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The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost

Buenas ____ (fill in the blank)! I have to admit that this past week wasn’t one of astounding accomplishment - not much out of the ordinary happened. It was just your typical week in a tropical paradise, hanging out with the macaws, howler monkeys and rice. I had anticipated regaling you with tales from my SCUBA adventures but alas, that trip was postponed due to foul weather so you’ll have to wait. Don’t worry though, I’ve been saving some topics for a rainy day and as it turns out, it’s raining, so here goes another demonstration in verbosity.
Upon arriving home from school the other day my mam’a took one look at me and said “Los Lunes ni las gallinas ponen”. I could only make out ‘Mondays’, ‘chickens’ and ‘put’ so I had no idea what she was talking about until she pointed to a basket of eggs and then pointed to me. It suddenly became perfectly clear: on Mondays I am now expected to lay eggs because the chickens take the day off; I didn’t even know we had chickens at the house. I think she saw the confusion gathering on my face (I was willing to give it the old college try but was doubtful of the outcome), because she swooped into the rescue and clarified: on Mondays everyone is tired, even the chickens, to the point that they don’t lay, you need a nap. ….but first go lay some eggs. Ok, so I added that last bit of infantile humor, but she was absolutely right; I was exhausted. I am finding that as I settle in here, my days continually consist of more than just school, siestas, running and Little House on the Prairie; each week there seems to be yet another activity that I add to my daily schedule. This is a good thing because it points to the fact that I am adjusting to life here and that I am being social with more than just the local cockroaches. I am now involved in teaching ESL classes, SCUBA lessons, Volleyball, a ministry in La Carpio which I will tell you about in my next post and Salsa/Meringue lessons (I realize that I am taking dance classes, but down here everyone knows how to dance so I consider it cultural bonding…and I like to shake it). I am thankful that these opportunities have presented themselves and I have been so blessed by the relationships that have been formed as a result, but I do miss my daily siesta time. !Primero Dios!
I seem to write about rain a lot – probably because it rains so much. It also seems to be the topic of conversation around here as of late, especially with my mam`a. You may think that my musings are merely the complaints of a maladjusted Gringo, but I assure you the rain here is a very serious matter. We have had far too much these past two months and it’s beginning to take its toll. Whole communities in the north and along the Pacific coast have been under water for a week. Desamparados, the town next to mine and Cartago, the town with the beautiful church that I visited, have seen whole sections of their cities destroyed by mudslides. In the farming communities’ people have lost their crops and as such, can’t make payments on their land – banks have already started foreclosing. News reports say that this is the worst rainy season the country has experienced in 30 years and that in the beginning of October we received more rain in a single week than what we normally get all month. It really is a bad situation for a lot of people and it doesn’t seem to be letting up. We are counting the days until November when the rainy season should end. In the meantime, please keep us in your prayers; a lot of people have lost their homes, their livelihoods and the total of their worldly possessions, if it doesn’t stop raining soon a lot more people will experience the same. On a lighter note - in the midst of one of our many lunchtime dialogues, my mam`a mentioned that recent news reports are blaming the terrible weather on astronauts. That’s right; astronauts and space exploration in general, while having produced no discernable benefits for the past 20 years, have managed to alter Central American weather patterns. Congratulations NASA. I was obviously a tad skeptical about her claim, but my mam`a seemed to be thoroughly convinced of this logic and no matter what I said she stood by her position that astronauts and their silly jaunts to the moon have been the cause of the excessive rain in Costa Rica. Who knows, maybe she’s on to something.
I have been meaning to write about the local fauna for quite some time, but I have found that other topics always seem to take precedence. Well, in that I am hard up for topics this week I figured I would issue the first of many installments on the animal life that I have encountered whilst living here. The first, as previously promised, is dedicated to the local canines that I do battle with on a daily basis, and is entitled:
“The sole reason that I wish I could carry a gun in Costa Rica”
