During my annual visits to see family in the United States, I oftentimes have the opportunity to catch up on some reading that regularly alludes me during the busy seasons here in Mastatal. More than any year in recent memory, I felt as if I hit the jackpot with the titles that I was recommended, came across, and picked up this fall.
When I was a teenager, I traveled for a few months with a Mexican shoe-shiner I met in Mazatlán. We thumbed rides across the country and were taken in along the way by a dozen or so of his relatives. I often found myself in the kitchen with his aunts, cousins, and nieces, making tamales, sopes, or other dishes that were new to me.
If you’re anything like me, then you will find Rancho Mastatal to be a place of incredible beauty, endless inspiration, and powerful community. Even if we have very little in common, you will certainly find it to be unique. Among ecovillages and permaculture communities, over the years Rancho Mastatal has developed a reputation for its intricate systems, well organized educational programs, and gorgeous natural buildings that sprinkle the 300 + acre Ranch.
"Everyone is looking at my feet," I say to my dad.
"No they're not," he scoffs back. Sure enough, he glances sideways at a group of teenage girls eying my dirty toes clad in Chacos.
We are not in the jungle any more. It's December in New York City, I am traveling on the subway with a large backpack, and five layers of sweatshirts, never having worn more than one at a time in the tropics. Fresh off the airplane, here I am with my exposed feet and disheveled appearance-- "Is she homeless?" the girls snicker.
My hands are grappling the rumbling, rusty wheelbarrow handles, and as we walk half a mile through the village, everyone can hear the five Rancho apprentices clunk on through. In a village of 120 people, your whereabouts are everybody's business. Don't worry, I want to say, this will all make sense soon. They'll be having a chuckle by the end of the day. For now, we are five warriors defending alternative energy. We are making the best use of our woman power (and Dan power) when the white pickup truck is out of commission. We are going to pick up poop.
Good food takes time. I've heard this phrase many times before, but after nine months at the Ranch, I've truly come to understand what it means to me. The local Costa Ricans are called the Ticos. The Ticos live by the mantra "Pura Vida", which directly translates to pure life. This is indefinitely how they choose to live. "Tico time" is another phrase I've heard and come to understand here. Ticos work at their own pace, never feeling the need to hurry or stress at time. They are the happiest people I've ever met. The western way of life has much to learn from this, no more so than in the world of food. I have three stories to tell that I think shed perfect light on this matter.