Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chapter 60 - The Mowing Machinery

            When Rita was here on Saturday she asked if we could keep the mower in the house for a couple of weeks.  I disagreed with keeping a gasoline engine in the house.  The fumes would be very unliveable.
            We saw Rita’s car coming in with a young man driving this morning.  He brought the weed eater to the veranda and left.  He picked an armful of green mangoes before he left.  Somehow, the Ticos like to eat green mangoes.  I would think the unripe fruit  would give them cramps. That is as far as the mowing went.  There is a long necked padlock on the handle of the gas container.  I suggested she arrange to chain the mower with a padlock attached to the post of the deck.  So far, we have the padlock.  I don’t have any idea who the young man was, but he didn’t accomplish much.  I suppose he has gone back for the mower.  The trashy dry branches that are littered around the grounds should be picked up and taken away before they start mowing. 
            You might get the idea that this orchard is very untidy, and it is.  There are weeds a foot high growing at the base of all the trees.  They don’t understand that all that growth saps the water and starves the trees. The trees themselves aren’t in good condition.  This orchard isn’t managed well at all.  I see mould on the trunks of the fruit trees, and the fruit itself is rumply and bumply, not like the citrus fruit that one sees in the supermarket.  Melaney has found the tree at the back of the yard that produces huge good lemons.  Our tiny man knows the best of the orange trees, and he has been bringing up oranges to our house.  Even the best of the oranges are meant only for juice.  They are full of seeds, and quite sour.  People here seem to like sour better than sweet.  I would like to introduce them to some good California oranges and Texas grapefruit.
            It is still a mystery as to when the yard will be cleaned up.  I hope they aren’t waiting for us to do it.  We didn’t hire on as field hands.

Chapter 59 - Life in a Small Branch

             Melaney and I have both been given callings in the Branch.  I offered to play the organ when the man who had been playing left with his family for San Jose.  Both the President and the man who left were thankful, because I am now the only person in the Branch who has any musical training.  I have played a couple of weeks now.  It has been more time than that, one week was conference in San Ramon (which we didn’t attend) the second weekend, we were both sick with some kind of yuck.  It was like Montezuma’s revenge but it lasted two days.  This past Sunday, Melaney was given the calling of Primary President.  We were very surprised at this as we haven’t received our official membership records as yet, but the President said (pointing up) “He has the records”.  She did her first day on Sunday, and I was there with the Yamaha.  Everyone seemed delighted to have the music, and they were so warm to us.  We don’t have enough of the language yet to be very effective, but Melaney is a terrific figurehead.  The children call her Sister Melaney (at her request) and they call me Sister Gloria.  They are very familiar with the name Gloria, as it is popular here.  It is also in a lot of the church hymns.  I won’t have to wait for Christmas to have them sing to me.
            The children all gave us a hug at the end of primary.  I am always surprised with the open affection they show.  We hugged each child (there were 12) ranging in age from four to eleven) and kissed the three adults.  It is so gratifying to be accepted so openly, and they don’t seem afraid of me at all.  They seem to be more in awe of my size than afraid.  I just love it.  I can be the marshmallow that I really am.We managed to go the full three hours on Sunday.  By the time we went home, my joints were on fire.  I was thankful for my recliner.
            I think we were called to this area to be of some effect on the people.  We can love them openly and in return they seem to love us.  Our life revolves around the meeting house, and there is a Relief Society birthday affair on Thursday that we plan to attend.  They are very social.  The last party was the Valentine’s Day party, and that was fun.  I think it does a great deal to solidify the branch by being social together.
            It is Tuesday today, and I have taken a half an hour to play through the primary songs that are coming up in the next two weeks.  I am familiar with all of them, and particularly so with a few.  One is the old song, “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam”.  I haven’t heard that one for a while.  I used to sing that as a child myself. By playing, I don’t have time to watch both the music and the Spanish words, so I concentrate on the music.  It is good to feel of worth to the Branch.

