Tortuguero Community

This is a short video done while I still lived there. It’s about life in a remote community in Costa Rica.
I know most of the people in the film, including the first guy who speaks, my ex. The people there are survivors, hard workers, hard players, and have gone through very rough hardships. Living there gave me perspective and strength to live back in the states. Often, people try to share a 90’s moment with me….”Remember when this song came out?” Uh…no…..I was fishing way up in a back creek in the middle of the jungle, watching iguanas sun bathe, monkeys swing and free fall through the trees, and waiting for that tug on the line so I could set the hook.
I miss Tortuguero, but I have no desire to live like that again. It was hard, all the time. However, I wouldn’t change my experiences that I had living there. Not one bit. As this video depicts, there are things going on there that we don’t deal with over here. The lady, Sabina, who talks about making oil from coconuts. That’s about 100 coconuts fine grated…let me back up. Collect the 100 cocos, then husk them. Husking them is done by shoving them down on a spike and twisting from side to side. I watched a woman, Miss Rita, who was all of 90 pounds, do this effortlessly. When it was my turn, I struggled for over 20 minutes just to get one side done and gave up with a bewildered sigh. Never could get the hang of it. The next step is to fine grate…wait! Back up. The grate is a 2’X2′ piece of sheet metal that someone hammered tiny holes in with a nail…lots of them. It was then nailed to a 2’X1′ frame, causing it to bow in the middle. So, grate….all day grate…This is a family effort…Children are sent to collect water from the well. (Don’t get me started on how to do that, because there is an art in that too) Sisters start to build the fire up. The now grated coconut is placed in a big pot where water is added, and the ladies “wash” it. They squeeze their hands through the coconut, and the water turns white. The coconut gratings are now strained out through a sieve and tossed to the chickens. The liquid that is left is coconut milk that is FABULOUS in stews. It is now placed on the fire and cooked. All day, the fire is fed, and the milk cooks….the oil comes up to the surface and is skimmed off and placed in a bottle. A liter bottle. All of this work is for a small liter bottle.
One taste of anything cooked in this oil makes it all worth it. I think each bite taken is savored more deeply because of the process that it entails to make it.
Fast forward to the present. My first time walking up and down through the aisles of Whole Foods? Talk about culture shock. I see a little bottle of organic coconut oil and I smile, remembering such a different place where everything is organic and I am incredibly blessed in the richness of life.


How to Catch a Porcupine

“Can I keep him?”

Oh oh. My son had brought home another creature. Not any old creature, mind you. No, this would not be a kitten or a bird with a broken wing… Kelvin at 10 years old would have something a tad more exotic.

Let me take that back. He would bring back a bird with a broken wing….but it would be something like an osprey, a toucan, or God forbid, a black vulture. That hasn’t happened…yet. But it could.

I can’t really blame him. I mean, I am the mother who showed him how to feed praying mantis and spiders. It was normal to have a tarantula or viper in a cage on our kitchen table. Curiosity with the world around us was a common thread for Kelvin and I. We would find caterpillars and become detectives when it came to figuring out what we had. After identifying the plant it was found on, we could usually find out what it was. If that didn’t work, then we waited patiently for it to go through the stages of metamorphosis and like a gift-wrapped Christmas present, break free of its chrysalis. “Ooooooo! It’s one of those!!!” we would exclaim in unison.

Living in Tortuguero, Costa Rica was a young boy’s heaven. Here Kelvin grew up with nature in all of its glory right up to the edge of our doorstep. He has had more encounters with nature than most children. Our surroundings were our classroom. Everyday there was something new to learn.

“Can I keep him?” he asked.

“Let’s see what you found”, I said, peering out of the kitchen window as I dried my hands from my dish washing. YES, there are dishes to be washed in the jungle!

“You gotta come out, Ma!! I got him on the porch!  Come on! HURRY!!!” My little boy danced impatiently on his feet thinking that I was taking FOREVER as all of us parent types do.

“Well, where do you have him?” I asked.

“Out here in the cooler!” His enthusiasm was making me wary….

“Why do you have him in the coo-OH!” I jumped back!

“KELVIN! You can’t catch porcupines in our cooler! What were you thinking!?”

“But Maaaaa! It’s just a little one and it’s so cute. Look at that little face” My son pleaded with what he calls his “Puss n Boot” eyes.

“No way dude! He’s got a mommy and he is not gonna cuddle up with you, believe me.”

Kelvin smiled. “I know, I know…I just wanted to see your reaction. It is pretty funny looking isn’t it?”

We peered down at this disgruntled, snorting little porcupine who glared back, puffing up its short quills, hoping to get a shot at us.

“I think you need to get him back home to his family, K.” I said gently.

He faked a pout but a smile was twitching around his lips. He carried it back to the tree where the rest of the porcupine family had lived for the last 5 years.

Porcupine caught in cooler by my son, Kelvin

Porcupine caught in cooler by my son, Kelvin

Now there’s more to that story. But I am saving it and many other little adventures for a book that I am working on. Let me know if you think that sounds intriguing.


First Impressions

Welcome to Mano Tigre Designs blog. This is my space to explore my own creativity and move towards goals that I have set before me. I will share what I have learned and hope it will be a place where I can network with you.

I have always thought of myself as self taught. But that really isn’t true. For much of my life I believed that if I didn’t have a degree, then I didn’t have the right knowledge to be considered acceptable. But life is a beautiful thing and I have learned a little from a lot of places and people. I think of myself as a gleaner. If you don’t know what that is, a gleaner is someone who picks up the crops that the harvesters dropped. It is in the Bible, and was a way of helping people, who were poor, have a way to be able to eat. Recently a dear friend of mine said that I was also a gleaner of people. I pick up the ones who have been thrown away and dropped. I love that.

Gleaning to me, is recognizing the talent, skills, and resources in other people and asking if they will share their knowledge with me. Most people are delighted to.  There is such a wealth of information out there! In fact, just today, I sat with a new friend, John, who proceeded to encourage me with my goals. This blog has started because of him. I had been toying with the idea for a while, but was having trouble starting. A little fear involved of being consistent.

Not so he said. “Do it!”

And so, here I begin. I hope that this will be a place for all to glean, share, and be better for it.