Adventures of the Heart
Mary Zalmanek
Costa Rica - Parting is such sweet sorrow!

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Hola Amigos y Familia,

This is our last full day at Villa Decary.  The time has passed quickly.  The hardest part of leaving anywhere is saying goodbye to the people. I will miss Jeff and Bill even though I haven't seen them for almost two months.  We spent a week with them before they left on their trip to Peru and Brazil, and I have been in touch with them almost daily by email. I spoke to Jeff for the first time in six weeks just a few hours ago.  We will only spend an hour or so with them before we dash out the door. We are forever grateful to them for giving us this opportunity.

We will miss the American and European neighbors and friends.  I feel like I have known Monica and Willy and the triplets for ages.  I will think of these gentle people for years to come whenever I eat good German food, visit a family-run art gallery or see a neglected animal.  I am inspired by the animal rescue this family runs in a country that doesn't value animals the way they do. 

I'll remember the efforts Lynne made early in our visit to make us feel welcome.  I'll miss Jan and David from Toad Hall, the fanciful art works in their gallery, and the incredible papaya and potato taco.  I am grateful to Luc and Sole who invited us to Luc's birthday party simply because we knew Jeff and Bill and we spoke the same language.  I’ll never see another Great Dane without thinking about John and Cathy and their three Great Dane lap dogs.

The people I will miss most are the ones with whom we don't even share a common language.  Mainor and Nuria are very dear to our hearts.  I get choked up at just the thought of their many kindnesses. I read in a guidebook somewhere that we should be careful of admiring personal items since Costa Rican people would be likely to insist that we take the item as a gift.  Once I complimented Nuria on the cologne she wore.  Only days later she showed up with a new bottle of this cologne as a gift.   

One morning Mainor wore a t-shirt commemorating a two-day mountain bike ride around Lake Arenal.  We talked to him about mountain biking and told him about some of the rides we have done.  Mainor gave Jim the t-shirt as a remembrance of him.  These people do not have a lot to give, but Mainor literally gave Jim the shirt off his back (freshly laundered, of course).

Jim and I wondered what personal items we brought that we could give to them.  Jim gave Mainor his cherished Leatherman tool.  I gave Nuria a pair of fresh water pearl earrings that Jim had given me.  Neither my meager vocabulary nor the lump in my throat stood in the way of the emotional exchange as we cried and hugged. 

Elkin, the caretaker on a neighboring estate, will long be remembered as one of the happiest people I have ever known.  He loves his life.  Just being around him with his gracious and gentle ways and his gratitude for the simple things makes me appreciate life even more.  I can't even count the number of times I heard him say things like "I love rocks" or "I love flowers." He never complains; he accepts things as they are.  If it’s raining, he loves the rain.  If it’s sunny, he loves the sun.

While we had less interaction with Manuel, Jose and Mayela, they left their marks on our hearts just the same.  I will fondly remember Manuel and his love letters to the "the love of his life."  We never met Elevinia, but I know she is real.   

Sixteen-year-old Jose was a master with a machete, whether he was whacking back the jungle or making short work of stripping a coconut of its outer and inner shells.  He seldom spoke beyond Buenas dias, but he was the hardest worker in the bunch.

Mayela spoke fast, as if we actually understood her, and worked hard.  She came in once a week to keep the windows sparkling and the floors shining.  In a forthright and sincere manner and with a friendly smile, she told Jim he needed to improve his Spanish.  She may have told me the same thing.  If she did, I just smiled and said "Si." 

I know I've whined about the bugs, cooking everything from scratch, and the rain.  The cooking hasn't been so bad; in fact, I've enjoyed it.  And a rainforest wouldn't be a rainforest without rain.  But I could definitely do without the scorpions!  At least we haven't seen any snakes, and believe me -- I'm knocking on wood. 

Tom wrote that Paul Harvey reported that people are killing scorpions, drying the stinger, rolling them up, smoking them, and getting a better high than they would from heroin.  Someone around here could have one heck of an illegal scorpion crop growing. 

I must admit, I am looking forward to cooking my last meal for a while and letting someone wait on me for a change.  I hope my sleeping schedule gets back to "normal" -- waking up at 5:00 and being dog tired by 8:30 or 9:00 is not my idea of normal.

From the first time I did the Stairmaster, I had one goal and one secret desire.  My goal was to do 20 laps in less than 20 minutes.  I came close several times, and maybe even succeeded on a couple of occasions, but I would become distracted by a bird or a random thought and lose track of my laps, even though I was counting on my fingers.  Today, with single-minded determination, I ran those steps with 2 words in my mind: the current count and "Push!"  I knew this was my last opportunity to break 20 minutes.  I finished in 18:59. I did another 5 cool down laps in 10 minutes, nice and slow, pausing to search the nearby trees for the howler monkey clan, and savoring the view.  This was a personal best, certainly not a record setting physical feat.  Jim would do 25 laps in about 21 minutes.  (Show off!) 

The secret desire was to have the clouds open up just when I finished my work out and dump so hard I could shower outside and wash my hair in the rain.  Working out in this heat and humidity (although there is not as much heat now as in September and October) left me hot and sticky.  I didn't exactly get my wish today, but close.  Just after I finished my work out, the rain started again.  It wasn't hard enough to actually shower in it, but enough that I was able to lean against the railing, face up in the rain, and feel the satisfaction of a wish that had been granted.

I really appreciated all your comments and encouragement about my emails.  I've been told some people would check their email just to see if they got anything from me.  I eagerly checked my email to see who wrote back.  The most amazing thing is I even got my sister, Connie, checking her email.  Up to this point she has refused to even get on the computer.   

Mark (Jim's brother) and Paula arrived without having read a single email that I had sent.  Neither one has email. I just don't understand how people can live like that!  They asked some basic questions like "Have you seen any monkeys?" and "Why don't you use canned beans?"  I told them I was going to tie them to a chair and force them to read my emails. 

Mark, Paula and I went to Tabacon, where Paula and I spent several hours in the spa getting massages, facials, volcanic mud wraps and body polishes.  I drank a "coco loco" from a green coconut shell and slid down the water slide. Now my Tabacon experience is complete. 

Tomorrow we leave for Monteverde, a cloud forest that we can sometimes see across the lake, but it's a 3 or 4-hour drive on bad roads.  We will spend a couple of days there, then head to the beach at Flamingo and Tamarindo for 3 days.  Our last night will be near San Jose at a beautiful hotel that we stayed at when we were here before. 

I'll fill you in on that leg of the adventure when we get home. 

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

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