Chapter 58 - Silence

               I haven’t written for some time, we haven’t had internet to post the stories anyway.  This is just under two weeks, and getting more and more frustrating.  Rita was here Saturday and I made a strong point that she had made promises to get us to rent this house, which she hasn’t kept.  One is the substantial internet.  We have tried two different paths, and neither one proves to be that dependable.  The neighbours, whose house holds the modem to which we are linked, were away for some time.  It seems the internet through their house chose to fail when they left.  It did the same the last time they were away.  They were gone for the third day.               
             Melaney knew the dogs were in the house unattended. She found that she had the neighbour’s key on the ring that Rita gave her, so she went to set the dogs loose for a time.  She tended to their water and food and locked the dogs back up and came home.  There didn’t seem to be anything wrong. Melaney had looked after the dogs at a previous time when the neighbours were gone for an extended period when they drove to California and back. When the neighbours returned and Melaney told them about freeing the dogs for a time, they made a terrible fuss about not having asked for her help, and that ended the budding friendship.  Now we want internet on our own terms.  Rita made some calls she said, but nothing has come from that as yet.
            The second most important promise that she made was that she had a gardener for the place.  That was hooey as well.  Once in a while someone comes in to do a little tinker around the place.  She had a couple of young Nicaraguan boys in to tidy up a bit, but they putter for a few minutes, pick themselves a bag of oranges and leave.  We told her it was a complete waste of money.  The grasses around the house have absolutely gone wild, and I just can’t put up with the untidiness of the whole thing.  Besides, it harbours ants by the bucket load.  I picked up one of my walking sticks the other day and my hand and arm were literally attacked by a swarm of black ants that had hollowed out that dry stick to make it their abode, and they didn’t like being disturbed.  The stick was dropped in a hurry, and I did an ant dance brushing those ants off.  They didn’t bite, but they exude a stinging acid that really gets your attention.  I don’t want that horde at my doorstep.  Rita said that if the grasses are mowed in the dry season, they burn off.  I told her I don’t care if it dries to a desert around the house, I want the weeds taken care of and removed.
            She said the internet company would be here either Monday or Tuesday.  It is now midday Tuesday, and we haven’t heard from them.  Manana is the Tico way….It is enough to make one pull hair…..
            We have really worn the computer games to a frazzle.  I have played some that I hadn’t played before. We watch a little TV in the evenings, but we need something for the daytime.  I have the little keyboard that the church let me have for practice, and I go out on the deck and play that to get familiar with the hymns again.  That’s another story.

Chapter 57 - Our Day For Church

           This Sunday when we arrived at church, we were greeted extensively.  We hadn’t seen the group for three weeks. I even got a hug from Joyce who has been a little standoffish, so I hope she is all right now.  One week was conference in San Ramon, which we didn’t attend as last week we were ill.  This week, it seemed that we had been away for a long time.
            This Sunday was testimony meeting.  I gave my testimony, partly in English and partly in Spanish.  I am sure the spirit touched the congregation…Many came and thanked me for sharing my testimony with them.  Even though I am old, the power of my testimony is strong.  The tiny sister and her daughter and husband were there.  She shook my hand and kissed my cheek.  Then she indicated that I was so big. I said yes I am grande and you are piquina.  She laughed.  That means big and tiny.  She needed some medical attention.  Her ankles were very swollen.  Mel told them she needed a diuretic tablet to release the fluids.  They were going to take her to the hospital.
            The president wanted to talk with Melaney after the sacrament service, so I waited. 
            It was some time before Melaney came out of his office.  He asked her to be the Primary President.  She was surprised, and I was extremely surprised.  She hasn’t had experience with children, but she obviously has the qualities that he was looking for.  He also asked me to play the music for the primary children.  That will keep us at the meeting house for the full three hours now. Until now we had only been going to the Sacrament Service since we are unable to follow the classes in Spanish.
            They found a smaller keyboard and let me bring it home for practice.  I need a lot of practice as I haven’t really played for about four years.  After they released me from playing in Relief Society, I didn’t play any more.  My piano at the house in Kelowna was just sitting in the basement gathering dust.
            This keyboard playing is different than the piano.  Even though the keys are spaced about the same, it is a different action.
            I brought a hymn book home with me, and the president gave me a children’s magazine with the song at the back that he would like me to play in a couple of weeks. I should be able to sight read the children’s music.  This small keyboard doesn’t have a music holder with it, so that will be challenging to play with my right hand and hold the book with the left.
            After the meeting with the president, Melaney said there would be a meeting in San Jose next Saturday that she would need to pick up her councellors in Grecia, and go into the city.  After we had been home for an hour or so, he phoned and let Melaney know that the meeting wouldn’t be necessary for her as it was all in Spanish, and she wouldn’t get anything out of it.  He suggested that the three of them meet by way of the internet, and that makes sense.  However, our internet isn’t working at present, and we hope it will be back in order soon.  Melaney had to go to town yesterday to go to the internet cafĂ© and do some business.  We need some help here!!!!!

