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Posts Tagged ‘Orosi’

Why do we imagine that it should be so different elsewhere? How much is similar, and how much is truly different? Is it the essence or the flavour that changes from place to place. I am leaving Orosi tomorrow, this village of about 5000-8000 where i have spent the past two weeks, where i have spent the majority of my time in costa rica. I am sad to go, yet it is time for me to leave, to branch out beyond the mountains that surround this place. I am also glad to go.

 How much of what i sense here is me, and how much is the place itself. And of the place, how much is the hostel where i stay, the people who stay and pass through, and how much of it is the town and the area in general? And of the town, how much is Orosi per se, how much is small town life in general, and how much is a costa rican mentality. The answer to all of those is of course a bit of each.

I have gotten to know orosi in my time here, and what initially seemed different and a tad foreign now seems much more familiar. At first i noticed the differences – the lush landscape that surrounds, While Orosi is a costa rican town, it is also a small town and thus has so many similarities to the small town life i have seen in the north. Yet it is also, in many ways, an ideal small town, one that works, and has what many towns now lack. It is what we imagine that they should be or were. Yet, it is a real place, with the plusses and the drawbacks of small town life. and of course, as an outsider, a visible foreigner, there is much that i do not see, but that also allows me to stand back and observe.

The landscape is different – the town is enclosed by lush green mountains, with fields of coffee, and unlike in the cities from which i came there is much green within – plants and trees in the yards, bananas, coffee, mandarins and more. But is that different in essence or in flavour than gardens of homes elsewhere? The side streets are of dirt, a few potholes where the rain collects, and the gullies that run down the sides to drain off the frequent and plentiful rain. The language is different, one i barely understand and the people look somewhat different and yes, i stand out as a foreigner – not only in my given physical characteristics – the colour of my hair and skin – but also in the manner that i hold myself and in the way that i dress. The women here dress differently – either in tight tank tops with breasts flowing over and painted on pants that leave nothing to the imagination  or in the opposite manner, with loose t-shirts untucked from baggier pants – the matrons. But being a small town, one that has some tourism but is not a tourist town, the outsiders are visible even if they look the same, for in small towns people know one another, stop to chat and to gossip. Families are related, and neighbours are close. In many ways it is an ideal small town – the way we imagine that they used to be, that they could be, if only.

And it is that closeness and that tightness that makes me love and hate the small town. It is a sense of familiarity, one that can be wonderful – and one that can suffocate. I like that the women in my favorite cafe, in the internet cafe, in the place where i but my fruit know me, but the guy at the other vegetable stand who tries to overcharge us gringos also knows me, and the gossipy, unfriendly chica in the grocery store does to. It is a place where all you do becomes known and visible.

And that closeness helps keep the town safe. I immediately noticed that the houses do not have bars on the windows like they do in Alujuela, Heredia, Cartago or San Jose. It is not that crime does not exist – two people had their bicycles stolen when they left them locked by the side of a path that led down to the river – but it is also a place where you feel secure following a trail alone down there, and feel secure enough to leave your bikes. It is a place where kids play outside, women and men chat on the street, many greet you with a buen dia and some look away.

It is a walkable town where people and dogs meander up and town the streets. they walk to the store and to the homes of their friends. It is in a grid pattern with houses packed closely together, but where each has a yard or a courtyard of sorts. While homes exist on the way out of town, and a few roads go up the hills, there is not sprawl. A bright blue pedestrian suspension bridge connects orosi with the smaller pueblas across the river – each with a small store, and an independent existence. But all is linked here. And it is safe to walk, not only in terms of crime, but with traffic – the main street is not too busy, sidewalks start and stop abruptly, and people walk alongside the main road out of town. there are no shoulders but pedestrians are common.  Buses run frequently to the cities. Many homes have a single car, locked away inside the gates. There is not a traffic light for miles, and i do not believe there are stop signs at all (anyways they seem to be optional in this country)

The stores are different, and many people still shop daily – or perhaps it is only i. There are three bakeries – two regular selling the long white baquettes, which people buy daily and pastries. One is a chain, Musiami, and the independent one sells big sweet breads. There are meat stores, poultry stores and vegetable stores along with 2 dimly lit small grocery stores. Locals shop here but go to the city for the hypermas – the large groceries that are there. international chains have not made it here yet, and most business establishments are of the mom and pop variety. There are a few small restaurants and two small bars. the town itself is not pretty but it is quaint.

