pawprint.gif SPEAKING
pawprint.gif BIOGRAPHY
pawprint.gif DOGS without BORDERS ~ Book
pawprint.gif LOS MUTTS ~ Book
from DOG ~ Book
pawprint.gif CAIRO CATS ~ Book
pawprint.gif SHADOWS in the SAND ~ Book
pawprint.gif GIFTS

A narrow dirt road to the left of the palm trees leads to my house.

A stroll through my new neighborhood.


The Welcome to Guiones Beach contrasts with signposts on the road which the locals have blacked out to discourage too many visitors.


Ranchland borders both sides of the road to the beach.


A garbage collection site, along with instructions asking visitors to pick up after themselves, and not to drive on the beach. Locals are exempt from this last rule.


Teenagers being cute and cool at the entrance to the driveway.

bruiser waves

The driveway at high tide. Sometimes it's completely impassable. And the obstacles change everyday. Like local dogs, my African ones avoid the water whenever possible.

When one of the eight beach front homes get rented, or when their Costa Rican owners arrive to vacation, maids are hired to clean and cook.


Herman is the caretaker for two homes. He's with Sollinay and Liker. I've pulled quills out of one's mouth, and put a flea collar on the other. None of the dogs in the neighborhood have collars or are ever on leads. Mine are beginning to integrate themselves.


The thatch on some of the homes is similar to makuti in Kenya and has to be replaced every five to ten years.


Because of the warm weather and lack of air-conditioning, the designs are open and sometimes only the bedrooms are behind doors.


During high tide, the fisherman easily drag the boats into the water...


...but during low tide, men and sometimes women gather together to carry the boats.


Since I've been here, at least two and sometimes three boats go out twice a day, staying out for no more than two hours at a stretch. These men will spend the rest of the day doing construction on the house next door to mine.


When not fishing, there's regular maintenance to be done, including fiber glassing and painting.


When old enough, the children leave for school before 5:30 am.


A man always full of laughter who thinks Bruiser is 'gordo' or fat. It was his idea to put Dog on the boat for a picture.


Bruiser loosing his fat. Whenever fish carcasses taken out to sea to attract more fish drift ashore, vultures gather, sometimes as many as fifty at once. You can walk within five feet of them.


Yessenia and her boyfriend. They kiss passionately before he goes out to sea.

flores and

Flores and her man. Picture taking for most is a very serious affair. I've promised everyone photos the next time I make the trip to Nicoya, an hour's drive away and the closest photo shop.


My landlady's mother lives in the first house up from the ocean. This is also where the fish are cleaned and sometimes filleted. The price for fresh fish is approximately $2 a pound.

living room

I'm the third house up. This is my living room and the view out to the one lane dirt track.


Facing the other direction is my verandah, jungle and a house in the process of construction. The table I'm using is formed from driftwood I've found on the beach.


Howler monkey's come through the garden every other day.

bicycle dogs

After my house is an empty jungle lot, then this building where you can buy basic supplies like eggs. These people also have a business selling tortilla's.


I have no idea how often the meters are read, or what the charges are.


Just beyond this more rustic settlement and rickety bridge are two more vacation homes. One overlooks the ocean from the top of a cliff.


Though a few of the people have parrots they've coaxed down from the trees, the birds are free to come and go from their cages. Some are more tame than others.


Animal Lovers
Lovers of Travel

~~~Costa Rica~~~

A monthly blog to be read from Top to Bottom

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April 1, 2006

As usual, there's lots of activity next door with filleting and packing fish to go to market in Nicoya. Friends have told me I'm paying too much for fish. I want to pay local, not tourist prices. I practice what I'm going to say when I buy my kilo. But by the time I walk next door, and there's bantering as one of them jokes his friend is 'loco', I forget what I've prepared to say. And I get charged what I've been paying, $4 for a kilo. Or a bit less than $2 a pound for already filleted fish. And then I wonder if perhaps the fish I'd bought before was just higher price? Or I'd bought two kilos? Or now I've been here for 2 1/2 weeks, I'm being charged less? I'm frustrated I don't speak the language, and I don't fit in.

I return to writing on my verandah and give a loud sneeze. One of the men calls out, "Salute!" I yell, "Gracias!" Life is ok after all. It's even more ok when a troop of howler monkey's who usually drift through by garden during the night, decide to come through now. The dogs watch attentively, but they're not as interesting as the vervets or baboons we had in Kenya and loose interest. I don't. These monkey's use their tail like another limb. I wish I had a tail...

April 2, 2006

I write all day. It's really the first day since arriving that it's flowed. I'm relieved. While driving down from Texas, I'd written for hours everyday, no matter what. I'd been fearing the nomadic movement was becoming crucial for my creative life.

April 3, 2006

Rudy comes to visit, his last time before returning to the States and he takes me out for a pre-birthday lunch at La Luna's, a wonderful restaurant overlooking a glorious beach.

April 4, 2006-My Birthday

At mid-day I drop Rudy off at the bus stop, go to the internet cafe and then drop in on Linda. She and friends are going horseback riding, then out to dinner and music at the Gilded Iguana. I decide I want to spend the rest of the day with the dogs. I go home, and an hour later I hear horses hooves coming up my little street. Linda and her friends have ridden over! They don't stay but it's a nice surprise. And it's the impetus I need to go for an afternoon walk.

The dogs and I trek out the point and making sure no one is watching, we duck through a fence and No Trespassing signs. I have a strong hunch this doesn't lead to someone's house, but to the 125 acre property which costs 17 million dollars. Wending our way up a hill we reach a fork and signs which clearly specify residential lots with names like La Conga (monkey) and Halcon (falcon). The views, which reach from well into Nosara to the north and past Garza in the south are spectacular. Drainage ditches from cement have been formed many years before and I get the sense this land is just being passed for profit from one investor to another until a developer comes along to actually build.

But there's surely not even 17 plots, and at $17 million, the houses would need to be astronomically expensive to cover the costs. Later, I learn that the names do not represent individual plots, but entire neighborhoods. This means many, many houses would be built here. Which in turn means many of the trees essential for the monkey's and other creatures to live, would be cut down. Meanwhile, no one is allowed to use this beautiful fenced land. I wish I had 17 million dollars to buy this land and have it designated as a nature preserve.

Glowing embers from a fire sit close to the drive when we return home just before dark. A fire, what I've missed the most about camping. I grab a potato, wrap it in foil and place it in the coals and let it cook while I feed the dogs and prepare a salad to go with the cerviche I made earlier in the day. It's an excellent birthday dinner. By 8pm, I'm in bed.

April 5, 2006

On our morning walk I notice one of the neighborhood dogs mouths has been impaled by spines. The quills are green, not like those of a porcupine, but they are and still incredibly painful. I take two out with my fingers while the owner, who keeps at least two of the summer homes up, holds him. Although concerned, as soon as the dog protests, he lets the dog go and says it's ok.

I return with pliers, grab the dog by the scruff of the neck and don't let go till all the spines are out. The little dog isn't happy, but he knows in that way only animals know, that he's being taken care of and doesn't bite. For it's long-haired friend who I see scratching all the time, I put on, with the owners permission, a flea collar. It's the first thing I've done for this community. It feels good.

I spend the day catching up on emails and once again, I'm in bed by 8pm. "It's been over a week since the last scorpion was in here," I think. "They must now all assume this house is inhabited." I look over at a counter and wonder if I should clear it carefully in the morning, to make sure they have no where to hide.

At 11 I'm awake for a short while, blow out the candle and try and return to sleep. I feel an insect on my neck. I brush it off with my hand and searing pain shoots into my forth finger. I leap up and turn on the light. But already know I've been stung by a scorpion.

I carefully move the pillows and sheets, and there it is. A smallish one which I quickly whisk into my tea-cup. As I did 4 1/2 years ago when I was stung, I sit for moments waiting for a reaction. Nothing much happens. I take 1 1/2 antihistamine. I look at the scorpion. The other two that had appeared in my bedroom I tossed over the verandah. I debate what to do with this one. Kill it? Just because it bit me when it saw a huge hand looming down on it? The pain and inflammation is less than a bee sting. After some moments of contemplation, I unlock the back door and toss this one over the verandah. And go back to bed.

April 6, 2006

I wake up melancholy. I miss camping. I read a quote in the amazing book, The Songlines by the late Bruce Chatwin. "Our Nature lies in movement; complete calm is death," wrote Pascal. I'd thought it was the real estate development that would cause me to leave here. Instead, I now think it'll be a longing for being on the road. I promise not to worry about it and enjoy here while I can. But suddenly, the music next door irritates me, and a teenage boy is cutting wood in front of my house. The constant banging drives me crazy. I ask him to stop, which he does, but then the construction resumes next door on the house. They're using a saw to cut through metal roofing. The howlers don't like it either, and moan every-time the dentist drill noise starts. I long for the quiet of the desert.

I have to go into town to check email. I hate everyone and everything. It's so dry, dust covers everything. I want rain. I've now been hauling water in with five gallon containers for 1 1/2 weeks. And I need work done on the van. Black smoke comes from the exhaust. A mechanical problem. But right now I need gas. I go to Nosara's gas station. There are no pumps. A young man comes out and asks me how much I want. I want $40 worth. He goes into a little building and proceeds to dispense liquid from metal drums into five gallon gas containers and then pours them into the van. I've never seen it done like this. And he'll be out of business soon. There's a 'real' gas station that's been built, waiting to open. It may or may not bring the price down from $4 a gallon.

In the late afternoon I walk with the dogs along the beach to the far corner before the point and disrobe completely. No one comes this far down the beach and I'm far from my neighbors, who would surely not approve. I step into the water. It's luscious. I relax. I should've done this earlier in the day. My mood begins to clear. The water is warm and soothing. I take another step. My heel lands on what feels like a soft stone and incredible pain shoots through my ankle as I see something flick up out of the cloudy water.

I can't remember the last time I've felt pain like this. It doesn't stop. It makes all my dog-oriented injuries throughout the years seem insignificant. I try moving my foot around, thinking I just need to get the muscles moving, but nothing seems to make much difference. I decide to continue walking to where there's a phone booth where I'd planned to call my father. It's a dirt track which means putting on my sandals. The strap cuts right into the wound where a small amount of blood appears. More pain.

I walk 100 meters up the track and know it's stupid to go further. I turn around, barely making it to the beach again where I remove my shoes. With the continuing pain and redness, I wonder if there was venom involved. Amputation begins sounding like an agreeable solution. Picking up a piece of driftwood to use as a walking cane, I hobble home full of humility.

At home, I quickly feed the dogs, take an anti-inflammatory/muscle relaxant and antihistamine...again. I add some aspirin and a beer in place of dinner. "People worry about scorpions?" I ponder. I writhe on the bed, trying in vain to relax. Ice is painful, raising the leg is painful. Finally, the drugs take over and I'm in oblivion.

April 7, 2006

My dark mood is over and so is much of the pain in my foot. I take pictures on the beach of Herman, the man who takes care of the two dogs I'd helped a few days before. We chat. Later I realize I got a few of the words wrong. It doesn't matter. I've made a connection.

April 9, 2006

It's been an excellent weekend of writing an article that's due for a magazine. I go for a swim and get stung by something, perhaps jellyfish, I don't know. I ignore it, but as it reddens, I decide to take Terri's advice and put lemon juice on it. The lemon juice works. As I watch it improve and continue my work, I notice because it's Easter break, there seems to be a lot more teenage boys around and they're taking great pleasure 'barking' as they walk by the house. The dogs take great offense to this. They run round to the front where I have bright orange plastic netting I'd 'obtained' from a construction site in New Orleans tacked up, to make the few people who'd initially been scared by them feel more secure. The boys, suddenly faced with Bruiser especially, then grabs rocks and throw them at him, the house, and the roof. I'm not happy. I'm tempted to take the netting down and let the dogs go after the boys.

I feel like I'm the sole representative of all the atrocities white people have perpetrated against non-whites in the history of mankind. And know that's ridiculous. These teenage boys are merely doing what teenage boys do. They're slinging rocks. And it seems my less than positive attitude these last days, though no longer 'dark' is still less than what I'd like. I turn the phrase around. I'm slinging rocks at ME with all the mishaps I'm having. I need to stop. Life is good.

And in complete contrast to this, are teenage boys who a few days ago were puffing themselves up in front of me, asking (I think), "Who do you think is better/stronger/whatever? Me or him?" I can't quite believe they're posturing to someone who could theoretically be their grandmother, especially in these parts where people marry early.

At 4 pm, we trek to Garza, an hour's walk away. I watch as a cavallero, or cowboy, herds his cattle home with his dog, while on horseback. It's an amazing sight. Terri and Matthias are already at Tomacito's bar, tossing a frisbee in the water that their dogs happily fetch. As usual, Dog and Bruiser watch on aghast, as do all the local dogs none of who go in the water. I have a few beers and meet a few new people before walking home. As before, I'm shocked at the difference between Garza beach and mine. Except it doesn't feel like my beach anymore. Wealthy Costa Rican's from the capital of San Jose have taken over every home along this stretch. Some of the houses have as many as 7 shiny SUV's parked on the lawns, along with ATV's, portable swimming pools (large enough to swim in) and power boats. They're here for Easter week. Selfishly, I can't wait until they leave...

April 10, 2006

I wake up exhausted. I'm still not sleeping well here and it's certainly not due to lack of exercise. I'm walking the dogs the usual two times a day and swimming once. I wonder if the bedroom is just too cavernous compared to what I'm used to in the van, so I put up rope above the bed to drape a sheet over to give a cozier impression. Dog has already discovered a little cave in an open cupboard in the kitchen and stays there much of the day.

While cleaning the house, I discover a scorpion in the living room-and a inch wide gap where the floor and wall meets. The gap leads to underneath the house. I believe, this is how the scorpions are getting in. I patch the hole with duct tape.

Black clouds form in the sky and I can see it raining in the distance, but nowhere near my house. Dust has been collecting for months and coats the leaves and plants so thick it shades them solid tan and makes Cairo sparkle in comparison. I long for rain.

Every house but one on the beach is filled to capacity with wealthy vacationers from San Jose. They have much lighter skin than my neighbors, who live their lives outside. They dress different and look different. And even though I share very few words with my neighbors, I have a fondness for them as I watch them go about their work, which is usually filled with much joking and laughter. These newcomers I try and make a connection with, but somehow can't. Or perhaps I don't try? I build stereotypes in my mind of how wealthy people aren't as genuine as poorer people-and know this can't be true. I come upon the answer. These people aren't 'available' like my neighbors are. And it dawns on me that my neighbors, quite possibly feel this about me. I vow to quell my shyness that I'm always getting my words mixed up and know far less than I wish I did, and just get in there.

I meet a family sitting on the beach and sense they're approachable. Yes, they live in San Jose, but in fact they're El Salvadorian, not Costa Rican. We share a delightful conversation in English. I give them my business card in the hope they share the African section with the children and let them know my house is open if they run into problems while vacationing.

At the corner of my road I see an older couple with extremely fair skin-I'm sure she's not Costa Rican. The dogs are accustomed to running through everyone's garden for the past month, since the houses have all been empty. I call Bruiser back but he's already nosing his way around. The woman, gaunt and well-put together with silver/white hair obviously thinks I'm a tourist when I ask if they rent out their house.
"We've been coming here for 45-50 years and no, we don't rent out our houses. And," she makes a point of adding, "we have a rule on this beach that dogs must be on a lead."
"That's why I left America, to get away from rules like that," I laugh, can't believing what I'm hearing. This is COSTA RICA. Central America. Dogs run loose all over the beach every day. That's what I love. That is why I'm here. I tell them where I live, and it occurs to me they may never have ventured up my little street, though I'm only a few houses away from them. And then I wonder if it's the desire to create rules is why there's a divide between those who have wealth and those who don't. Surely not, as some of the wealthiest people in the world are so because they've broken rules. I say goodbye to Antonia and Dr. Soto and walk away chuckling about the beach's leash-law.

I'm in the middle of cooking dinner when I hear the sound of rain on my metal roof. First a few drops, and before long the noise drowns out what has been in the background for the past month-the ocean. I'm ecstatic and like a lunatic, I open the front door, grab a bucket and look for the most concentrated rivulets running off the corrugated roof-water to flush the toilet in the morning. I run around the perimeter of the house, leaving the overhangs and getting drenched, really drenched as the plants now are. Even though it's going to take much more than this to help my water supply, I rip the wood off the well. Every inch will help. The sound is deafening. I love it. I can't wait to wake up in the morning and see what everything looks like.

April 11, 2006

Late afternoon I go for an incredible walk with the dogs past an old abandoned building on the beach where roads lead to through ranch land. The problem is the only reason there's roads and not trails is the land will be developed at some point, and my guess is in order to sell it, prospective buyers needed to be shown around the property. So trees have been razed and left by the side. Long dead.

