05 December 2009

IT LIVES!! (in the tall grass)

I’m not really very fond of bugs. Apart from Fluffy, my pet tarantula, I wouldn’t miss the entire class of critters that bite, sting or chew up the wooden shelves in my garage.

I do enjoy the Spanish word for them: bichos [beach’ ohs]. It just pops off the lips like an English homophone that is usually combined with a tone of venom and the words, “son of a …” Saying their name in Spanish, with the correct tone of voice, helps me get through the day. “Damn bichos!”


Then again, the little nasties sometimes get to pay me back for not showing them “the love.”

On our way back to Atenas from two wonderful days in the Valley of the Quetzals, we were seized with our obsession to look for tiny boxes of hidden trinkets, worth less than a penny, using millions of dollars of Global Positioning System technology, aka, geocashing.

“Oh, look! There’s a cache showing on my GPS, right down there in that little valley! Turn down this road!” said my co-pilot.

“Aarrrrrgh!” sez I.

After 15 minutes of dropping like a rock, down into this verdant valley, my co-pilot again said, “Turn here.”

“That’s a cow path.”

“No it isn’t. There was some gravel there once and there are a few rocks here and there right now,” she retorted. Then she set the hook. “Besides, do you want to log a Did Not Find on the website?” We turned up the cow path road.

Forty-five minutes of bone-jarring single-track later, following her GPS needle, we came to a bridge over the beautiful crashing cataract of the Rio Blanco de Copey. Boy what I would have given for an ultra-light fishing rig and some trout bait.
But we were after a different quarry now – the elusive Tupperware box full of trinkets.

The online hints said that the box was hidden in a “cave near the bridge” and the GPS’s kept dragging us towards a big ol’ rock about 20 feet off the road, sitting in meter-high grass. Having planned ahead, I was wearing shorts, crocs with no socks and no Deet. Ah, but it will just take a second.

It took about 10 minutes. You have to locate the cache, get it out of the cave, open it, look through the trinkets to see if there is one you want to take, leave one of our trinkets behind and sign the log book. Through all of that time, I never felt the little monsters striking into my flesh and injecting their venom.

Pat says they’re called no-see-ums. I think in the Midwest we called them chiggers. Either way, the domestic variety is a poor excuse for their genus, considering the strength of whatever the hell it is those horrid Costa Rican cousins leave behind in your skin. The Costa Rican branch of the chigger species are the Black Mambas of chigger-dom.

Our glee at logging another cache find was soon supplanted with a need to scratch. Our legs had been attacked and we both had numerous little red “pimples” raising up and itching. It’s overwhelming. And, I’ve learned my lesson: no matter how hot and steamy it is in the jungle [hoon’ glay] thou shalt always bathe in Deet and wear long pants.

Today is 4 days later and the only way to ignore the itching is to get my mind off of it by writing dreck like this for you to suffer through. See? I like to share.

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04 December 2009

Is it Christmas yet?

Apparently it is … here in Costa Rica. The Ticos take Christmas decorations very seriously. Every place you look, the decorations are up. Most of them have been up for a week or more. There doesn’t seem to be any of the competitive, “my lights are better than your lights,” here. Everyone just decorates. Some of the decorating is amazing.

During one of our geocaching forays deep into the mountains – where rain forest jungle edges up against forsaken little fincas (farms) -- we saw pockets of grinding poverty where the houses are just slapped together shanties. Many of them are fully constructed of rusty corrugated steel roofing, probably appropriated from unguarded construction sites or reclaimed from the roofs of ancient abandoned barns. But, amid their poverty, their hovels are decorated for Christmas. At least there is a cut-out of the Jolly Old Elf’s visage nailed to the front door. The “rich” peons [pay-owns’] have electricity and if they have electricity they’ve somehow managed to come up with a string of Christmas lights or two, gaily twinkling away, day and night.

In the towns we traveled through, Friday, December 04 is a crazy day of frenzied celebration and city-wide carnival. For, this is the day of the alginaldo [ahl-gee-nahl’-dough]. This is when every person in the country is paid (on the same day) the equivalent of 1 month’s salary, for Christmas bonus, by law. Imagine the craziness in the States if every employed person suddenly had that much cash in hand. Well, it’s crazy like that here, too. On top of the alginaldo, this was the last week of the school year for most of the children. Add that to every city staging a big fiesta / bazaar / carnival / party (usually centered at the town square and the Catholic Church, which is always situated on one side of the town square.) It was so nuts that the main street of the capital, San Jose, was blocked by a sea of surging humanity, already spending and partying, in the middle of the afternoon. We didn’t hang around to find out where that party was going … cripes … we have a flight to catch in two days.

And then … there are our neighbors, bless their hearts.

Imagine, one of them actually has a house that looks to be smaller than ours (if that’s possible). Clearly there is no room inside for a Christmas tree. Sooooooo, the fully decorated and lighted tree is proudly sitting out on their miniscule front porch, half blocking the front door.

But the prize goes to our “almost-neighbor” up the street. Their house isn’t close to being finished yet. This week it was just a framed-in structure with a roof. Yesterday, they started putting up the sheets of blue Styrofoam insulation on the front wall. On the second floor, dead center on the front façade, there will be a huge picture window – some day. Right now, it is just a hole in the framing, surrounded with blue sheathing. Guess what is hoisted up in that opening, blazing away with the latest LED tree lights? Oh, yeah … they might not live there but by god they’re going to decorate.

Fun country.

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