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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...

Pura Vida!

UNITED KINGDOM | Sunday, 20 July 2008 | Views [1436]

The Mastatal Crew May-Sept 08

The Mastatal Crew May-Sept 08

Well, sorry for the delay since the last journal entry.  Rachel and I have either been away at a weekend at the beach (damn, it´s hard here), or have otherwise been thwarted in our attempts to get to Puriscal (lack of sleep and motivation to get 5.30am bus).  However, here we are now, and in the next few days I´ll make sure we get a new load of photos downloaded for your delection, including such highlights as a tour around the Ranch, and a few more fantastic bugs.

So, since our last update, life has been sliding by and Rachel and I are now well into life at the Ranch.  Its funny how a lack of contact (and desire for contact to be honest) with media insulates you.  I have to say that a lot of the time I don´t know what day of the week it is at the moment, let alone what the date is (this has also gone as far as what month it is, although those that know me might not find this so surprising).  Its also nice to get away from the generally negative daily doses of news.  By not having any contact with politicians or their messages, my desires to chuck heavy objects at them and shout profane abuse has also receded.  Now I just shout at bits of bamboo and mosquitoes instead, which I think is healthier.

As you can gather, i´ve been doing a lot of work cutting bamboo and weaving it for wattle and daub walls, as well as doing the now perfectly normal task of mixing and slapping on the poo mix.  Splitting bamboo is done with a machete and a mallet (go figure) – granted, a blunt one – I don´t think I would be trusted with a regular one yet (which is probably wise).  When I say machete, think of a foot long blade, a bit like a sword but with one cutting blade, used to slice through vegetation, kill snakes, look macho with, and injure oneself alarmingly with when one does this with a hangover.  The local Tico guys generally carry one around town like a rapier, in a scabbard on their belts.  Duals don´t seem to happen now though, which is good. You can buy them for six quid in town.  In a recent story of woe, one of the long term near-resident gringos at the Ranch was carrying a load of tools, including a machete (out of its sheath).  Said machete fell off pile, into said gringo´s unprotected foot, slicing right through one of his tendons and a vein, producing an interesting fountain effect when he pulled it out.  Luckily help was at hand to stem the flow and get his arse to hospital in San Jose, where after surgery he´s stuck in a plastercast for a month.  So to add to the ´Don´t run with scissors´ tip of the day, Microsoft Costa Rica needs to add in ´Don´t carry unsheathed machetes with bare feet´.  Not that any of the farmers are going to be using Word any time soon, which, of course, is why machete accidents will continue to happen!

I´ve also been at it digging trenches with a pickaxe and hauling barrow loads of sand, clay and poo around the site – see, i´m learning new skills all the time – and at the same time learning about new muscles I didn´t know I had, usually the day after when I can´t move properly.  I have also learnt how to bake Ciabatta bread and bagels in our cob oven, which is more skilled.  Rachel has been concentrating more on cooking and making naturally fermented ginger beer (batch three in process), along with keeping the resident yoghurt and kefir cultures going (the ranch makes its own – kefir is a similar product to yoghurt, although apparently better for you.  Its made by a colony of bacteria which has the pleasant look, and feel, of a large bogey). 

Still, its not all work, and I´ve been hard at it on la piscine (the futbol field) playing ultimate Frisbee.  My throwing is still shameful, meaning that if I get possession in midfield the drive is likely to end in tears, although I´m not so bad at catching in the end zone and running after people in a vain attempt to block them.  We play barefoot - to do otherwise is silly, as your shoes fill up with mud after 30 seconds.  Until recently this resulted with someone on the field suddenly hopping around every minute or so, swearing loudly in English or Spanish and then trying to get thorns out of their feet – this was caused by little sensitive plants (the ones that curl up when you touch them) – they have big thorns on their stems.  I did originally think they were a cute addition to the plant world, and used to go around stroking them to make them react.  After their revenge however, it took no persuasion to get me to spend a morning pulling all the little buggers up, with the result that after a game the locals now don´t get to laugh at the sad procession of soggy gringos limping through the village (granted, they´re still soggy, that´s a future project).

The mud bath gives an interesting slant to the game.  Like, if you run, you can´t stop quickly without risking ending up flat on your arse (many people can attest to this…).  And if the person you mark changes direction, its impossible to follow them without ending up on your arse.  It also allows spectacular mud-slide dives to catch the Frisbee however, which would lead to third-degree burns anywhere else.

We´ve also discovered the joys of Mexican train dominoes, which is a more complicated version of the kiddies game, with tiles up to double twelve.  Along with free-flowing alcohol, this has made some of the late rainey afternoons far more pleasant.  Although the ability to screw-over your fellow volunteers with a late-played ´force´ (which is a regular occurrence) may not have led to greater community spirit.  I´ve also been teaching Herng (pronounced ´Hun´) to play chess and draughts.  She´s getting better, but if I end up winning, our games are spattered with loud ´Aaaarghhh!´s ´you are MEAN!´, ´you are so sneaky!´ and in final exasperation at a move ´@&$X you!´

We also just had a game of ´whiffle ball´, which is some strange variant of baseball, but without the running.  I still have no idea how the scoring works.  I just wear a silly hat and try to hit the wierd hollow ball things they chuck at me.

The interns have also gone along to watch some futbol games, as Tim is in a team in the regional league.  On the first occasion we were coming back from a weekend at the beach, with the promise of a lift half way in the pick-up, from Tim, who was supposed to be playing.  Supposed to be, as in actual fact he got a red card the previous week, which meant he was banned for a week, and forgot he was supposed to be giving us a lift.  This left us with the only option of getting on the back of a truck headed in the right general direction.  This was a small truck, but we managed to get 38 assorted gringo´s and tico´s, a motorbike, a baby, and a small dog on the back, nearly all standing.  This wasn´t as bad as it sounds, as we were wedged in so completely that it was probably impossible for anyone to fall out.  Still, every corner or avoided pothole led to large sways of people to one side of the truck or the other and a large ´whoahh´.  Every passer-by or bike passing also led to increasingly rowdy cheers from the increasingly drunk crowd (our team won 4-3, so we were all in good spirits, after a last minute come back and 5 sendings-off - plus the guaro local brew was going round freely).  Un-avoidable pot-holes led to loud cries of ´Pura Vida!´ as your coccyx tried to meet your diaphragm.  So, we get to the land-slide on the road to Mastatal and all pile off, slightly worse for wear, with the rain starting, darkness setting in and 6km of hills and valleys to negotiate on the walk back home.  Nothing for it but to break out the umbrellas, torches and reserve supplies of rum!  That was a fun journey.  It doesn´t need saying that Rachel and I ended up dancing round the Ranch kitchen table in a slightly hysterical drunken state to loud techno music.  Helen will be sorry to hear that it didn´t involve kitchen utensils this time though.

Right, enough for now.  All new, exciting photos of pirates, natural buildings, scorpions and the biggest tarantula you´ve ever seen to come in the next few days – check out the photo pages!

Tags: drunkeness, futbol, projects, sport

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

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