Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Friday, May 7, 2010

Let me introduce you..........

Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.

Friedrich von Schiller
German dramatist & poet (1759 - 1805)

I think it is about time to introduce all the folks back in the states to our Tico family. We have indeed met a lot of nice folks here, both Tico and Gringo, but most important to us, in so many ways, is Marco Tulio Rojas Castillo. Tulio is the man who built Fernie’s now famous Galeron, and he is the one who has served as a sort of informal (and, largely unappreciated and undercompensated) caretaker for Fernie, since about ten years ago. Tulio is married to Leti, and they have two children, Marcos Kenty (he’s an engineer with ICE, and married) and Jocelyn (she’s in high school, and now about 16).

This is a very special couple. Tulio is a contractor/builder, when he can find projects. The reality here is that there are more people ready, willing, and able to build anything from a house to a warehouse, than there are people looking to have such things built. So, Tulio has not had anything to actually build since he built our house last year, and that only took him ten weeks. Actually, that is not a problem for him in terms of making a living, because he is kept more than busy caring for his cattle, of which he has nearly one hundred head right now. He travels about 45 minutes one way, several times a week, because he can’t trust his worker to care for the cattle as well as he himself does. He also finds time to bring milk from one of his three cows to Leti several times a week, from which she makes cheese. In addition to raising cattle, Tulio also oversees the care of Fern’s two properties, as well as the property belonging to Carmen (Blanca’s baby sister) and her husband, Victor.

Since our house was built, Tulio has found the time to build my computer desk, which is really handy for me, and three separate storage ‘racks’ (for lack of a better word; these are about five feet long, with open shelves – lots of space between the boards, for air flow – that we use for storage) that sort of take the place of closets. We have two of these in our bedroom, and one in the wash room. He also made four little stools for Blanca, and they come in very handy. Let’s see, what else does he do……..? Oh, yeah, he makes the wooden frames that Blanca uses to stretch the canvases for her painting.

Pending are some pretty big projects: one will be a carport on the lot next door (the one that Blanca recently bought, that more than doubled our total land holding), and then, I want to close in part of the existing carport, so that I can store my tool chest, my compressor, the grill, and other tools. I also want to make a little fountain/waterfall thing in front of the house, and I know that he will have a lot to do with that creation. Incidentally, he says that will be a ‘cria de zapos,’ or ‘zapera.’ That is his description for nothing more than a place for toads to grow, because he says that is what my waterfall will attract. And, I say, so what? Toads eat insects, don’t they? How can that be bad?

Lety, Tulio’s wife, is a marvel. She is without question one of the hardest working women I think we have ever seen or met. She is a seamstress, making and selling clothing to a number of people in the local community. But, she is so completely independent seamstress to the point that whenever she has problems with one of her sewing machines, she just starts to tear it apart, saying that if she waited for Tulio to fix it, she’d never get any work done. Tulio, of course, says that the problem is when she takes things apart to fix them, she often ends of with left over parts, and sooner or later whatever item she tried to fix becomes unfixable. Blanca reports that Leti perseveres nevertheless, and she stands in awe of this marvelous lady. Lety raises chickens, has any number of things growing for all kinds of reasons – flowers, herbs, vegetables, whatever. She is, as I said, very independent, and not the least bit shy about expressing her very strong opinions, of which she has more than a few. She is a very small lady, maybe 4’ 9”, or a bit more. But, she rules Tulio with an iron fist. When she gets excited, she begins to speak faster and faster, and no one can follow her, not even a native Tico. We think she is very special, and Tulio knows she is.

Kenty is still in his twenties, and already has two kids, with Gabriela, his wife. They live in Alajuela. He commutes into San Jose, where he is working for ICE. She very recently decided that she wanted to be Catholic, and Blanca and I were happy to stand up as her Godparents. When she was baptized, we also stood as Godparents for their new baby, Mattias. The multiple baptizing just took place early last month. Kenty is moving up the ladder at ICE (personally, I suspect that this is not hard for an enterprising young man to do, since ICE, like so many bureaucracies in Latin America, is riddled with persons in positions of authority who have gone far beyond the levels they should have reached – remember the Peter Principle?), and may soon obtain a promotion that will relocate him and his family.

Jocelyn is in high school, and just changed schools this past year. Actually, her situation is strange to us from the states, but a sad reality of the truth about education in the country with the highest literacy rate in Latin America. You see, Jocelyn, like her brother before her, wants to go to university. Kenty was literally the only one of his classmates from the small school in Arenal to go to university. When Jocelyn was in her last year at that school, she learned that she would not be able to go on to university with their diploma, because she would be lacking certain essential science credits. This was because the only teacher who could teach the required course left before the school year really got started simply because the school could not afford to pay him/her.

So, in order to get the credits she needs, Jocelyn had to find another school that offered them. This required that she withdraw (in reality, she became a high school drop-out) from the school in Arenal, during the school year, last year. Since the school year had already begun, she could not immediately transfer to another school. However, meanwhile, she and Leti made several trips to nearby Tilaran (like our country seat) to ensure that Jocelyn could begin the next school year (the year that just began this past February) at a school there. She essentially sat out most of the last school year, waiting for the current year. Now, she has to take a bus to Tilaran every day to attend a Catholic School where she is getting not only those credits she will need for university, but also some classes in English.

As if that is not tough enough for her, Blanca has now become a volunteer at her school to assist the students with their English, and she now goes over there herself every Tuesday afternoon. