Secretarial or Procurement~


procure |prəˈkyoŏr; prō-| |prəˌkju(ə)r| |proʊˌkjʊ(ə)r| |prəˌkjʊə|
verb [ trans. ]1. obtain (something), esp. with care or effort : food procured for the rebels | [with two objs. ] he persuaded a friend to procure him a ticket. See note at get.

I’ve been beavering through my files this morning looking for some lost papers, and wonder how it is that I got put in charge of the procuring portion of this marriage of mine.

I agreed to some responsibilities many years ago when presented with the options. A bit like hunter-gathers, my husband and I, in a brief fling at fairness, decided to divide up the labor of the marriage. He asked nonchalantly which I would rather be in charge of, secretarial or procurement. Well procuring sounded like a lot of heavy lifting so I said, blithely, secretarial please. I had no idea how many things would come to fall under that label over the years.

Grocery shopping, which seems to me to fall squarely in the procuring column, has instead fallen to me because, well, there must be a list of the items made out and, obviously, that is secretarial. And, besides, he says, he wouldn’t get the right things at the store anyway, so I should just do that part too. He does have a point there. And I have to admit that he carries them for me without complaint.

But that is only the beginning of my current tasks. I find I now, like an office all-in-one machine: file, copy, print, fax, scan, translate, navigate, phone, shop, search the internet, purchase, as well as cook, do dishes, clean, do laundry, and oh, about a hundred other things.

A month or so ago I found myself in charge of finding all of his papers to complete his retirement with Social Security. This sounds like procuring, doesn’t it? And personal procuring at that.

I got the birth certificate and the military DD 214– the famed discharge form. Those hardly presented a challenge. But when we entered into the realm of the personal my world took a turn for the worse. The Social Security Administration wants to know about all previous marriages and divorces. This is, presumably, to avoid more than one spouse from claiming benefits from them.

And I suppose this can be a fairly easy task for those who remember where and when these events took place. This was not the case. It took weeks of searching the databases of various state agencies. It turns out that, although public records are exactly that, you have to know where to look for them or they are as hidden as gold dust in the Sierra Nevada.

Oregon public records, for instance, are only available up to about 1950. All others– newer files–must be searched for at the local level. Deschutes county records are all on computer disc back to 1986, but all older files are still on microfiche. For those people who fear that the government is spying on their records, rest assured, they will never find them.

I finally got it done, but not without calling an ex-wife, begging for dates and places. She didn’t know the date either but did know the place. Bless the file clerks who searched those records down. I bet they are all women.

So today I was looking for his passport, which he gave to me the minute he debarked the plane ten days ago. I finally found it but not without sweating considerably over where I had misfiled it.

Our lawyer is coming next week to talk about this endless land deal we have been embroiled in, and I have been trying to straighten those files so I can locate certain plot maps and contracts if she asks for them (see Noticias de Punta Uva Blog).

So, I’m thinking, I have ended up in the same place as some friends of my parents.

When asked, the husband said that he and his wife divided the decisions of the household into major and minor decisions. He made the major decisions, she the minor. It’s as simple as that. Did that mean he decided if they were selling the house, for instance? No, that, it turned out, was a minor decision. How about paying the bills, or buying and selling stocks? No, those too were minor decisions.

So what exactly were the major decisions he was responsible for? Well, it seems those were more on the order of whether or not to invade Iran or admit Cuba to the UN.

I have to go now. I have some secretarial duties that await me in the form of making lunch…

Some Thoughts on My Father-in-law

I found this in my files this morning. The Word document says I wrote it August 18, 2006, just a year ago. I thought I would post it as a memorial to my father-in-law, Jonas Hammack, who died Wednsday, September 5, 2007. He was 92.

He shuffles toward the opposite end of the field, his upper body cantilevered over twisted lower limbs, ever veering to the right. Like an old horse with one blind eye, he steadfastly compensates for the loss of ground and ends up where he wanted to go, the irrigation ditch, where he went to close the weir.

As he bends down, I can see pale skin and bony spine between shirt and jeans. The belt has a few new notches punched in it since I saw him last. Time is taking its toll. Some in the family think he may have had a stroke because he drools now, and when he sits he slumps toward the right.

He would never go see the doctor about it unless coerced, and he sure as hell wouldn’t go in for any of “that therapy business.”

“I’m as good as I ever was, just a little slower,” He says.

There is no forcing this man to do anything he does not want to do. His jaw is jutted forward the same way it has been his whole life as he closes the weir; the sprinklers give a final spurt and then fall silent.