I cannot begin to describe for you the contempt I feel for the dogs that accompany me to school every day, I loathe them. Lest you begin to think me a cruel Neanderthal, let me assure you that I love animals, probably to a fault – good grief I raised ducks in my bedroom…twice. However, these dogs are not animals, these creatures did not issue forth from Eden when man fell. These fiendish little brutes live to torture me whenever possible and I in turn, have taken it upon myself to thwart what little joy they find in their worthless existence. I suppose I harbor a slight prejudice in that I have never truly loved little rat-dogs to begin with – I’ve always considered anything smaller than a terrier to be of no other earthy good than target practice. As such, in that nearly all canines here are tiny, yippy and ugly; I find it incredibly difficult to evince anything but animosity towards them. This partisan aversion to small dogs is only compounded by the fact that every home on my way to school has at least one, and each one loves to bark at me. They bark non-stop; they keep me up at night, they bark when I walk down the street, when I look at them, when I don’t pay attention to them, even when I try to be nice to them, which is admittedly rare. I am convinced they have an inferiority complex; every time I move toward them in an effort to confront their unprovoked racket, they stop and slink away with a snarl. However, once I am at a safe distance, they begin barking at me again as if they are the ones that won the showdown. That really bothers me; if you’re gonna have such a big mouth and let the whole neighborhood know that you don’t like me, then when confronted you should be able to back it up – fight like a real dog. They get me in other ways too; most dogs here are allowed to roam the streets and they just love to leave little surprises for me to step in, on my way to or from school – I’m considering leaving chocolate bars lying about the street in retaliation. There are two dogs that particularly disgust me; the first is a slinky little rat that hangs out near my house. Unlike others I encounter, this one seems to take particular delight in chasing me and nipping at my heels when I walk through its territory – I in turn have taken to arming myself with rocks. I have to give it credit though, in spite of its diminutive size it has managed to form and lead a small pack of dogs in terrorizing the neighborhood – they particularly love trash day, it’s a veritable smorgasbord. The other dog that has won my hatred, shares my house. Its name is Bo-bi and it is the foulest smelling creature that I have ever encountered – on a nice breezy day, if Bo-bi happens to cross in front of the open front door, its smell wafts all throughout the house. I don’t feel bad telling you this because even my mam`a hates it. She told me at lunch the other day that Bo-bi is 19 years old and refuses to die. She says that for Christmas each year, all that she asks for is that he dies – but he won’t. I think the only thing that keeps her from killing it, is that it’s her son’s; he has had it since he was 10 and he loves it dearly. I know some of you now think me heartless and cruel, perhaps even insensitive – but I assure you, if you lived with these things you would take a similar stance.
My head is a jumble of languages and grammar rules. When I started school back in September I found the acquisition process to be fairly easy, I had an extremely limited knowledge of Spanish so I was able to keep the rules I was learning straight; no longer. I have been bombarded with verb conjugations, pronouns, and prepositional phrases – it’s nearly impossible to keep all of my ducks in a row, which really runs counter to my OCD nature. One of the hardest rules to incorporate is for the verb ‘to be’. It has 5 different forms – Ser/Estar/Tener/Hace/Hay – using the correct one depends on whether I want to say I am ‘a characteristic’ I am ‘a condition’ or I am ‘25’. The rules are fairly easy; there are just a lot of them so it has taken a while for me to correctly incorporate them into my conversation. I’m also having trouble speaking one language at a time. The other day we cut classes short to throw a surprise party for the school’s gardener, Don Carlo. He was thoroughly surprised; he turned the corner with his machete in-hand and was stopped short by “Happy Birthday” en Espanol. My rendition however, didn’t exactly mesh with everyone else’s. I began fine with, ‘Feliz Cumpleanos’ but instead of saying ‘a ti’ I said ‘zu dir’ – which is German. I noticed the mistake and in the next verse tried to fix it but instead sang ‘Froelichen Geburstag a ti’. I sang English the next verse and finally got it right on the final verse. It’s as though I no longer have control of what comes out of mouth – my brain isn’t quite sure which language I want to use. Needless to say, this makes for very interesting conversations with my Tico friends.
Before I go I wanted to let you know that my prayer request regarding church has been answered. Sundays have been the hardest day for me here because that is the day that I feel the most foreign to the culture. I can’t understand the sermons, so I have a good hour to think about church back home, about favorite hymns and about all the people there. Anyway, last week my favorite teacher Francisco, walked up to me and invited me to his church. I went, loved it and I think I have found my congregation. I still can’t understand the entire sermon but the pastor speaks very clearly so it’s easier to pick up what he’s saying. The other thing that drew me is that it is small – very small, thus I am able to really get to know people. Estoy muy feliz – I am very happy. Thank you to those of you who kept me in prayer about this – God is faithful.
Well, that about does it for this week. Tune in next week and you’ll hopefully get to read about SCUBA adventures in the Pacific Ocean, cars that I covet and 501 recipes for rice. Blessings to you. Peace!

- Matt


Anonymous said…
I just got caught up with your entire blog and found it both interesting and enlightening...I take one issue with the "ratdog" comments.

With love,
From the one who doesn't own a computer
Joseph said…
Hey Mateo,
Did you get your SCUBA cert. down there? I took a class in Aug. & am looking forward to getting my certification as well. Have a great dive.

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