Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tranquila en San Luis

Life in San Luis can only be described as "tranquila"--a description used here much more commonly than in the states. Yes, it means tranquile, but we also use this term to say "chill", "relax", even "kick back." An advective and a verb. And life here is all of the above. I may have mentioned this before, but it is worth mentioning a thousand times: the place is freaking BEAUTIFUL. From our very modest house we look down a valley of fields and forest to the Nicoya Gulf. From 1100 meters above sea level, we can see the whole way down the valley without seeing a single other building. With the wind blowing down from Monteverde, the clouds are pushed out to sea, we get a fine mist, and a beautiful rainbow almost every day. Talk about cheesey.

The farm (where I am doing my independent research) is equally beautiful. My family grows coffee and sugar cane mostly, but, like most farms here, I can snack on the sweet lemons and guavas that are scattered amongst the crop. If they were ripe I would be munching on bananas too. My family keeps this farm as a place to live and as an extra income--my homestay father has a day job maintaining the Ecolodge (U. of Georgia's research station). They also sell the coffee and give tours.

In fact, I just took the tour the other day. They show people around the farm, explaining the organic process of harvesting coffee, etc. They end at the trapiche, which is a traditional machine to process sugar cane. They have tourists pull the machine into motion, squeezing the juice from the sugar cane. Everyone gets a taste of the sweet water as they listen to a charla about the traditional way to boil it down into "tapa dulce"--brown blocks of sweet molasses-flavored sugar. This is boiled into "agua dulce", which we drink every night before bed, or is ground into drinks to sweeten them--my family usually adds this to lemonade made from the fruit on our farm. It was really fun taking this tour as the resident gringo. The tourists had lots of side questions for me about life on the farm, and tico culture, and a little more about the processes from a "science student's point of view"...oh, tourists...It's good to have them though, my mom stays at home, and so she depends on tourists for extra income from selling them her embroidery, jams (sooo delicious), and handmade trinkets. And, as the rain and wind slowly dies, the tourist season is cranking up!

I also wanted to comment about the wild life here. In San Luis and the Monteverde region in general. It seems that recently I have had a lot of funny encounters...I mean more than normal for living in the jungle... First, on one of my visits back to Monteverde, I just so happened to arrive as some students were tranquilizing a coati for their project...Then, as I left the station I saw a sloth crossing a rope across the road--or at least I think it was crossing...It really looked like a hairy booger on a string, but I assume it was intending to move out of the rain at some point, maybe later this week. Then, back in San Luis, a snake snuck up on me while I was studying in the coffee. I tend to be quite quiet and still in the field and I am used to birds and sometimes monkeys going about their business, not minding me. I am certainly not afraid of snakes, but as I knelt in the plants I got the hugest rush of adrenaline when a 1.5 meter long snake (probably an Colubrideae--harmless) practically brushed along my leg as it glided past me from behind. I guess that human instinct to fear snakes is pretty hardwired in me--it took a couple seconds for my biologist brain to override--then I tried to catch it... And then there's this morning...I was delightfully woken up by a weasle (or Costa Rican equivalent, I think) chasing a rat across my bed! This just reminds me that the security of our house's roof and walls is fairly nominal--leaves occasionally blow in through the cracks in the walls that shake when the wind is high, and there seems to be no end to the interesting insects I find everywhere in my room, the living room, the bathroom...My homestay parents laughed at me when I came out of my room this morning, "Did you see it? We saw it go into your room. What do you think? A new pet, maybe? The weasel is better than the rats--he eats the snakes, too...."


Auntie Fi said...

My darling Fi:

This is your Auntie Fi saying Happy Thanksgiving!!!

We're here at your Auntie Barbie's house, about 28 of us are here, your cousins Rachel, Michelle, Miles, Shannon, Kate and Ellie, and here is your Auntie Barbie...xoxo--Fi

We're very full -- lots of great food and drinks. And of course lots of noise and giggles. We miss you tremendously. Love and kisses

Auntie Barbie.