When I arrive back at our beach, it's packed with people. Dog almost gets run over by a man in a car. Another smaller dog is nearly missed. I see 'Toni' surrounded by her family members. She doesn't acknowledge me. The I see Flores, my landlady's sister who works next door at the fishery. We chat. If you can call it chatting, when someone speaks in one language, and the other person responds when they can with monosyllabic words. But we've always liked each other. She invites me to her house. I say I'd loved to, but another time. I have my schedule to keep. We begin complaining about all the newcomers and console each other that in five days, they'll all be gone.

Just at this moment a woman walks up to me, well polished and charming and says, "I'm the President of the Guiones Beach Association and we're wanting to make some improvements, with the garbage situation and other things. And you know dogs, especially big dogs need to be on leads."
"You've got your work cut out for you," I reply, thinking of all the people who run this way with their dogs, as well as the locals dogs.
"Yes, well we're going to have a small house built at the entrance to the beach to control things. There'll be someone there patrolling from that point over there to here."
"Oh really," I reply.
"It's just too much of a danger to children to have loose dogs, especially big ones."
"These dogs were raised around children and babies."
"You know, five children a day are bitten in Costa Rica. It's a problem. And then when a child is hurt, people just leave and go back to their country."

She walks away. I don't bother saying anything about the two dogs who'd just been socializing with Dog and Bruiser in front of Toni's house, dogs I assume belong to her adult children. I'm incredulous. And angry. These people are here for a few weeks out of the year, Christmas and Easter, and they're wanting to impose rules on the rest of 'us' who reside here all the time?

I'd been watching Flores from the corner of my eye. Her face has collapsed. The most serious I've ever seen her is when I took her photo-a very serious event. Other than then, there's always a smile on her face. I tell her I want to leave. We begin walking up our street and a new bond is formed. It's 'us' against 'them.' She raves about how they're all locas (crazy) and how she doesn't like them and that they cause many problems-and that they'll be gone soon.

We walk to her house. She lets me know she has lots of water if I need a shower, and shows me the kitchen, flowers and explains how high the water reaches when it rains. She introduces me to a few girls and children I rarely see. One of the girls is a bombshell and is getting her hair blow dried by another. They both have breasts that pop out from extremely low cut tops I wouldn't dare wear in this traditional neighborhood. I'm surprised, and yet not surprised that one is already a mother.

She fills me in on who lives up this way, most I know, a few I don't. She points to one of the few houses up this way that's a holiday home and explains they're a problem too. I agree. One of the boys has been throwing rocks at the dogs and my house. I quickly calculate that at Christmas, if I'm still living here, it'll be time for me to leave the country for a few days in order to renew my Costa Rican visa. Perfect. I don't want to be around when these people are all here.

Flores and I have a great time together. It's taken far longer than usual to get to the stage of being invited into their home than it's taken in other countries. I think largely due to me being a Westerner and needing to get 'my work done'. I'm not on holiday. I also think I've taken things more gradually because these people could be long term neighbors, and I know there is TIME. I'm not on assignment. There is no rush.

So many times I've heard Westerners say of people in less developed countries, "They're so poor. They have so little." And I've always thought, "Yes, but they LAUGH." It was as true in the Middle East as now. In fact, other than dress and religion, one a very superficial difference, these people seem a cross between Kenyan's and Egyptians. Friendly, but not in-your-face friendly. I listen from my verandah as they build the house next door, pack and filet fish and go about their lives. After a month, I haven't heard a harsh word. There's been no arguments that I know of. It all sounds so stereotypical, but could it be true that they're happier than Toni and her Guiones Beach Association friend who in one meeting each, have brought me grief and who the locals certainly don't like?

Or is this just city folk, country folk?

Flores' mother has two small dogs that could definitely be termed vicious. One nipped Bruiser's leg as we walked by one evening, and more than once in the first weeks Dog wouldn't walk past their gate. Small dogs can be terrifying. But, we've worked it out. One of them now even likes Dog, and this morning as we walked on the beach it followed us-all three without a leash. Rules? It's not the way.

A friend once said he thought all the world's problems could be traced to greed. It's the case now. The Association woman wants this to be 'her' beach. I want it to be 'mine.' If anyone has a right to call it theirs, it's Flores and her family and friends. But really, it's no one's permanently. We're all just passing through. But while herenwe're faced with how to deal with this conflict, just as nations need to deal with theirs.

I also realize Flores could be my key to learning Spanish. I'm not a large group kind of person, and it always feels like there's sooo many of 'them' and only one of 'me'. By focusing on the women, especially Flores, I'm more likely to feel comfortable.

