Sarah Corbett Morgan

sc morgan grew up in Oregon, where she learned not everything is black and white. Now she lives in the jungles of Costa Rica where shades of gray cover the full spectrum. She writes because she can’t help herself. Sometimes she gets published.

Cell Phones and How to Get Them

 

I have been driving myself nuts by trying to obtain a cell phone line here. It is really unbelievable how difficult they can make things. There have been lines two days deep of people waiting at the phone company for the 300,000 lines recently made available. You would think that they would be handing them out like candy so they could collect the revenue off the calls, but no. Here you have to prove financial responsibility, have two copies of a Cedula, or other paperwork showing that you are a real person, copies of the receipt showing you purchased the phone in Costa Rica (and paid those all important taxes) and have a copy of a recent phone and electric bill before they can connect you to a line. 

I got all that done and took it to San Jose before Christmas to get connected. Turns out that the woman who took my original application for service put a “C” before my residence visa instead of an “A” and hence they could not connect me. The only person who could make the change was “on vacation.” I will call today to see if she is “off vacation.” Maybe we will get one this week. But, I can tell you that my desire for a phone line dwindles pretty quickly with all the bullshit and the lines. I have lived fourteen years here without one and really don’t find it at the top of my list. But, when I have to make a phone call while we are in San Jose and have to wait behind someone making inane conversation for hours, the desire comes back. 

High winds

 

We had heavy rain the other day- about 3″ in twenty four hours. Heavy winds in the night. I think most of us in Talamanca were awake through the night worrying about what tall trees might be within striking range of our houses. Alan and I lay in bed listening to great crashes in the night and both our thoughts were on the big tree in front of our house. When we built we measured it off as best we could, using Meraiah’s aboriginal method, and we are pretty sure it’s far enough away not to fall on the house, but you never know.


I.C.E.

 

We took a trip up to Bribri to talk to the I.C.E. boys about our transformer and our new neighbor, Roy’s, desire to hook up tas we purchased the tank back in 1995 for $1100.00. They were no help to us and informed us that the way it works here is that we buy the tank, and then it becomes theirs. “After all,” he explained, “we have maintained it for all these years.” Any new customer can then hook up off our transformer for free and “If there are problems with decreasing power, we will replace the tank,” They reassured me. It was not reassuring, and I told him that it was a bad system. He shrugged his shoulders in that way that only the Latins can do. It was highly unsatisfactory, but what the Hell are we supposed to do about it other than shoot the neighbor’s wire down. From there we went to Bordon to see the guy about our lumber that we ordered last spring.

We drove up to his house expecting to do the Latin visit that informs them that we are here and will be back to actually visit. We did not expect him to be home as it was a Saturday and people usually work on Saturdays, but he was right there and welcomed us with open arms. My Spanish is a little rusty and it took me awhile to realize that he was making a huge joke. He kept saying “you remember that $1000.00 you left with me? Well, I had a great time- the beach, the hotels,the restaurants. It was great. Have you come to give me some more money? I finally caught the bite and we had a good laugh. He showed us the Nispero he had cut for us and explained that it took a lot longer to get the permissions from the Parks Dept. than he thought so the cedar wasn’t ready yet, but, soon. We are waiting for lumber to come before we can start the “Passo Elevado” to the sea.

Hurricaine Beta

 

Hurricane Beta- WikiWe rolled into the farm yesterday about 4PM. We got a ride from a Tico taxi driver who happened to be the taxi in line at the airport the night we came in. On the ride to the hotel he offered his services to Puerto Viejo for a nominal sum. Alan and I did the math and with gas now running about $4.00 per gallon it was cheaper to take the taxi than do a round trip with our car. So he drove us down and regaled us stories of his illegal cross over into Texas in 1988 during some hurricane. He said he almost died trying to swim the Rio Grande with his clothes soaked and a hole that filled his bag of clothes with water. He said he would never go back.

The place looks really beautiful with all manner of maturing fruit trees starting to bear, Jose has planted a whole new row of pineapples so we should be getting lots of those this spring. The house has been well cared for. It took us about an hour to open up and have everything pretty much on line. The refrigerator made little knocking sounds all evening getting our ice supply on board for today.

As I told Alan you can’t ask for much more from people. When I opened the liquor cabinet a 3/4 full bottle of Bacardi that we left was still there as well as bottles of wine, Marsala, and varios others I use for cooking. I call that a miracle in the jungle. Jose and Rosa came over for a bit last evening and we got the run down on the goings on about the neighborhood. All is pretty much como siempre. No deaths of note.

Hurricane Beta is hitting Nicaragua and Honduras today according to the news. The weather here is sunny and bright. No signs of torrential rains here. My house cleaner, Dianna, was supposed to come today to clean, but has gone to Puerto Viejo instead to try to call her kids who live in Bluefields on the Nicaraguan coast. I hope she can get through to find out if everyone is okay.