He is too proud to admit that he might need help.

My father-in-law grew up an orphan in North Dakota and came of age during the Great Depression. He was a CCC kid. Most people don’t even know what those letters stand for anymore, but they saved his life. He loves Franklin Roosevelt even though he has voted as a registered Republican in every election since.

Jonas worked hard all his life. Unasked for, he outlived his wife and having survived that blow fifteen years ago he is not about to go down easily. Who are we to tell this man how to live out the last years of his life? Would it really be better if he went into a “home” to rest?

The end is only the same as the rest of his existence and although he may complain about it occasionally, he accepts it. There is nothing wrong with his brains; it is simply the mechanical parts that are failing him.

I watch and am reminded that he is only thirty-five-years older than I. An eye blink in time. This is the first year I have begun to know what it feels like to be thought of as “old,” and I am much more sympathetic to his plight than in years past. I am aware, with my graying hair, that young people now view me as middle-aged or worse, old.

Recently on a trip with my adult children I was looked after as though I might get lost, or not remember the way back to the car. It made me angry. I now understand the evasive answers my own parents and my father-in-law used to give me when I asked about having someone come in to help around the house. Suggestions of incompetence I’m sure they felt were implied.

All of us know who we are. We have lived in our skins for all of our existence and even if we aren’t always comfortable with who we are, we are at least familiar with the terrain.

We must hang onto that dignity and carry ourselves to the grave fighting to retain as much of who we were as humanly possible.

All the older members of my family seem to be doing that with as much class as they can muster. I hope I can live up to their example.

There is not that much time left.

LBJ’s


This picture was taken on August 18th. Three weeks later the nest is empty, the chicks gone. We first noticed the nest because the bush is right off our front porch, at the bottom of the stairs leading out into the yard. Alan saw a small seedeater fly into the bush and went to investigate.

Seedeaters are what Kenn Kaufman in his wonderful book, Kingbird Highway*, refers to as LBJ’s, or Little Black Jobs. Non-descript small black birds with a white tip on their wings, they spend a good amount of time in front of our house foraging for, yes, seeds.

The nest was hunkered down about thigh high in an ornamental shrub well camouflaged in the branches. We made daily visits to the bush waiting expectantly for the eggs to hatch. Finally, about two weeks ago, one of the chicks appeared. It was so young it looked like someone had peeled the shell off an embryo. It lay on the floor of the nest without moving; I thought it was dead. All the blood vessels were visible through its translucent skin. It appeared so fragile I couldn’t imagine it surviving. The other egg remained intact, but a day later we had two. They were both totally inanimate for a few days afterward.

As they grew, doubling in size every day it seemed, the two LBJ’s began to look like someone had chewed up some fruit leather and spat a wad in the bottom of the nest.

Then entered the eating stage. Mom and dad flew back and forth hauling untold amounts of seeds for these insatiable babes. If we approached the bush and barely touched the branches two enormous mouths flew open as though hardwired to the movement of the shrub. We couldn’t tell where they were anymore because they were black at the bottom of a very dark nest, but their beaks were bright yellow, providing a target for mom and dad.

We journeyed to the capital last week to send Alan north to visit family, and when I returned home the nest was empty. There are lots of seedeaters out and about this morning, but I can’t tell if any of them are new to the group.

* Kingbird Highway is one of my all time favorite books. At 16, Kenn Kaufmann dropped out of high school and went on a yearlong birding adventure hitch hiking across America from Alaska to Maine and back again.

Reading this book I learned a good deal about birders, who are very different from bird watchers, and loved his lyrical writing about nature and his adventures. It is a great book.

Kenn kaufmann has also written several other books for birders but this one is memoir about freedom, coming of age (in a most unconventional way), and a passion in life. He must have had extraordinary parents. Check it out twice, as Joe Bob used to say.

The Vicissitudes of Growing Older

Nora Ephron has written about her neck, as has Anne Lamott, and I agree with both of them. I hate my neck, but for me it’s not the worst part of getting older.

I now arise each morning with a groan, my joints opening like old rusty hinges. I had to give up coffee not long ago. “They” say it is supposed to help, and it has cut back on the creaks and crunches a bit. I still miss the smell, but maybe I can use it as aromatherapy and drink my tea instead.

I get headaches I never used to, and the articles I read tell me they are “hormonal.” In other words, get used to it. I take aspirin until my ears ring and then back off until the buzzing stops.