Chapter 56 - About the Fawna

  There are marvelous wonders in Costa Rica.  We had a few in Kelowna, but the biodiversity here is extreme.  The varieties of birds that we don’t know a thing about make one want to get a bird book.  Melaney went into the internet into the Costa Rica Bird section. Apparently there are about 850 species of birds here, so where does one start?
  Across the road where the sugar cane fields have been cleared, large winged vultures check to watch for any rodents that might be left.  One brown bird rode a thermal across this property so low that I got a good look at it.  The wingspan was in the eight feet range and it just glided without a feather twitching.  It was magical.  It was the size of a big eagle, and flew in a similar way.
One morning while Melaney was walking Gigi, she spotted a toucan in the tree.  They will be coming to make advantage of the huge crop of mangoes.  They are sized up to the size of golf balls and better now.
    In Kelowna we had the huge moth that created the tomato horned worm.  I had a lot of experience with them when we lived at Scotty Creek and I did a lot of gardening.
When Melaney was coming to the house one morning, she saw a creature at the top of the wall in the north deck area that to her looked like a bat, but she didn’t realize that bats don’t rest with their wings extended, they fold them to their sides and hang upside down.  She took me out to see this critter, and at first I thought it was a mud wasp nest starting.  Then I looked again and it was a huge moth.  The wingspan looked like six to eight inches.  It was dark brown in color, with darker brown markings.  It was just resting at the top of the wall.
  When we returned from a little trip, I saw what looked like a worm on the floor in the bathroom.  When I turned on the light it stretched out at the crease of the floor and wall, but it is very difficult for any dark brown worm five inches in length to hide from me.  I took a tissue to pick it up and get it out of the house, and it instantly coiled into a flat circle about the size of a fifty cent piece.  It was also hard, not soft as the worms I know.  This is probably a defense against small birds.  It would be too large to swallow.  I showed it to Mel, and then threw it outside.  She said “I hope you threw it a long way.”
  Squirrels have made a colony in the roof section of the house next door.  They will probably have to smoke them out.  I have seen a squirrel running along the top of the wire fence by our place a couple of times, and then into a tree.
  I had pineapples out front on the porch rail to ripen, and something knocked one to the ground and chewed a good sized chunk out of it.  We have critters that are opportunists here, something for everything.
  I would like to be able to walk more, I know that I am missing a great deal by staying at the house.

