Published: December 25th 2011December 25th 2011
I liked everybody. I sure liked our guide that met us outside Manuel Antonio National Park. He met us wearing the typical khaki safari attire and carrying a long heavy telescope over his shoulder. Eager to tap his sharp mind and begin my trek though the jungle, I slipped a twenty in his hand and said, "You've got poison dart frogs here, right? I mean, that's why I'm here, I've got to see a poison dart frog AND hear a howler monkey. You've got those too. I know you do. I've read it in all the guidebooks."
"Of course we have them. Come, look." We scurry down the road and he immediately sets up his telescope and carefully sets it into focus. "See here, come senora" he says and motions for me to follow him. Feeling proud he's pleased his client within 30 seconds of our meeting he watches for my reaction as I peer through the scope.
"Nice try Eduardo, this is NOT a poison dart frog." I'm no herpetologist but I can clearly see this is just a giant toad; big, rough, brown. Cute enough, but just not what I was looking for.
we keep looking," he says reassuringly, "but first we must wait for the others." I see the others
approaching. First was a 40-something couple. She was short and stout and her husband was thin, wearing tiny glasses, a polo shirt and pleated shorts.
"We're from Illinois," I say.
The woman says, "We're from Ukraine."
The husband interjects, "No, we're from California."
Hmmmm. "Well, either way, you guys have come a long way to see the jungle." Hopefully next time they can get their story straight.
Next to join our tiny expedition were two men, Mike and Randall. "No way!" I say, shaking their hands. "Your names are really Mike and Randall?!" They look at each other like they've seriously missed a punch line. "Oh, come on! Mike and Randall! From Monsters, Inc.!" They stare blankly. "EVERYBODY who has kids knows Mike and Randall from Monsters, Inc. My kids love that movie!" Their look says it all: Who Cares?
Eduardo doesn't hesitate to break up the happy meet-and-greet. He folds up the telescope, carries it over his shoulder and said, "Vamanos!" Let's go!
I stick right by his side. He's feeling the pressure to
find the frog and the monkey. I see him peering low through the vegetation and gnarled tree roots hoping to spot the infamous colorful frog. I stop and peer too. Nothing. Next he shifts his gaze upward scanning the skies for the monkey of my dreams. "You know, senora, this time of day the mono congo sleeps but today is a lucky day for you I think."
"I sure hope so Eduardo. I've read so many adventure books of people getting lost in the Amazon and they all talk about the deafening howl of the howler monkey. I'd love to hear one, just once. Gosh I hope we can find one. I read their howl can drive people mad and I KNOW you have them here, I've read it in every guidebook...."
He tries to share my enthusiasm but he's thinking, "What really drives me mad are girls coming to the jungle insisting on what they should be seeing..."
Our diverse group of adventure seekers tredges on. Its a beautifully sunny, hot, Costa Rican day. Yes, we saw frogs, iguanas, sloths and birds and bats. Your typical jungle fare. But the dart frogs and howler monkeys remained
elusive. I shouldn't have put so much pressure on Eduardo. He's getting concerned about not finding my requests; like maybe I'll send his boss a bad review: "Guide couldn't find jungle creatues as per my petition."
Mike's irritating me. Randall seems genuinely interested in our new habitat, but Mike looks like he was on his way to the town bar and somehow found himself in the rainforest having to feign interest in the local wildlife. The feeling was mutual. He finally said, "What the H*** is it with you?" ....ME?
Jeremy whinces. I hear him say under his breath, "Oh no, the real Andrea is gonna come out now."
"Nothing Mike, I'm just soaking in the atmosphere," I reply with a bit of snobbery, "What the heck
is it with you?" I retort emphasizing that I do not share his choice of vocabularly.
"Randall and I just travel together, ok? We're NOT gay. People think that because we hang out all the time that we're like a couple, but we're just friends." Wow. People do get crazy in the jungle.
"Mike, I wasn't even thinking that. We're all out here looking for frogs dude, just
chill out. I'm glad you've got such a great travel buddy like Randall. You're really lucky," I say trying to smooth things over. Who knows where the ping pong match in this guy's head is going next.
"You know what my problem is?" he asks me. No way am I answering that question. "I've got ADD," he tells me like he's confessing to his priest.
"No way! Really!? I've just been reading about ADD lately. Gosh, sometimes I wonder if I have ADHD," I say with a laugh.
"Of course you do," he diagnoses. "That's why you're running a mile ahead of everyone else looking for some D*** frog."
"Its not a darn
frog Mike. Its a poison dart frog
. They're really beautiful. The Amerindians use the frogs toxic secretions to poison the tips of their blowdarts! You should google it when you get a chance." I still haven't peaked his interest.
He doesn't act like he likes me but he won't go away either. I'm wondering if he has something on his mind.
"Listen, Mike," I begin sympathetically, "Its gotta stink having a serious case of ADD. It makes it really hard to
focus doesn't it? On just about anything, right?"
"And it can make it hard to sustain meaningful relationships, like marriage." I'm sounding like a therapist now but it's just because I had read this whole article on ADD on the plane ride over here.
"And until a person's disorder is properly diagnosed and treated, they usually self medicate with alcohol. A large number of ADD'ers are alcoholics."
"Its true," he confesses.
"Is that why your wife left?" I say stepping into unknown territory although I knew I was on the money here.
"That's why everyone's left, except Randall."
"If you have one loyal friend in your whole life then that makes you a very fortunate man Mike," I reassure him.
"You're right," he tells me.
"You have gotten a formal diagnosis from your doctor, right? And the appropriate medication?"
"Not exactly. I take about six klonopin a day. That's saved me."
Klonopin, klonopin, klonopin....I'm having flashbacks to my days as a medical transcriptionist. "That's like a Xanax? Calms the nerves. It's a controlled substance Mike. Wow, your doctor gives you six a day, indefinitely?"
"Well Mike, I'm happy you've found relief in some way and I'm happy you've got Randall as a friend."
"Thanks Andrea. I think when I get home I'll google those darn
frogs you're talking about."
Mike and I parted ways amicably. I never did find the frog or the monkey.
Never know what you'll find in the jungle.
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