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Aventuras en Costa Rica – Dias Finales

In Uncategorized on August 7, 2009 by tishamarie

Rigo picked me up at 7:15 and, bless him, stopped at Hotel Marañon so I could pick up my voucher before he dropped me off at Quality Hotel next door to a Pizza Hut. Yes,  Pizza Hut and on the way we passed Burger King, McDonalds, Subway, and El Pollo Campero which I’ve seen by Alicia’s house in Inglewood (Salvadoran food, I think).

Church made of metal to prevent earthquake damage

Church made of metal to prevent earthquake damage

The van came at eight and we proceeded to weave in and out of busy San Jose streets stopping at four other hotels before he transferred us to a larger tour bus with Melvin – the world’s best tour guide – and a driver with the grace of a gazelle up and down the windy mountain roads, even in the rain, some unpaved.

SarchiRiver

I learned about contemporary Costa Rica from that bilingual, three-hour drive which wasn’t in the whole book I read. I feel like my education is complete. We also stopped in Sarchi to feast on the local artisanias wares. I spent too much – yes, I am a souvenir whore.

SarchiCarreta 

I was the only single; good thing I don’t have a complex about it. I stopped feeling anxious after I chatted up the first couple who boarded – two older lesbians from England who visited different parts of the world every six months, sometimes together, sometimes with their families. They shared adventures in Australia, Greece, Brazil, Canada, and New York. I became their surrogate child. They inspired the beginning of my increased longing for familia. The second couple who boarded had just said good-bye to their med-student daughter who is living in Costa Rica and interning in public health. She speaks Spanish; they do not. I guess people living in New Jersey, who think Baja Fresh is great Mexican food, don’t need to know more than taco, burrito, and (her favorite) tostada ensalada. I tried not to hold that against them. He is a DJ and they don’t look old enough for grown children. Lunch with them was a treat. She reminded him not to drink the water unless it was in a bottle. I drank the tamarindo only slightly wary. She ordered a Corona. He and I both went back for seconds on chayote and rice.

 

Volcan Arenal from lunch spot

Volcan Arenal from lunch spot

Later that afternoon, the five of us spa’d together (I had to exchange my volcano mud wrap for body exfoliation when I found out about the sulfur.) I was the spare tire when he left for an extended bathroom break or when one of the shes felt a little too warm for the hot springs (her blood pressure combined with altitude sickness).

HotSpringsPose1

Later that night we all ate together at the hotel’s Asian buffet – I guess their regular guests would get tired of beans and rice every night. I wasn’t feeling adventurous enough for sushi, but indulged in tempura – eggplant, zucchini, onion, and my new favorite, cheese. There was fish in cream sauce – avoided that, chicken chimichurri – not exactly Asian, and BBQ pork – my favorite. I ended my meal with a plate of fresh fruit and a fruit punch con ron. How can I be in Costa Rica without trying the rum? It is my new favorite. (I will one day make up a song about it better than the piña colada one.)

 

Volcan Arenal from dinner spot

Volcan Arenal from dinner spot

After dinner at the hot springs, as darkness covered the country, we boarded the tour bus for our Volcan Arenal photo opportunity. Fireflies scattered across the field danced for us like Disney’s electric light parade. Flashes of nature illuminated the sky behind the volcano and after watching for less than ten minutes, she erupted. Lava flowed down the right side, bright red and broken into chunks, each the size of a modern automobile.

 

Can you see the red tip of the volcano glowing?

Can you see the red tip of the volcano glowing?

I was exhausted and ready for a long shower when I was finally dropped off at Lavas Tecotal, my hotel. It was super dark, serial-killer dark, when the young man escorted me down a windy hilly path to the smaller rooms at the back of the property. After a few hours of reading, I fell into a deep sleep. Until 3:30 am when I awoke in digestive agony. I took a pill, drank water, rolled up the pillow under my abdomen, and tried sleeping on my stomach, but nothing worked. I was tossing and turning until about 7:30 when it finally subsided. I had two hours of good sleep before my free breakfast time expired.

