Sunday, July 30, 2017

Small Town Blues





I have learned a lesson that translates from the Deep South of American to Costa Rica is that in small towns everyone knows your business, making it their business too.

It's no secret to anyone that reads here that I have struggled with the host family we were placed with. The mother does not understand 'Hand wash only' so I bought detergent and a drying rack. She serves piles of carbs, which for me and my borderline sugar levels is not a good thing. I've spoken to her repeatedly and it has done no good. If the food is not 85% carbs, it's processed or over-salted.  The food situation has been dire, to the point where I now keep fresh fruits and veggies in my room along with canned tuna, crackers I can eat, cheese and protein bars.

I can't have all those carbs. I cannot have very salty foods because it causes breast pain where I've had surgery in the past. I cannot have lots of processed things because many times the preservatives throw me right into an asthma attack. Like this morning. The host mother served the most delicious and super bad for you sweet rolls she made in her bakery. I should not have eaten one sliver of it because carbs and super sugary, but I did. I reacted and the only thing I can figure out that I reacted to was the prepared canned coconut filling she stuffed the rolls with. Wheezing and coughing coming right up.

The tiny room in the garage, the crappy health-impacting food and the lack of all privacy and warm water has started to get to me. So... when one of the young ladies also teaching here suggested we take a look at the rooms at the guesthouse she's staying at for the exact same price (picked up by the school) we went along. Walking on a late Friday afternoon up the hill and into the mountains for this guest house.

It was beautiful and the rooms much larger. The bath had continuous hot water, the grounds of the building was a lovely garden. Very nice. We looked at the rooms but did not commit, telling the owner we wanted to think about it for a few days. That's all we did. We did buy a few things from her small grocery store on site and walked down the hill in the rare afternoon sunshine. Nothing more.

We decided against it for a couple of reasons. It was a very steep climb up to the place and the owner didn't seem that eager to rent to us. Plus we didn't want to create ill will with the original host family, who have been good to us. It's just they really are living like people did a long time ago in America. It's not comfortable staying there. But even with the several extensions to Jim's contract we'll be out of here in late August. Our leaving date now is pushed back to August 24th to accommodate the lack of teachers at the learning center.

You can tolerate just about any type of situation for mere weeks, even bad food and no privacy. Less said, soonest mended. Right?

The day after we looked at the rooms I ran into a board member for the school who asked me why I was looking at different places to stay. I lied. I told her we'd just gone up there to see the other teacher's rooms and the guesthouse. Not totally a lie, we did want to see the place.

I noticed early in the week that our host family was acting odd and it's since come out to pretty much the entire town that we were looking to skedaddle to another place. Turned into a big big deal and we had to sit down and talk about the problems with the food, lack of privacy, et al. It's still not completely resolved clearly because the host did serve that delicious but toxic sweet rolls for breakfast and the lunch I got the day before was salad and a fried ham slice, clearly improvements over what she had been serving, but both were so salty I literally could not eat them.

We've started eating our evening meals at the one restaurant in town from Thursday through Sunday night because I can get a kale salad and a grilled chicken breast for very little and I've gone back to eating very little of the host mother's cooking when the restaurant is not open, preferring to eat what vegetables she serves and tuna and fruit in the room.

Damn, I've ranted so much about healthy foods I sound almost like deluded and eating disordered angry female cultural enforcer Lori Alexander now. The difference is that I have to eat a certain way to stay healthy, not because I'm blaming it on God.

But the food is the biggest issue for me. I've been having stomach troubles on top of this too. I think it's more to do with the issues of how the host mother stores her food and her hygiene. She made tamales the other day, a huge barrel full of them on the wood stove out back of our room. Our room filled with smoke, so we pretty much ditched for the day. I love tamales. I am all about tamales since I was little and my father and I used to go to a local tamale shop in New Orleans. I was excited she made all those tamales. But what I wasn't excited about was after the tamales were cooked she stored them in plastic crates unrefrigerated in her dining room. For days!

On the non-complaining front I've now taken the bus to San Marcos now and gotten enough yarn to start a much needed sweater for this area. It's beautiful hairpin lace and crochet I'm working with.

I can survive this, even if it means sneaking food in the room and taking the bus into town to get meals and supplies. This is just for a short season.


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