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La vida loca! Wished you were there? We did, so here we are on our big adventure! A year in central America, to make sense of this vida loca...

You know what I was saying about... (or yes! Costa Rica is a developing country)

UNITED KINGDOM | Saturday, 7 June 2008 | Views [676]

Our neighbour Rojo, not sure about the rain!

Our neighbour Rojo, not sure about the rain!


Well, our second week of spanish lessons at Las Cabanes Siempre Verde turned into a bit of a wash out – in the sense that we had four days of heavy rain – two of which were continuous. Yeah, we complain a lot about the rain in England (and I was here too, in the last entry), but Rachel and I had never experienced anything like it – after a solid morning we thought it was time for it to clear up now, but oh no. That night because there were some gusty winds (mild by UK standards), Marcos our teacher didn´t think we should sleep in the Cabana down in the forest, so we slept in the volunteers´ house.

This was an interesting experience, as our bed here didn´t have a mossie net. Not that there were any mossies, as they had no chance of getting near the house through the torrential rain. We did have some moths for company though who must have been sheltering in the eaves for the day. By this time the electricity had gone down for good (usually you get the odd blips, but this wasn´t a blip), so we had some candles going that our resident friends continually tried to kill themselves in. Anyway, we went to bed, I attempted to kiss rachel goodnight, but got a mouthful of moth instead, much to Rachel´s amusement – nice start! About a couple of hours later a sign resting in the eves fell down, landing with a thump just next to me, which woke us both up in something approaching panic. Rachel got a torch on, so I could work out it wasn´t a racoon or something trying to join us in bed.

Then I noticed the palm sized brown hairy spider sucking out the insides of a moth on the curtain beside me... (not poisonous, but we´d been instructed to kill them, as they can bite if trodden on) – so next job was to use a handy copy of Cosmopolitan on said moth-sucker. (note, I did not bring out a collection of Cosmopolitan with me, before you start – some handy ones had been left by previous volunteers, and they became the weapons of choice for spider dispatching). Tonight Scarlet Johanssen did a good job of sending him to spidie heaven, rather messily. Previously Christine Aguillera had done less well with the previous too victims, who had required two or three whacks to finish off – they´re bloody hard those spiders, and they´re fast, and they jump. I´m glad there aren´t any bigger cousins around.

So, not such a good night. The next day was also solid rain, and everyone was getting a bit pissed off with it now. Rachel and I managed to go down to Mastatal and have a coffee at the Soda, but otherwise we were stuck in the house reading or learning our verbs. We also worked out the public phone wasn´t working now because the electricity was out – as it relies on recievers that are powered. I had an awful last lesson because of my bad night and the fact that I was so disconsolate with the rain, and I don´t think Rachel’s was much better. Still, Arabella´s food and afternoon coffee and empanadas bucked us up a bit.

Sooooo... anyway, turns out we were experiencing a tropical storm – Alma to be precise. They´re rare at this time of year (usually similar to the Caribbean side – Sept-Oct) and this was the only one to hit on this bit of coast since 1887 (according to the Tico times, the english speaking newspaper here for expats). There was some flooding on the coast – which we experienced later when travelling to Quepos (see Rachel´s entry), with 120 homes flooded (a few being consumed by the sea), and bridges were down. Back were we were, Marcos headed out on his motorbike the next morning to check out the roads and came back with some pretty impresive pictures.

You know what I was saying about the roads being due to slide down the mountain last time? Well, guess what.. there are three roads out of Mastatal, one to Santiago de Puriscal to the north, one east to the Indian reservation and one west to Parrita on the coast, and all of them had been made impassable by landslides – the rain had been so torrential for so long that sections had just slumped down the gullies which form below in places. As the powerlines follow the roads, so the poles had gone down the slopes too, leaving the lines on the road (luckily broken, so not live). Marcos said he´d never seen such extensive damage before.

The day before we left for Quepos, Isidro, Marcos´s Dad, took us for a horse ride (well, more a horse-herd due to our steeds knowing we were crap cowboy imposters), and we went to see the damage to the Zapaton road – and sure enough there was a massive gully in it. However, guys had already been out (some from the Rancho) to chip out a level path from the hillside to provide passage for motorbikes – the main form of tico transport ( unless you have 4x4s out here, they´re the best option, and obviously cheaper).

Which brings me to the title of this piece. Our first few weeks really brought home to us what it is to live in a country where the landscape and weather make it very hard to get transport links and services to remote rural areas. The water was off for most of the time we were at the Garcia´s. After a number of botched jobs by the water company guys to fix the pipe (apparently the pressure is too much for the system at this time of year because of all the rain), Marcos and a group of 10 other Tico´s went down to the problem, worked out what they needed to do, phoned a contact in Puriscal, and fixed it themselves the next day.

And the roads? Well, they´re the municipality´s responsibility, but local villages can´t wait on them to decide to come along with machines to carve a new bit of road out of the hillside, so they all go out with picks and repair them themselves – or at least enough to be able to get their motorbikes through. If this happened in a village in England everyone would be sitting around waiting for the official people to come out and do it – here you either don´t have that option (in the case of the roads – they have jobs to go to and groceries to get) or that option sucks (the botch-job water men with their 3 hours of water every 3 days).

It also shows how these communities have to rely on each other for help, and communal effort to get stuff done that needs doing. This is why it’s necessary to get on well with your neighbours and pass the time of day with them. In England we don´t have this necessity, and it would be very interesting to see how people coped if this happened there!

Tags: a whole lot of rain, no services, no transport, tropical storm alma

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Argh!  Well, maybe not pirates this time, but dig the colour-coordinated bandanas!

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