 HotelMorningMistClose

The skies that final morning threatened rain. Clouds the color of a charcoal briquette lingered just south and west of the hotel, but clear blue sky and innocent clouds fought them for space.

LaFortunaLandscape

Breakfast buffet and my first taste of Costa Rican coffee then a  short walk down the highway to the artesanias who offered objects carved from Madera wood and jicaro. On my return, two hawks beckoned to their young and I stood mesmerized as the danced across the sky, returning to the top of a tall tree.

 TwoHawksSign

I continued to watch the hawks from my balcony, spending a leisurely morning with Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. Laughed out loud. Cried, too. (Finished it on the plane and highly recommend it!)

ReadingProdigalSummer

I had time for a light lunch before my shuttle returned. The most delicious tilapia al mojo de ajo with a side of rice and jugo de piña. A thick flaky savory steak of fresh fish grilled to perfection. El mejor tilapia en todo el mundo.

The first part of the van ride down the mountain was designated to instill fear in our hearts. As the driver fiddled with his ipod or phone or something in his lap, we almost surprised oncoming cars and once the right front tire slipped off the paved road and bumped onto the shoulder. Now if you know about my previous foreign country tour van incident you’ll understand the prayers I began to rattle off at that point.

 TierrasEnamoradas1

After an hour, we arrived safely at Tierras Enamoradas – Lands of Love. An Israeli restaurant, hotel, canopy tour spot, and local artist store. It was a brief stop, but I was able to get hand-crafted earrings and a hand-painted volcano magnet. Young people from Los Angeles (Valley and Hollywood) shared their sip line video with us and we proceeded to plummet south towards San Jose.

Leaving Costa Rica was also an adventure and a true test of my perseverance. The taxi arrived a four am, darkness greeted my freshly washed face. I was ready, relaxed from reading, and lugged my 72kg suitcase down the stairs to load in Rigo’s cab. I practiced my Spanish in response to his questions about my visit, my writing, and my teaching. We lamented together the work ethic of young people.

After paying $25 departure tax and $75 for my over-weight, over-sized suitcase, I was able to wait the hour and a half in the terminal wide-awake. I didn’t start feeling the effects of limited sleep until about eight am, after the first beverage service. Even with my nap, finishing my book, and some comic-relief television, I felt like the flight was my longest ever.

When we landed in Denver at 12:15, I was starving. I inhaled a Domino’s personal pan pizza before I got a call from my cousin, Troy. He was car-less and watching four kids, so I hopped in a Super Shuttle with all my bags and it delivered me right to his doorstep. What a view! We chatted out on the balcony, and then had dinner with his roommate and the kids. The pasta enabled me to slip into a carb-coma as soon as the plane took off for LAX. Before that I missed the bus returning to the airport from downtown Denver so I called Super Shuttle again and they picked me up in front of the sushi place across the street. I was a little anxious about making my flight, but the Frontier Airlines area wasn’t too busy.

At LAX, the complete opposite – madness! Raul had to fight crazy traffic to get me even though it was eleven pm. But we made it home safely and were sound asleep when the clock struck twelve.

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July 18, 2009: Costa Rica – Day Four

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2009 by tishamarie

I did it. After a restless night’s sleep in the rain, fitful dreams, and waking to check the alarm in the dark a dozen times, I was still able to join the group for the cab ride into farmer’s market. It was smaller than most in LA but filled with local produce. I bought a tamal y cebollas, limones y queso. I obtained colones from the ATM so I paid for my produce with local currency. Unfortunately, one of my weaknesses in Spanish is numbers. Not good when trying to count money. At the local tienda, I purchased water and matches. I spent a few moments praying and trying to listen to God.

