Friday, 19 February 2016

Mum's pearls, naughty niños and a change of plan....

Mum's snoring has taken on a life of it's own, and although I'm getting used to the pattern (tiny guinea-pig squeaks and snuffles building up to a deafening crescendo and then back again), it still renders the alarm redundant as I've always been up way before dawn as a result. The local cockerel seems miffed that she's nabbed his job of waking up the neighbourhood, and the two go head-to-head in a daily battle that sees me gritting my teeth and sticking my head under the wafer-thin excuse for a pillow. I'm tempted to suffocate her with it. Sometimes it's so loud that Andy wakes up next door and we both laugh aloud in sheer disbelief...but still she snores on. Lord have mercy!

Let me tell you about another of De Mama's age-old habits - I'm sure she won't mind, as it's a universally-acknowledged truth that Mum Knows Best. Unless it's my mum. De Mama has what we affectionately call her "Pearls Of Wisdom." Basically give her a topic, any topic you like, and she will trot out a series of factoids about said topic, which may or may not be true (although she genuinely believes they are). 

Now this might have worked when my little sister Karen and I were kids, but as soon as I went to secondary school (which was a grammar, doncha know) and started to actually KNOW stuff, I started to disprove her tales. The loss of power drove her insane, it was like Popeye running out of spinach. Suddenly she didn't have that awe-inspiring control any more. She could pick up the phone and pretend to call Bernados to come and take us away when we were playing up and we'd know there was just a dial tone at the end of the phone, whereas previously we'd be clinging onto her legs bawling and begging for forgiveness in case the child-catcher really was on his way. 

I can give you a more recent example of one of her "pearls."

The three of us were on the plane on that fateful journey to Mexico, playing Who Wants To Be a Millionaire on Andy's in-flight entertainment screen to while away the hours. We get the question "which mountain caused the most problems for the EC?" I can't remember all the options, but I think it was Snowden, Everest, Butter Mountain and one other. Anyway, we get it wrong, and when the answer's revealed Mum claims to have known it was Butter Mountain all along. "Well it's obviously Butter Mountain....cos they kept slipping off....." 
Well that was it, we were literally crying with laughter at another of De Mama's gems, so much so that people were twisting in their seats to see what was so funny. Good ole Mum, always good value!

The breakfast of rice and black beans is wearing a bit thin now, as is our Spanglish vocab, so we make appropriate approving noises instead and then set off for the project. We spend another day separated in our various groups, and have settled down now that we know the routine, which is haphazard at best, but a routine all the same. 

For instance, mum knows that at 9.30am she has the task of trying to settle the babies for a sleep, and that just as she's got the last one down the first will start screaming and set all the others off again. I can hear their screams coming through the thin partition wall, where I am attempting to untangle the mass of fighting limbs, remove yoghurt matted into hair and stop the kids crayoning on the walls. 

Today it's one of the kid's birthdays so we have a piñata and cake. One of the local helpers hands me a plate of cake, and I'm just tucking into it when I realise it's intended for the children, and the other helpers are breaking it up and dropping bits into their open mouths, which reminds me of a nest of hungry baby birds. Sighing, I follow suit; I was looking forward to that, having existed mostly on rice, beans and fruit for almost a week now. 

The children push the boundaries continuously, always trying to see what they can get away with. I find their mischievous ways endearing, exhausting and maddening all at the same time. Everyone said before I came that I'd want to bring them all back with me, but actually I can safety say the only baby I'd love to take home is Lola - seeing her sausage-shaped self bobbing about in the yard melts my heart like no snotty bambino ever could. My child-yearning years are well and truly over. I think. 

We confessed to Nancy the host mum that we'd bunked our Spanish lesson, so she offers to take us on a proper Costa Rican's eye view tour of the city instead of our version, which mostly involves a few pigeon steps then into another bar. We're true Brits, after all, it's in our blood. 

Her tour takes us to the Catholic Church, the Cathedral (where we sit uncomfortably whilst she prays and makes the sign of the cross), the National Theatre, Post Office, the indoor markets and various other landmarks. The bus journey there was eventful - the train lines here run across the main streets at all angles and the tracks are totally unnoticeable.....that is until a train blasts it's horn and the packed bus swerves at the last minute to miss it. We are all thrown forward and it's terrifying - how the hell can trains and regular traffic collide like that? Loco!

We pass by the hotel El Presidente, which I'd previously booked whilst back in the UK for 2 nights following the homestay. We make the spilt-second decision to nip in and cancel our booking on Nancy's recommendation : although it's a decent hotel we've had enough of the city smog and hectic lifestyle, and have opted instead to travel onwards in the direction of Tortuguero, which has a National Park and beach which is home to the turtles. 

One more day at the project before we go in search of the diverse flora and fauna (and of course our beloved sloths) for which Costa Rica is famous...


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