A few comments from Samara

Trip Start Sep 06, 2010
Trip End Apr 25, 2011

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Guanacaste,
Saturday, October 16, 2010

We are currently in the beach town of Samara on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. I haven┤t written for a while so will provide an update on some things related to Guatemala and Costa Rica before we head off to Ecuador.
Not sure I mentioned this before but when we first arrived at Proyecto Linguistico Guatemalteca in Quetzeltenango (aka Xela) we had a talk from a lady who now teaches at the local university. The topic was about the problems in Guatemala pertaining to justice, equality etc. This lady had been a compa˝era in the resistance in the mountains and volacanos of Guatemala for many years fighting with a group known as ORPA. Yes, many women fought alonside the compa˝eros. Her topic was about conditions prior to the peace accords prior to 1994.  At the time of the peace accords, there were 4 separate resistance movements fighting in the mountains. These four movements are joined together today and are now known as the UNRG -- one of the official polictical parties in Guatemala. In any case, at the end of the talk I asked if anything had changed since the accords --- her short answer was that not much had changed for Guatemalans in the last 500 years. 
Once the talk was finished I saw this lady heading straight for me and I thought, ok Bill, what have you done now. She started off speaking in Spanish and after one day of Spanish training I was having a bit of trouble following her, so I went to plan B. PlanB happended to be standing about 10 feet away talking to someone so I said, Julie, I need a  little help here. Julie came over and did some interpreting --- apparently this lady had been quite close to the ORPA leader named Rodrigo Asturias. Asturias was also know as Gaspar Ilom, a character from one of his father┤s novels (His father was Miguel Asturias a Guatemalan writer who one the Nobel Prize for Lit in the 30s). Accordng to the woman who gave the presentation, I was the spitting image of Rodrigo. I didn┤t give it much thought after that until we reached La Escuela de la Monta˝a --- the mountain school in a poor rural area of Guatemala. The three villages where the school is located, Fatima, San Jose and Santo Domingo,
were essentially some of the several villages established to reintegrate members of the resistance back into Guatemalan society after the peace accords of the 90s. When we arrived there it didn┤t take long until I noticed some people seemed to be staring at me a lot. A couple of the people who worked for the college even started calling me El Commandante or El Capitan. It was really quite humurous -- we all had a good laugh. The next time I got close to the internet I looked up Rodrigo Asturias. He died of natural causes in 2005 (a rarity for resistance leaders in Guatemala), after having helped in the formation of the UNRG. There aren┤t many pictures of these leaders (you can imagine why) but there is one of Asturias a couple of years before he died. There is a resemblance but when I showed it to Julie she said, Ęhow did a picture of your brother John get in there?  - so John, if you read this have a look on the internet.
I believe that Julie mentioned our little trip back to Guatemala city --- yep a two hour trip that took six. In any case, it gave me time to reflect upon the realities that are rural Guatemala. I won┤t go into it now but I am having a lot of trouble understanding (1) why people in Guatemala are taken in by those religious types that spout hellfire and brimstone (2) why there are so many mangy, beaten up starving dogs in Guatemala. (3) Why people simply back up to the side of a cliff beside the highway and dump garbage over into the canyons. 
I am sure there is a good explanation for all of these questions but I will need to do more digging.

Have been favorably impressed with the places we have visited in Costa Rica. We started out on the Carribean coast at Puerto Viejo and stayed in a lovely place owned by a Canadian woman from Quebec. This side of CR has a lot of Jamaicans (mostly Bob Marley wannabees). The beaches are great and the food and drink are good (however, if I hear one more rendition of ĘBuffalo SoldierĘ I will probably do some serious harm to someoneĘ.   
From P Viejo we went on a great trip up the canal that is just a few yards inland of the ocean --- through the Jungle to a place called Tortuguero (we saw huge - 200lb + tortoises making nests and laying eggs ---all in the middle of the night with infrared light only and NO photos --- no disturbing the turtles. It was an excellent trip. We also went on a canoe trip with our guide Ricardo the next day at 5:30 in the morning. We saw more birds and animals than  I thought possible. Which brings me to another point. In rural Guatemala one morning very early I was awakened by what I was sure was a new style of guard dog bred specially for latin american conditions. I knew that guard dogs are popular in Latin America but this one sounded especially scary. It is the type of sound that I have always associated with the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I asked the next morning and because there are so many dogs in these areas and they pick the mornings to bark and/or fight, the locals said that yes it could have been one of the guard dogs from the Finca (farm). I put it out of my mind, but when we got to Puero Viejo, CR I heard the sound again in the middle of the night. Still thinking it was some type of killer type guard dog, I put it out of my mind. 
When we finally got to Tortuguero I heard the same howl during the night and it wasn┤t till the next morning that I discovered the source of the sound. On our early morning canoe trip, Ricardo was pointing out crododiles, different types of Iguanas and many, many types of colorful birds. He also pointed out sloths, acrobatic spider monkeys, beautiful and agressive Cappuchin monkeys and finally rounding the bend he pointed up into the trees at 2 black blobs --- Ricardo informed us that they were howler monkeys and just to make the point gave a series of grunts. Well the two black blobs woke up and started to ┤HowlĘ ----- I had found my new breed of guard dog --- Howler monkeys. Even here in Costa Rica you hear them almost every night. I am beginning to love the sound even though at 4am it still sends a chill up my spine.

So, Julie and I are leaving for San Jose tomorrow. We both really like CR --- people are proud of the country (25% in parks and reserves)  and it is extemely clean (garbage wise) in comparison to Guat. I love both coasts and we have had good weather. I particularly like the inland region to the west of Lake Arenal ---- it is a bit drier and is more open and hilly than the forest areas of the coast. It also has a bit more of a Spanish feel to it --- lots of cattle and horses (quite a site for an Albertan to see herds of White Brahma cows in grass up to their bellies).  It almost looks like a region that could support a wine industry and reminds me a little of SW France. However I suspect that it is still too humid for large scale grape growing. 
Ok that is it for now --- could go on for quite a while but Julie is getting restless -- I think she needs a beer.

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Linda Andre on

Sounds llike you are both really enjoying yourselves. It's great to read your posts. Take care.

Caro on

Great text... Now I understand why Philip called you El Commandante on faceboko(I was away for a while).

I enjoyed CR as well.. and back in those years, we worked with Municipal officials (mainly in San José) to promote waste disposal. And.. not to mention that a Quebec company (Entreprises Berthier if I recall correctly) developed a tremendous project in El Pueblo. A long story for another time!


PS.. Julie being restless and wanting a beer?? no way!!! ;-)

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