Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cledys Birthday Party

I want to post more blogs, but I'm too busy enjoying life to sit down and write. Also, I keep forgetting to carry my camera, and blogs are more fun to read when you can look at the pictures.

So thanks to Susan's camera, I have pictures from last night's birthday party for Cledys, mother of six, including my two friends Hazel and Cuca.

Yesterday I got a text message from Yalile inviting me to Cledys's 72nd birthday party at Cebolla Verde, a typical tico restaurant near me. Almost two years ago I met Cledys, Hazel, Cuca, Yalile and a bunch of other great ticos through my Canadian friend, Susan, and my life in Costa Rica really took off. I have been exposed to the real Costa Rica - its culture, food, music, and wonderful people.

The invitation said the party started at 5pm. At 6:05 I picked up Susan and her boyfriend, Dale, who is visiting from Canada, and we went to Cebolla Verde. We were the first ones there. Parties always start late in ticolandia. But then about 25 other people came, and the party began. I had an interesting conversation - all in Spanish, of course - with Carol, whose 29-year-old son Roberto works for the national parks department on the Isla de Coco, which is actually closer to Colombia than it is to Costa Rica's Pacific coast. Tourists pay thousands of dollars, she told me, to visit the island to see its biodiversity, which is why I will probably never see it. But she and her husband, Gilberth, may be invited to go next year as a gift to family members of park employees.

Hugo brought his guitar and led everyone in singing tico songs. A few were familiar, but most were old songs that folks grew up hearing. Hazel explained to me that Costa Rica used to have many fewer people than now (4.5 million now), and they were spread out across the country, which is divided by mountains. These songs traveled from area to area and united the people.

We finally got around to singing happy birthday to Cledys, in Spanish, and then in English. But they never cut the cake. This is not the first party I've been to where the cake wasn't cut. So I went home hungry. But happy to have spent a fun evening with friends.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Trip to Massachusetts 2010

Susan and me

What wonderful friends I have! I got a chance to see a few of my favorites in Massachusetts on my annual trip back.

I stay with Susan and Mel. Susan and I met at UMass eons ago, but established our friendship in the 80s when she was living in Maine and I was living in New Hampshire. Susan is one of the most generous and caring people I have ever met, and I'm so glad that we remain close friends.

Every year before I arrive, Susan shops for my favorite foods that I can't get in Costa Rica, like Wise potato chips, Kayem natural casing hot dogs and potatoes with real skins. She is an excellent cook. Between her delicious homemade meals and eating out, I gained five pounds in just 10 days this trip. I should be ashamed, but the pleasure of all the wonderful tastes fulfilled me in a way that only a trip back home can do.

I don't know when I became such a foodie, but I certainly enjoy biting into New England boiled lobster with drawn butter, fried clams and onion rings from Woodman's in Essex, lobster salad in toasted buns, creamy clam chowder, fried haddock and Susan's potato salad. My mouth is watering just reliving each of these experiences last week and the week before.

No trip back would be complete without visiting my old Unitarian Universalist church and spending time with Jasmine. She and I toured Barcelona together in May, and it was great to see her again. I am always moved when the choir sings, and when the congregation sings a familiar hymn. This time it was Spirit of Life, which is a real tearjerker.

This year I got to see an old friend, David, from junior high school. We had lunch together and reminisced. He looks the same except his blond hair is now white. But he still has that twinkle in his eyes.

My best day was spent with my oldest friend, Sandy, and Kathie. We met in high school. I had just moved from Beverly to Swampscott and didn't know a soul, and Sandy befriended me. On a glorious fall day, with the sun shining and the leaves starting to turn red and orange, the three of us drove along the New Hampshire coast, breathing in the fresh salt air. We treated ourselves to a fantastic lunch at the Wentworth by the Sea restaurant, where Kathie's friend's son gave us a 20% discount. Our table on the patio overlooked the harbor with tall masts. We enjoyed overstuffed lobster salad rolls, olive focaccia dipped in olive oil and creme brulee with fruit. It was soothing to reminisce about our high school years and friends. One of our classmates, Sally Martin, died just a little while ago. Not only was she Sandy's and Kathie's best friend, but she was Sandy's sister-in-law, too. Sally was a full-of-life person, happy, generous, and fun to be around. Someone took Sally's old blouses and made bracelets with matching earrings and glass cases from the material. I was fortunate to be there when we picked up the finished goods, which turned out beautiful. I got a red checked bracelet with earrings and a case that I put my cell phone in, so now I am reminded daily of Sally, Sandy and Kathie.

Susan had to work while I was there, but she arranged her hours so that we could do what we do best: shop at an outlet mall. Instead of Wrentham, this time we went up to Kittery. Oh yes, I stimulated the local economy with my purchases. In fact, flying back to Costa Rica, I had to pay extra for one overweight bag. I bought a lot of books and vitamins on this trip which weighed a lot.

Susan, Mel and I took a day trip to the western part of the state to go to the Big E, an annual farm show that is like Topsfield Fair on steroids. We saw a sheep being sheared, llamas, cows and pigs. We ate typical fair food: corn dog, the greasiest fried onion rings ever, Italian sausage with onions and peppers, ice cream, nachos. There was a gigantic pumpkin there, and a parade of Clydesdale horses. We skipped the amusement rides, but visited the pavilions for each of the New England states. I slept on the way back.

On my last full day, I visited my Aunt Ethel. Ethel is an amazing person, and my role model for growing older. She is 99 and moved to an assisted living home this year. Also this year, her husband, who was 14 years younger than her, died. She has to sell her house, which she bought as an independent widow in the 50s, to pay for her new home. She and I have a special relationship. We both see the glass half full, if not overflowing. We talked about all sorts of things, and parted by saying, "See you next year."