La Iglesia

La Iglesia

Should I stay or should I go? This is the song in my head now. More pull factors than push; although it still feels like camping, most of the bugs leave me alone. Unfortunately, it is really complicated to change flights when you book through a service like Orbitz. You can only change online if it is prior to your departure date. They have an 800 number for other changes like mine. But if you are calling outside the US it isn’t toll free and I forgot to get a calling card in the village today. A conundrum of monumental proportions. Stay, you say, is the obvious answer. An especially good answer considering all of the flights leaving in the middle of next week require that I change planes in Guatemala City in 40 minutes. I’m afraid mi vocabulario limitado will be a hindrance should complications arise.

This morning I read more Malinche, learned more about POV and scene from my Squaw Valley book (thanks Fulcher) and I finally published and promoted my blog. Eventually I hope others will submit their writing experiences to share with the world.

Somehow I missed lunch today (canyoubelieveit?) because I was so engrossed in the last twenty pages of the first section (Fall Quarter) of my novel. This is where it gets tricky. Do I keep on reading and making these little revisions (mostly cleaning up POV which seems to be my biggest problem as I switch from one person to another)? Or do I stop now, review the first section and really make it tight? There are so many characters each with his/her own goals and obstacles that I’m worried there are some scenes not moving the story to its culminating point. But what if the culminating point changes? My other problem is that I wanted this novel to be about the Chicana/o Student Movement at UCLA in 1990s that led up to the establishment of the Cesar Chavez Center and there are too many other family problems in the way that I’ve lost sight of that. My attempts to research other significant events prior to the “attack” (Los Angeles Times 5-12-93) on the UCLA Faculty Center have been futile. I need to be in the Chicana/o Studies Library at UCLA NOW!

After several reviews of what I’ve got and outlining the possibilities, the sun came out and beckoned me to swim.

Can you count my legs?

On the way I almost stepped on a slimy centipede and a fuzzy black caterpillar.

What will I be when I grow up?

What will I be when I grow up?

At least that’s what I think they were – I’m no entomologist. Ten laps in a pool longer than the one at our old apartment – all breaststroke.
Cool and refreshing

Cool and refreshing

Bet I don’t have any trouble sleeping tonight. Unless I let myself worry that the salamander living in my shower might want to curl up next to me in the bed. Oooh, mufassa.
He just wants to be clean!

He just wants to be clean!

After sopa de fideo (sorry you aren’t here to share it Juli) with cebolla and some brussel sprouts my body and brain were ready to return to novel revision. NEWSFLASH: This book is not about the Chicana/o Student Movement. I’ve tried to make it be, but it is not. It could have happened any time in the nineties but adding the activism makes it seem forced. Do I want to start all over? I’ve got 240 pages written; have reviewed up to page 205 today… Stay tuned for more reading and writing excitement!

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July 17, 2009: Costa Rica – Day Three

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2009 by tishamarie

The sun rises too early here. Bright light permeates my thin flowery curtains and I protest, head heavy with sleep and eyes too tired from reading, writing, watching the websites that connect me to civilization. 

View from my front door

View from my front door

In response to my resistance, the sun got brighter and the casita hotter in less than thirty minutes. Okay, okay, I’ll get up. It was seven, an hour after I’d set my alarm. What’s with this quiet clock anyway? Without the help of Rodney Yee on DVD, I engaged my weary body in thirty minutes of yoga poses that I hope resemble something like exercise. Not ready to venture down to the pool. I showered and made jamon con huevos again flavoring my food with butter. NOTE: put onion, garlic, pepper, and honey on list for farmer’s market.

Finished Malinche Saturday

Finished Malinche Saturday

I started reading Laura Esquivel’s Malinche and had to force myself to stop after chapter five. There is other work to be done: set up blog, edit photos, read about novel revision, and oh yeah, actually revise that novel.

At 11:30, a new song permeated my photo-editing trance…not the locust, not the dogs barking, and not the pounding of a hammer on metal that had disturbed my reading earlier. This was a soft rhythm, with intermittent crescendo that brought with it the cool smell of nourished earth.

I wanna go outside...

I wanna go outside...

