Gallen: Rainy Days in Costa Rica | Pinhead Letters From the Field
by Nikki Gallen
Sep 19, 2007 | 172 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rainforest has a very literal translation, particularly in the months between May and November. And I am here, in the rainforest of Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, smack in the middle of this time frame. Days that are sunny the whole way through are lacking and it is commonplace for it to rain so hard that rivers flood and colossal, deeply rooted trees snap in half. It can rain over eight centimeters in one day! And thus stems the suitable name “rainy season.” In tandem with the infamous rain, comes 98 percent humidity, moldy clothes and most definitely no tan.

Through the thunder I hear the deep resonance of the conch shell, signaling 6:30 a.m., and breakfast time. Fortunately, I am already awake, woken peacefully by the massive roars of the howler monkeys hours earlier. The power behind this “howl” is an amazing feat considering their size. No larger than a small dog, but the noise could easily come from the chest of a large gorilla; even a lion seems a more suitable animal to make such a noise.

I stare out of my mosquito net and take it all in. I want the time to slow, so I can absorb every detail, every facet of each sense that is affected, heightened; consciously or not. Slow, so I can record these details and create a memory; one so defined that at any time it is there to go back to. I find myself constantly trying to manipulate the time; trying to lasso and direct the intangible. Whether I am trying to impede its path in hopes of preserving a fraction of it, or whether I am trying to speed it up, fast-forward to the point where I am out of the pounding rain and ankle deep mud – it does not vary. Nonetheless, I continue to log the sensations.

I take a deep breath in through my nose and with the air, I breathe in an array of smells, a range I have come to call “jungle rot.” Every odor can appropriately fit under this title. The sludge, the decomposing trees, the smell of the animals: jungle rot encompasses them all. I close my eyes and listen to the birds and the frogs and the insects – chirping bleeping buzzing. You become accustomed to the constant noise. Even in the dead of night (what an oxymoron) the sound is unbroken.

Silence is only to be imagined, and it becomes comfortable to be caught in the middle of the chaos. It is not a comfort that comes with one’s home, however, a strange sense of serenity to be lost amidst it all. But, in this world of apparent disarray, there is obscured stability, and everything is like clockwork.

I open my eyes and can only see the obvious: dense green, a wild and mysterious green. A towering green of vines and trees of all species. The earth surrounds and enfolds me, holds me close. I feel incorporated but isolated, composed but excited, motivated but motiveless. I feel everything at once, and I try to slow it down.

My memory is filed and I peel myself off of my damp sheets, brush my teeth and slip on my rubber boots. Ah, I love my Wellies! Trudging over to breakfast, the air is fresh and the heat is fortunately still on its lengthy journey from the sun. Breakfast is “Gallo Pinto,” a type of rice and beans – of course – and as I eat, I am puzzled by the translation of its name: painted rooster.

Although at this point I can translate gallo pinto, my Spanish is laughable. Being in a Spanish speaking country and knowing only “un poco Español,” I have become captivated by language. Speech and expression are essential. Interaction and exchange of ideas are difficult when there is no way of conveying the information from person to person, but the idea I find most interesting is that, aside from the all-helpful point of a finger, laughter is the only universal communication. Humor is something shared by everyone and can connect even the most unfamiliar people.

With this unfamiliarity comes the need to adapt. The need to modify your ways of communication. The need to become accustomed with the new culture, new food, new climate, new speed; the need to fit yourself into the already carved path. To adjust to everything is exhausting because everything is always changing. You make a plan, you change the plan, you set a time, you change the time; nothing is ever set in stone. Everybody just does something and waits to see what happens. To say you go with the flow would be an understatement. The constant adjustments are a way of life.

With only one week left, I am trying to absorb as much as possible, but it is hard to think that there is any room left. I am sad to be leaving the beauty and excitement of my surroundings, the place I have flipped my life around for and have finally found the rhythm, and my home for the past two months, but it would be a lie to say I was not looking forward to returning to the other most beautiful place in the world!

I am eager to see how I have changed and what I have taken out of my time spent here. I am excited to see what comes next. I will be seeing you soon!

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