Today Alan and Jose pulled the phone line to the entrance of the property. It went very smoothly, unlike our previous electrical line pull of a few years ago. I am now receiving and sending at 50,000bps. A far cry from a few years back. I remember my first internet connection here was all of 1600 bps. We’ve come a long way.

The Oropéndolas

 

I realized some time ago that I was in a bit of a slump. I think that’s how they put it in baseball, anyway. Since we arrived the first of November until the end of February there has been seventy-six inches of rain here. We know because we bought a rain gauge this year. To put some perspective on it that is Alan’s height- 6′ 3″. I call that rain. I think almost every woman in Talamanca was going quietly crazy; cramped quarters, no sun, no dry clothes, mold, lots of spiders and their webs can all make a girl go mad. I, at least, have a big house and a dryer, so I guess there’s really no reason for me to be down. But, ninety-plus days of rain is a lot.

Alan’s brother, Pat, and his wife just left us after a week’s visit. Miraculously, the rains quit the day before their arrival. The sea turned flat, lap-lapping on the shore. It is that wonderful clear turquoise color with the dark purple reef showing you where nice snorkel spots are if you have the inclination. The kind of hot weather that people think of as tropical. Languid days, but cooling off in the evening with a nice breeze from the mountains. Truly delicious. And, a much needed break from the torrential rains we have had this year.

For those you who were creeped out by the bugs in my last letter I will change the subject to birds.

The Oropéndolas arrived just before Pat and Connie. The locals call them Yellow-Tails because of their striking yellow tail feathers. There are two species here in Costa Rica: The Montezuma and the Chestnut-Headed Oropéndola. We have been graced with the Chestnut-Headed variety. The girls are about 11″ and seem to be entirely black at a distance. One got hit by a car on the road, temporarily stunning her, and we could see that she is actually dark chestnut brown on the body and head, wings black. She has a crest of two long black feathers curled outward at the bottom, bright blue eyes, a long sharp beak that is a greenish- ivory color, and of course the bright yellow tail feathers. We gave her to José to recuperate, but she flew off back to work when he set her on a perch.

Their call is a deep resonant “chek” and a liquid burbling sound a little like a coffee percolator: “poik,” “ploop” proceeding crash and rustling noises. They also have a warning cry, sharp and machine gun like “cack-cack!” They all fly at once. When they fly, it is like being under a hovering helicopter when the blades make that steady whoosh-whoosh-whoosh sound.

There are probably fifty to seventy-five of them working on their nests right outside our back door. They have chosen a tree that we were planning to cut down last yeaOropendola nestr as it is beginning to make us nervous in its proximity to the house and Alan’s shop. This tree is exactly what they like, standing alone in a clearing, high and with branches without too many leaves. Alan thinks they have figured out that when they nest close to humans there are fewer predators; snakes and the like. And it is true we see their nests all up and down the Caribbean coast line close to houses and farm buildings.

So, all day we hear them; ploop, ploop, poik, chek, rustle-rustle and then they fly off into the Jungle to hunt more building material. They seem to coordinate their building, and all fly at once back into the Jungle their bright yellow tails shining as they go; whoosh-whoosh-whoosh. They look like jet fighters swooping through the trees. Then they all come back carrying long strands of building material trailing out behind them. They are an industrious bunch. We have probably fifty plus nests hanging in the tree, and they are still building.

Their nests are sack-like pouches about a yard long with an opening in the upper part of the nest, which are intricately woven from fibers, slender vines and mosses. We have watched them weaving the material in with those long sharp beaks, and they are very dexterous. They line the inside with soft leaves and moss.

The other day Alan noticed an all black Oropéndola flying up into the tree while most of the girls were gone. On closer inspection we discovered it to be a Giant Cow-Bird, a parasite who waits until the Oropéndolas leave the tree, and lay their eggs in the sacks, forcing the Oropéndolas to raise their young for them. When you begin to really see what goes on in nature the interdependence is a miraculous thing.

We also have bird-watchers.A unique species unto themselves. On any given day, there will be people standing at our front gate looking in with binoculars. It’s a bit unnerving, but we are pretty sure they are looking at birds, and probably not us.

So our days go. The house is almost finished now. We still have about three or four projects, but nothing that has any pressing deadline to it. We enjoyed a break from the work while Pat and Connie were here. Now we are back to getting a few of the items off the list. I think my desk is next. I have been using a work bench that was originally used to bend rebar for the first bodega back in 2000. Alan sanded it down for me, and it became my temporary kitchen counter before the real one went in, and now it’s my desk. The only draw back is that it is a little too high. It will be nice to have a real one.