Last night the wildfire glimmered on the slope behind Playa Grande, and I could smell the smoke a mile away on Tamarindo Beach. I’ve been told not to worry about the monkeys, but I do. The tide was far out, and the breakers yowled about the losses. When I looked east, the moon was just getting about the business of hoisting itself up by way of a crotch in the cerro that Tamarindo clings to. I had never beheld the town from the beach at night; it’s like a tiny Beverly Hills.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep, so I’d gone out around 10.00 p.m. Before I could turn down the alley where Mayra lives, the one leading down to the beach, a man in a shadow asked if I wanted to party. Oh, yeah, man! I’m ready to roll! Let’s get some hookers and some blow, and we’ll really have a good time! His wouldn’t be my last invitation of the next little while. But aside from clusters of people in the bars and restaurants, not much was happening in Tamarindo. Just a few taxi drivers standing by their cabs, and whores and pimps scattered here and there. Except for the human kind, there was almost no traffic, so neither was there any dust.
Returning to Portofino, I had a long chat with Noé, the night watchman. He said most of the whores are from the Dominican Republic or Colombia.
“They go up and down this street, too,” he said with obvious distaste.
I closed the door to my apartment but could still hear an odd old disco tune from around 1980, which I thought probably antedated most of the crowd at the club across the street. It’s on the third floor, and from its large terrace multicolored points of light strobed the dust in the road.
The only thing my apartment lacked was a coffeemaker. The other morning one of my neighbors was carrying a cup of coffee out to the pool. I asked where she had got it, thinking perhaps there was a pot brewing in the Portofino’s office. She said she’d made it in her apartment and would make one for me. I demurred. But I had been spending about 1000 colones per day ($2) on coffee from a couple of little shops. Three days ago I asked Marisel the maid about this and she went into another apartment for a moment and returned with a chorreador, a simple rectangular wooden frame with a hole cut into the top crossbar. (Chorrear is to pour, gush, drip—depending on circumstances, I guess.) Into this fits a kind of sock that is fitted around a steel hoop. You just spoon some coffee into the bottom of the sock and then pour in the boiling water from a pot on the stove. A stream runs out the pointed tip into the cup that’s been placed below. It couldn’t be simpler, and it makes pretty good coffee. Later, after drying out, it’s easy to get rid of the grounds merely turning the sock inside out and shaking it a bit.
Today I whipped up another pot of gallos pintos. When I went out to pick up a couple of things I needed, including a bunch of cilantro, I saw the employee of Super 2001 who had given me pointers the first time around and helped me to find a bottle of the recommended sauce. She was standing on a stool while stocking a shelf. I shouldn’t get started on the unsafe practices that employees have to engage in here while doing their jobs. Yesterday I saw a guy putting up a ladder from the back of his pickup in order to work on a sign; in the middle of all this were electric wires coming in from the street.
Anyway, I told her that my first batch had turned out well, thanks to her technical advice, and I was at it again. I also said she looked familiar from 2008 and 2009. She said she has worked here two years and four months. Her name is Yasmin. She asked if I am here on vacation and what country I come from.
“You can’t tell from my accent?”
“Well,” she said, “you could be Canadian.”
I had to concede that much.
“Soy nica,” she said, meaning she’s Nicaraguan. She had come from Managua with her brother in order to find work.
“How do you like the life here?”
“Not very well.” The problem is that she misses her family.
Of course, people in the United States and other developed countries move thousands of miles away from their families in order to take jobs. But even though the distance between Managua and Tamarindo isn’t great—I can’t imagine it exceeds the distance between Detroit and Chicago—I get the impression it’s very, very far nonetheless.