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Saturday, August 22, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
|Why Does it Rain?|
Rainfall in Costa Rica follows a predictable pattern and it's relatively easy to understand.
Where the sun shines straight down it heats more, warm air picks up moisture near the surface, then rises and expands. Expansion cools the air forcing the water out, first as tiny droplets that form clouds, then as the droplets combine into drops, rainfall.
So none of this does much good as far as explaining the dry summer we've had thus far. Up on La Union where I house-sit, one tank is completely empty and the collection tanks needed to take the house through the dry months from mid-November until June are less than 10% full. Most of the year round residents rely on water collection systems and we are all hoping that we get the September and October that we need. Has there been rain and has it been fierce? Yes there has been and fierce doesn't even begin to describe it. But it hasn't been delivered in the quantities that will supply us through that long dry season.
The rain on our coast is unlike any I have ever lived with. We sit here on our cliffside perch and watch the storms develop to the south over the Corcovado Parque Nacional, and within minutes, sometimes, moments; watch the storm rage up over the ocean and pass right in front of us, streaming and racing to the north. The winds howl and cry; blowing table settings off the tables, knocking over flower stands, brochure holders and even blowing out the pilots of the stoves in our sheltered kitchen.
And the rain? It doesn't fall, it doesn't pitter patter; it hammers down, soaking all in it's path. It moves sideways in the wind and in the 30 seconds it takes me to run out to roll up the windows in the car it soaks me to the bone. It enters our covered, but open, dining room in sheets, drenching the tables and floors. Within minutes the puddles around the outside of the kitchen are deep enough to envelop my entire foot and the ten second scurry to the bodega for supplies is tantamount to taking a shower. I recall being at the Lookout Hotel and watching the pool fill up so rapidly that the pool toys floated right out of it and down he hill. Bye bye.
We have two seasons here; dusty and muddy. In the dry months of our summer (Northern Hemisphere winter) the roads are dusty and powdered red from the clay soil here. The dust is fine and clings to most everthing equally tenaciously. It clouds up when you stamp your feet and your dusty footsteps follow you on every surface you tread upon.
But the mud; the mud, the mud. Red again; rich, soft, gooey; building and forming instantly beneath the pelting rain. Within moments that dirt parking lot you got in and out of your car in with complete impunity is now a swamp. Your feet sink into the sludge and purchase is nearly impossible. You cautiously raise one knee to lift yourself into your parked vehicle, hoping so desperately that the mud doesn't pull down your planted foot and heave you into the swamp. The dust you tracked during the dry season is nothing compared to the goo and mire that you track in out of the mud. Every road you drive on is marked in red by the tires that have slid over it. It sticks to your legs, stains your clothes and cakes the soles of your shoes. And yes, the rich red color is everywhere you go; the floor of the mercado, the floor mats of your car, on the back of your legs. The rainy season.
So we wait and hope that the rain will come. It always does, just look at the handy pictures at the top of this page. As usual we have science on our side helping us to understand. It is with certainty that I believe that this afternoon, just after four, the skies will open and we will receive that hour of drumming, thrumming rain. It will stop just in time for the sunset and the skies will be glorious for it. But soon, it will rain like that all day, every day.
I can't wait.
Monday, August 3, 2009
LEAVING THIS TOWN
The Lookout Hotel sat on a sprawling piece of property perched on a bluff at the edge of the rainforest. The view from the restaurant/bar looked out over the white drifts of Playa Tortuga and even further out over the blue Pacific. It was a Costa Rican idyll; a paradise above the ocean. It was painted a number of different “tropical” pastel shades and was accessed by a long well-rutted and steep driveway best ascended in first gear or better yet, four wheel drive. It had been open under a number of names for over ten years but now had been closed for over a year and a half due to the owner’s illness. My associate John and his partner Kate had seen an ad for it on the internet and had bitten hard. I had been flown to take a look at the property and the kitchen and figure out the best ways to combine the “fresh from the water seafood” with the luscious jungle fruits I had greedily gobbled up during my visit. Mangoes and seared yellowfin tuna, dusky papaya and sautéed shrimp, grilled dorado and carmelized pineapples; I could taste it all in the palate of my mind. I had my menu written and the plane hadn’t yet hit the runway on the return flight. I was primed for a life of cooking in the jungle. I was leaving San Francisco after 18 years and moving to Costa Rica to become the Chef of the Jungle
Getting out of the City and CityLife, however, wasn’t going to be as easy as simply sub-letting my longtime apartment and taking a van to the airport. I got back to the large studio apartment I’d lived in for over eight years and instead of looking at it and seeing a clean and empty box; I saw mountains of clothes hardly worn; shelves and shelves of books, well loved and well read; and over 2000 cds that certainly weren’t going in anyone’s suitcase. There was the bike and the exer-bike; the bed and the entertainment center; the pots and pans, oh, the pots and pans. Where would they go? And my wine glasses; the fine stemware accumulated over these many years. What would I pack? What would I keep. Who the hell would even want all this shit?