Finally the rain I’d been waiting for graced us with her presence and persisted for about twelve minutes. My first instinct was to exchange my slippers for flip-flops and rush out to refresh my face and take a few photos. The natives must think I’m nuts. When the sky ceased its downpour, only damp earth and crisp air remained.

...in the rain.

...in the rain.

I knew it was too good to be true! Everything technological is NOT cooperating. First the credit card, then the email, then forget the blogging. I am frustrated and have wasted the entire morning NOT revising. GRRRR. I just want to go home…

Instead I ate a dry sandwich with tons of lettuce and pretzels and washed it all down with apple juice. I tried to read Narrative Design but drowsiness overtook my weary eyes. See what happens when I get up so early? Siesta lasted too long – woke up just before dark.

Do the freaks come out at night?

Do the freaks come out at night?

I wandered out to photograph dusk (my camera has a special setting for that) and to check on the neighbors. They were all happy to see I was alive and invited me to Farmer’s Market at 7am tomorrow. I made a list.

Before I allowed myself to eat dinner, I set a revision goal: at least 25 pages, only half of yesterday, but still not a bad idea for half a day. Well, after an eating break and a skype break, I got all the way to page 110! Seriously, I am out of control. The green tea with apple flavoring (don’t try it, not that great) has me so amped. It is 12:30 here and I am so not ready to sleep. I will try a little NEW writing and some more reading before I try and make myself crash. How am I going to get up tomorrow?

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July 16, 2009: Costa Rica – Day Two

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2009 by tishamarie

I had to move today. Trying not to complain, especially now that I am up top and more secluded from the nosy neighbors. Not nosy in a bad way but obviously lonely. I tried to make it clear that I am just here to revise, not socialize. It is cooler up here too — more windows on two sides catch the breeze and I can leave the door open without worrying about interruptions.

 

Me waving at you

Me waving at you

 At 8 this morning (I was still asleep having ignored my quiet travel alarm clock) Francisco (the caretaker) knocked on my door and asked if I would be okay moving up to casita dos (no authentic family cuisine here) because the lady who’d arrived last night (with her husband – both teachers in New York) has polio and it was very hard for her to get up the stairs. You can see why it’s even a challenge for me to get up the stairs.

I will huff and puff and then get to the top

I will huff and puff and then get to the top

How do I say, no, I had plans to do yoga and a reading/writing routine scheduled for this morning. So I spent the next two hours packing and unpacking. Thankfully, Mercedes, the cleaning lady, came today and scoured both places for us, changed the sheets and towels too.

I was downsized

I was downsized

After sanitizing certain parts of the bathroom and kitchen and washing a new set of dishes, pots and pans, I journaled a little, read a little, and made myself a late breakfast of leftover chicken, potatoes, and two fried eggs. Yum. After breakfast I threw the trash then walked around the grounds looking for butterflies to photograph.

Poetry in Motion

Poetry in Motion

There are tons of butterflies, a variety of bugs, and even a little lizard who visited me this morning.

He tried to crawl in my shoes!

He tried to crawl in my shoes!

In the afternoon, I photographed a spider torturing the fly in its web. Better than the nature channel. It is quiet except for dogs barking and now some hammering below my window — can’t see it. Even with the fan blowing I can’t stop sweating. Hoping for more of that afternoon drizzle the website promised, but it already has two strikes. I started working on revision about 11:30 and got to page 34 by 2-ish. not bad…

After a yogurt banana snack I resumed my dedicated scrolling and ignored incoming mail until about 5:30. Got up to page 50 – this section required a little research and I got distracted looking at flight times (in the novel they go LAX to El Paso and then I thought, how much is LAX to Portland, Kansas City, San Antonio, etc.). I also found the website for a writing workshop an old friend told me about. Looks perfect for me at this stage of the game, but it means spending my wedding anniversary in San Antonio next summer. Think my husband will be down?

