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Published: November 19th 2017
(3:45) I am gently swinging in a hammock on the porch of my chalet, happy to be warm and dry. My shoes and hat are with me on the porch in the hope that they will become dry before tomorrow morning’s horse ride. Today I wore my sandals, but that won’t work on a horse.
Our morning consisted of a country drive, first on the highway - a two-lane asphalt road with no shoulders and a speed limit of 80 kilometres.
(3:49) It has just started raining – so much for drying! Oh well! After I finish drinking tea, I will go the mineral hot spring pools where dry isn’t important.
This morning we drove into farming country – lots of pineapples, plus small-farm produce. We stopped for a break in Upala
, a small city. In the covered Central Market were a few fruits and vegetable stalls and lots of shops similar to what we have in malls. Across the street was a park with a large wooden gazebo, a children’s playground set made from wood, and public fitness equipment similar to those we have at home (and those we saw in Ho Chi Minh City last year).
I felt like stretching after riding in the car and stepped onto the elliptical machine. A little girl who had been sitting with her mother ran to another machine and began exercising while sending shy glimpses my way. A couple of minutes were sufficient for me, and I persuaded her to let me photograph her before she ran back to her mother. I showed her and her mother, both reserved yet smiling.
We turned onto secondary roads with numerous potholes and much erosion. Tourists were uncommon here. Orange tree plantations joined the stretches of pineapple fields, and large transport trucks roared past us. When we turned onto even rougher dirt roads, I wondered if the business of fruit growing was worth the deterioration of the transportation network caused by heavy trucks. Ollie confessed that he was unhappy with the wide use of pesticides by the large fruit companies (even though they provided jobs and taxes), because the pollution eventually drained into the rainforest.
As arranged, we arrived at Escuela IDA El Encanto to meet the students and teachers. The children were playing soccer when we arrived. The principal, José, greeted us and let us visit on our own.
But not in season, unfortunately
There were two large airy school rooms for grades one to eight in a morning shift and an afternoon shift. Also, the dining room served lunch to all children at 11:00. Ollie introduced us to Evaline, a special needs teacher, who had two profoundly disabled children to assist at this school and others at a second school. There was also a special teacher for less disabled children.
We first entered the room for grades one and two - five children at the time we were there. I asked the teacher, Alejandra, if I could show the children the photos I had taken of them, remembering the near pandemonium when showing the students in Lesotho. These children were very reserved, giggling quietly and pointing to themselves.
In the next classroom grades three and four assembled - about two dozen children. They were even more reserved, listening in silence as Ollie gave them an introduction and translated for us. He exhorted them to study hard and go to university, as we had. I stopped the flow of his almost lecture to ask if the children had any questions of us. After a lot of looking elsewhere, one was called on
and in spite of excruciating shyness he managed to ask about our education system. Giselle ran through the basics and also exhorted them to go to university. Ollie told them I came from near the mountains, and we had a few sentences back and forth about how rocky and snowy were the Rocky Mountains. I tried to explain that our mountains and theirs were part of a continuous formation, but I am not sure the idea got across. Giselle talked about the millions of lakes in Canada. Then the real question came: who had the better soccer team, Canada or Costa Rica? We learned that Costa Rica had just beaten the US 4-0, and we politely opined that Costa Rica could beat Canada. Lise and Giselle presented Lillian, the teacher, with school supplies and rewards such as stickers and tattoos that they had brought from their homes. As Ollie was trying to move us out, I asked permission to show the children their photos. Again they were very reserved, and some were not at all interested.
Outside we met the principal again, and Juan José, a Board member and volunteer. He had lived in New York for some years
and had returned to this area because he felt the cold too much. He spoke passionately about how the local people were improving the school by renovating the class rooms and dining area and replacing the tile floors. Through the principal, he accepted our donations, which will help their building program,
The ride got lumpier and bumpier on stony dirt corrugated roads. At last Ollie said, “Here we are.” Here was a small farm and house where Giselle and Lise were to be hosted for lunch in an experience of getting along with little language in common. Later they told us the family included daughters of six and eight years and a friend, and a few others. They played with the temporary tattoos, and one of the girls danced and sang. Judy and I were driven a short distance further to our host family.
A most pleasant surprise was that the young man and son of the house spoke fairly good English. He greeted us courteously and introduced his parents, Edith and Benjamin. We stumbled with his name, until I asked him to write it in my notebook: “Ever”, a highly unusual first name to us. We entered
Edith in her garden
Her comfortable oasis
into their nice living room, decorated with pictures and ornaments, and went directly through to the kitchen/dining room. Baños was the immediate necessity - a very small room. Washing of hands and anything else was done at a tap in the kitchen. Edith served the “casada” family style: stewed chicken, rice, black beans, salad and wonderful plantains, plus fresh pineapple juice. On the table was a huge jar of homemade pepper sauce (vinegar, Panamanian peppers, and vegetables). Over lunch we talked about family, careers, and Ever’s education (studying English for two years at university, hoping to become a tour guide). Somehow, Edith and I found it easy to communicate with only a few words in common. Benjamin was a stock breeder. He didn’t eat with us because he was tending their shop attached to the house, and probably by choice he faded into the background. Later, we saw that the shop sold all the usual corner-store items, such as a few vegetables, bread, cigarettes, ice cream, batteries, and lots of junk food.
Over lunch we discovered that Edith grew medicinal plants in the back yard. We walked around seeing mint, soursop, lemon grass, papaya, oregano, and many other plants.
When Ever didn’t know the word for something, he looked it up in an internet dictionary on his phone. They farmed tilapia in a cascading pond, fed constantly by water pumped from the stream on their property. A few sugar cane plants grew by the stream, and since Judy had never had cane, Ever and Edith peeled some for us. As suggested by Eldertreks
, I had brought a family photo, and Edith and I conversed about family names and relationships. Sooner than I thought, our hour and a half was up, and Ollie was back to resume our journey. This was such a uniquely personal way to interact on a tour. Watch the video of Edith and Ever
Not far along the bumpy road, we came to Hacienda Sueño Azul
, another spectacular hotel and spa. Again our rooms were chalets, duplexes this time. My room was large, the bathroom was very large, and the closet was in a spacious dressing room, all built in heavy wood. Somehow tired after so much learning and exchange, I prepared a pot of tea and relaxed in the large hammock on the veranda. However, no point in wasting the opportunities here, so I changed into my always wet bathing suit and
Blue River Resort
Sweet dreams for a family ... or just me
walked down to the natural warm mineral pools. The others came at much the same time, and we all chatted while dissolving into the richly infused green water.
Dinner: herb flavoured chicken soup, excellent grilled steak and vegetables, Bavaria Dark
Tot: 2.524s; Tpl: 0.079s; cc: 11; qc: 36; dbt: 0.0369s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 3;
; mem: 1.4mb