Here's Nikko:

Boooooooosh!! Been drinking a bit with Rachel. How's it going little sis? I hope your enjoying yourself in the middle of the Costa Rican rainforest. Here I am in civilization (far from Washington thank god) and maximizing my solar absorbtion.


Here's Rachel --

Baby cousin!!!!! My little falafal..I wish you were here. It's a huge crowd this year, which always makes things entertaining. Just read about your rat experience, you should know that rats make excellent pets. They love to be handled. Can't wait for you to come home. Have an amazing time out there! Love and miss you very much. -- Rachel


There are alot momre people to comment, so I'm going to break this up a bit so we don't flub one big long email. More to come...Big Fi

Auntie Fi said...

Part 2 of the Massive Fi-Blog Thanksgiving commentariat du Van Stolk:

Hey Fle! Happy Thanksgiving and we wish you were here, even if you'd rather be there (although for today I'm sure you'd rather be here, but most days you're probably really happy you're there). Bisous, Tyson.

Happy Thanksgiving I wish you were here your teddy bear misses you lol hopefully i will see you soon

Auntie Fi said...

I now introduce the critical Part 3 of Thanksgiving messages from your family, and here, is your Mommy--moo:

Hi, Baby Girl!
I miss you, miss you, miss you! Was so sweet to hear your Felicia voice in my ear early in the morning. I think that using the 722# is inadequate...(not as good a long distance plan... I think was the problem.)

Hope things are going well for you in this portion of your Costa Rican journey. I sense that your stay with the family on the coffee farm cooperativa was priceless. Nothing like seeing things from a different perspective with one's own culture NOT in the dominant position. "To be the invited one" in a complete and satisfying context in and of itself is something too many Americans don't ever get to experience. This is not the case with you of course, nor was it to start with.

It was so important for my soul to understand that my own little world in Watsonville, (much smaller than yours ever was) was NOT the world indeed.

I miss you, miss you, miss you, and can't wait to have you here so we can prepare for our Fijian adventure.

Guess what? They don't speak Spanish in Fiji! Strictly English!

Too much food here at Barbie and Larry's. Your brother looks good, and is being sweet.

Dad is having fun getting into genealogy and Rudy bit me this morning because I dared to give Nikko's butt a slap!

I love you, love you, love you, Muchica!

~ moops

Auntie Fi said...

Here is Part 4 of The Van Stolkarama Thanksgiving Marathon

Hello Felicia, Miss you , but I'm sure your having a wonderful time.
We just got done pigging out,but wating for dessert.
Hugs and kisses,

My darling Fi:

This is your Auntie Fi saying you are very much in our thoughts tonight as we celebrate another year being here together on the planet.

You're with us, you know, you're with me as I wish I had my cooking companion next to me, timing the cookies out of the oven, making sure your brother doesn't eat them off the pan, or your father.

I miss my buddy who I can write poetry on the internet and she knows exactly who and what I'm talking about.

When I read your posts from abroad, I am filled with love and pride of you that's so big I fill a room, silent though I may be. You and your brother continue to be lights in the world, and for that, I fell blessed to be part of the bloodline and the heartline that connects us, all the way across the Equator, and wherever you'll be on the planet.

Happy Thanksgiving, my love,

Auntie Fi

Auntie Fi said...

Here's Michele, your cuz:

Hi Felicia! How is Costa Rica going?? I am sooo jealous, I want to be in Costa Rica right now. Well we all miss you and I cant wait to see you this summer in Michigan! Take care.

Auntie Fi said...

Little Fi:

This is your Auntie Fi again. You would love the addition of Kate's parents' contribution of home made fudge to the Thanksgiving festivities. And they made the mashed potatoes. Hallelujah!!!

Your mom is hovering over the fudge with Kate. So totally figures. Baby Elizabeth Rose is a BIG girl.

Your Ampa Jay asked me to give you his love, since he doesn't blog. Your mom is calling. Something about Miles, the ice cream and the home made pumpkin pies by Kate's folks...

Auntie Fi said...

Bruce says,
When are you going to give me a racquetball lesson?
Wish you were here,two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl,year after year......