(To read El Gringo Feo’s Costa Rica Diary from the beginning, start here.)
Thursday, August 23
I walked to the Wednesday farmer’s market yesterday for some fruit, then hiked over to an ATM to ensure I’m flush with colones. I also recharged the Kolbi card that gives me a local number and data access for my phone. You have to go to a store to do that, and when I told the clerk I wanted veinte mil colones added to the card, he looked at me incredulously, thinking that perhaps this Gringo Feo was confused. I suspect Ticos recharge in much smaller increments.
“¿Veinte mil?” he asked.
“Sí,” I told him. “Veinte mil” (about $40).
Kolbi texted me almost immediately to let me know the 20,000 colones was now at my disposal.
I logged about 10k steps, or four miles, on the excursion and returned to the house tired and sweaty. I’d soaked dry beans the night before, so I made a batch of gallo pinto, the comfort food of Costa Rica. Gallo pinto means spotted rooster in Spanish, perhaps because the mix of rice and beans has a spotted look to it. But it’s vegetarian until you add meat, which I didn’t in this instance. Mine was nowhere near authentic, but it was as close as I could get with the ingredients on hand, a key component of which is Salsa Lizano, a Worcestershire-like sauce made with vegetables, mustard and assorted spices. I had Lizano, so in that respect, at least, it was authentic. There’s a “soda” (small restaurant where locals eat) near here. I’m going to stop in there to check out the real stuff soon.
After lunch, I opened a Spanish grammar book I bought to study while I’m here. It was humbling. I knew my Spanish was abysmal. But it’s worse than that. I’ve forgotten what little I knew. It’s a workbook with exercises, and after a few of those my brain started to ooze so I retreated to the Treehouse for a nap.
I awoke to rustling outside my window. Coatimundi making their daily rounds. The sky started crying, prompting the coatimundi to scatter and run back to wherever coatimundi seek shelter from the storm. Thankfully, the rain stopped in time for my evening trek up to the shack. It was a subdued sunset, still shrouded in the rain that was tracking offshore. As lightning flashed like distant shell explosions over the Pacific I thought of Poilu and poor Louis Barthas, who is struggling to survive the horrific mayhem that was the Somme in 1916-17 in the current section of his memoirs I’m reading.
No horror here. No mayhem. Just the cranky screams of howler monkeys at sunset while irascible parrots flocked overhead, ready to roost. Night descended on bat wings as the little buggers flew acrobatically around me.
Perhaps this is burying the lede, but after watching the sunset I returned to the house where I cranked out the first chapter of the novel I’m working on. Very rough, but encouraging. We’ll see if I still think so later today when I revisit it.
And then, for the first time since I’ve been here, I got out my AirPods and listened to music. Mostly, it seems silly to listen to music when the jungle provides its own. But t was late, and I was craving a dose of Courtney Barnett. I’m obsessing over her lately, especially her ode to asthma, Avant Gardener. I can relate, especially when she spins out lines like this:
The paramedic thinks I’m clever cause I play guitar
I think she’s clever cause she stops people dying
I take a hit from
An asthma puffer
I do it wrong
I was never good at smoking bongs.
I’m not that good at breathing in.