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I am writing from a hotel room in Puntarenas, the funky little port city on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. I came here yesterday to visit Wolf, who is in the hospital. Last Thursday, after spending the morning in the Reserve, he was walking home mid-day, heading through the magical bullpen. No one knows what happened yet, but he got nauseous and fell over and then had a hard time to get up. He managed to crawl to a tree and support himself up to his feet, but it wasn’t long before he fell again. As far as he remembers, this happened three times until he finally, hours later, managed to get home.  The emergency doctors brought him oxygen and then in the morning he had two more episodes of passing out. The ambulance brought him down to Puntarenas hospital the next day and he has been here since (it is now Wednesday). 

So they aren’t sure what happened to him. He is going into San Jose to see a heart specialist on Thursday and for some tests. I got word on the weekend and came yesterday. His son, Ricky, is here at the hospital and he doesn’t know much more than that either. 

I sat for a couple of hours visiting with Wolf yesterday and don’t see any lasting effects.  His mind is lucid, his speech is as clear as he gets, and he is tired but in great spirits. I think he is a little scared but is taking things patiently. And he has a beautiful view out of the hospital room, over the Pacific Ocean and the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, with boats and clouds floating in and out of view. So although he has obviously gone through a rough spell, this just isn’t his time and he is making the best of the situation. 

eliecerWolf and I did manage to get the books last Monday morning out of customs.  I have no idea why, but the tariffs were almost twice what we paid a year ago for a slightly smaller quantity. However you pay the piper and he gives you the goods. So a fresh crop of Walking with Wolf is safely in storage at the Center for Peace in San Jose. Our customs agent, Eliecer, seen here at his busy desk, helped us and although it was a long, frustrating and ultimately expensive process, we managed. 

In the middle of the days of waiting, Wolf and I decided we needed to get out of the city and go up the mountain to Monteverde for a couple days.  I got a lot done while I was there, saw many friends, confirmed the contract with Karen Masters and the Bosque Eterno SA as their information officer which will bring me some badly needed money, spoke with Pax about the computer art work for the Spanish version of the book, and did a little contra-dancing at the Friends School house.

mv talent

We arrived on the Friday night and walked into one of those special nights in Monteverde when young and old bring out their talents and the community gathers to celebrate. This night was no exception, with songs and dance and funny videos made by students at the local schools. These occasions always make me appreciate this special place called Monteverde.

verostu 

I also saw Veronica and Stuart and the three little dogs where I lived before. We’ve arranged that I will head up late June and again in early August and live in their house and care for the puppies while the human folk go to the US for awhile. They’ve moved houses, into a smaller abode close to the cliff edge, a place I’ve never lived in before but really look forward to staying at. Roberto will come and is determined to help Wolf do some cleaning on the trail that goes around the Guindon farm.  As Wolf said, he may have to sit on the sidelines and watch Roberto work, but that will be fine too.

 In the meantime, we now await word on what has vexed the Wolf.  By the time I left today, Lucky, Melody, Helena and their families were all there and we took turns going up to visit Wolf (the hospital has a strange one visitor at a time system that takes a lot of coordination.) Lucky told me that in true form for Wolf, the morning that they were waiting for the ambulance to arrive, she made him a small cup of coffee. He then proceeded to pass out and she tried to pry his fingers off the cup so that he wouldn’t continue spilling it down him but his fingers gripped that cup like a lifeline. When he came to, the first thing he said was, “Hey, where’s my coffee?”

wolf 

Wolf spent today sitting in a wheelchair in the hallway, enjoying the great view towards the clouds over Monteverde and receiving the line of visitors who had come. He seemed to be quite normal to me. I trust that the doctors will figure out what went wonky and help him to avoid it in the future. I’m happy that I was here in Costa Rica and able to so easily go and see him. I’m very thankful that I left him in good spirits with a strong mind and his usual laugh ringing down the hall as I walked away.

