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Chilly verdant greetings to you from blustery Monteverde. The air has an arcticistic feel to it. We may be in the tropics, but we are in the mountains, and it is just dang chilly…and not at all white. I must admit, I miss the snow.
This week of Christmas festivities has been glorious – meeting up with friends on the street, twinkly nights in dressed up houses, the food flowing on festive tables. In Monteverde, on Christmas Eve, the group of traveling carolers, ebbing and flowing in numbers throughout the evening, grew so much this year that to fit all the requests in, they had to start their singing at 3:15 on a cool afternoon. They walked and sang and snacked until sometime after 11 p.m.
I had spent the afternoon with Wolf and Lucky – listening to our friend Wolf who has not stopped talking for over a week (more on this later) – and playing a renegade game of Scrabble with Lucky. She couldn’t believe she was taking the time to play Scrabble on Christmas Eve. The carolers arrived about 5 and, as is their habit, sang two carols in fine harmony. I then joined them and visited a few houses of expectant listeners armed with warm agua dulce and cookies before heading home.
It’s a wonderful tradition in Monteverde, this Christmas Eve roving community caroling choir. I heard that they had over 40 houses requesting that the carolers stop by – that’s a lot of carols sung and a lot of treats (squares, fruit, tamales, juices) consumed. Fortunately, there are lotsa young folk, along with the older and aging neighbors, who look like they will keep up the tradition just fine.
It is great to be back in the Cerro Plano apartment although it is a very cold building and the weather took a bad turn a couple of days ago. Poor Roberto has been very cold, as is poor Kay. We spent much of the week hunkered down with Tyra the dog, and Miel and Oly the cats. There has been lots of seasonal cheer to keep us all warm despite the chilly winds.
Oly and Tyra hadn’t met until I came, so now I am keeping an eye on them. If Oly the kitten gets too close to Tyra the bowl bully, everyone snaps and fur flies. Oly also had never gone outside until I came, and now that he’s had a taste, he is getting restless to explore the great outdoors. Given the chance, he moves carefully down the long balcony, wondering what is around the corner.
Christmas Day was a real potpourri. Roberto made rice and beans in the morning, the smell of coconut wafting about and exciting our senses; we took it to the community lunch where we feasted with friends on food that arrived from every house. Then Santa Claus rolled in on his bicycle and tossed candies to tthe excited kids.
Roberto and I didn’t stay after the lunch, but instead walked up to our friends Saray and Melvin’s. She invited us to be part of an afternoon spent with a Japanese film crew and tamale making. Under the big trees we watched Saray toss about her Tica charm and teach the young soap opera actor the fine art of making tamales.
From grinding the corn without losing his fingers, to assembling the perfect pockets of tamale love, to cooking them in the big cauldron of water over an outdoor fire, the nameless Japanese heartthrob did as Saray demonstrated with the friendly crew looking on. Apparently this is to be part of a series for a TV channel in Japan, taking well-known actors and having them host a travel show.
This particular episode will highlight three countries – Jamaica, Costa Rica and Cuba – and the theme is finding the passion of the country. In Costa Rica’s case, the passion is for nature, and so Monteverde is a great venue to demonstrate that.
Saray, Melvin, their kids and his sister Ana were perfect hosts, animated teachers, and I hope that they will have a place in the final product. I know from experience that hours of filming, regardless of the expenses incurred, end up on the cutting room floor. But we all will be happy to see our friend Saray become a big star in Japan!
After the film crew left, we ate the tamales, and gathered around a huge campfire that kept us warm against the night chill. Roberto kept us warmer still by singing calypso songs and Spanish boleros, accompanied by the boys on drums. To finish off the night, and this blog, and this year, we oohed and aahed as the kids set off fireworks. With sparklers, we wrote our wishes in the sky for love, joy and good health for 2011!
Before leaving on that sweet note, and speaking of good health, I want to just let you know that Wolf has entered a new stage in his medical journey. He’s been getting stronger, walking gently, eating well. But he has also been talking incessantly and becoming increasingly more manic. It has been over a month since he stopped taking lithium which kept his bipolar under control but was also responsible for a high level of toxicity in his system, damaging his kidneys and no doubt causing any number of secondary complications.
The day he left the Puntarenas hospital, he was given a new medication. The first week back home, Wolf was serene, in the present, and gracious. But since then, his bipolar condition has resumed. Obviously the medication is not doing the trick, but it is very difficult here to get him to a psychiatrist who could monitor him and prescribe the appropriate medication and dosage. Unfortunately, as time passes, Wolf is becoming more unstable and this is, of course, hard not only on him, but on those around him.
So once again, as I have asked so many times of you before, please hold Wolf in the light and pray that he will soon get the help he needs to get him through this very difficult time. And hold Lucky and the rest of the family in the light, as living with a person going through this is very difficult – I think more difficult than dealing with physical issues. May 2011 find Wolf, Lucky, and the Guindons – along with the rest of us – living with peace.
Because I have more fotos than time, taking y’all through the Christmas week festivities here in Monteverde with images. I hope your week was as fun, foodful, festive and frolicking.
First: the Christmas Program and Wassail (aka laughter then sugar rush)…
When Patricia was having problems with the boots and brace that she needs to walk safely, cobbler Roberto came to the rescue – a good Christmas elf, he.
BARBEQUE DAY – getting the meat ready for Community Christmas Dinner…
And in our cozy apartment in Cerro Plano (the flat part of Monteverde), our Christmas tree was the Ficus and the ornaments the birds…
And then came Christmas morn. We awoke to many birds, singing, shining and sparkling – just like gifts wrapped on the tree…
After the birds, there was the Friends meeting, where Tim Curtis very aptly put the feeling of Christmas – it is the time when we are focused on giving, and it soothes our soul…
After the meeting, we shared in the biggest potluck of the year, cooked and shared and served by community members – even the dessert servers seemed to give with their full hearts…
And then it is time for the big gift exchange – a couple months back, the community draws names and everyone must make the gift – from children to elders, the gifts that are shared are beautiful, created with heart…and Santa arrives just in time to help with the gift-giving. Wouldn’t you know, this year Santa came directly from Canada, and brought her Wolf-deer, since rain (and thus reindeer) has been scarce this year in these parts…it was a very hot Christmas Day and Santa had to take her clothes off bit by bit…but all was OK! After all, it’s a family show….
The community is all around…
Another navidad passes in Monteverde – it has been many years since I was here in this season and I have enjoyed it so much – the traditions of Christmas with Monteverde’s own slants…too much food (which happens everywhere that people are blessed with that bounty) and lots of community joy – and this year, phenomenal weather. Roberto, a man used to living alone in the jungle, not a Christmas kinda guy, adapted well – love, peace and joy were all around. I hope for you all too… now, almost a decade within this new millenium has passed – can you believe it? – so we dance! New Years Eve! At la Mata de Cana (formerly La Taverna) in Santa Elena – see you there! Or wherever you are, may you be with the ones you love….