April 12, 2006

In the morning, two teenage boys, completely decked out in brand new MotoCross gear a contender in the Paris to Dakar rally would be pleased to own, kick up dust as they ride by on matching yellow dirt bikes. They're going where? No where further or more arduous than any of the locals travel everyday as they travel to and from shops and work.

Mid-day I drive to my landladies house. Her husband Oscar had told me his mechanic friend would be arriving from San Jose and would be happy to tell me what was wrong with my van so I could go to a shop in Nicoya armed with knowledge. He feels it's not nearly as serious as I'd feared. I'd foreseen an entire engine overhaul because of it's age (a 1978 Chevy) and because it's burning a phenomenal amount of gas. Every ten miles it's burning over a gallon of gas. And at $4 a gallon, that's far more than I can afford. The problem still is the amount it'll cost me to drive an hour to Nicoya to get it fixed.

They're incredulous when I tell them the story of Toni and the leash law, saying I should say I'm with the environmental group here. All the vacation homes have been built too close to the beach and are in fact illegal.

April 13, 2006

I bury myself in my writing instead of fretting about my van, the fact that all the internet places in the area are without service until next week because a telephone transformer blew, and that my beach is not my beach right now. I get a lot done and have an entirely blissful day, culminating with a great swim, and then an extremely long walk with the dogs.

The problem happens when Bruiser spots a lone monkey across a ravine from where we're walking. Howlers are tree dwellers, but this one is on the ground, several meters from the nearest tree. Amazingly, the monkey doesn't move till Bruiser is right there, there's a brief tussle and they face each other, the monkey with its back to the tree. There's nothing I can do from this distance. Slowly the monkey backs up, circling the tree till he's facing it, then scrambles quickly up the trunk. Linda tells me it's the season when all the monkey's are jockeying for position in the troops. They seem not to be thinking clearly without the support of others. Her dog almost got one too.

April 14, 2006

The view from my verandah is partially obscured by a row of seven foot high bushes you see growing not higher than a foot in Wal-Mart's nursery department. I'd planned to move four of them right after the first rain. That was Monday night. I discover a pair of thrush-like birds are building a nest in one. Can't move that one. And I feel uneasy about moving the plant next to it too. That leaves only two plants I can move. And very carefully as to not disturb them. Damn. Maybe I'll just trim them back-radically.

I hitch a ride into town. One of Dr. Soto and Antonia's son's and wife give me a lift. Unfortunately, they seem very nice. I'd wanted to put all these vacationers into a nice handy package labeled, The Evil-Doers, or something. It doesn't work.

Mid-day after doing email when I find out the phones are now working, I call Linda, asking if she happens to have a bicycle, and can I borrow it? She does. I hitch and walk to her house, am handed a beer before she, Phil and Finney go to lunch on horseback. What a great life... The bicycle has two flat tires so I walk it in the hot sun all the way home via the beach, euphoric all the way. And then get a headache which lasts the rest of the day.

April 15, 2006

I look at where the birds have built their nest and worry that during rain, they'll take the brunt of the run-off from the corrugated roof.

I have a conversation with a friend by email. The conclusion is, it's not what we have that matters, but what we do. While swimming, which I do in the ocean with a snorkel because I hate having water up my nose or eyes, I see amazing fish. Huge, about 25 of them encircle me. And then I have one of 'those' moments. I dive down deep, and forget for a moment there is a limitation to how long I can stay down there and hold my breath. I feel I could live down there. It is one of life's amazing moments-a moment of 'being.' And the next step along perhaps from either 'having' or 'doing'.

I also feel the first serious throw of regret about living in a fishing village, where everyday, fish like these are killed so others can eat. This is one of those times I don't like being at the top of the food chain.

April 16, 2006

The van situation is ridiculous. I realize I'm paying about $10 round-trip to go into town to do email. I call Linda. She has a bicycle she loans me. It's a one-speed. I thought I was in great shape with all the walks and swimming. I'm not!

April 18, 2006

Being mobile, at dark I bicycle to the Gilded Iguana to listen to music performed by ex-pat musicians, one who I'd met 4 1/2 years ago. The tide is high and I keep getting bogged down in the saturated sand. And without a moon, I also can't see a thing. It feels like the riskiest thing I've done in years, in a life of taking what some people would deem great risks. I'm nervous about hitting an unseen piece of driftwood, but don't. It's not that much easier when I reach the road. Many of the houses are now empty and the roads are dark. The trip takes me almost an hour and I arrive drenched with sweat-a rare thing for me. But it's well worth it. By the time I leave, the tide is down and it only takes me ten minutes to ride home.

April 21, 2006

