Monday, July 5, 2010

Dont you buy cat in sack

says Delroy, the man I have been working with for two weeks. Delroy is Veronicas husband, and the two of them have lived in Puerto Viejo (or nearby) for their entire lives. 50 years ago there were no roads, no electricity, no plumbing, and certainly no tourists. To get to the nearest hospital in case of emergency, one had to take a little boat all the way up the coast to Limon. Delroys family is from Jamaica and Britain and his voice has a charming cadence. He has all sorts of funny sayings that seem to recall something from a much older dialect of english, infused with afrocaribbean culture. When he and Veronica returned from San Jose with a new blender for the juice bar, he discovered that the top was broken. This is actually a big deal, because it takes four hours or so to get to San Jose, and the roads only open at strange hours, so for him to make the return trip is costly and time consuming. Veronica decided to take the bus back to San Jose the next day, and as Delroy informed us, the lesson to be learned was, dont buy a cat in a bag, because you might end up with a dog.

This didnt make immediate sense to us because we had never bought a cat in a bag before. But the gist of the moral was clear: you dont always know what your getting. This was certainly true for our time in Puerto Viejo. While Veronica and Delroys family were very friendly and generous, we were often a little unsure as to our role as volunteers. Some days we did almost nothing for them but still spent six hours waiting around at the restaurant. Other days we worked very hard, but there was little planning and order to the work. One day Claire had to work at night, while I worked in the morning. Starting on the second week, I worked almost exclusively with Delroy doing various odd fixitup jobs around town. We fixed the cement pavement at the school and replaced some ceiling boards. I painted part of the roof of his house. We planted pineapples in a line at their farm (or as they like to call it, a Caribbean Garden) and burned a giant pile of junk and palm leaves in their neighbors front yard. Claire became an adept waitress and started getting sizable tips from the foreign tourists. She didnt keep the money but if she had, we probably could have come out close to even for our time spent at Veronicas place.

When we left the farm in Sarchi, Angel imparted one important ethic to us: orden. While Veronicas place certainly had a different concept of orden, it was nonetheless a fun experience and we got to do a lot of things we had never done before.

All throughout our time in Puerto Viejo, I had been playing accordion at Veronicas place, and sometimes in the street. The first time I brought it out, Veronicas neighbor Jay came over and introduced himself to me. Jay is probably in his late 50s and does odd jobs around town. He also plays a weekly gig at the backpackers hostel, Rocking Js. He invited me to come play with him the first friday and also told us about some of the other music happening in town. Over the course of the two weeks, we got to know the five or so stalwart musicians in town and went to several gigs. ONe of the bands was called Plan B, and the other one was called RAW Rox---- we never figured out exactly what either of them meant, but Jay liked to call his group a cooperative, not a band. Jay was also filled with an unlimited well of strange and sometimes witty aphorisms, including nicknaming me a Great White Shark. There is a funny community of crazy people in PV, and the interesting thing is that they exist on a sort of spectrum: you can start to see certain people making their way down the dark pathway to madness. There is often only a fine, fine line between a washed up alcoholic playing the same 10 classic rock songs every night and the emaciated old man with a long white beard, wearing only black yoga pants and a bright, tight, red pleather vest, doing some sort of mix of karate and modern dance for three hours straight. I played three nights with these guys and it was always an experience.

On our last day in town we decided to go to the Jaguar Rescue Center. As you know, I have been looking for the elusive Jaguar this entire time and bought a carved necklace of one. With high hopes we biked down the road saturday morning and pulled into the parking lot. When we walked through the gate, we were met by a woman with two baby howler monkeys sitting on her head. She told us the tour cost 12 dollars each!! Claire and I started to leave with downtrodden expressions (oh, and by the way, this was the first day of our peanutbutterjelly cost-reducing plan so we were already a little hungry too) when we were stopped by a couple we had served the other day at Veronicas Place. They refused to let us go and generously paid for us-- for some reason they left ten minutes into the tour so we never got to properly thank them but wherever they are, they have our undying gratitude. The Jaguar Center was one of the highlights of our trip thus far. After showing us about twenty cages full of poisonous snakes (this is probably why they left) the woman finally said the magic words and led us to the baby monkey cage. Claire and I were in the second group of people to go in, so by that time, the monkeys were a little frenetic. Immediately upon entering the cage, the monkeys fall upon you from above. Some sit on your head, some crawl up your leg. Others are swinging across the cage to partake of a very enticing plate of tropical fruit and leaves. They are incredibly brave. They cast themselves off of ropes and land wherever they can. Their tails are extremely strong and the ends have no fur so its easy for them to hold on. After the monkey cage, we went outside where Claire fell in love with a baby, sleeping sloth. It was two toed, so it was softer but in theory they are more angry. This one however was more than docile and its name was India. I held her friend DJ, who was also toe toed. DJ had a captivating smile (or at least we think it was a smile, but it never went away). There were also several three toed baby sloths climbing in the bushes. Two of the baby monkeys had followed us to the sloth lawn and now one of them found its way to the nook of claires arm and clung to her while we went to see the frogs and tarantula. Last but not least, we saw the baby Margay cat (we think this is how you spell it) which has markings like a leopard. Next door was a Jaguarundi, named Rundi, and two adolescent Owls.

We left the Jaguar Center feeling rejuvenated and spent the rest of the day swimming at Punta Uva which is the best beach weve found yet.

Yesterday we finally left Puerto Viejo and made our way down to Panama. The boarder crossing was long and tiring, with many people trying to get us to take their taxi service etc. Eventually we yielded with a group of other tourists and found our way here to Bocas Del Toro. We havent done much exploring yet, but this is an archipelago of jungle islands. Today we will go to a hostel on an island called Bastimento... were not yet sure if there will be internet on the island but we will see.

Stay tuned for pictures of monkeys on our heads.

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