My stomach distracted me from email and skype calls so I made Sicilian Lentil soup (from a bag) and sliced in a few fresh yellow squash. YUM! Guess I can’t get too homesick if I can eat, right? I do wish I were in my new house, in my own studio, even if there are too many distractions. At night the hum of locust are the bass line for crickets and other animal noises; the wind through the giant trees harmonizes and lets me know I am one with nature… My next retreat will be at a 5-star hotel for sure.

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July 15, 2009: Costa Rica – Day One

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2009 by tishamarie

The last twenty-four hours were hectic. Raul deposited me at LAX about midnight then returned to the comforts of our new home to miss me. I stood in the airport waiting for LACSA flight 605 to begin boarding at 1:45 and then crashed (asleep not plummeted to my death, don’t worry mom) when I got on the plane. No convulsions and no vomiting. I woke up at seven am to pancakes and apple juice — both too sweet.

I arrived safely in Costa Rica at 9:15 am local time. Gracias a Dios. When the cab driver opened the door of his van, I wanted to protest. My last van ride in a foreign land was not pleasant. I immediately buckled my seatbelt and the one in the empty seat next to me just to be safe. As tempted as I was to dig my camera out of my backpack, I decided it was best to keep my arms inside the vehicle at all times. The local color will eventually disappear from my memory, but I will not injure any more limbs. (Or maybe I’ll try on the way back so I can at least use my body while I’m here.)

It took about 45 minutes to get up the steep gravel road to the Julia and David White Artists Colony. Francisco (the caretaker) was not here when I arrived, so I chatted with his mother and niece for about 30 minutes. (I really need to practice my Spanish.) At first we talked about Costa Rica and why I’m here. Then, when I found out the niece is 14 and going to secondario in the fall, I started talking about my boys, then about my students. 

Met two other women here — one has been coming for two months every summer since 2001 (crazy!) They were friendly but not in a lesbionic way (although they only approached once I changed into my new sandals) just helpful and supportive as artists can be when they don’t see you as a threat to their creativity.

I pose for you

I pose for you

I was later escorted to the Nine Muses, a large apartment on the ground level, next to the main building (that is shown on the website) where four other artists were already in residence. It is a little more rustic than I envisioned, but I’ll survive.

I cook for me

I cook for me

I got groceries (just the basics for now) and a calling card. While I was waiting for Francisco (the caretaker) to pick me up at the store, which is at one end of the mall, I went to food court — biggest mall I’ve ever seen in my life! Too bad I don’t like to shop. But I do like to eat! The best carnitas tacos ever! I looked around for a watch and I should have picked up a Spanish-English dictionary.

When I returned, I sterilized everything (because that’s what you do when you are OCD and the cleaning lady has obviously not visited the place as the website said she did on the 14th of every month) and then I unpacked my life. I washed the new dishes and pots and pans Francisco bought for my apartment and set up the kitchen space to my liking. Then I took a moment to enjoy the view:

Nature at my doorstep

Nature at my doorstep

I arranged books and notebooks and laptop for the most efficient working space possible. Then I got online and was lost in cyberspace until my growling stomach protested. I prepared a simple meal of boiled brussel sprouts with butter (the most underrated condiment on earth!) and heated the oven-roasted chicken breast I bought at the deli. I will go into the village (quite a hike and up steep hills coming back!) for additional produce probably after mass Sunday or if I get up early enough on Saturday, to the Farmer’s Market.

After eating I showered and washed the traveling sweat stank off of me. I wanted to finish reading Labrys Reunion by Terry Wolverton (fabulous novel – get it now!) before I went to bed.

Feminist fiction at my fingertips

Feminist fiction at my fingertips

It sprinkled a little on the way to town this morning and in the evening, wind took over. I talked to Raul on the house phone using skype for 10 (free) minutes and then with my calling card for 19 more. He wasn’t having that kegger he’d planned, but I’m sure it will happen before Sunday.

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Julia and David White Artist Colony

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2009 by tishamarie Tagged:

I am here and safe and trying to complete one task from my project period contract — establish a web presence.

SilencioSign0001