It’s easy to forget that the things one collects over the years are a whole lot more personal than we originally thought. The concept of saving them for posterity is selfserving and ludicrous. That jacket from the 70’s, those rock and roll posters with all the rips at the corners, and all those things you painstakingly cut out of newpapers and magazines; no one but you give a good goddamn about them and they’ve got to go. So ruthlessly and heartlessly I set to throwing away my past. With jaw set firm and a quart or two of vodka I began to not just edit my belongings, but to delete them. It was like a clearance sale in a cheap department store. Everything Must Go!!!
I got right in the middle and just started pulling things off the shelves and out of closets and throwing them into boxes. Boxes and boxes of magazines that I had been certain were vital to my existence were to go out on the street. Two closets and two dressers full of unused doo-dads, unworn and tattered T-shirts and, unfortunately, a lot of things that really required more attention. The momentum was lost almost immediately when the first box of old magazines and clippings was opened. This stuff was Fascinating! Suddenly my frenzy was stilled and I was sitting cross-legged on the floor face deep in newsprint from 20 years ago. Apparently this was going to be far longer process than I had intended.
Four weeks, multiple “going away” dinners and parties with friends, even more quart bottles of vodka, serial hangovers and several rolls of packing tape later; except for the final cleaning, I was done . There had been six trips to Goodwill and three to the dump. And who knew that they’d actually charge me to take my old refrigerator? I had been too lazy and far too “smart” to buy an iPod. Instead I had loaded my Top 200 cds into a heavy binder (stupid!). I had decided on twenty or so books that would keep me aware and stimulated. (stupid!) I had sweated and I had drunk; I had broken my own heart several times by callously throwing the memories of my youth into boxes bound for the dump. I stood, in a daze; the only figures on the horizon standing between me and a good sweep and mop were the mountainously piled suitcases. It was really going to happen. I was really going to move my life; knives, shorts and t-shirts to Costa Rica.
Then there were the friends. All those people who had drifted in an out of my City Life for the last 18 years and now just “had” to see me before I left. I wondered where they had been recently, but didn’t allow myself to dwell on it. Instead, I did the opposite. I ran like an idiot from lunch with one long lost buddy to afternoon cocktails with another and stopped by the restaurants and bars of countless more. “Will we ever see you agains”, ran into “Oh My God, I’m so envious”, ran into “So you’re going to leave it all behind”, blurted into an unmeant “We’ll just have to come see you”, coupled with the inevitable hearty slaps on the back and two more shots. Oddly, none of those friends were available when it was time to go to the dump, but I suppose that’s entirely different.
Cynicism aside, there were also the people who were indeed hard to leave behind. The woman with whom I’d shared an off and on relationship with for eight years wondered if this was indeed the “famous final scene”. The few friends who had been regular visitors during my long recuperation waxed both happy and said. They were also the ones who were intuitively concerned about my breaking all ties and fleeing (?) to the jungle. “Are you sure you’re going to be alright down there?” they’d ask. “It’s going to be just you and that whole family.” And I’d laugh the hollow laugh of the blindly confident and assure them through a cocktail haze that I had it all under control. Those final days in the City I’d come to both love and hate were hard and I couldn’t wait for the leaving to leave.
And then one morning the Super Shuttle showed up and I walked out of the empty room dragging two giant suitcases, an overstuffed duffle and two back packs behind me. I was moving to another country. For good.
Wednesday May 13, 2009 La Cusinga and Me
La Cusinga Lodge is a coastal rainforest eco lodge dedicated to marine and terrestrial conservation and environmental education. Its location on the southern Pacific coast provides guests with sweeping ocean views and a relaxing beach vacation. In addition La Cusinga is part of a private nature reserve that supplies the visitor with an unparalleled look at Costa Rican wildlife and rainforest. The reserve consists primarily of 250 hectares of virgin rainforest that borders thousands of more acres of privately protected forest. On Costa Rica’s still wild south-western Pacific coast, La Cusinga Lodge borders Ballena Marine National Park which was developed to protect the humpback whales that frequent the coast. La Cusinga Lodge was established in order to share the unique site with Costa Ricans as well as international visitors. Besides getting exposure to rural Costa Rican culture and beautiful vistas, visitors have access to highly prolific areas of primary tropical rainforest and unspoiled coast, all conveniently accessible.