, I can feel the wind beneath its wings.

As I look back over this message, I realize I have written a page and a half about ants, a power outage and vultures.  I guess this qualifies as a slow news day.  Next week when we have ten guests, all kinds of interesting things will probably happen and you may never hear about them.  Sometimes life just isn't fair, is it? 

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

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