Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sharon: The Last Hurrah

Today’s the last day of the trip. I should be repeating that over and over to myself in a numbing, therapeutic sort of way, really; this is not a piece of information I readily accept. While I occasionally think with longing about some creature comforts of home (more long-sleeved clothes (which of course I won’t need at home), a relative lack of mud, access to my own kitchen), mostly I just wish we could stay and stay and stay.

We have moved to Puriscal, a small city up in the mountains where I spent a month with a family in orientation before my tour of duty as a volunteer in Montezuma. We are staying at a “luxury hotel” for three nights in order to spend some QT with my host family from here.

When I was stationed in Montezuma, coming back to visit my Puriscal family always felt like coming home. Flor and her daughter Estephanie are incredibly welcoming, grounded people. Puriscal, being near San Jose, has a culture that was a little easier to adapt to than that of my Cobano family; we might talk politics, for example, rather than just gossip about family and friends. Flor is also an amazing cook, and always cooks my favorite foods. They are also astoundingly patient with Spanish-language learners. As an 8-year-old, Estephanie taught me much of my first Spanish 13 years ago, with eagerness and long, patient explanations. Then last night, Max spent a while talking to her (now 21) and also got some quality instruction. One surprising development makes these last few days a little easier to face: Flor and Estephanie are planning to come visit us in the States! They’ve never mentioned a possible trip before, and neither of them has ever left the country, except to cross the border to buy cheap stuff in Panama. I’m so excited to be able to host them, especially because Flor has a specific request for me to make a Thanksgiving meal, to “see how it is celebrated.” Thanksgiving is a meal that I can easily dazzle with, since they have no point of reference! It’s not like I’m going to feel pressured to make my rice correctly or my tortillas from scratch, for example. Anyway, it’s something to look forward to, and means that our good-byes won’t seem quite so threatening.

So, we’re staying at a Gringo hotel. It’s a “yoga retreat,” supposedly, though they’re off the beaten path even by yoga retreat standards, and are just getting the business off the ground, so there’s not much going on. It’s a beautiful setting, and almost worth the price of admission to sit here on the deck at sunrise and watch the sun spill across the sides of the folding hills on the other side of the valley. Plus, there aren’t many hotel options this close to my host family, and we wanted to end the trip on a vacation mindset. But I have two complaints. One is that these guys are the type of Gringos who live in a fenced-in hotel compound, speak almost no Spanish and whose efforts at learning about the culture seem insincere, and speak with great reverence about the need to teach “the locals” English. It pains me to give them money. We also feel like we’re being nickel-and-dimed, which might just be the way these places are usually run, but if I were going to nickel-and-dime my guests, I’d be really clear about it. Or maybe they are clear, but there have just been too many awkward exchanges about our charges, and some overheard conversations (taking place in very public places) about other financial issues. Whatever it is, it's left a bad taste in our mouths. We've learned that we are definitely, absolutely not the fenced-in-hotel-compound kind of folk.

In any case, in 36 hours, we’ll be very close to home. Stay tuned for photos.

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