But none of these things bother me like having to wear glasses. I hate wearing glasses. I hate, hate, hate it. My far distance sight is great. I can pick out an ant crossing the highway half a mile away, but for those close encounters I might as well be reading underwater. Put me under the red line on the Snellen eyechart.

A nurse by training, my job requires I see. Because of the nursing shortage my retirement is whenever I wander off with my walker. Those of us with training will probably still be shuffling off to some patient’s room only to forget why we went there in the first place. I see a big need for hospitals hiring Prompters to remind us of our tasks.

The eye thing started to bother me about five years ago. Curiously, this was simultaneous to the irritation I began to feel about my neck. I remember the first time I looked down and couldn’t read the date on my watch. This I not a froufrou ladies’ watch either, it’s a good sturdy Citizen that says, “Railroad approved” on the face. Nothing frilly about it.

At first, positive it was something on the face of the watch, I cleaned it off. Same outcome. I quickly discovered that when I pulled my wrist further away from my face the date flashed into focus. That was then; now I can’t get my arm far enough away to bring the watch itself into focus.

I entered a period of denial that blurred my judgement for about a year. When I realized I would soon have to ask my patients, “What does that say, honey, is that 6mg. or 8mg.?” I knew the time had come to take charge. I bought a pair of glasses. I didn’t do what several of my aging colleagues did, buy those cheapie reading glasses from the drug store that you wear on the top of your head or the tip of your nose, making you look like a female version of Carl Levin.

No,looks be damned; I bought bifocals.

My optician talked me into the new fangled ones without a seam. “They’re great, you’ll love them, ” he said. I hated them. I viewed the world as though through a carnival mirror, and if I looked up too quickly, I almost threw up. Plus, while I could see whether the medication said 6 or 8 mgs, the rest of the room became a blur. I found myself removing them so I didn’t stagger when walking. I took them back.

I then bought the sensible kind with a seam across my line of sight. Always caught on the wrong side of the line for whatever I needed to see, I felt seasick most of the time. I began to wear them on my head like my colleagues. There is nothing worse than telling someone you have lost your glasses and have them laughingly point at the top of your head.

I have gone back to the seamless variety. I still have tunnel vision but with the assistance of another optometrist I have managed to find a pair that allows me to see close, mid-range, and at a distance without removing them. But I now have that crone habit of tipping my head back and thrusting my jaw forward to look down. I guess that’s okay because it momentarily reduces the drapage of my neck, but I don’t want to discuss my neck.

Today, as I walked across my favorite restaurant, one lens of my glasses popped out. I stopped, took off my glasses, and groped around for the ejected lens. One of the screws at the temple piece had come loose. I was blind until I could get to an optometrist’s shop for repairs. I ordered my meal from memory and claimed the Ray Charles Exemption when my husband asked me to look up a business in the phone book. (He can’t see without his glasses either but always forgets to bring his.)

I hate wearing glasses.

Amazing Husbands

I love living with my husband.

Alan is the sort of man who knows a great deal but is very unassuming about it all. If we are riding in our trusty old Jeep pickup for instance– and ours is the oldest car in the area to survive these hideously pot-holed roads — he will note that it appears that someone (whom he names by some nickname like Ol’ Horsehead) has the contract with the municipality for maintenance these days.

“How do you know that?” I ask.

“You haven’t seen all his crappy old dump trucks going by?”

I never notice these kinds of things.

Alan knows when a car engine sounds bad. He listens for rattles, squeaks and bangs, and is constantly under the hood checking for failure of any kind. He is the only reason our 1987 Jeep Comanche is still in running order, here at the end of the road.

He built our house and almost all the furniture in it. I always joke, “If it isn’t upholstered, then Alan made it.” But even that isn’t true anymore. He just finished a beautiful Morris chair and we had it upholstered by professionals. They could learn a thing or two from my husband about craftsmanship.

But yesterday he simply stunned me.

We are planning to make a water feature out in front of our house and he needed to know where we buried the water line some seven years ago. He asked me; I said I thought I remembered but wasn’t sure.

Some time later I saw him walking back and forth outside the window where I write. Then he went around the side of the house and I saw through our large double doors that he was holding something in his hands. Curious, I got up and went out to see what he was up to.

He had a piece of wire bent at a right angle–– looking a bit like an elongated Allen wrench–– in each hand and was walking slowly back and forth. Suddenly the two rods pointing straight out in front of him swung in toward each other crossing themselves in front of his chest.

“That’s where the water line is,” He said.

