Sunday, March 8, 2009

Under the Poison Tree

It has been an intense last couple of days, let me tell you. So the other day, we woke up on the beach, went swimming in the washing-machine part of the ocean, between the rocks, and went to town to use the internet. On the way back, we ran into Aaron as he was on his way out of town to go see about a buying some land, and he said that Vivian was about to come find us about staying there so her rent would be cheaper. We went there and arranged it, and then decided we should all go get our stuff, show her the washing-machine, and then hike up to see the waterfalls. The tide had apparently come in and the washing-machine was way more intense that time, so i was the only one still excited about it (Christian had gotten out early the first time on the pretense of wanting to take pictures, but I later found out he was scared), but Vivian got a video of me being washed back and forth, so we did that for a little while and then hiked up to the waterfall. Vivian had been there already and kept talking about this other path that went all the way to the top but we got lost for a little while. By the time we ended up at the waterfall we were sweaty and exhausted, but it was absolutely beautiful, and the waterfall itself wasn´t the main part, as much as the deep pond it fell into, which had a tarzan swing and a bunch of young people sitting on rocks all around it, looking like an abercrombie ad or something. Christian loved the tarzan swing, but I had trouble holding myself up with my arms to use it properly, so I jumped off a cliff instead. We have a picture of my diving over the side. It was nothing compared to this other kid though - he jumped from the top of the 2nd waterfall down to the lagoon below, which was at least 4 stories- crazy. It was great and we swam around for a few hours and then hiked up the right path to this thing Vivian called the canopy, which is a geodesic (?) dome built for apparently no reason whatsoever with a parachute spread over the top of it. It was like a giant jungle gym, so we climbed all over it, and it was at the top of the mountain we´d be climbing all day, so it overlooked the whole valley, and we could see and hear howler monkeys in the trees on the other side of the valley. They´re all around here and those Swiss girls we met on the way here say they are so loud by their window that it keeps them up at night. So we hung out there for a few minutes and on the way back to the road we passed this place that was fenced in but looked like a big garden and we were trying to figure out what it was when we saw the sign - it was the butterfly garden where we were originally going to stay. The guy that runs it, Josh and a couple of others that worked there were outside about to take the dogs for a walk and invited us to go, so we went back to the dome and hung out more. All of these activities are sprinkled with moments where we come around a corner or to the top of a hill to get these amazing views of the ocean or forests. So we headed back down the mountain along the road, much easier than the way up, showered, and went out to get some food. It was friday night and after we were done eating they were having a big show in the streets with a bunch of people spinning fire (there´s a school here), so we watched that, then got Javier, Kristen, Gabe, and some other people and went and chilled out on the beach. Then Vivian went dancing and Christian and I headed back to our place (with walls and a bed!). The next day we woke up and decided to go to Cabo Blanco, which is a nature preserve close to here that covers the whole bottom of this penninsula. It was started by a Danish-Swedish couple in the 50´s and the husband actually died protecting it. It´s so named because there´s a huge rock on the tip of the cape that is an important area for breeding birds, so it´s covered with bird poo and Cabo Blanco means White Cape. It was a 2 hour hike once there to reach a beach and then turn around and hike back - it seemed very reasonable, except that it turned out to be hiking straight up a mountain and then back down to the beach, then straight up and back down to return. The beach was beautiful - of course- but something stung my foot in the water. It hurt really badly for ten minutes and then was better. I was probably cushioned by the fact that my feet and ankles have been hugely swollen since we got here. They look like giant versions of chubby baby feet, but they don´t hurt, so it´s ok. Also, there are these schools of little skinny fish that swim really fast across the top of the water and sort of skim along it and jump out of the water at about 60 miles and hour. I don´t know if they just can´t stop afrom going that fast, but there were several times when we were hanging out in the water and all the sudden we´d be surrounded by fish and being bombarded in the face by little fish for about 30 seconds, and then they´d move on and it was quiet again. We camped and ate under a tree that is poisonous, but only if you break a branch and rub it on you, and ate lunch. We´ve been eating avocadoes with these refried beans that we call Beans in a Tube, because they basically are. I don´t even think the locals eat them because they were pretty dusty on the grocery shelf, but they´re cheap and good, so there you go. So we hiked back and as we´re walking we hear this big commotion of something running through all the leaves and it turns out to be monkeys playing and chasing each other. We took pictures and saw and heard monkeys 3 more times just during that walk. The woods look pretty much like Georgia forests, except for the 3 story high palm fronds and of course, the monkeys. We got back and started talking to the Swedish girl that worked there, Matilda, for about an hour, and ended up walking into town with her to catch the bus (which had broken down). Since we´ve been here, we´ve learned so much about German, Swiss, Swedish, and Canadian culture. Basically, everyone we meet, we grill about their countries´ political and economic policies, just trying to see whatever else it out there. I´m pretty sure I´ll be living abroad when I´m older. We´ve learned a ton about Costa Rican culture, too, of course. For example- toilet paper is not flushed here because the plumbing can´t handle it. instead it´s put into a trashcan kept beside the toilet. You´d think it would smell but it´s really not that bad. The grocery bags are all these striped plastic bags, pretty durable because they´re used as garbage bags, and when you´re garbage is full, the bags are taken out and put next to the road for someone to pick up. Anyway, so we´d caught the bus back to town, showered and ate, and then Christian and I were so tired that we crashed at about 10. Vivian left this morning to catch the 6am bus, and we´ve been just relaxing all day. The only thing of consequence was that an iguana came into the apartment (there´s a space between the walls and roof to allow a breeze) and we have pictures of me hand-feeding him a banana. Other than that, we handwashed laundry and read books. It´s so great just to be here.


