Last Thursday, the Badgetts and Mo and Ryan and I all took off for Ginnee and Phil Hancock’s home out in the boonies. I mean OUT in the BOONIES. The Badgetts brought an extra suitcase with clothes and Christmas presents for the Cabecar [kah-BECK-are] indigenous tribe. We’d all been invited to spend a couple of days with Ginnee and Phil, then attend the annual Christmas party for the Indians. Who could pass up such an interesting invitation!??
Interesting doesn’t begin to cover it. While I’d spoken and emailed Ginnee, we’d never met. Ginnee and Phil, they’s what we call back in KY "good people." They are among the incredibly generous dedicated people who’ve made Costa Rica home. There are, thankfully, so many worker bees volunteering time and energy, donating food and clothing, fund-raising. But Ginnee and Phil, like Barry, Nanci, Evangeline and Gail, are leaders. The glue. The force. Without them digging in, the rest of us wouldn’t know where to start.
The Hancocks spent two years looking for their perfect retirement haven in Costa Rica. They found it outside a small – like 10 houses and a pulperia [pool-pah-REE-ah, tiny store, usually in a home] – town of Esperanza. The most hopeful thing about Esperanza is its name. The Hancocks hope to change that over time, to bring a little prosperity back to Esperanza. But that’s down the road.
Since they moved here a year ago, while they plan their earth bag home, they rent a huge house outside Tuis, outside Turrialba, outside Cartago. Two hours from us, the drive is almost all highway until about a mile away. Then it’s dusty goat track.
When we arrived, we met the five other very interesting people with whom we would spend the next two days.
There was Visma from Brazil and Sharon from Uganda, both attending Earth University, learning agriculture so they can go back and teach their people to feed themselves.
The young and lovely Helen Thompson from London (sitting with Ginnee above) was there. She’s an intern at A.M. Costa Rica and just wrote this lovely article about the trip. Plus Lucy, Ginnee’s good friend, and Lucy’s niece Joann. That’s in addition to the four Badgett’s and the three of us and Ginnee and Phil. And Jack, their gentle giant Rottweiler. I mean that house is BIG. We ate great food (pix here), talked until way after dark, then climbed into wonderfully comfortable beds.
Six am Friday,
we took off to meet up with Daniel (in the middle) and Hector (smiling, always smiling) who run Voz que Clama Misión and organize this shindig. There, we’ll load up the flat bed truck with donations and food, then continue on to Quetzal [KETZ-all] where we would meet and party with the Cabecar.
Hector and Daniel are tico. Young, handsome, smart, energetic, love their country, obviously love their fellow human being. Whatever power possesses them to continue their mission in the face of insurmountable odds, I have yet to touch even the outer edges of this faith. It is a Christian mission, they are called by God. They would have to be.
Hector and Daniel take in the mentally ill and challenged among us no one else will. They’ve rescued two young men from their families. One fell out of a tree as a boy and broke his spine. So his family put him out to die. When he didn’t die, they beat him hoping he’d die. Nice. Hector and Daniel give him a home.
Another young man was born with cerebral palsy. His family put him on their hot tin roof to die, refused to feed him. His mom snuck him food, so they were both banished. Voz que Clama gives them a home. A young schizophrenic woman has a home at the Misión. A life most of us can’t imagine facing, these guys dive into with love and courage and live it. Words can’t touch this.
It’s about a 40 minute drive to the mission (photos here) and we find at least 25 people there, all of them volunteers, many students at Hector and Daniel’s Spanish language immersion school. I discover that almost all of the students are repeat visitors who come every year just to attend this party. I’m impressed.
We load ’em up and head ’em out. Ginnee has a torn rotator cuff and can’t shift so I’m driving her Rodeo. Besides, it’s bigger than our Rav4 so fits more people and stuff.
Our caravan of 7 autos, including the lead truck with the volunteers standing in it and a flat bed loaded down with donations, food, and people, leaves the Misión. In about 20 minutes, we turn onto a dirt road. For the next three hours, I’m in first gear. That’s how bad the road is. We ford a shallow part of a river. We drive over bridges that make the Oh Shit and the Oh My God bridges look sane. Almost. We drive up, up, sometimes straight up. Sometimes straight down. I am concentrating hard. My boys are in different trucks up ahead. I figure God won’t let them both go over the edge so at least I’ll be left with one…
Finally we arrive at the town of Quetzal. I have no idea where this is. I was in a bookstore yesterday, looked at all the maps, asked the clerk who googled it and nobody could find it. I don’t even know which direction we were driving when we left Tuis… unless up is a direction. On the map above, you see that big empty space to the southeast of Esperanza? I’m pretty sure we are in there somewhere.
When we arrive, at least a hundred Cabecar Indians are waiting for us. Some of them live right there around Quetzal. You can tell these locals from the Indians who live on the reservation because the locals’ faces tended to be livelier and, for the most part, they weren’t wearing muddy boots.
Here’s the unbelievable thing. The rest of the Indians walked down from the reservation in the mountains. This is an 8-hour walk. If you are a fit strong adult with no children, you can do it in five, weather permitting. But there are plenty of kids here… They left home around 3am and walked down the mountain for eight hours to come to this party. Which will only last a couple of hours because they have to leave before dark to walk the eight hours home. Today.
This is the hike Ginnee blogged about a couple of months ago. The hike that includes sitting in a basket and pulling yourself over a wide raging river. This is no walk in the park.
Regardless, everyone enjoyed the party, the piñata, the candy and the food. You can see all the photos here. The majority of the time was spent handing out clothes and presents for the kids.
Which is something else: these guys are all going to walk 8 hours home carrying huge bags of clothes. Plus we brought ten or so sheets of tin roofing material – each at least 12′ long, 4′ wide. How they are going to manage this, I can’t imagine. But they were eager to have it. Where there’s a will…
As we all headed home in our different directions, it started to rain a bit. It rains about 300" a year there, waaaaaay more than in Escazú. I wonder about them walking in the rain going home, but if there’s any concern about it, you don’t see it on their faces.
There is so much more to say, I learned so much in my three days there. Ginnee is a walking encyclopedia on the Cabecar Indians, on the Voz que Clama (which loosely means voice that claims – what a perfect name) Misión, on organic farming, on sustainable living… Phil is a nurseryman so their farm is already producing organic foods, and is GORGEOUS. They are dreaming of an intentional community in the neighborhood of ten families.
That’s the way to live in Costa Rica – I know so many people here who either live this dream or dream it, too. I don’t know if I could live in the rain forest, but I would love to live with them for a year and document their progress. It is a fascinating project. They are fascinating people… good people.
But right now, I have to stop writing and start watching. The roars, whistles, pop pop pops, pounding and boom boom booms of Christmas Eve fireworks have started… Just like last year: 9pm start on the dot… I expect it will end around one. Unlike last year, it seems they are all coming from the neighbor directly behind me. Nice and loud. Hopefully he’ll run out before, oh, say, eleven. I’ll keep you posted.