“Oh, my God, you’re a water witch,” I said. “I never knew that!”

“No. Anyone can do it. Come here. I’ll show you.”

I took the rods in my hands and backtracked his path. Then I walked slowly forward and sure enough they swung in my hands and crossed over each other when I stepped over the place where he said the water line was.

“But how do you know to do that?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s something I picked up when I was working in Alaska. Whenever we had to find a water main, so we didn’t tear it out with the backhoe, we always did this.”

Well. Who knew?

Separate in Another World

I recently had a discussion with a writer friend of mine about being separate. I told him that I grew up in a political family, which meant we moved a lot. And I mean we moved a lot; I went to eight grade schools in eight years. I was always the new kid, always arriving late in the school year. It gives one a certain perspective on life, I think. It certainly did me.

So I have always felt separate.

This conversation led me to think about separateness and the effects that emigrating to another country has on a person. Several months ago an editor asked me to write an article about what every ex-pat should know before moving to another country. I’m sure what she had in mind was a cheerful essay on how inconvenient it is to encounter things like siesta hour in the middle of the afternoon when your plans include shopping during those hours. I wasn’t very interested in the topic– I still haven’t written it– but I have begun to think about it.

What should every ex-pat remember?

The elementary answer is: It’s not your country, and the reason people, more often than not, forget this simple fact is buried in their cultural past.

At home we understand the circuitous routes we have to take in order to get things done. When we go to the DMV, for example, we might hate it, but we also understand the rules of the game and how to maneuver ourselves through the system. We understand our country’s laws and what is acceptable in our culture. We blend in and find our way through life without really thinking about how we do it.

Anyone who moves to a foreign country loses this ability to cope in an environment they are accustomed to. This is true no matter what level of sophistication the immigrant has. Most neophyte ex-pats enter a phase in which they are totally enchanted with everything about the place they have chosen to call home. Even the inconveniences are quaint. Call this: The Novelty Period.

It is in this phase that people write home and tell of the many wonderful things they are doing: the festivals and markets they have frequented, the funny episodes of waiting in line for a cell phone all day, and the charming neighbors they have encountered in their unconventional and enviable new lifestyle.

This phase could last for years or be very short depending on the individual and the place they have chosen to live.

At some point, though, the ex-pat will be startled out of the Novelty Phase to discover that some of those quaint customs they enjoyed at first are actually created to take advantage of them, and then anger almost always replaces infatuation. Enter the: That’s Not The Way We Do It At Home phase.

Our English speaking newspaper here in Costa Rica, The Tico Times, is filled to overflowing with these bitchy letters, all telling Costa Ricans how to run their country. The authors of these instructional diatribes are insufferable, and I always find myself thinking, but it’s not your country! And, If you wanted it like it was at home, why did you move here in the first place?

This is also the period when many ex-pats begin hanging out with each other in order to gain strength in numbers as if to say, “We are separate but equal. We belong to a group within your culture.” I have never understood this. If I wanted to remain with my own ilk I could have moved too, oh, maybe Miami, or Hawaii, or las Vegas.

If the ex-pat is lucky he eventually discovers that the system is workable, that some of it is good and some of it is bad– just like “home.” Only then, I would say, does a person begin to feel a semblence of assimilation in their new home.

I know I will never feel completely Costa Rican. On the other hand, I never felt fully assimilated in my own culture, so for me it is okay.

My mother tells the story of meeting a Mexican man, living in her hometown in Oregon. She asked him how he dealt with being an immigrant. “I dissemble,” he said.

It is how many of us survive in other cultures, and some of us in our own.

Cleaning Up Around the Place

Sunday is my usual day for doing laundry and getting the house in order. I am not someone who is creative while living in clutter, so if I want to write I must clean first.

I was on my way to the laundry room yesterday morning with a load of sheets from our bed. The “laundry room” is actually on our back porch– one of the many benefits of living in the tropics; not everything has to be indoors. I opened the back door and headed down the steps where I found my husband, a bemused look on his face, standing where I needed to go.

“Check this out,” he said. I looked in the direction his chin jutted and saw a river of black ants flowing across our sidewalk. Army ants, or, as we call them, cleaning ants.

They don’t come very often but when they do, watch out!

Like the flooding Mississippi they flowed over and around everything on our sidewalk. At the head of the torrent they spread out, and our porch and sidewalk became a delta with multiple channels of them foraging in every crack and crevice.