Early afternoon I swim a short walk down the beach, where I usually head. But this time I see a huge manta ray about ten feet beneath me. From head to tail it's at least six feet long. I've seen them while diving, but not snorkeling and initially I feel very vulnerable. I hang around, and make little singing noises to it through my mouthpiece. It flaps it's wings. I get braver and dive down to it, giving it lots of space. It has huge eyes which blink often. It's magical.

I keep diving down and it keeps flapping its wings and then slowly it takes off and like the zebra you encounter on foot in Africa, just wanders away. I follow for a short while and then hang back and let it go.

BOTH dogs get in a wrestle with a porcupine while on our late afternoon walk. Their first. It's not good. I've never seen a worse case than Bruiser, though Dog doesn't fare too well either. As soon as we got home I set to work on Dog with pliers, and it only takes about 1/2 an hour to get her spines all out. But Bruiser's a lousy patient and he can barely close his mouth he has sooo many. The outside stuff was easy, but the inside... I give him a sedative after working on him for about an hour. I'm exhausted and so is he. Blood is all over the floor, spines everywhere.

Get up in the middle of the night and sweep all the spines up, pull more out. I smartly (without realizing it) had given him the sedative in a piece of meat, which he couldn't swallow, but he sucked on it and two others pieces all night long. I think this helps loosen the spines because in the morning there's less than 25 still inside his mouth. After a quick walk he readily complies and I get the rest out. We're all wiped. I just hope they remember...

April 22, 2006

Another ray while snorkeling! This one much, much smaller. There's quite a few locals standing in the water fishing with lines of string and nets. When I'm returning to shore I'm suddenly surrounded by more fish than I've ever seen in my life. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of sardine like fish swimming in swarms. I wouldn't be surprised if their numbers reached 100,000, they're as far as I can see in every direction. If I move my hand towards them, they move in a great wave away from me, as if they're all connected by one brain. If I stay still, I can almost feel their bodies touching mine. But not quite.

A woman and boy from my neighborhood are in the shallows with one mask which doesn't have a mouthpiece. I loan them my snorkel as I leave the water. Later Sarah says, "Bienisimo!!"

April 23, 2006

During our morning walk, we see a small manta ray washed up on the beach. Vultures are picking at it, trying to get beneath the tough hide. I hope it hadn't gotten accidentally snared by some fisherman yesterday.

April 24, 2006

I'm physically really isolated from the rest of the expat community, and when I've descibed where I live to Americans living here, most look at me blankly, not realizing there's a village here. I live in a village. I'm really realizing that's what this is. A village. I don't speak the language so I'm also somewhat isolated from these people. But it's like having a tv show at my doorstep. Almost anytime I go out the door, I'm immersed in activity. I'm usually not taking part in that activity, just as they're not taking part in my writing. But it is LIFE in the way I never found living in the suburbs.

Flores comes by and drops her daughter off for English/Spanish lessons. We'd been 'talking' about this, but being lazy and shy, I hadn't done anything. Then two more teenage girls came by. We read from one of my library books for over an hour, taking turns with the English and Spanish. Amazingly it's great fun! The next book will be, 'Huevos Verdes con Jamon por Dr. Seuss!

I take the van into Nosara to be fixed, hoping if they do what I ask, it'll improve the situation and if need be then won't cost as much in gas to take to a better mechanic an hour away. Matthias comes with me and helps with the translations. Most can be explained with basic gestures and Matthias finds a spark plug to explain they need to be changed. I now I know the word for spark plug. I'm learning a lot of nouns, but as usual, the verbs are far behind. I'm on my way to butchering yet another language...

While swimming I see another manta ray. Like the first, this one is huge. It's possible this is the same one, but now I'm sure it's more like 7 feet long. But the water is very murky and I loose it almost immediately. Have they been here the entire 5 1/2 weeks I've lived here and I've never noticed them? Or are they like the sardines, only occasionally coming in from deeper water?

April 25, 2006

While I sit on my verandah writing, my landladies grandmother walks over to the hibiscus and says a few words, I can't really hear her and a barbed wire fence prevents her coming through. I walk over to her house carrying my cup of ginger tea. She gives me some beautiful flowers which have roots and some seeds, all which I can plant as soon as it starts raining.

Tato shows me the inside of the house they're building that he and his very young wife will be moving into in a week. We all chat about how this area of town is so much nicer than where all the gringo's live, which has traffic, dust and noise. Almost everyday, I still feel I'm so grateful to be here, despite the fact Tato feels at $150 a month, I'm paying too much for rent.

I ask Tato about the manta rays I'm seeing and he says they're not dangerous. And that they do catch them for food. I'm crestfallen. Some animals you feel a deeper kinship for than others. And I feel I need to cut down on my meat and fish intake, which I eat everyday.