  1. That all sounds so lovely! However, please refrain from hand feeding any other animals. You have lovely hands and the idea of you losing one makes me wildly uncomfortable.

  2. This whole trip sounds incredible!
    By the way, the toilets were the same in China, where you had to put your toilet paper in a trash can. Unfortunately, in public places, this did smell really bad. I remember one bathroom in a small airport that was so smelly, and the toilet was just a glorified hole in the ground, but the door separating the stall from the rest of the bathroom was like five feet off the ground, so if you squatted enough to aim right everyone could see your ass hanging out. and there was no toilet paper, so we took to carrying some around with us in our bags. it really made me appreciate the american john.



Chuchi - this is probably my new most popular word. It means snobby or fancy, but is used in the Peace Corps as anything nicer than dirt roads and shacks, or for a person, anyone who showers with hot water. Living in the city, I am super chuchi for here.

Fuerte - literally means strong, but because the culture is based on talking around everything, it´s when a person says anything they want in a direct way - it means asshole

Puede ser and otro dia - literally means "could be" or "another day", but because noone will directly blow someone off, both of them mean "never" and are the answer to a question of when something will happen

Deseas, en tus sueños, Que Arriba Perra/o and Es lo qué es - these are the terrible translations of American sayings that are not used here and don´t really translate, but we say them anyway. Literally they mean "you wish", "in your dreams", "What´s up bitch/dog?" and "it is what it is"

Qué guapa - this means "what a hard worker" and is used by Paraguayans every time I do ANYTHING manual, including carrying a dish to the sink or sweeping out my room. I don´t think they have high expectations for Americans and work.

Saludos - sending saludos by way of a mutual friend is how people tell each other they have a crush on them. The most serious kinds are given with a pinch on the arm and they mean business.

Thumbs up - this is done everywhere here and is a simple answer to pretty much any question. I will probably have carpal tunel in my thumbs when I leave here because I do this so much.

No se como comer esta - this is how one refuses food in Paraguay. Literally, it´s "I don´t know how to eat this" which creates an internal struggle for me each time it´s said because I want to be a smartass and explain that, just like any other food, you put in in your mouth and chew, but I don´t think that´s acceptable here.

No Más and Un poco - this is said after almost every phrase for no real reason other than to make everything sound like it´s not a big deal, even when it really is. Literally, it´s "No More" and "A Little", so the translations are something like "Sit down no more", "Come here a little", and "Do you want dinner no more?"

Cocido - this is a hot drink mixed by carmellizing sugar with a little yerba, adding just enough water to wet it, and then adding more sugar. It´s served by the thermos-full just before bed.

Mosto - this is to sugar what crack is to cocaine. It´s a "tradional" drink capable of putting even the sweetest tooth into a diabetic coma, and is served continuously at fun gatherings like funerals.

Ch-ch-ch-ch - this is the sound Paraguayans make to get each others´attention - like "Psst" . It´s especially used for catcalling, and they have nothing to follow it with - they just want you to look.