Chapter 55 - Panama Without A Hat

   I don’t know how many of you remember the Panama Hat, but it was very popular as a hot weather hat for men a number of years ago.  My grandfather had one, and I remember it well.  It would remind you of a pith helmet, only it is made of a light weight fibre material, and the sweatband held the hat up higher than the head to let the shaded air circulate.  I think there were grommet holes in the upper part to let off the heated air.  So much for the hat, we didn’t have one. (The hat you see in the picture that Mom remembers as a Panama Hat is really a French Pith Helmet. We had a discussion about this and after I looked it up on several websites, Mom has given in. She still sees this as a Panama Hat though...Mel.)
   We went to Panama on a twofold mission.  Firstly, Melaney and I had to get our passports stamped as leaving Costa Rica, entering another country, and then back into Costa Rica to extend our visitor status for another 90 days.  By the time that is up, our lawyer in San Jose should have a file number for us to show that we are in the process of applying for residency. 
   We stopped at a little shipping port called Golfito (everything in Costa Rica is an ito or an ita); that is where the shopping expedition starts.  That was the twofold reason for going to the border.  In Golfito, a person is allowed to shop for a thousand dollars a year in commodity, at a cut rate price (supposedly duty free).  Personally, I think it is more of a gimmick than anything else.  It is a regulation that one goes to the shopping area and gets a stamped document that gives you permission to make a purchase, then come back the next day to shop.  There is a forced stay overnight with the added spending in the area of food and lodging.  It’s too far to drive both directions anyway.
   By the time we reached the border town of Canoas, it was about six o’clock and the heat was really pouring in.  We found a place to park the car, keeping it on the Costa Rica side of the border.  We walked towards the Panama immigration building.  A young man insinuated himself into our company and informed us that we had to go back to the Costa Rica exit window to get our passports stamped there, then come back to the Panama window.  He spoke fairly good English, and seemed to want to help us.  We had Rita along as our guide and interpreter, so we weren’t really in need of the young man. (He seemed more like a bad toothache that we couldn’t get rid of...Mel)
   By the time I struggled over the gravelly walk back to the Costa Rica building, I was bushed.  I can’t walk very far in the best of conditions, and in this heat it was awful.  By the time our exit was stamped at the Costa Rica office, we had to turn around and head back a block to the Panama building.  When we got there the young man told us we would have to pay $30 each and get a ticket to another location in Panama.  He was starting to sound like a bit of a crook.  A woman came up to us and showed us stamps for our passport, and said $1 each.  She put them in the book.  This was some kind of a tax that had to be paid in American money.  I had only two hundred dollar American bills with me and she couldn’t take one.  Rita stepped up with the two dollars and we had the tax stamps.
   By the time we got up to the window of the Panama building at the entrance side the lights were out, and they didn’t know when the electricity would be back on.  We waited for over an hour, and finally gave up and decided to go back to the car and find a sleeping accommodation.
   We stopped at a couple of places, but they were full.  Then we found the Azteca, a bright red building painted in the Mexican manner, and they had rooms that were air conditioned.  Fortunately, our room had three single beds. The air conditioning was puny till Mel twisted a few knobs and got it coming a little better.
I was so fatigued that I just took the coverlet off the bed and lay down.  There was no thought of food, only water and air conditioning.  It was a puny effort at air conditioning.  The temperature must have been over a hundred degrees.  I lay and gasped and Mel and Rita lounged and watched the TV.  I just ignored them.
   I couldn’t strip off enough clothing and remain decent to get comfortable.  I thought I didn’t sweat, and normally I don’t, but I was sweating now.  My whole body was damp and my morning shower was long gone.  Melaney had to go back to the reception office to get towels for us.  Apparently they don’t just supply them, in case of theft.  The towels were so rough and old that no one in their right minds would want to steal them.  Melaney has such an honest face that they didn’t hesitate to give her three towels and tiny bars of soap.
We struggled through the night, and next morning around eight, we each rose, showered and dressed for the day. 
   The showers were diabolical; just an overhead spigot that spurted cold water.  The sides and floor of the shower were covered with tile by the yard, and slippery as can be. The paint on the walls above was peeling off in great shards.  When I showered, there was a carnivorous ant about half an inch long waving it’s antennae at me from the floor.  I didn’t feel like murder right then, so I just doused it with cold water.  That kept it busy so it didn’t bother me.
   We were ready for breakfast.  The Aztecita was empty, but by the time we sat in the chairs there was a fellow in the kitchen and a waitress at the table.  She was so slow that I couldn’t believe the pattern.  One doesn’t tip service people in Costa Rica, it is put into the bill automatically at 10%.  She wasn’t worth a tip. The fare consisted of rice and beans and eggs, none of which appealed to Melaney. She tried to conjure up enough words to ask for French Toast, or oatmeal, or pancakes to no avail. She settled with two very slim pieces of toast and butter. They had no jam. (Some restaurant, eh?)
   We had to go back to the Panama building.  Mel stopped close enough for me to walk there easily, then she went to park the car.  She had to produce a document to prove we had transportation, or else buy a ticket by bus. The parking stub satisfied the requirement.
   Rita and I walked to the window.  The lights were on now, and we knew that as soon as Mel joined us we could get some action.  We had been told the night before, and it was shown on a tab near the window, that each person had to have $500 American money with them to get into Panama.  I had $200, some Costa Rican Colones and a credit card.  We were able to borrow $430 from Rita.  That totalled $630 so we decided to pass that back and forth between us.  We weren’t asked to show funds. (Must be something to do with the honest faces...Mel.)
   We got our stamps from Panama, then headed back to the Costa Rica office to get our incoming stamps.  That is a terrible amount of foolish red tape.  I know that they are aware that everyone who wants to stay does it, but it is foolish bureaucracy.  In actuality, we stayed in Costa Rica overnight with our passports stamped as exited, we kept our car on the Costa Rica side all the time to prevent them getting the idea of taxing it into the country, and we never did go into Panama.
   Now get a picture of the locale.  There is squalor everywhere.  People line the tiny streets with a continuing line of different tiny shops with something to sell.  People infest the intersections with carts, bicycles with carrying cases on the front, anything to hold some kind of goods.  There were street vendors with food, hats, sunglasses, perfumes and creams, and T-shirts. Name it, it was there.  We drove up one narrow street and were too far in to try to turn around.  People were wagging their fingers at us, as apparently it was one way.  We managed to squiggle through it and eventually get back on the road to Golfito. (The side road was NOT labelled as one-way...Mel)
   When we arrived, it was about 11:00 and getting into the boil of the day.  I waited in the parking area while Rita and Mel went through to obtain their purchases.  We needed a dehumidifier.  That was our purchase and it was close to $200.  Rita got a lawn mower, and weed eater, some kitchen appliances for her sister, some shoes for her kids and I waited.  I was burning with heat.  I took the water bottle that I had and poured water over me a couple of times to try to get the evaporation to cool me down.  I was so terribly uncomfortable.  I believe I had an introduction to Hades, and I don’t want any part of it. I didn’t think they were ever going to get to the vehicle.  Finally, at about 2:00 they arrived.  They had hired porters to bring their goods to the truck.
   We had at least a six hour drive ahead of us.  That would bring us back to the home front after dark, and I am uncomfortable with these roads after dark.  We had been detoured from the main highway going down because there was trouble with a bridge, so we knew that we would be detoured coming back. As we climbed higher into the mountains, the temperature came back to normal for us.

   I had starved Mel all day (two skinny pieces of dry toast don’t last long for me. Mom had eggs and toast and Rita had Gallo Pinto – rice and beans, so they were fine. By the evening I was admittedly getting cranky. Mom said it would be good for me to go without food for a while. I beg to differ...Mel) trying to get as close to home as possible before dark.  I wasn’t sure she would forgive me, but I guess she did.  I fixed her a toasted cheese sandwich with mayonnaise and pickles.  I was so thankful for the cool air to go to bed. I know everything will look better in the morning.