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?
Now I’m not bragging . . . really, speakin' ain’t understandin' . . . as those of you who know me will attest. I can barely understand a full sentence of French, despite living in French-speaking West Africa for two years. And if you speak Canadian French, I won’t understand a single word. Note that I didn’t include English in the list. This is because I don’t really speak English . . . I speak movie-lines-English.

Skolko eto stoit? Money's only something you need in case you don't die tomorrow . . . or if you’re building a new retaining wall. It’s not solely that we’re poor (though poor we are, in fact). It’s that we find it difficult to keep Colones on hand. Our housekeeper certainly isn’t going to make change from a ₡20,000 [Colones] note for the ₡2,500 I pay her weekly. In fact, one week I handed Janet a Ziplok® full of ₡5s, ₡10s, ₡20s, and other small change. She looked at me as if I’d dropped in from another planet; then Janet explained that these little coins can’t be spent and should be exchanged by me at the bank. Well who knew? Certainly I should have known – one wouldn’t pay a housekeeper in the U.S. with a bag full of pennies and nickels. How rude.

And then Bank of America was hacked, and Rusty’s debit card was deactivated. Let me be clear: this wasn’t due to any type of fraud that occurred here in Costa Rica. Anyway, Rusty having Colones is no longer as easy as a trip to the ATM . . . and we don’t see me jumping up to volunteer my debit card for Rusty’s fish tacos while he works daily at the beach. Then there’s the issue that our supermarket (a part of the Wal-Mart juggernaut) doesn’t take U.S. money, which is a befuddling trait considering that the Pali is in bed with Wal-Mart.
So we just never seem to have Colones; and the days of opening that secret envelope filled with one-hundred-dollar bills is ancient history. We now have a Costa Rican bank account: two, actually . . . one for U.S. Dollars and one for Colones. Anyway, neither one of us has activated our Costa Rican ATM cards. Perhaps we don’t have a money issue . . . perhaps we have a lazy issue.

This morning Rusty announced that he was going to be forced to activate the new bank card as he needed money for lunch . . . and tools. Yes, tools! I didn’t even ask, and rolled my eyes as he explained that he needed new saw blades, or a radial-arm saw . . . or something. Anyway, my immediate, unconscious reply was, I’ll give you all I’ve got; that should get you into town. Yes, a line from Out of Africa . . . and one that Rusty didn’t know (he generally knows when I’m speaking movie-lines English). I clarified my statement, and it was Rusty’s turn to roll his eyes.

Rather than risk not enjoying an unseen movie or book, I will re-watch films or re-read books time after time. This certainly explains why I know every line from all 228 minutes of Lawrence of Arabia. Only Jill will watch this film with me. I’m intolerable; and I quite appreciate my bad behavior. Very aware, Sir! Don’t get me started on Crimson Tide.

My dear, sweet, brilliant father was a Russophile, which seems odd as an American man who spent his 20s at the height of the Cold War. Nevertheless, if it is was Russian, Daddy read it. Solzhenitsyn, Dostoevsky, Pasternak . . . these authors’ books were everywhere around our home: at Daddy’s bedside, in the den, rarely on a bookshelf . . . for all of daddy’s life. He read them repeatedly (and we wonder where I get it). I inherited these books and simply cannot part with most of them.

Weve come very far, very fast. Now Dr. Zhivago ranks in my top-five favorite movies; so one would think that I simply had to read the novel, right? I tried. I really did. And let’s face it; Dr. Zhivago makes every college professor's list of must-reads. And I’m not anti-poetry, so you’d think that I would get the novel . . . especially since I know every line from the film (clearly a David Lean thing) and had a general idea of the novel's plot (not to mention the fact that I went in with a knowledge of those impossible, Russian, ends-with-something-ovich names). So what’s wrong with me? It took me over a year to finish it, and I absolutely did not get it. When I finished the book, I literally ran for the film, again.

While in Burkina (where one will read absolutely anything . . . soup labels!) my friend Hugo introduced me to PlanetPDF, where you can find just about every great novel ever written, for free. So in between re-reading every Nelson DeMille novel for the umteenth time, I read . . . wait for it . . . new novels. And without exception, I loved each one. Vanity Fair is genius. Still, here in Costa Rica I’ve reverted to Mr. DeMille . . . until, out of curiosity about his Borodino setting in The Charm School (which I've read no fewer than ten times), I opened the PDF of . . . wait for it . . . War And Peace. Yes, two months of monkey watching and the bloom is off the rose. Must be, right? I mean really . . . who reads War And Peace?

No, I’ll never truly tire of watching monkeys and obsessing about our bird population; but we’ve got 12-plus weeks of construction ahead, which isn’t particularly conducive to swimming naked, making soap on the terrace, or crafting adornments to our rain chains (got that out of the way this morning). And gardening is O-U-T. Rusty says that a year from now I’ll still be reading. This I doubt. Actually, I was hooked from the first sentence, much to my own surprise . . . especially after that Dr. Zhivago incident.

Animal lover that I am . . . did I mention that there’s a bear in War And Peace? Who’s not gonna love a laugh-aloud part about a bear? Yes (Daddy would be so proud) . . . I get the symbolism. So already today I’ve adorned a rain chain, baked and frosted brownies, folded laundry, obsessed about birds, and done the meet-and-greet with Lubos and our workers, Tonio and Javier (Czech and Spanish . . . check). May I go back to my book? 

In all due respect to Mr. DeMille and every brilliant word that he's ever penned, you can skip The Quest. Perhaps I should write to him about being his number one fan.

So . . . one of those new tools had better make easier the task of drilling through shells . . . they're heartier than you'd imagine. Oh, and someone needs to hang my Malachite Kingfisher in the guest bath. What's that gonna set me back? Skolko eto stoit? . . . how do I remember it? 'Cause it sounds rather like squirrel go[nna] eat or store it. . . . or not. And yes, Frederick (whoever you are), I'll answer your question about my post titles . . . soon (though this posting should be a strong indicator). Lo que hay.