i want to tell you about these signs.

October 29, 2012 § Leave a comment



I want to tell you about these signs. I want to tell you about where they came from and how they came to be. They look simple, yes? Bright and hopeful. Promises in the process of being fulfilled. We tied two to the fence that guards the school and hung the other in front of the bakery, right around the trunk of the tree.  Johan and Enrique and Christopher were each actor and witness to a sign’s installation, brief roles made possible with permission from Don Manuel, the school director, or Panaderia Barrantes; whose respective consent would be useless still if the signs weren’t made ready by Don Alvaro who bore the holes with a wireless drill, a virbiqi, and who donated the wire and chain and the black paint that lays across the back surface of each rotulo; and though vital, his  labors would still have been needless if those students from school, Teto and Elizabeth, Daniel and Brandon, Hilary and Alison, Valeria and Felipe, hadn’t painted the landscapes and the messages:

Cuidemos La Naturaleza!

Protejamos El Ambiente!

Reciclemos Por El Ambiente!

And if I hadn’t invited the kids, and if Johan hadn’t helped paint and Nacho hadn’t brought the wood from his father’s farm in Lanas, well perhaps there wouldn’t have been a story at all.

Asi es una comunidad.


coffee, the diaper and everything all the time

October 17, 2012 § 1 Comment

caffeine, that creative agitator that great enhancer of feeling of moment of focus resolute, that glorious stuff is coursing through my veins at a hundred and twenty miles per second right now. in these moments, i need a book to devour, a guitar to play or a photographic puzzle to solve. i need, i need, i need anything right now that will whisk me away from the incredulity of the scene taking place before my eyes. and it’s a sight. it’s all my mind is really focusing on right now, too resolutely, focusing right on that diaper. my god, that is one fucking huge diaper.

i’m cupping my empty coffee mug, sitting in the living room of my neighbors, the Hidalgos, the original family of Cerbatana, the first family of Costa Rica, post-colonization, if you asked me. probably not true but i’m digressing. it’s the home of the patriarch and matriarch of the whole gang, affectionately called papa change (pronounced chan-ge, a wonderful union of “jose angel” which makes perfect sense because of course we all know that “chepe” is commonplace for “jose” and can you tell i’m on my second cup of coffee right now, dammit i’m tangentializing again, i made that up, oh and yes!) and mama lila. the latter is a sweet heart hard at hearing who has come to worry and wonder about me. the former, the illustrious change, the progenitor of this story, and between himself and mama lila, of 14 fully grown sons and daughters with kids of their own who, tambien, have kids of their own. and, and, yes the diaper!

i’m sitting in their living room for cafecito (thus the empty coffee mug in my hand, unsweetened, thank you) and papa change is sitting on his wheelchair. yes, he’s old, 88 this year, and he’s sick, has been for sometime now. whether it is a result of that sickness or his age or his inability to get to the toilet, which i suppose really is a collusion of it all, he simply can’t hold his….you know what i mean. hence the diapers. at present, his granddaughter, deceiving because, again, she’s a fully grown woman with a family of her own, is fanning papa change …..with one of his giant diapers.

a number of thoughts suddenly populate my mind, like lantern bugs lighting up in the night. should i be here right now? should i be laughing or should i be horrified? is magally being insensitive,  barbara, as they’d say (of course not, she is magally, jaja)? most likely, she is, but some quick words about magally. she’s a fast talker of the renowned street style, comical witty mischievous and irreverent in the same breath, all the time, every time.  and she’s helped care for papa change and mama lila with what appears to be an unwavering devotion and love. so, perhaps insensitive, but completely magally, completely devotion and love. and really completely humane, i decide. if she’d behaved any other way…well, it wouldn’t be the same.

anyway, magally’s flapping away with the diaper, then sets it down on papa change’s lap while she leaves the room to get something. and change, animated in spurts due to sickness and perhaps an ever-present pain, comes to life again, grabbing the diaper and defiantly throwing it to the ground. now, we could interpret this in any number of ways, but all the combinations seem rather meaningless. it becomes crystal and overbearingly  clear that papa change is going to die. sure we all will, but in the context of the reason i’m even here at all, if i may continue this solipsistic inquiry, to continue the struggle and thus progress of life, another’s struggle is coming to a close. i didn’t imagine seeing this part of life during volunteer service. it’s touching and sad and magical all at the same time. i’ve heard volunteers speak of their own “only in Costa Rica” moments, things that have happened with members of their community, leaving one amazed and flabbergasted. I can’t help but reject this feeling, that these are unique moments to Costa Rica, less so than they are moments of life in general, with us as privileged members watching life unfold in otherwise foreign settings, touched that the hidalgos, your host family, your community member, would let you into that private moment at all.


some months have passed since, let’s call it, the diaper incident. another anciano, don manuel, father of well-regarded ephraim, also my neighbor, passed away. his was a long, aching deterioration, whose end was marked by a reunion of his enormous family, and of all things a party-like atmosphere. papa change lingers on, clinging to life with the aid of a respiration machine, looking at times grim, then rallying once more. morbidly, one can’t help but imagine what the end will be like, how you’ll react, how you’ll feel, will their be a big party, especially being witness to the build-up. i can’t help but wonder what happens to mama lila, when she’s gone, what happens to the family. i wonder about other costa rican families, much smaller now like most families of the world, the hidalgos a remnant of another time, an older costa rica that is almost extinct. i wonder about my father and his parents who i knew so briefly, about my mother and her parents i’ve only known in stories, and about my own enormous family equal to the hidalgos in number.

i’m scratching at something, no, not physically, but something nonetheless, and i can’t reach it, grasp it, can’t quite fathom plato’s chair. the world is changing just as i assumed i’d come to understand it, that even as seemingly concentrated i am on a single point who’s center is infinitely smaller and smaller to the point it’s not there, yet everywhere, that as i think these thoughts and type this very sentence that it’s already past, swept along time immemorial. that there, right there, there was coffee and community, community in family, community in everything, everything, everything all the time.

in the backyard

October 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

la expoferia de pejivalle

October 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

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