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.
Feliz Navidad, Sara. I enjoyed your latest posts. I especially enjoyed learning more about the Voz que Clama mission and am going to learn more about their CISA school. Did I mention that I’m planning (or at least seriously hoping) to get to CR in 2008 to do a couple of weeks of intensive Spanish school? I’d been leaning towards Intercultura or maybe CRLA, somewhat because I think I’d prefer those closer-to-San Jose locations, but the work that Daniel & Hector are doing in Turrialba sounds so intriguing that I’d love to see it. I also enjoyed your photos of their big Christmas party.
However, I can NOT comprehend a Santa piñata! All those years of being indoctrinated in getting on Santa’s “nice” list and staying off the “naughty” list. I just can’t see how whacking the stuffing out of Santa-in-effigy could possibly be good for staying on Santa’s good side!
Hi Chuck – thank you for reading and enjoying! I think if you are going to spend two weeks in a Spanish school, you could easily be outside San José – you just won’t have very much time off! There is so much to see out there, too. Cartago has a rich history and one of the most beautiful churches. Ginnee and Phil are a rich treasure of information and local knowledge… I just don’t think you could go wrong… I think you have weekends off to do a little traveling anyway – you could still see Arenal and the La Paz waterfall gardens, my two favorite places.
Santa doesn’t have to know about the whole piñata thing… right?
This is so touching, informative, and well-written. I trust you are compiling some of your posts into a book. And absolutely if you really do go spend a year with Ginnee and Phil, please keep a diary and then publish it.
I have corresponded with Ginnee but not yet met her, and reading this makes me realize (again) that I really do need to meet them both.
You are a blessing,
Thank you, David. I’m going right now to remind Hal… yes, go meet Ginnee and Phil! I was wondering where you are in relation to them – looks like not too far. Can’t wait to see your place, too – soon!
> Santa doesn’t have to know about the whole piñata thing… right?
Well, according to my best Santa-ology, “He KNOWS if you’ve been bad or good…” And you never know, he might be reading this blog too (and viewing your photos)–like many of us, checking out CR as a possible retirement spot. I mean, the North Pole has got to be getting a bit old at his age….
P.S. Thanks for the advice on language school. Definitely worth considering!
Well I’m going to ask questions that are going to sound SO Bourgeoisie, I’m too embarrassed to sign my name … and I don’t embarrass easily.
I just sat through three slow slide shows, viewing every picture you flicker’d on this post. First question disclosing my spoilt by birth status: whyever can’t Some kind of accommodation be made so these folks don’t have to walk 16 hours in ONE day??? Can’t there be some kind of arrangement facilitated so they can sleep overnight before trekking back home? Good lord almighty!
Second question from a fat girl who is fat by abundance, (or because I’m holding onto issues, but that’s another forum): I noticed many distended tummies … Sally are those distensions from malnourishment? Or am I seeing what constitutes a unique Tico body constitution? (Am really embarrassed now.)
Suddenly, my house is filled with More Things There Is Room In My Suitcase for.
Oh, don’t be embarrassed… we all ask those questions. It is my understanding (and I’m researching this now) that the Costa Rican government pushed these tribes (there are 8 indigenous tribes) up into the mountains where they are not able to farm for themselves. The indigenous each speak their own language and they are darker skinned than ticos. It has all the markings of a race issue, like NA putting Indians on reservations in the most unfriendly climates. If this government really wanted to help, they would give them land a little closer down the mountain that was farm-able… I really know so little about it and information here is hard to come by, but I’m on it.
Ginnee and Phil hope to help them plant crops that can be sold that will grow where they are. Working on helping them sustain themselves… you can only helicopter rice and beans in there for so many years – they will die off.
A few of those kids look like they have parasites which can make their bellies extended. The mission takes medicines to them also… If they lived somewhere accessible, they could have regular access to medical care.
I’m talking off the top of my head based on very little information really, but this is what I can figure out from what I’ve heard so far. I’m working on more info. By the time you get here with your socks (which they need – it’s cold up there!) I will hopefully know more.
We can’t cure all the ills. What we can do is a) do whatever we can, b) stay conscious and c) raise smart, caring, loving children who, when they are presidentes, will include all their subjects in whatever wealth is available.
Well, I’m all over the c). And mostly b), although that’s the ultimate holy grail, eh? And for a), not one pair of socks has been been sent. Not one. And I’ve been alternately filling up my suitcase with Board of Education castoffs, some wooden recorders, (wind instruments, yeah?) and ukeleles … and from our own stores some crafting items and a couple pair of shoes … I’ll make sure there are some socks in there too after all.
Whatever you bring will be most appreciated – it takes SO LITTLE to make a difference here!
I love reading stories like this….
My mom is Mohawk from Upstate NY, and I knew there were still indigenous tribes living in the old ways down here. I have a huge set of goals on things to do here, and meeting them is one of them. And Good Lord, that IS way out there! I hardly get out of Rohrmoser these days….que triste..
Yeah, to do all the stuff we get to do, you have to quit your job… But we did see a lot in only three days total away from home time. Of course, if you did the trek to the actual village in the mountains, you’d need a couple more days. Just recovery time! Let me know when you are going… happy new year!