And while many work in town, at the small shops, in construction, at the coffee fincas or processor, many need to commute to the cities – Cartago or beyond to San Jose  for work and for entertainment. The town rises early, not only because it is the best time of the day, but because the commute is long. Buses run every 15 min from 445 – 815 am, and then every half hour. And the buses can be crowded and i encounter teenagers on cell phones or listening to iPods and a girl doing her makeup on the bus.  The bakeries open between 5-6, the grocery store at 7 and even the bank at 830. this internet cafe (one of 3) does not open until 9. When i am out walking before 7, i encounter groups of women out walking the short loop over the river for exercise and some men cycling the perimeter of the valley. And although many leave for the day, life continues within, with people shopping, walking, taking the kids to school and more.

At the center of town sits a soccer field where the parque central should be. It lies in front of the historic church,  the main restaurants faces it, and the taxi stand abuts it. Still it lacks a central place to just be, that square that is at the heart of many latin american cities and towns, and that i miss. A large park with some paths and picnic tables is several miles away overlooking  the valley below – still you must drive or bus or bike the narrow twisting uphill road to get there. The two balarios (thermal water – ie warm spring – swimming pools have places to sit, but they are enclosed and charge admission. A national part is about 12 km down the road, but there is little in town. While the river abuts the town but is not built up. The few poorer homes sit there (im certain that it floods) and some natural pools where people swim are out-of-town a bit, undeveloped.   

The town has few rich or poor – though the peublos across the way seem simpler, and a few large finca homes sit on the hills. It is large enough to have the few town drunks and down and outs, but small enough that all know who they are and let them be. Most seems middle class, a different type of middle class, but still middle – in town during the day we see the workers and the moms and some students in their time off and it seems more like a stable working class but i know there is more. 

And little happens here like in many small towns. Life seems simple and all about living it and getting on. And despite the dress of the women, there is a conservatism of sorts so it seems. Families are of most importance, and stability is prime. But how much of that is here, is small towns in general or the Tican mentality in general, one which prides itself on stability and the pura vida – the good life.

This place is special, i have written about the lushness of the land, but it is also ordinary in that all live their daily lives. The culture is similar and different, and it has what in many ways we in the north lack. it is a viable small town in a beautiful location.

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Yesterday, i felt something gushing up inside, something that wanted to come out and explode, the nattering in my head coming to fruit, something hidden beneath the exterior that gushed with life. I wondered how much of it was the place – this land where the earth often trembles beneath, shaking at the core and shaking that which lies above – knocking down what has been built up, cracking both foundations and walls. And it is also a land of volcanos that stand tall in the sky, the peaks far above the villages and cities below. While many lay dormant, others are awake, some calm with small emissions of smoke and gas, and one with lava flowing down. But they are not dead, and can explode at any time – explode in order to release the pressure that lay within, the pressure that has built up over time, and that which stirs inside. The pressure that is invisible to those that look on from the outside.

And i wonder, if that is what i sense in this place – something deeper, hidden beneath the surface of outward smiles that turn upside down when eyes are not upon them. A sadness or discontent that lay beneath the beautiful facade of luscious green mountains, flowing streams, and flowers. Is that what i feel?

I awake in the morning, and the pressure that has been building inside, begins to flow outwards and release itself – The monthly flow that will relieve the edgyness inside. And is it that edgyness that i project outwards and draw into myself, and create a world around that looks like that? I read my daily horoscope and it warns of this feeling, not for only me, but for those born under my sign, so i know i am not alone. And i hear the grumblings from others too.

I see it in the girls who left their homestays and came to the hostel. The depression that lurked under the smiles of the mothers and the families chased them away. I see it in the teacher who checks the time all too often and would rather be somewhere else. It is in the woman who works at the hostel and never smiles and gives off the feeling that you are in her way and it is in the hostel kitchen – in the cracked plates and bowls.  i understood when the dutch girls complained about the uncomfortable beds and the musty smell in the room, for i had been feeling that but did not want to admit it, and the grumbling of many continues and continues. And all grumble about the rain and lack of sun, and then the heat when it comes searing down, and the way it disappears at night and it becomes too cold.

