Saturday, January 10, 2015

Champion Chickens and Old Friends

About 30 years ago, my host mom (Mariu) and dad (Luis) lived in the countryside for a year near their salt-production business.  During that time, they became close friends with their neighbors, and so now whenever they are out in the countryside, they stop to chat with their friends.  Which is how, a day or two after I arrived in Costa Rica, I found myself seated in the dirt-floor, corrugated tin home of Mariella and her husband.  Here's a photo of Mariu and her friend Mariella.

When we first arrived, Santiago (the almost-3-year-old grandson of my host parents) was super excited to see the chickens, chasing them around the yard yelling "¡Gallinas Campe√≥nas!" (Champion Chickens!), a phrase he'd heard on a TV commercial.  Chickens that crowed were especially big champions. 

While Papa Luis was keeping an eye out for Santiago, the rest of us sat around a shaded area created out of wooden pallets to chat.  I liked seeing how they used a hammock similar to a couch, with two kids sitting side-by-side with their feet on the ground.  Two boys, both around 9 or 10 years old, came to sit next to me, one of them smiling sweetly.  So, I did my best to chat with them.  They had taken English classes in school, and so their mother encouraged them to use it with me.  "Hello.  How are you?" they asked timidly.  Later, I asked them the colors of their clothes and different things around.

We left their home so we could go see some of the salt processing ponds, promising to return in a few minutes.  When we returned, Mariella had prepared coffee and a flatbread for us on her woodburning stove, and they were super delicioso.

Mariella's 80-year-old mother was also there when we returned, and so I asked her about her life and learned that she had given birth to 14 children in her home there.  "You are very strong!" I told her. 

After that, I struggled to think of conversation topics.  How do you build rappouert with people whose life experience is so different from your own?  When I asked the 11-year-old girl seated next to me what she liked to do for fun, and she said "Nada" (nothing), I remembered my favorite joke in Spanish (well, actually, the only joke that I was capable of telling in Spanish).

"What does a lazy fish do?" I asked the kids.  After letting them think a bit, I said "nada" (which means "swim" and also means "nothing").  The kids laughed, and I felt a glimmer of hope that maybe I can do this...hope that I'll be successful at making friends with people from the countryside and be able to do my Peace Corps work.   

Mariella has this beautiful plant in her yard, which is a mix of beautiful flowers and painful thorns, just like life.  I was super grateful to my host parents for giving me the opportunity to meet their friends and have this beautiful experience.

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