Beautiful Cabure Argentine Cafe in Monteverde, where I have wireless and send email from  (and eat and drink…)

 

I’d like to say that I’m writing this from the balcony of some funky hotel on the coast, watching the pelicans flying in formations and listening to the waves crashing. Instead, I’m back up in Monteverde, listening to the birds waking up and the early shift workers’ motorcycles heading to the dairy plant. However, I am bringing you a story of great success in the big city, getting Walking with Wolf out of customs with a minimum of fuss and a reasonable amount of money. I decided to come back up the mountain Wednesday in the Reserve truck with the books and Wolf. Beto our trusty chauffeur made it all easy once again.  As is usual this time of the year, the day is dawning bright and sunny but the rain will move in sometime later, so you have to get your outdoor chores done early or you are going to get very wet.

 

Wolf and I went down last Sunday on the afternoon bus following the community potluck lunch which is held the first Sunday of every month after the Quaker meeting.  It is a great chance to eat really good homemade food and to visit with folks who you may never run into otherwise.  We sold some books, filled our bellies and then went in the pouring rain to Santa Elena.  Fortunately the bus was a dry one, unlike the older bus that I came up in the week before, where every other seat was under a leak and it was hard to stay dry even though you were inside a bus. It seems that’s a theme of these latest blog posts – the fact that it is being a very wet beginning to a rainy season is impossible to ignore.  Staying dry is a challenge but you just have to accept the inevitable – for the first time that I can remember, I bought an umbrella, although much of the time even an umbrella, rubber boots and rain coat aren’t going to keep you completely dry. 

 

We spent the first night at the Casa Ridgeway, known as the Peace Center, run by Quakers, which is Wolf’s base camp when in San Jose.  The folks there know him and were all pleased to see the book.  It is a spartan little place which I don’t mind – I especially like the monk-like rooms that are painted white with no decoration except a quote about peace stenciled on the wall. My room said: Me, you can kill but you can’t silence justice. 

 

Early Monday we began the process of getting the books.  I’m still not sure what that first company we dealt with was exactly – there are a number of hands extended when in the process of paying to get your imported goods. Although we called early in the morning, the papers weren’t ready for us till mid-afternoon. We then took a taxi out to the western part of the city, La Sabana Norte, and there we paid for the permit to release the books and the cost of the books being moved off of the boat and into the customs storage.  Once that is done you want to get them out quickly as they cost plenty for each day they are held. We paid our money and received the documents and were told to contact the aduana, the customs broker, Eliezar Alfaro Porras, who helped us through the next step. It was too late to see him but we did make an arrangement to meet at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

 

This, of course, meant another trip by taxi and bus and taxi to Alajuela, near the airport.  Eliezar was great, meeting us in a convenient place, taking us in his car to his office, trying to explain the process of what was going on, attempting to keep the costs down, going to the bank for me to speed up the process.  We spent a few hours with him but they were pleasant ones and I will keep his number to use him again in the future.  By 1 p.m. he had confirmation that everything was in order and we could head out to the bodega, the big storage place where the books were being held. We went back into the city by bus and taxi to the Tropical Science Center who had said they would send a vehicle out to pick up the books.  By the time we got there, their truck wasn’t around and by 3 it was looking like we wouldn’t be able to get our books that day as the bodega closed at 5 and was at least half an hour away. This was worrisome as you don’t want to stop the momentum once it is rolling.  As Wolf kept saying, if we don’t go while we are at the head of the line, who knows how far back they will send us. I have to say that both Carlos Hernandez, the director at the Reserve who has helped and supported us every step of the way, and then Vicente Watson, one of the main scientists at the TSC, were invaluable. 