 Do i pick up on those rumblings and grumblings and further them? I believe i do. I get caught in the matrix and get sucked in. I am not strong enough to change its direction for i see the reasons why others grumble. It is contagious and it spreads, and when i see it i amplify it for i am stronger than i know. And that is not good.

But one cannot deny what is there. On cannot pretend that the plates are not cracked or that the mattress is thin. One cannot see a smile when one is not there. But can i ignore it all – pretend that it is just not there? Or maybe the key is to acknowledge what lay below, the underside of it all, but still to look to the mountains and the streams. To live with the fact that there is something more, and that all may come crashing down and that all is not as stable or beautiful as it appears on the surface. Still one must continue to build…to build as the towns and cities of this country and of this thin strip of active land that is but narrow protrusion between that waters have been rebuilt many times. And will be rebuilt again. And it is also to remember that it is because of the grey skies that hang above, and the rain that pours or trickles down, that there is so much green and that the land is so lush. This beauty would not exist without the rain, and it is the rain that makes us grow, the volcanic ash that provides a fertile soil, and the shaking of the land that reminds us that the time is now, and that we can rebuild. Still, i feel that something may give way.

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I have been in Orosi for a few days now, and the place seems different. It is not only that the temperature has periodically soared, that a few patches of blue sky have appeared, or that the rain has stopped (sometimes), but that my relation to the place has changed. Some of it has become familiar.

I know the main street. I have a favorite store where i buy my fruits for my breakfast and veggies for dinner on a daily basis. The woman is starting to know me. They are helpful. she shows me the proper was to rip a banana and a plantain from their stems, and advises me on which are which of the many varieties that hung from the ceiling and told me which plantains are best for frying. She helped my take down the pineapple last night and let me know which of the greenish oranges are sweet for juice and which are sour for salads. And i know they charge a fair price for these and the papayas, potatoes, carrots, beets and the other veggies whose names i do not know.

I think i have a favorite soda – the mom and pop restaurants where food is cheap. I like the one beside the grocery store, a simple place, mainly a mans place but i see some women there, a lunch counter and two picnic tables – more outside than in. The Costa Rican version of a simple diner. I get a casado – meat or chicken or fish, rice, beans, a cabbage salad and another side – often spaghetti, and a drink – a aqua de fruta – for lunch if i eat out. I return again and again to the same bakery for the excellent pastries (my weakness) but i keep telling myself i should walk down the street to another to see if the bread – a white baguette – is any better.

I was going to this morning, but some people from the school were on the other side of the street waiting for the bus. I join them, and ride up the mountain to a park – el mirador – that provides a wonderful view of the valley below – of Orosi, of the lake, of the other town of Cachi. It has picnic tables on a grassy lawn with trees. They had lunch, and i tried a new fruit, one with a gummy centre that you slurp seeds and all. I will go back there. I have ventured out of the town centre a few times – a walk down the road in the other direction by myself the other day, near to the river, and by a high school, and then yesterday, with Sonya,  up the hills for another view.  A hot morning, we walk up and up and up, an unpaved road with houses by a ¨lake – a pond really¨, cross a low stream on a precarious footbridge – cars drive through the shallow water, and up to a farm or a holiday center, where you can fish for trout. My world expands beyond the village. Rain holds off until afternoon.

And my world expands beyond myself, have met others, interact, am social a bit. Find time to write but not enough, and time to study. I make patterns within in order to venture without – and the more i venture without, the more the patterns within become transformed, as the unfamiliar becomes familiar.

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The town or village of Orosi seems worlds away from San Jose or the cities that surround its perimeter, although it is less than 40 miles from the city itself. It is another world altogether

The mountains that surround the valley, and the clouds that linger above act like a container holding the energy in. It is a place where both people and the town dogs stroll down the middle of the streets, stopping and greeting along the way. it is a place where nothing much seems to be in any sense of a hurry. It is worlds away from the city and i feel different here. On Sunday after a first communion or confirmation at the old church girls in fancy white dresses and boys in their new suits walked through town on their way home with their families.

