30 July 2015

Most Eggsheads Want To Talk It Away

I can't speak for an East African safari, but with the very private safaris of the Okavango and Zambezi, one learns very quickly that stealth is the key to keeping the animals from scampering away and to continue doing their natural animal-thing. When you've got a lioness and her three cubs feeding on a recently killed warthog, and all of this is happening less than 10 feet from your camera lens, it's really not the time to to speak up and say, hey, honey, hand me the video and the tripod.

I somewhat jokingly (somewhat) say to Rusty (as in: all the time) that we really (I mean really) need to work on our communication skills. Rusty would tell you that all we need to improve our communication is a quieter wife. Still . . . when called upon to do so, our communication is actually superb . . . as in, eye movements speak volumes (so does a kick underneath a table), and body language says it all. Such was the case the other day when the monkeys came to lunch, less than ten feet from our poolside railing. We were able to trade positions and cameras with the stealth of an F-177. For the howler troupes that live near Mil Colinas, this is as close as they've ever come.

27 July 2015

Little Ducks, There’s Trouble In Russia

Our river. It’s not the Volga . . . which starts in Belgium . . . and ends in . . . Wimbledon . . . where they grow the coffee beans. The rains are here, as I’ve mentioned. Some days the river is quite high; and we can usually hear the rushing of our eastern stream (yes, we have an eastern and a western river). So, is this really the season to begin construction of a carport? Let’s have a slide show while I tell you a story. Spoiler alert: to preserve your sanity, stop reading now and just look at the pictures. Really.

Russian, Setswana, Shona, Norwegian, French, Spanish, German, Kasem, Mooré, Afrikaan, Italian, and recently Czech. I can say at least a few of the following phrases in each of the aforementioned languages: good morning, please, thank you, where’s the bathroom, how much does it cost, and we’ll have two more beers. What else does one need, right?

24 July 2015

Ah, Well,We Can't All Be Lion Tamers

Jill The Pill has cataracts, not uncommon in a dog over age seven. This isn’t new news; and one day if/when the cataracts mature, she’ll have surgery to remove them. In the meantime, I worry about her vision. Especially in the blinding sunlight less than 10 degrees above the equator. Well, Kathy, worry no more.

Jill naps much of the day. All dogs do. Yesterday she awoke and deigned to remove herself from our bath mat so that I could use the sink. We both exited into the hallway together. And there she spied a decent size lizard scrambling into the guest bathroom. She was on it as a good terrier should be . . . as if it were a mouse. Now I hate to see a lizard lose its life; they eat all manner of insects, so they’re relatively valuable fauna (despite the poo that they leave everywhere). Luckily the lizard escaped underneath the bathroom scale, and Jill bedded-down on the mat in the guest bathroom. As I said, the dog naps a lot.

21 July 2015

It's Been A Very Revealing Ten Seconds

Despite the fact that Rusty works Monday through Friday, and I make soap, make candles, garden, and spend a great deal of time coddling a terrier, we clearly have too much time on our hands. We spent more time worrying over plants and animals. It isn’t worrying in the general sense of the word. When Jill-The-Pill gently rubs her ear with a hind foot, Rusty asks, Jill, why are you worrying that ear? So when we say worrying, it could mean anything from genuine fret . . . to bothering . . . to, quite often, full-blown obsessing.

Things happen quickly here. Seconds matter. It’s difficult not to live in the moment. And Rusty and I find ourselves worrying (read: obsessing) over the flora and fauna. Perhaps fascinated is a better word than obsessing, but make no mistake . . . we’re rather caught up in all of the second-by-second changes.

Remember, You’re Proud, Happy & Thrilled

Last October when we arrived to house hunt near Samara, we based ourselves at a fabulous little boutique hotel called The Flying Crocodile. Its proud proprietors are German, and it was great fun to practice my terrible German with Petra and Andrea. The breakfasts were outstanding . . . felt like Rothenburg again. And with advance notice the staff would prepare a by-request dinner. One day we asked for a typically German dinner, and Petra personally ensured that we were served several types of wurst. We were thrilled -- the best of the wurst . . . okay, I concede . . . how often has that line been used? Nevertheless, recently I’ve been craving wurst again.

