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Losing My Touch

Well, well, well, so you’ve returned – thanks. It’s nice to know that somebody is reading these things; otherwise this would be a horrific exercise in futility. Admittedly this week has not been one of astounding accomplishment but not to fear; I’ve dug up and decided to write on some more “existential” themes. That’s a nice way to say that I’m really reaching for ideas here. I’ve expressed to not a few friends that I feel as though I’m losing my ability to observe things in a new and fresh way. Little things like cars and parrots and heaps of trash have lost their newness and it’s getting harder to think of myself as an intrepid reporter relaying the sights and habits of a foreign culture. Now it feels as though I’m trying to find new and interesting ways to put a “tropical spin” on everyday life. On top of that I’ve discovered that my ability to craft the English language has taken a nose-dive, I find more and more that my writing and speaking abilities measure up to about that of a Middle Schooler. Thus these weekly blogs (I know, I’m playing fast and loose with the term ‘weekly’) have become somewhat of a nightmare to compose. Don’t worry dear friends, they’re not going anywhere; I just thought you might like to know that I am now a myopic, unobservant, automaton that cannot communicate above an elementary level in either English or Spanish.
…and with that my last three loyal readers got wise and realized that instead of reading my blog they could be spending their time in a much more productive manner by perusing basket-weaving methodologies on, or by taking up chain-smoking.
So Dixieana, or Trixie as I like to call her, has really run away with this weekly field trip thing – two weeks ago we had to visit an major office downtown, 1 week ago we had to visit the herbal medicine/witch doctor section of Central Market and buy some roots and leaves (they cure everything from halitosis to cancer) and last week we had to visit the party store downtown, El Gallito, and purchase a few items for our assigned fiesta…mine was a bachelor party. Not only that, we also had to interview Ticos about their experiences in said fiestas…again I got to interview people regarding Bachelor Parties. I found out of course that Ticos, like many Gringos enjoy drinking, carousing and females of ill-repute at their final hurrahs. This came as no surprise to me, I could have done the interviews in my sleep, but it did feel a tad strange standing up in front of my class full of missionaries and talking about women popping out of cakes, men covered in oil, and drunken debauchery. I understand that I’m an odd specimen at my school, the token unmarried 20-something, but honestly, they could have given me something a little less stereotypical...
Speaking of Trixie and wild parties, she turned the big 5-0 the other week. My friend Heath thought he’d be tricky and throw her a surprise party and thus avoid a test that day, he set up a big affair in the outdoor Terraza with flowers, balloons, cake and coffee…she didn’t fall for it. We had no sooner finished our cake and coffee when she herded us back into class and drilled us with an oral exam – that woman is tough. She did like the thought though and she reminded us, rather smugly, that her birthday was a national holiday…I asked her (with a hint of sarcasm) why then were we in school? She shot me a look that made me want to crawl under a rock.
One last Trixie story. She and I have a kind of love/hate relationship…she loves to pick on me and I hate it…no, no we like to banter back and forth and it’s always harmless. Anyway, I came to school one day with a new hair-do…I’m trying to look a little less Gringo and a bit more Latin (it hasn’t worked though, they can still spot me from a mile off). I came in, sat down and Dixie said “Mateo, tiene pelo salvaje”…”Matt, you have savage hair”…she then started to laugh hysterically, as did my classmates.
So here’s a funny little quip…I was walking up the street the other day when I heard a voice call out to me. It had the sound of a lady’s voice and it said ‘Hola, como esta”. I glanced over to see who was talking to me and saw a large statue of the Virgin Mother in someone’s patio…I was contemplating reporting this to The Vatican when the voice spoke again and then added a loud squawk at the end. I looked a little closer and realized that there was parrot perched just behind Mary…I chuckled to myself and snapped a photo.