 Vicente Watson and Wolf

When Vicente realized that we didn’t have a vehicle to pick up the books, he stayed with the problem, gnawing the bone, until it got worked out.  By 3:15 we were in a car with Warner Corvajal, an employee there, zipping across and out of the city to Santo Domingo de Heredia where the bodega was.  Vladimir Jimenez and the TSC truck was located on its way back from a trip and was rerouted to the bodega.  By 4 we had the paperwork done and the last money paid.  By 4:30 we were loaded and on our way back to the TSC office in San Pedro.  It all happened so quick and with so little fuss, except for the hours of waiting, it is still hard to believe.  In the old days, things took a lot longer.  But with computers and supportive people who are trying hard to help the process go quickly, well, incredibly, sometimes it does. 

 

Wolf and I celebrated with a great Italian meal of very anchovish ceasar salad, authentic pizza and red wine at Pane y Vino in San Pedro.  We had spent the better part of the two days together and had lots of time to talk while waiting.  If there is something Wolf and I can do it is talk, but at the same time we don’t always have quiet time anymore to do just that. We have either been running around or surrounded by family and friends or so tired that all we can do is smile at each other. 

 YAHOO – we have the books (and a glass of wine)

 

I moved from the Peace Center to my friend Myrna Castro’s house for Monday and Tuesday night.  I met Myrna and her daughters Sofia and Veronica when they came to the music festival back in 1999.  Her ex-husband, Luis Zumbado, is a great violinist and was playing in Monteverde that year and staying in the house for the musicians which I managed for a couple of years.  I’ve remained friends with them and try to visit at least once a year when in the big city.  Veronica and I went out Monday night to visit Sonsax, our friends the sexy-saxophonists, who were practicing at the university.  I hadn’t seen them for a couple of years.  Valerio, Jan, Pablo, Chopper & Manrique the percussionist are five great guys who have played around the world including the Montreal Jazz Festival, where I’ve gone to see them a couple of times.  When I first knew them back in the mid-nineties, they were young crazy too-good-looking-for-their-own-good musicians, but they are all maturing (or getting old as Jan said, not me) and now have wives, children and are all busy teaching when they aren’t playing their high energy brand of sax music. 

 

I also went to see Manuel Monestel again, the musical leader and mentor of Cantoamerica who I went dancing to last week. We shared some wine and some stories about the Caribbean community, which we both know and love. Made me want to go to Cahuita, the funky little town I’ve spent a lot of time in on the east coast. He was heading there the next day, so now I await some good gossip back. 

 

While we were in the city, we also talked with the Tico Times, who took the book to read and do a review and we will return for an interview in a week or so.  We talked to Marc and John at Seventh Street Books who will carry the book but it isn’t the kind that they distribute.  But they are going to be helpful in supplying a list of booksellers in the country where our book may fit in. I will head out on some roadtrips, peddling books to the stores I choose in places I want to go (and return to later).

 

When Beto arrived on Wednesday morning at the TSC office, we carefully loaded the books, along with a bunch of bedding materials, and triple wrapped everything in plastic and tarps.  It poured on us most of the way home but we felt pretty confident that the boxes would be okay.  As it turned out they weren’t totally.  When Beto and I unwrapped the boxes Thursday morning, the bottom four boxes had water damage – fortunately we only lost about 10 books to a bit of damage, and not so bad that we can’t give them as freebies to friends. But as Wolf said, those books traveled all that way from Montreal to Costa Rica on the sea and were dry, but a little 4 hour trip up the mountain to Monteverde couldn’t keep them that way.  I tell you, the moisture in this place would be to die for if you lived in the desert, but I’m back on that mantra again…beach, beach, beach… 

The dark skies over Monteverde

So now it is already Friday – I’ve written this in bits and starts.  Have been distributing books, making plans, and am truly heading to the beach tomorrow, then back to the big city.  Have some presentations lined up at the Reserve for the next week.  But I need some more sun and heat then Monteverde is willing to dish out right now.  However, one last night out at the new sushi restaurant in Santa Elena, oh so good – and a visit with our friend Marc Egger, multi-lingual guide extraordinaire, who is here from Sao Paolo, Brazil.  It’ll be a great night slurping sashimi. Soon I shall return, hopefully with sand in my shoes and solar energy stored in my skin.

 

July 2020
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