Now one has to want to get to the Flying Crocodile . . . especially in rainy season, though it is always worth the effort. After the rains some roads are closed due to high water (though probably not as of this writing). In the driest season, it’s a far piece down the road from Mil Colinas, and that road is bumpy, and I don’t have Petra’s number, and I really can’t commit to which night Rusty will drive there for wurst, and my excuse list could easily continue. The answer?

20 July 2015

When Did Noah Build The Ark, Gladys? Before The Rain

Rainy season has arrived . . . though not only here on the montaña.

The Open Championship. The best golf event of the golf year. Links golf . . . always my favorite. And this year’s Open Championship has seen multiple rain delays and high winds . . . the kind of links golf for which I took up this crazy drinking-game. Not since Jean Van de Velde crashed at Carnoustie has The Open held such suspense . . . except for any Open played at Troon (Frank knows!). My excitement is in no small part due to Dallas' own Jordan Speith's placement going into the final round.

Anyway, here I am at Mil Colinas with no television to watch those little white balls . . . monkey watching (seeing their little white balls), not golf watching. Once upon a time I would not work on the two opening days of the British . . . it was that important; and the U.S. tournaments rarely display the equivalent of those British links courses. Did I mention that I’m here with no television? Did I mention the sketchy Internet service that's closing my browser everytime the leader board updates? Bottom line: I wonder whether it was a mistake to have left Dallas before The Open Championship.

Speaking of mistakes . . . everyone makes mistakes. Despite the diverse cultures on this planet, one common thread of our humanity is mistakes . . . though I often feel that I cornered the market at an early age. Rookie mistakes are expected. Veteran mistakes? Less so.

15 July 2015

If I Fake It, Then I Don't Have It

It must be contagious, because after 20-plus years I do believe that I’ve caught a case of Patti-osis. Doctor, Rusty returns from work and I’m compelled to tell him each thing I accomplished during his eight-hour work day. No one cares how many times I washed the same dishes after making a batch of soap. No one cares about how many weeds I pulled. But I’m feeling compelled to share my day because it was fun . . . or was it? The weeds around the mashugana trees are overwhelming. That’s not the tree’s real name, but believe me, it’s very close to that; and they bloom like crazy, laden with blooms so heavy that they tip the branches. Anyway, about those weeds: something’s got to give.

11 July 2015

Every Time I Turn My Back It Wants To Go Wild Again

We didn't move to Costa Rica for a manicured lawn and clipped boxwood hedges surrounding our 1.65 acres, more or less. Nevertheless, one wants a presentable area around the pool, some curb appeal (in a land without curbs), and as few weeds as possible within the landscaped areas that Cynthia so well planned. Achieving this takes an inordinate amount of work, daily. The devil vine (we don't know its name) grows at least a foot a day and attempts to strangle and pull down the mountainside Cynthia's palm/shrubberies . . . the palms that create complete privacy around the pool. So a portion of my day is devoted to removing strangling vines, pulling weeds, and explaining to the half-dozen watermelon plants (none intentionally planted) that they must grow toward the river and not toward the pool. 

I love working in the yard . . . despite that pesky eye-infection/dermatitis that resulted in an antibiotic/Prednisone/antihistime cocktail in two bags of I.V. solution.

Must We Ride In This Thing? Wouldn't We Be More Comfortable On Pogo Sticks?

Two of my favorite women on this planet visited us for a week. Marina and Hilary rank in my top-five favorite female Peace Corps volunteers who served with me two years in Burkina Faso. Ali and Naeta, you’re both certainly in that top five. Now in addition to feeling so flattered that my gals came to visit Samara as a first stop on their Central American tour, and despite not having seen them for three years, we picked-up right where we left off, as only true friends can do. 

So the insanity of the 4x4 vehicle is that it bounces its occupants and contents everywhere. Who needs a cocktail shaker? But in its defense, there's no where it won't take you. Ain't no river wide enough . . . The beauty of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) is that they’re game for anything. Bring it. And with that said (as with all true friends), they don’t expect a dog-and-pony show from their host and hostess. Some days were spent merely dangling in the pool. Others were filled with more adventure. All nights were filled with singing and dancing, primarily between Hilary and Jill the Pill. Our Jill has spiraled into deep depression following the departure of Hilary and Marina on Tuesday afternoon.