I tried to imagine myself as a small frog or a cockroach, minding my own business, when suddenly, over the hill, a horde of warlike Huns descend killing everything in their path.

Army ants, also called driver ants, are migratory insects. Blind, they communicate using smell and vibration to feel they way forward in their constant hunt for food. They have no home, as do most ants, but bivouac overnight, constantly on the move.

They were in our house for all of thirty minutes I would guess. We watched as they scaled our bathroom wall making the side of it appear antiqued with the living cracks that scurried back and forth. They advanced at an alarming rate. Scouts scurried ahead and returned passing information to the oncoming ranks like bumper cars.

An anole sat at my husband’s feet, his head cocked to one side as the current of ants flowed past him. He had no fear of them, which is more than I can say for any cockroach found in their path. There are other jungle denizens–birds and lizards– that follow the army ants gobbling up any escapees from their marauding runs. The anole happily waited for any moth or fly that might be driven from cover.

As soon as it started it was over. Suddenly we noticed that there were larger numbers headed upstream than down. Like spawning salmon more and more of them fought the oncoming current of their brethren– the bumper car messages indicating a turn in the stream. Soon they were gone.

But my husband ran into them again over by his shop later in the day. They had redeployed over there ravaging that area. He made a misstep and ended up with a welt on his foot the size of an acorn. It still hurts today.

Breakfast With the Howlers


photo by Sally Retecki

Howler monkeys wake with the first light of the day and if they are outside my bedroom window, I do too. I’m not one to sleep late, but I still consider 4:30 to be nighttime. I knew it was going to be an early morning today, because last night, while I showered, I saw them through the open bathroom window swinging through the upper branches of the trees next to our house. It was late enough for me to know that they had decided to take up residence there for the night.

Sure enough, by 4:15 this morning there was a racket outside my bedroom window that practically shook the walls of our wooden house. Howlers are the loudest land animal on the planet and sound like a cross between a dog barking and a pig using a megaphone. A Dr. Doolittle kind of animal.

“ARGH ARGH ARGH,” from the big male outside my window, returned by calls from other dominant males across the jungle, “argh argh argh.”

They have a special hollow and elongated hyoid bone in their throats that allows air to pass in large quantities, and thus they are able to project their voices at such thunderous volumes. Their conversations resonated back and forth like this for about fifteen minutes until I got up to make breakfast and go sit on the porch to watch the day unfold.

The Mantled howler monkey (Alouatta palliata) or mono congo is the largest monkey in the Americas. Part of the Baboon family, they are big stocky beasts with dark brown to black fur and most adults have a long yellow or brown saddle, earning them the name Mantled howler. The face is naked, black and bearded like a Baboon. The males weigh in at fifteen pounds, the females a bit less. They live in troops, and a dominant male, who stakes out a territory where they live and feed, leads each troop. The male fends off unwanted intruders using his voice. Something I did not have to be told this morning.

While I sat drinking my morning tea, a great circus show unfolded across the clearing, or potrero as it is called in Spanish. On the other side of the potrero is a two hundred yard swath of jungle separating us from the Caribbean coastline. This stand of old trees is over one hundred feet high and quite dense. The howlers spend plenty of time back there foraging, and this year a big tree fell during a windstorm creating a hole in their usual jungle roadway.

A rustling in the trees made me aware that the troop was approaching the damaged area. Then one started across. It was the big male. He climbed to the very top of the tree above the abyss, crept out onto the upper limb as far as possible, and, as the branch began to bend under his weight, he let go free falling into the tree below––his arms flung out to catch anything available.

The landing was spectacular. Falling into a tree about 20-feet below him, he grabbed onto a branch. The extra burden carried him and the branch another 10-feet or so, the limb bending like a bow under his weight. Once reaching its maximum arc, the branch simply snapped back into its original position leaving the big guy sitting on his new perch.

The adrenaline rush must have been intense for the monkey. It was for me, watching! He sat there for a few minutes recovering his composure before ambling off to his breakfast table a few trees down. Then the rest of the family followed in exactly the same path: moms, babies, aunts and cousins. The little ones simply flung themselves at the abyss, practicing their monkey version of extreme sports.

I went in the house to make my own breakfast.

Maybe tonight they will find accomadations a bit further away, and I’ll be able to sleep a little later tomorrow.

Red Letter Day!


This essay of mine has rattled around in the offices of editors from The New York Times to AARP. It needed a home and finally found one at Notre Dame magazine under the encouraging hand of Carol Schaal, their editor.