Despite my happiness about my life here, I fret about money. I go swimming and I realize my fear of running out of money is true. I WILL run out of money in a few months. The money I have now, will be gone. Other money will replenish that supply. It's a constant inflow, outflow.

Then I remember a quote by Salvador Dali who said, I don't need drugs, I AM drugs. And the thought came to me very powerfully, I don't need money, I AM money. Which is also true. We are everything. That is what abundance is. We don't have to snatch, because we already ARE all those things. The rest of the day is wonderfully peaceful.

In the evening Terri and Matthias drop by after dark. An unusual surprise. They've found a better place to live than where they are, which is on the main road and gets the worst of the noise and dust, for not much more money. The downside is it's on the other side of town and away from the Tico neighbors they've come to care so much for.

April 26, 2006

I go the kitchen to eat a mango and looking next door to the table where they cut fish, I see someone butchering a manta ray. I feel sick.

April 27, 2006

Yes, I'm living in a VILLAGE. Just like I'd always dreamed of doing at some point in life. The odd thing is I'm not thinking in journalistic terms. I have no plans for a book/mag article/whatever. Certainly, I'll continue taking pics and it could happen, but I'm not in that mindset. Which makes me a lot more relaxed.

In the afternoon I walked down to the beach with the dogs and Flores and Jacqueline are deeply engrossed in writing a few things in Spanish in the sand, waiting for me to translate into English. We're planning to do this everyday. Our guesswork at this point is probably not the most efficient way to learn a language, but the first time, learning a language is FUN!!!

April 29, 2006

At noon I go over to Terri and Matthias's house to help them move. Before taking the van into the shop, I'd emptied it of the bed and now it's running again and well, it's the perfect vehicle for carrying their refrigerator, washing machine and other belongings. This is my first time seeing their new place-it does not disappoint. They've got a distant view of the ocean, a BREEZE which I certainly never have, even though I've removed three windows, a hot water heater (which means HOT showers when the temperatures drop, microwave, oven, two bedrooms etc etc etc etc etc. The downside is all their neighbors are Westerners, not Costa Rican. However, the price is incredibly cheap and the house has a great feel to it. It's way more upscale than mine. I leave very happy for them and excited to be part of their move.

I arrive back at my own place depressed. I still have no water. It's been over a month I've been lugging five gallon containers from next door. Because there's been no rain, dust hangs in the air until it falls and coats everything. And it's a three day weekend. So, a number of the vacationers from San Jose have returned, including the house where I use their outside hose to shower off after swimming to save having to lug more water to my house. So, I fill my shower container in readiness for a swim and hang out with the neighbors for a while.

One of the people is a man who enjoys playing with the two monster dogs and who Dog gravitates too, though he doesn't allow her to touch him, a common theme in other countries. I comment on the three tattoo's he has and he says he did them himself. I'm incredulous, they're good. He did the ones on his upper arm by looking in the mirror. He then leaves and returns with a notebook filled with pencil drawings. They're simple, but lovely. He leaves again, and this time returns with three wood carvings. One a crocodile, a huge iguana he's currently working on, and a bird sitting at the top of a pole, which he kindly gives me. It's not till later, when I'm out of my funk that I fully appreciate how lucky I am to be here.

However, though I wrote well this morning, I feel I have to make too much of an effort to block out village activities and noise. Incredibly, I wrote far more prolifically when I was traveling in the van. I promise myself that when the music starts the next morning, I'll pile the dogs and myself into the van and drive down the beach so I can write in quiet.

April 30, 2006

The music doesn't start till 9:30 and when it does, it's loud. It's a new tape-one I think brought by their friend's who are visiting from Nicola. '70's rock and roll, but not a song I like. I write for a few more minutes in irritation. And then an old Cheap Trick song comes on. And then Guns and Roses. And then Queen. Music I love. I can't leave. I decide to go with the flow. I stay. Within fifteen minutes, it's quiet again.

Just before dark I hear a commotion next door. The monkeys are howling furiously and the two dogs are barking furiously while Tato is screaming, "NO Cuka, NO!"

I go outside just in time to see a juvenile monkey slowly making it's way up the bank opposite my house. They almost are never on solid ground. My guess is Cuka had a run-in with the mother. And where's the mother now?? Tato is hyped up saying, "Cuka is 'brava'." Cuka maybe brava or bold, but she's also a monster, an extremely possessive female everyone is nervous about and who's nipped at me and my dogs more than once. Of course, I'm more worried about the monkey than Cuka. I debate whether to put Bruiser on a lead and track the monkey, try to catch it with a fishing net and return it to a tree with the rest of its troop. I decide to let nature take it's course and see if the troop and the juvenile are able to reconnect during the night and then try to find a scent in the morning. I worry.

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