Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Monkey On My Head

The boat ride through the mangroves today was awesome. It seemed, potentially, a fated mission, the van that came to pick us up having gotten stuck in the muck well below our house. Finally having arrived at the little covered boat, the guide and his assistant seemed unable to get the motor started. Impatient New Yorkers that we are, we weren't as relaxed as they seemed to be, these mellow Costa Ricans, but we held our tongues and our reward was final movement down the murky estuary, spotting in the reeds a variety of egrets, crabs, kingfishers and, even, a crocodile.

We had been promised that monkeys would play with us on our boat and the promise was kept. Capuchin monkeys leapt from the trees onto the tin roof of our boat and in at us, searching for the bits of banana the guide carried in his hand, gave to us to feed the hungry happy monkeys. We took turns, those of us that wanted to, starting with Eli, sitting with the monkeys on our head, on our shoulders. I was ready to take one home. They licked their fingers from the banana mush we fed them. They seemed so much like us. I think, though, they are happier here than in Brooklyn, jumping from tree to tree.

The boat went on after the monkeys had receded into the trees, continuing down a narrow path where we followed the ringed kingfisher through the trees, spotted so many red-legged crabs on the mud walls of the narrow channel. The kids were gripped, taking pictures, looking through binoculars, amazed at nature in all its glory. It was quite the show.

We finished up and were treated to another typical Costa Rican lunch of rice and beans and a protein of one's choice. It was only noon but we needed our siesta. Arriving back at home, there were a variety of workers gardening around the pool. We felt bad, the Ugly Americans at play. My sister-in-law spoke to them, offered them drinks and found out they work seven days a week for very little pay. One of them turns 70 tomorrow, works still to keep himself and his family fed. There is no government safety net here, it will be hard for him to get any social

It was a bit of a wake-up call, the harsh reality of what it's really like in a place that, while on vacation, seems blissful and easy. I wished a gold star would help. Maybe the beer did, I don't know.

We went and bought some things at an open-air market, some trinkets, some souvenirs, and we barely haggled. It seemed disgusting somehow to make people offer their hand-made goods for less when so many who have done so little are able to command more. I happily snapped up some local jewelry and t-shirts and such as gifts, buoying the economy as I did. A little green goes a long way toward assuaging guilt.

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