Monday, June 15, 2020

Rhythm of the Neighborhood

Monday, June 15, 2020

Day after day, as I spend untold hours on the balcony of my rented apartment, keeping vigil over nothing in particular, I slowly learned the cadence and rhythm of the neighborhood. Every morning at 5:00 a.m., I wake up to the morning song of the yiguirro (clay-colored robin) heralding the start of another day. Forty-five minutes later, I'd hear the distant rumble of the first bus that comes from the town center. The main road is obscured by trees but I'd catch a glimpse of the bus as it passes by, its colors unmistakable for they always remind me of the Costa Rican flag.

While I'm having breakfast, troops of capuchin monkeys arrive, stomping and swaggering their way across rooftops, climbing trees and balustrades, searching for fruits and nuts to eat. By midmorning, the neighborhood starts to wake up. One of the neighbors would play music loud enough for everyone to hear. For a few hours each day we are treated to traditional Mexican ballads, Bob Marley, and Latin reggaeton interspersed with the squawks, squeals, and squeaks of scarlet macaws. 

Every afternoon, Jim, an American expat who manages the inn, knocks on my door to check on me and ask me what I need. He usually brings fruits and herbs from his own farm: bananas, cherries, guanabana, oranges, mangoes, basil, culantro. We'd chat briefly about the sorry state of the world and swap bits of information about travel restrictions, visa extensions, which restaurant has opened, and which hotels remain closed. He then catches the bus home leaving me in the company of birds and trees—my constant companions in these trying times. At around 4:00 p.m., as certain as the sun rising in the east, the old lady living next door who Jim says has Alzheimer's would start hollering, "Ana! Ana!", the name of one of her five daughters and the name she calls all of them. On certain afternoons, I'd hear megaphoned announcements of "Huevos! Zanahorias, lechuga, sandia, tomate!" from the produce trucks making their rounds in the neighborhood. 

As my days in this temporary home began to turn into weeks and, inevitably, into months, and the country's quedate-en-casa restrictions started to ease, I found myself venturing outside the neighborhood. In the afternoons, while walking to the beach, I come upon local ticos and fellow tourists who, like me, are bent on getting a few hours of exercise outdoors. Most are walking, several are walking their dogs, a few are jogging, and some are riding their bikes. Maintaining the social distance required for everyone's safety, we somehow manage to exchange "hola, buen dia, como esta?" It's been a month since the government re-opened the beaches. Since then, I'd pack my breakfast, leave the house as the sun begins to rise, and spend most mornings at the beach. Lounging under my favorite tree, I watch people, read my book, and take photos of things that I find interesting. Before 8 in the morning, just as the policia arrives to signal the end of beach hours, the sky leadens and starts threatening rain. That's my cue to hurry home and get some work done. 

My days in Costa Rica now has a rhythm of their own, and I had learned to order my life by the pattern of their calm. I sit here on my balcony wanting to go home yet wishing that this soothing rhythm didn't have to end.


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