Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Simple Life, Part Deux

Cutie Pie and I once visited Costa Rica, and we were treated one day to a tour of the farm of a "very important man," a big landowner by the name of Don Pedro. The richest man in all of Costa Rica, mind you. The tour appeared on an official-looking, glossy brochure, which I fervently wish that I had saved. Because it was a totally classic marketing spin job targeted at the American mind. And being the Americans we are, we naturally had visions. Visions of touring a Costa Rican mansion, with manicured lawns and rolling vistas, and meeting some kind of Latin American Honcho and having a spot of tea with him. Turns out Don Pedro may have been the richest man in Costa Rica, but he had very few teeth, very many cows wandering in his front yard, and a rope belt around his waist in addition to his regular belt. Never figured that one out. His "estate" was apparently entirely hand-built by him - house, animal stalls, everything...nailed and tied-together wood planks with tin roofs. No windows - just cut-out holes in the walls. We were served lunch. And let me tell you, it was probably one of the best lunches I have ever eaten. They served homemade bread and cheese, coffee from his own beans and plantains from his own trees. It was delicious. We ate on an open-air porch. With the cows and horses looking on. Our food was served on sweet little china dishes. He and his family let us make conversation with them in our stumbling, ridiculous Spanish. His daughter picked flowers for my hair and made a big speech when she handed them to me. I didn't understand a word, so she could have been calling me a stupid, wretched American, but it sounded really warm and lovely and generous. We loved every minute of it. We ate many great meals in Costa Rica. All were simple. Fish, mixed vegetables, plantains, beer. It was jolting to come home. Everything suddenly seemed so Loud. So Big. So Fast. And so Overdone. The billboards on I-75 were Obnoxious, SCREAMINGINYOURFACE, whereas before my trip, I had barely noticed them. The portions when we went out to eat seemed big enough to feed entire families. What a waste of mediocre food, we thought. That feeling went away after a few days, but I was sad to see it go. It can't be helped - you are a product of your culture and you adapt to whatever your circumstances may be. But I do dream of that simple place now and again. It's the kind of place where you can hear your own thoughts, without someone or something trying to drown them out all the time. I could use more of that.

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