Every morning a chicken walks across my tin roof. Usually I am awake already because a mentally challenged rooster crows loudly by my window an hour before sunrise. The chicken on the roof makes scratching noises like fingernails on a blackboard. Obviously this is a negative thing but in general I am happy here.
I decided to stay in this small mountain town called Santa Terisita, deep in the mountains of Costa Rica, near Turrialba, for 3 weeks. The views here are absolutely stunning. The water is pure spring water with no chlorine or fluoride. People live in cheap houses with million dollar views. Everyone greets me when I pass them.
I wanted to visit the country house I am selling, which is even a bit farther in the mountains, to have some work done on it. There is not much happening in this town. There is 1 and a half restaurants and one bar which just closed. Internet is limited for me temporarily so when I am bored I buy dvd movies in town to watch and I play a very stupid and addictive game I found on my smart phone. I have discovered how to wash my clothes here for free by stomping on them in the shower with baby shampoo then hanging them out to dry.
I am a 45 min drive from the nearest gas station or ATM machine unless you count Machas gas station which consists of a bunch of non EPA approved containers of gas in her kitchen. Macha is a kind woman who offered to put up my buddy Manuel when his mom kicked him out of the house because he complained that his lazy brother should be making rice instead of him. Macha has a casino in her house as well as being the local gas station. The casino consists of some pinball type machines that pay coins.
Manuel is an English speaking buddy that I knew when we both lived in Puerto Viejo the beach town. He is like the mayor of this small town and has introduced me to dozens of people including many cops, the priest and an assortment of people with bizarre nicknames like Herman the munster, and a guy called Ugly aka FEO, who btw is proud to be called ugly.
I am treated like a celebrity around here, a big fish in a small pond because there is not a gringo for many miles and people do not see one close up. They get a huge kick out of hearing me massacre the Spanish language so I make a point to speak Spanish constantly plus many of them are dying to practice English. A number of teenage girls have started conversations with me and one group of teenage girls was staring at me while I was playing bingo to the point where I was embarassed because I didn’t want to be viewed in the crowded hall as hitting on their 13 year olds. Finally the leader looked up and said in a hugely thick accent WHAT IS YOUR NAME. I introduced myself to them and didn’t know what to say after that.
To impress the young men Manuel has taught me to sound cool by saying things like Que pasa mope or Que Tal Mier which is like What’s happening dude, and the young men smile when I say that. The local high school English teacher flagged me down in the street and insisted that I come talk to her repeatedly at her house because she is dying to practice English with a native speaker. She is 27 and wears braces and is very smart. She took a test and got a full scholarship to college. She has given me free Spanish lessons.
I have seen two women here that I have dated in the past, one was my old girlfiend from Turrialba and another a girl Manuel introduced me to long ago and took her on a date in San Jose but I am not looking for a girlfriend here because I am leaving to move to an apt in Sarchi at the end of the month. There are some desperately poor young women that are sort of quasi prostitutes that you can rent with the option to marry. In other words they will sleep with you for a lil bit of money and move in with you if all goes well but I do not really want such a relationship
There are many animals here. I have killed 3 large spiders in the house I rented for $100 for the month. A kid caught a boa and was walking around with it. There are lots of cowboys here riding on horses and there are no zoning laws so people have cows, horses and chickens in their yards as well as many commercial businesses run out of homes.
There are too many dogs running loose here some who are mangy and need to be put out of their misery. Most dogs roam freely. Manuel told me my neighbors dog was trying to sneak up and bite me and he said do not try to pet him please. Later another neighbors dog tried to attack me and this dog came to my rescue and scared the other dog off. I guess he wants first dibs on biting the gringo.
The people are very poor here. The average income is no more than $500 a month, if that. A boy of about 10 years showed up at the only open restaurant in town to ask the owner for some money. He is always hungry she told me and I noticed how dirty he was but I had seen him playing with other kids so at least he has some fun. His mother has a number of children but the rumor is she does not know who the fathers are. Pablo needed a new pair of shoes. I bought him a pair and I have been giving him money for bread .You can buy 3 baggetes like french bread for 1 mil which is less then $2.
I went to a catholic mass for the first time in 30 years. It was held in a home. It was standing room only with altar girls instead of boys and a woman served communion. Afterwards the owner of the home served everyone free dinner. No wonder it was packed full. Manuel said a cute woman wanted to meet me there but she was too busy serving food so I didn’t meet her and also she is reported to be a gold digger.
The entire town is like one big family,It seems that everyone is a cousin of Manuel. I went fishing on the property of a cousin ,one of the local cops. He has an ideal life despite the fact that he was once stabbed and also ran over by a car which ran over his head but aside from some scars on the back of his head he turned out ok. His small eco farm has talapia ponds, fruit trees,chickens ,pigs and even two turkeys. He built the house for 20k worth of materials and the land cost 16k. We caught a bunch of fish and his lovely wife cooked the biggest ones immediately for us. His little 4 yo boy was just adorable.The cops don’t have much to do here except tell the teenage boys to stop drag racing their motorcycles. The young men are not criminals here but some like to smoke pot. There are a few thieves but no murderers or armed robbers here. The cop was stabbed long ago and that guy went to jail and when he was run over that was an accident.
The other day was independence day for CR and there were parades and marching bands, and they had a dance where Manuel and I danced our asses off. The people of this small mountain town have been exceptionally friendly to me here. I have been experiencing total cultural immersion here and feel very warmly received. People pay money to do what I am doing and learn Spanish this way. I have even interacted with small children which has been very rewarding.
Tomorrow I will go on 3 busses for 4 hrs with 6 pieces of luggage to my new apartment in Sarchi where I will settle down and dance 4 nights a week in the giant dance hall nearby.