Monday, June 30, 2014

Ticos! Ticos!

April 1979--My Peace Corps group.
I never imagined it would be so long between the time I finished my Peace Corps service and left Costa Rica, and when I got back to this tiny Central American country. I'd been in country for 3 1/2 years, long enough to begin dreaming in Spanish. The group of volunteers I had trained with and who were sworn in with me at the start of Holy Week in 1979 had mostly completed service and scattered a year earlier but I'd stayed an extra year, invited to oversee a short-term project and not quite ready to close this chapter in my life.

I had lived with an exuberant family of Costa Ricans in a mountain town that was a three-hour bus ride from the capital. We didn't have Skype, we didn't have e-mail, we didn't even have a telephone. I listened on a borrowed shortwave radio as the Kansas City Royals lost the 1980 World Series, and learned of the birth of my niece via telegram.

And still...

There aren't enough words on the internet to describe the ways I loved this friendly country that was still on the cusp of discovery when I left in 1982. It wasn't just the family I lived with, although they became my family. It wasn't just the other volunteers, although they had become my family, too. It wasn't just the beaches, or the coffee, or the flowers, or the beautiful rhythm of Costa Rican Spanish, or the music, or....

I'd be back soon, I promised myself as my plane lifted off the tarmac in 1982.

But then I met Husband and fell in love. We got married and started our family, and there was never enough time or money to take all six of us to the tropics. It was 19 years from the time I left Costa Rica to when I introduced my husband and our four boys to my Tico family like a mother cat introducing her beautiful kittens.

During that trip we watched from the second floor of McDonald's as the Ticos celebrated a big soccer win over Mexico. The streets were filled curb to curb with flags and celebration, punctuated by a soundtrack of honking horns and chants. I temporarily suspended the travel policy that we don't eat in places we can eat at home--at ages 15, 13, 11, and 9, the Boys were surrounded by unfamiliarity and the chaos had gone past fascinating to frightening. They still talk about the pure joy of the locals in that moment.

I thought of that experience yesterday as we sat on the edges of our seats in front of the television, our body English and cheers keeping the Costa Ricans in their World Cup game. The Boys are scattered all over the country now, but when the final penalty kick had been taken and my adopted country had moved into the final eight of the World Cup teams, we were cheering together on Facebook and text. It was like we were back in that McDonald's in San Jose, except this time we part of the family and were joining in the chants.

Oeee, oe oe oeeeeeee, Ticos! Ticos!

I want to go back.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Castaway Flashback

Please forgive the photo quality of today's illustration. I took it last night just after the power had gone out (thank you, thunderstorm) so it is lit only by my point-and-shoot's flash with fill light from a camping lantern. This McGyver moment was not nearly so romantic as it sounds.

But in the spirit of this week's theme, which seems to be "I Love Food," I had to document the first fruits of my garden. Arranging six tomatoes in my grandmother's amber Fostoria was a moment akin to this:


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Blueberries on the Scale

So, chapter 2 of the blueberry saga. Since I have convinced myself you come here because I have Opinions, today's post will be entirely made up of Opinions. What did I like about the day at the blueberry farm? What was less than my favorite? Get yourself a cup of coffee, because this is going to be long.

This time was on Pearl's clock when we left the House on the Corner. Saturday morning, people. It was Saturday morning and I was already in the car at 7:26. And I didn't even have the satisfaction of knowing we'd left on time, because we planned to leave at 7. On a blueberry scale of 1-10:

This is me trying to find the blueberry patch. Yikes! This place is so remote that it does not have an address. Do you understand what I'm saying? I couldn't even input the address on my phone and claim technological failure when I couldn't find the place. Navigation R Not Us. Blueberry rating of ease of finding the farm:

Nothing says you're in the country like sharing the road with a cow. I loved this cow. It made me feel like a complete pioneer, a hunter-gatherer with air conditioning and non-functioning GPS. Fortunately for the cow we were hunting and gathering blueberries and not hamburgers or she might have been speeding up a bit. Blueberry rating of the cow:

The blueberry farm itself was astonishing. There were no mosquitoes, folks. No bugs of any kind, in fact, unless you count the bee that was buzzing around and well, you know how I feel about bees. Lance and Elizabeth, the owners, personally gave us instructions on how to pick the berries, since we were complete novices. You don't really pick them; if the blueberries are ripe they practically fall off the stem into your hands. It's a caress, maybe a fondle, but not a pick that yields the ripest blueberries. Also, did I mention no bugs? Blueberry rating on the facilities:

Okay, in the interest of truth and justice and the American way, I must admit that blueberries ain't cheap even when you provide your own stoop labor. Persons such as myself who are accustomed to fruit costing 19 cents per pounds (bananas, on Tuesdays, in 1987) will gulp just a little bit at the price. When the sun was at its peak and we were beginning to get a little swoony Husband pointed out that if he had stayed in the office and billed out standard rate he could have earned, let's see, carry the two and multiply by...well, significantly more than we saved by picking our own, and that doesn't even count the cost of gas and lunch. At that point I batted my (sweat-dripping) eyelashes at him and asked "Yes, but what is fair market value on a full morning with a beautiful woman these days?" and he realized he'd gotten a bargain. Blueberry rating on the price:

And later that evening, when Husband stuck a fork into the juiciest, tartest, sweetest blueberry pie ever, he forgot all about the morning he could have spent at the office. Pie trumps economics every time. Blueberry rating on the day:

We'll do this again.