I fall asleep listening to the crickets or something that sounds like them, rain a bit on the tin roof, the occasional barking of dogs, and wake up to the birds, the rooster who does not know when to stop, church bells on a sunday morn, a dog barking, a voice outside, eventually a car and then happy sounds as the pools at the springs next door come to life with children playing.

The sky is grey, a bit of blue this morning which raised the mood. The damp air turns to mist to drizzle to rain and back again, moisture is contained in all. Water flows through the drainage gullies beside the roads , and puddles abound on those roads that are unpaved. All is green and lush, and the sky is grey. The tops of mountains that surround come in and out of view, shrouded by the clouds. I am told that the tallest volcano in the country is near, and for the moment, i will just have to believe it. The rainy season is coming to an end, and the air hangs heavy. The rain permeates all, a dampness to all i touch and to the air i breathe.

The valley acts like a container, holding the energy in. From the centre of town you can not see out, beyond the lush mountains that surround. The sky on Sunday was heavy, holding all in with a solid mass of grey above. And in the rain, i become sluggish myself, not venturing beyond the core of the town or often the hostel where i stay. I feel like i am in a fishbowl of green, being observed by all around – an outsider, a solo gringo woman, some say hi and others look away.

I know it is not as isolated and contained as it appears. There is movement here, but it is calm and seems at peace. I am here, outsiders come and go, to visit, to`study spanish, but i do not believe overwhelm the place (and i sense mixed feelings about our presence). The green bus goes through town throughout the day, taking people in and out the town to Cartago, a city and the world beyond. Yet, the cities seem a world away.

I write this on my first full day here, and i feel contained and slow.

(I will upload photos eventually – but this is a small town with old computers and slow connections)

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I write this from Orosi, a small Costa Rican town in narrow valley of shapely green mountains beneath textured grey sky. A town where i will write about in the following week, as this is where i will remain for a week. Will have time to get to know it and to be embraced in its feel.

It is a small walkable town of  about 5000 people so i read. It has a main street, a language school which is why i am here, a few stores, restos, warm bathing pools, a historic church, and more i am sure. It also has a calmer way of life which i notice as i stroll up and down the main street, and down the middle of some side streets, with few cars and still unpaved. The air is rich and it is green.

And how far away this morning seems (never mind yesterday afternoon or last week). This morning i awoke in Alajuela, sun shining bright, listening to another snore. went out in the early morn as town was waking up, most shops still closed, stands setting up, a few milling about, trucks unloading  and it was hot. I went out later, to shop a bit, the market getting busy on a Saturday and traffic picking up. I looked for a shop i had spotted the other day, but they fell into a blur. which one of the many that look all the same was it. I left the hostel, walked a last time on now familiar streets got onto the bus to San Jose. I left the now familiar behind.

The bus, on the autopista, i enter another zone. Going into San Jose, a traffic jam, another, though this time i had a vague idea of where i was. Off the bus, a busy pedestrian mall full of people and stores, bigger shops and a few more international chains that in Alajuela. The main square by the museum, it seems alive, i think i might like to stay for a few days next time i pass through. down another street i walk, away from the center and onto another bus. Zone transition time. Bus goes out of town in other direction, through traffic, and then out to autopista, past some shanties on the way.

Into Cartago, coming in it looks provincial as guidebooks say. Fields, then homes, then center, pass through quickly, another zone. Off the bus, near las Ruinas, the square, a panderia, a line of buses, the ruins to check out, the centre of this town, try to cross the avenue with others and traffic does not stop. no one know where my next bus is. i eat and smoke, and walk a few blocks. Another zone, one which i will visit more when i pass through again.

Find the bus, pull out on secondary road, through Paraiso, past a mall and a university, down semi-rural roads, all new. Then we descend – from the top look at town on valley floor, a river, a magical walls of green as we twist on down, shade grown coffee, green beneath a canopy of green, another zone, and into down, main road, a church, square, soccer field, the store where i am to get off, another zone – one i will explore.

Into the hostel where i will stay – that a zone in itself.

As i pass through many places, most new to me, some barely familiar,  time shifts differently that if i had stood still. It becomes a bit of a blur for i have passed through much in such little time – a blur. And in that time i have also passed through many versions of me – concerns of this morning now disappeared, intense sensations forgotten. In motion time and space blur and all seems more rapid.

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