Life at FINMAC, Week 1 (La Vida Perezosa)   3 comments

Alright – I hope you’re comfortable, because this could turn into a long post. I just want to tell you all about what my life is like here at my rural stay and all the different experiences I’ve been having. I could split it into two posts, but in the end it’d be the same amount to read (or probably more) then I’d have another post pretty much just all about food again…

I think I’ll begin instead – like a true Minnesotan – talking about the weather. The climate here is definitely different than San José, and I realized how lucky we were to be able to “ease into” the heat that this country has to offer in Februrary/March. In San José, even if it was a “hot” day, there always seemed to be a breeze, or at least it was easy to escape from the heat by finding some shade. It’s not so easy here; the humidity makes sure of that. I can literally be sitting on my porch (in the shade), and I’ll be sweating. I’m not necessarily complaining – especially when I heard this morning that you’re supposed to be getting more snow soon back in Minnesota – I’m just pointing out the difference that I noted between here and San José. Actually, the first few days I was here, it rained – A LOT.

Even though for most of Costa Rica it is currently the dry season, many places along the Caribbean cost (where I am) still get rain fairly often. But most people here commented that it was somewhat strange that we were getting so much rain – it barely stopped for four days. Much of the time, it was “lloviendo a cántaros” – which is a phrase used here like we would say “it’s raining cats and dogs” (I think it’s literal translation is closer to “raining buckets”) – it was coming down in waves of torrential downpours. I was worried for a little while – with the combination of the rain or the intense humidity if it did stop, my hair didn’t dry at all those first few days, and I knew I couldn’t survive two months feeling like that. But no worries, the sun came back – full force! Then I learned another new phrase, during the transition from rainy days to sunny days: bochorno. That’s the word used to describe the feeling/weather after it has rained and then the sun comes out, and all of the humidity left behind from the rainstorm fills the air in addition to the normal humidity. I just looked in my dictionary, and it translates as “oppressive heat”; it can also be and adjective for “sultry, oppressive, muggy.” And yes, that is exactly what it is. Thankfully, though, not every day is bochornoso – we’ve had some nice afternoons: like this afternoon in particular where I’m enjoying the breeze by lounging here in my hammock on my porch with a beer in my hand – from my host mom, “to help with the heat”. Pura vida.

Sorry but I had to – a shot of my view from my porch/hammock corner in the morning & the afternoon….

But there’s so much more to tell you about. Basically my first week has been a bit of an adjustment period: I’ve worked some on my project (which I promise I will tell you about in my next post), but I’ve actually reached a point where I have to wait until Monday for some supplies to arrive at the farm, so I haven’t had too much to do. I’ve kept busy by just enjoying having time to relax and reflect (how often does that usually happen for me during the semester? – not often), and walking around with the other ACM student who is doing some of his research at the plantation, Alex, and our incredibly helpful friend/guide Geovanny, who works here at FINMAC now mostly doing sloth research. I’ve also been spending time between my two houses trying to get to know the people who I’m living with and sort of living with. So one thing to know about living with a host family is that it, at times, is sort of an awkward type of limbo. I sometimes feel like I’m in a weird category between being a guest in the house and being part of the family. When we left San José, we had to begin that process all over again, but my living situation here is making that awkward position even more prominent. I’m actually living in a house separate from the people who are considered my host family – my mom, Doña Lucia, lives with her husband and her mentally handicapped daughter four houses down from the house where I stay. The house – called la casona, or the big house – is used for a variety of things: it is where the women turn the chocolate liquor produced at the plant here into all sorts of delicious chocolate bar varieties, it is where meals are served to groups who come to visit the farm, and it is used to host researchers that stay for a while at the farm, like me and my current housemate, Carlos (Carlos is an engineer in biotechnology, currently researching fermentation of cacao). However, being an ACM student, I get the luxury of having meals provided for me, so I go to Doña Lucia’s house for each meal.

And the inevitable has arrived: talking about the food. I thought the food in San José was fresh – well, it is – but it is here too, and I would say sometimes even more so! I eat fruit literally picked off the trees outside of Doña Lucia’s house that very day, or the bananos, platanos, papayas, and yucca from within the farm. Additionally, Doña Lucia is a great cook. She really likes to use healthy foods – almost every meal she’ll comment about how one or more of the foods I’m eating are “very healthy” or “good for my body”. She also is intent on making me feel comfortable here – a large portion of our conversations that we have at mealtimes end up being about food (imagine that, me talking about food…). She is very intent on making me feel comfortable here, especially when it comes to the food I eat. She tries to mix it up and not give me rice and beans at every meal, because she “knows I’m not accustomed to that”, and she even asks me what sort of things I normally eat for meals in the US so she can try and cook similar things. I told her that I want to experience Costa Rican culture and food, but she insists on variety. Unfortunately, I mentioned to her how at home I eat a lot of casseroles – a typical Minnesotan stereotype, I know – but I failed to mention that it was a winter thing, as I was surprised the next day with a hot casserole-style pasta and meat mixture in addition to my rice and beans for lunch. It was like the day she served me a hot lentil stew with lots of veggies – because I mentioned I liked vegetables and felt like they were sometimes lacking in my diet in San José – but it was hard to enjoy because it was an especially bochornoso day, so eating that just made me sweat even more. Doña Lucia also makes a mean cup of coffee (VERY strong), but her food is always delicious and even when it doesn’t quite feel like it fits the climate, I always have a large plate of fresh fruit to wash it all down – que fresco, que rica!

One last thing I’ll share for now (because there is more, and will be more to come, trust me…) is about my other housemates/friends I’ve made since living here. They include: the geckos that live on/in my house – there are two especially that like to sit on top of the curtains in the living room each night, whom I’ve named Brooks and Dunn because they also like to “sing”; the bats that live in our roof, whom we can hear crawling/flying around, and eventually each night visit our kitchen and hallway a few times (surprised me a little the first night I saw them, because Carlos was gone, and I didn’t know that it was a normal, routine thing); and Confite (meaning candy/sweets in Spanish), Doña Lucia’s little puppy that has taken to following me around – including on two of our bird-watching hikes into the hills around the farms here, and into the house at mealtimes (which gets him in trouble). Pictures of my friends below, and these are just a few of the animals I’ve come across here – there are so many more, but these are the ones that I’ve become most familiar with so far.

Top Left: Meet Brooks & Dunn. Top Right: a snapshot of the bat flying down the hall, and bottom left: Meet Confite, the little puppy that hardly ever stops moving.

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Posted March 7, 2011 by rwieme in Uncategorized

3 responses to “Life at FINMAC, Week 1 (La Vida Perezosa)

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  1. I am enjoying your posts so much!! I can hardly wait to see all your photos-feel free to take lots of the food:) I hope the humidity goes down a little, the last thing you need is heavier hair:))

  2. Rach- love your friends’ names but I definitely know I don’t need to meet them. YIKES is all I can say!

  3. Hi Rach,
    OMG it sounds so hot there!! I don’t think I would make it, but glad you are getting used to the gecco’s and bat’s!!??..cute puppy tho! loved that your host mom made you a nice hotdish! lol..and you must really be drinking strong coffee, those posts are long!!..but so fun to read, so keep it up and stay safe!
    Uncle Pat

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