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Published: December 17th 2017
Morning on Panama Beach
Classic scene with only the quiet waves lapping
Our leisurely start was at 9:00, so naturally this was the morning I woke earlier than ever. After breakfast, early risers Giselle and Lise and I walked along Panama Beach. The light made the ocean as pale silver, the distant hills as dark green, and the sky bluer than we have ever seen in Costa Rica. One little bird ran in and out of the mild surf, finding tiny organisms. A couple of little kids with their parents dug in the sand and occasionally ran into the sea to fill their toy watering can. A playful breeze tossed the few sea-side trees. What a perfect morning! Watch the seascape video
Before we started driving, Ollie told us that the rainstorms we had just experienced had caused damaging floods in the Central Valley and in Sarapiqui, where we had rafted. We did feel grateful to have fortunate timing for our visit.
The drive to Guaitil took about an hour through fields of grass, some populated with cattle. Being Sunday, all was serene. The houses reflected the prosperity of this region, many being stucco, with tile roofs and lovely gardens. We were heading towards the Coastal Mountains – low, tree-covered and not much higher
Raphael, Proud Potter
Kindly showed me how to make a little pot
The Chorotega Pottery
in Guaitil was an artists’ coop creating clay vessels in the traditional manner. We were introduced to Don Rafael, who began to knead a lump of clay. Beside him was a display of the mineral rocks that were used to make the natural colours. His son, Andy, who spoke some English, explained that they go 25 kilometres into the mountains to dig the clay and the colours. They store the damp clay in heavy plastic bags to keep it moist for a week or so. A colleague, Enrico, was working on a painted piece that had been fired to make the clay hard; a coloured design had been added, and he was skillfully scraping away the black to reveal details in the white underlay.
Don Rafael rapidly demonstrated creating a small pot on a small hand-driven wheel invented by Andy from motorcycle parts. First he used his fingers to make a rough shape, and then he turned it on the wheel, adding clay to increase the height as he fashioned curves and a delicate lip. When they asked for a volunteer, I was eager to try. I had to smash the graceful little vase
Andy and Rafael
Takes a lot of instruction to help me!
into a lump again and start making the rough shape. Much harder than it looked! Mine was beginning to resemble a flat dish, until Andy started to help. After we managed to get it upright, I attached it to the wheel with wet fingers smushing the bottom to make a secure base. A pole that seemed in the way of my hand was actually needed to steady my hand as I slowly turned the wheel and used a small piece of thin rebar to evenly shape the bowl. At least, it became even when Andy put his hand over mine as a guide. When it came to using a thin knife blade to cut the top, it was more his hand and few of my fingers. Same action using a rounded piece of plastic to smooth the inside; however, I was just competent enough to use a very small bit of leather to smooth the outside. “ We” cut two small decorative lines. Andy then demonstrated using the plastic to cut triangle decoration between the lines and let me complete that. Next he demonstrated using something that looked like a plastic pen to make a tiny circle in the triangles,
Mysterious card betting game
So much excitement - so incomprehensible!
and I could do that. Finally, he presented me with fishing line to cut the bowl from the wheel. Triumph! In appreciation I bought a large mug decorated with a hummingbird. Watch the video of the demonstration and my clumsy attempts.
Ollie suggested we go to Santa Cruz, a small city of about 5000. Unexpectedly, the Chinese Association was sponsoring a street fair. There was one small stall selling Chinese food, plus larger ones offering barbecue, corn tortillas, and cotton candy. Bingo was being played at one end of the closed street, using dried corn kernels as markers. Very strange was a gambling game in which it seemed that people bought and held onto strings attached to playing cards mounted overhead on a board, and at one point someone drew a card from a deck, signifying the winner. Appeared dull, but people were laughing and joshing and thoroughly enjoying themselves. To one side we saw a young man buy a piglet from an older lady; what brought them to our attention was the five or ten minutes it took to get the rope off the piglet that had been tightly tied around the neck. In an instant, they were able to
dump the almost freed animal into a large sack – literally “a pig in a poke”! Judy and I wandered around, admiring a bakery full of sweet goods such as donuts and savory pstries such as empanadas. To one side of the fair we saw another unusually designed Roman Catholic church, this one in the distinct look of sixties architecture with its pointy triangular exterior walls resembling a circus tent. In the same area was an old clock tower, looking like it might have been built from the same clay as the traditional pottery.
The return journey was on a different route to see the condos and houses of the Americans and Canadians who live in Costa Rica, usually on this somewhat drier coast. We saw more than planned, because Estaban took the wrong road, he said because Ollie was talking too much! When on the correct road, we saw the tourist town of Coco Beach, full of bars and restaurants and souvenir shops. Up a steep road through scattered gated condos and houses, Ollie called for a halt and led us down to a great site to view the popular curved beach.
My afternoon replicated yesterday: read,
swim, read, sea bathe, read, swim, shower. Again I sat outside on the patio, this evening being bitten by mosquitoes until putting on bug spray. Over dinner our group discussed whether or not to change tomorrow’s plans. Readily we agreed not to fly at 6:00 a.m. to San Jose, in part because the rainy weather might cause the flight to be cancelled. Driving four hours to San Jose seemed much less onerous to Canadians than to Costa Ricans. The risk was that we wouldn’t have time to see the volcano and its crater lake; however, if it were rainy and cloudy, the lake wouldn’t be visible anyway.
Dinner buffet: seafood rice, steamed vegetables, salad, chocolate truffles, red wine
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