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Building a house in Costa Rica

So far, I think I’ve really fallen in love with Cosa Rica. Or maybe it’s the nature singing out at me from every corner; the way the chicadas, birds and crickets create a soundtrack to every single moment that’s just missing in Dubai. There’s a lot to be said for the way mother nature makes you feel – I guess it’s sort of bringing me back to reality in a way. And life here is so simple too, well, especially in this little town of San Ramon, where our host family live. They have a small house, with just one bathroom for the 5 of them and all the guests that filter in and out – bringing them just 12 dollars a day per person from the volunteer organisation I to i. We’re here to build a house.

Our host Mama works as a cleaner and also makes beautifully tacky art from used wine bottles – seriously, it’s stunning stuff, the kind of things you’d see in little country cottages on windowsills, adorned with a curled up cat. She coats them in coloured sand and sticks painted clay animals like parrots and toucans on the sides. She even gave us one last night after we expressed our interest. There’s a festival here at the moment – the San Ramon festival. The town is alive with music, dancing, bingo games, food and arts and craft stalls. We told Mama she should have a stall there for her bottles but she says it costs $300 for the two-week privilege. We all know they don’t have that much money.

Our host daddy works 3 jobs just to pay the bills and put rice and beans on the table. He comes in late at night in his fast food uniform looking worn out, but honestly, I have never known such a happy man! He lights up the room when he smiles and when he looks at his wife it’s so adorable, you just know he feels like the luckiest man alive. They’ve been married for 16 years and she’s about 10 years older than him. They dated for one day before they got married. ONE DAY. Can you imagine that? Imagine knowing that someone’s right for you after just one day – how much drama, hassle and heartbreak that would save! Or maybe life is so simple, so black and white here, they don’t need to spend hours over analysing emotions and feelings, pouring over text messages and reading between the lines of emails. Maybe love is love and like is like and that’s the end of that. They’ve got 3 kids who are all gorgeous, bright and happy so they must be doing something right, even if they have to work so hard and give up their home to volunteers, like me, who can’t speak a word of Spanish and just has to sit there, clogging up the armchair like a rich mute, tapping away at an expensive laptop.

I feel a bit funny about that, really… I think it’s inadequate, maybe a bit stupid? They’re such interesting people. I really want to talk to them instead of waiting for translations. I can tell she’s got a wicked sense of humour. The daughter, Veronica is 13 and really wants to talk to me too. She bought me some earrings yesterday from one of the festival stalls. I’d love to tell them all about Dubai and to hear about their own lives – we bought them a book about the city and they love it, they keep pouring over the photos of the glitzy buildings and asking us where we live. I’m not used to feeling like I can’t communicate,… it’s a really unsettling feeling that actually makes me feel a bit more grateful that I can write, even if it’s just in English. I’m going to have to learn Spanish,… get one of those audio lesson kits or something. It would be amazing to come back in a few years and talk to them properly.

The building project is a lot of fun – lifting, digging and generally getting filthy. Not too happy about that part – my manicure lasted two days, darling, and my hands don’t look too hot in gardening gloves. Nope. I just don’t think building’s for me. I don’t get along too well with mud… unless it’s part of a spa treatment. I definitely have a new found respect for Dubai’s labourers though. It’s a tough job standing out in that heat all day, letting the monotony drive you mad. Standing there sifting sand took me back to my days in the factory during university holidays, wiping the rims of pots of coleslaw, wandering as to the meaning of life. Or my life… more specifically.

Anyway, we only have a few more days left here and then it’s off to Nicaragua, where we’re heading to a place that looks like paradise. Little Corn island...Dubai, I wish you were here.

Posted: 09 September 2009

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Who is Rebecca Wicks? Read about her.
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