This is my first sale, so for me it is momentous, significant, historic, noteworthy, and consequential. Hey, can you say Red Letter?

A special thank you has to go to my friend, Gary Presley, for his steadfast opinion that the piece was worth that oh-so-sought-after commodity: money. He consistently recommended that I not settle for “the lights” when I could be paid. I feel honored and humbled to share space with him in such a
prestigious publication.

You can find both of our essays at Notre Dame magazine’s summer issue on the web. Look for us under Perspectives.

I have touted IWW to anyone who would listen since I joined last fall sometime. The exact date escapes me, but the feeling of community support remains. Any writer will find a wealth of constructive help through the Lists, but beginning writers, especially, will find it instructive. Look at the link in this blog under the IWW (Internet Writing Workshop) logo.

Jungle Cats and the Old Revision Blues

 There it was resting among the other animals at the roadside stand. It looked as though it needed a home, and I happened to have had 15,000 Colones itching to get out of my purse. So our newest pet, a jaguar, carved from balsa wood by a young Indio-artisan outside of Cahuita, is at home here in Punt Uva. He seemed to enjoy the ride home and is now perched in a perfect hunting position atop our bookcase.

We stopped by the artisan’s stand while coming home from a day in town that had a fifty-fifty success rate attached to it. The norm here.

Our annual revision on the car is due this month, so we drove up to the center and sat in the blazing sun waiting for over an hour, even with an appointment. Once it was our turn we proceeded through the checks. I know the revision’s upside is to make up for all those years where cars had no inspection whatsoever, and often would sidle down the road at us like crabs, the suspension out of alignment. Or, perhaps it is because of the myriad of cars we have met at night, driving without any lights, or the thousands of trucks we have come up behind who have no brake lights at all. The new inspection is needed but, really, they have over-reacted. I told my husband I believe they are in cahoots with the banks and the new car dealers. Nowhere in the world, I think, do they check vehicles as thoroughly as they do Costa Rica.

The first station checked all of our lights, turn signals, seat belts, window cranks, wipers and washer, as well as the condition of the interior of the cab. Did we have the required fire extinguisher? Check. Did we have the required emergency triangle? Roger. Years ago they used to use a bush chopped and laid on the highway for an emergency flare; we are still cautious when we see a branch on the road. One never knows when they might revert to the old ways.

We passed the first station with flying colors. The second station checked the emissions of the vehicle. Perfect. They also checked the condition of our shocks. We drove over a little apparatus on the floor of the station and it vibrated the car up and down. To pass we had to have greater than 45% of our shock capacity intact. We passed that station as well. Next we proceeded to the breaks section of the inspection. Again we drove over a small measuring device and my husband was told to push the break slowly but firmly. Here is where we failed. The front brakes were fine, they said, but the rear left needed some attention. They sent us on through the rest of the inspection line.

The third station is like a lube pit and one of the attendants crawled under the truck to look for leaks and loose fittings. Bingo.

There is an item the 1987 Jeep Comanche Metric-ton pickup came stock with called a load leveling sensor. One year when Johnny Abrams was care taking the truck for us, he ran into a problem with it. Rather than fix it, or save it, he simply threw it away. We have been unable to find one– be it a new product or a junkyard item. Jeep has informed us they quit making them. The revision boys passed us last year and the year before without it. They want it this year. They even knew the name of it this year. I think they want us to buy a new car.

Once we got our failure notice we went back to Limon and had a wonderful meal at the Black Star Line, originally built by Marcus Garvey as a community hall, but now a huge restaurant. We had our usual casado- a plate of rice, red beans, stewed meat, and a little shredded cabbage salad. Once finished, we proceeded on to the National Insurance Office and paid our yearly fees for the workman’s compensation for our hired man, José. It was fairly late by then and we needed to head home. It’s only 35 miles, but it takes two-and-a-half hour to drive over the pot-holed road. Usually I never mention stopping at the little artisan’s shop I’ve been eyeing for some time now. Today I wanted to stop whether we were tired or not.

A very nice man gave us the tour of his complete menagerie including: macaws, crocodiles, anteaters, turtles, various other animals and a few insects as well. I swear I heard the jaguar whisper my name, “Sarita, take me home with you.” How could I refuse that?

So he sits atop my bookcase crouched and ready for an ambush. My husband is out under the truck working on brakes and a fake load-leveling device. We will give the boys at the revision another go in a few weeks. It’s alright. Almost everything here requires two trips to get
anything done. Maybe I’ll stop by the artisan’s shop again.