So let me tell you something, Ticos smell…really good. There are a lot of bad smells in Costa Rica; dogs, trash, polluted rivers, bus exhaust…Gringos, but the natives smell fantastic. I am not exaggerating when I say that nearly every person I pass on the street tends to leave a lingering hint of perfume or cologne. What’s so fascinating about this is that it’s not a heavy “dumped-on” smell, it’s not like back in the States where white males between the ages of 17 and 22 empty whole bottles of Tommy or Curve onto their bodies before heading out for the evening. Nay dear readers, the panoply of fragrances in Costa Rica is much more subtle and satisfying. I feel a little strange in writing this but I’m going to – sometimes, ok nearly every time I walk down the street and pass someone, I lean into them ever so slightly and take a big whiff to see what type of bouquet might delight my olfactory system – I’m rarely disappointed. Ok maybe that was a bit revealing, but it’s true and I don’t mind admitting to it. The other humorous aspect about this is that Ticos think most Gringos smell…really bad. A friend of mine was visiting a church here for the first time and the person greeting her, among other pleasantries exchanged, informed her that she smelled like a Gringo…that wasn’t a compliment. I can only hope that by the end of my 3 years in Central America I will have learned the secret of being perpetually and ambrosially aromatic.
So Bo-bi died…those of you who didn’t read my diatribe against this insufferable beast back in October might want to avail yourselves of that entry before proceeding further. Bo-bi was a 20 year old mutt that existed in the house with my family – Flora was of the opinion, and I tended to agree with her, that Bo-bi actually died 5 years ago and somehow managed to continue to make our lives miserable in some sort of ‘zombie-like” state. I don’t want to speak too poorly of the dead, but I’m a quite happy that he’s finally gone. He smelled horrific, he could stink up a room just by passing through it and he loved to follow me around…I got to smell him a lot. I do feel bad for the family, Flora aside, they tended to really like this thing, though I for the life me cannot figure out how this creature could evoke love in any human. I have to give it credit though, it managed to live for 20 years and 3 months – I’ve never heard of a dog doing that before. Moreover, the only reason it had to be put down was because in the last 2 days it lost its sight and started running into things, me included; the Vet said that his heart was as strong as ever…like I said, a zombie.
So my shower caught on fire the other day….yes, that’s right, my shower caught on fire. Most Costa Ricans don’t have water heaters in their homes, thus in order to take a hot shower they install electric shower heads, affectionately called ‘widow makers’. The shower heads heat the water to about 63 degrees Fahrenheit and because they’re rarely grounded properly they have a tendency to give out little electric shocks to people. This of course strikes me as a rather unsafe way to wash myself in that I generally receive these shocks whilst standing in a pool of water, but then I figure that since the rest of the country has been doing this for 60 years who am I to complain. Anyway, I went to turn on the shower the other day and the thing started sparking and caught on fire – my Tico friend Jeffrey looked in and very calmly told me to turn it off because water had obviously seeped onto some bare wires – of course, why didn’t I figure that out. I apprised Flora of the sitch, she blew her whistle and Orlando came bounding down the stairs and in 10 minutes had the whole thing wrapped up in new black electrical tape. I feel much safer now.
One last thought before I check-out, I have a new friend, his name is Flat Stanley, and you’re going to be seeing a lot of him in the next few weeks. He came to me by way of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; my Cousin Isabel’s first-grade class read a story about a boy named Stanley who got flattened by a bulletin board (kind of a morbid way to begin a school project). Anyway, according to the propagators of this yarn, Stanley was not hurt, or killed for that matter; he was just flattened and as luck would have it, his new state of flatness has given him the ability to be physically mailed around the globe. Of course the authors of this story have conveniently overlooked the fact that even in a flattened state, Stanley still needs sustenance; thus, being mailed to China, or in this case Costa Rica, is not terribly conducive to living. I’m quite convinced he’s dead, he hasn’t said a word since he arrived but since he’s wrapped in laminate he should keep – again, did no one think that he at some point might need to breathe? Anyway, Isabel has charged me with taking Flat Stanley with me in my travels and photographing our adventures together – thus far we’ve managed to photograph our daily nap-time.
La Carpio Photos for Week:

...craft time...

...I always close my eyes...

...Flat Stanley appearance.

Well, that about does it for this week, I do realize that we got nowhere in our discussion of public transit but believe me there are plenty of busses in Costa Rica and they’re not going anywhere; we’ll talk about them someday. I hope you enjoyed this, I know I did. Tune in next week and I’ll tell you about my weekly field trip, my adventures with Stanley and my adventures with another very special guest. Peace!
- Matt


Sonia said…
Just so you know...
I read this! :)

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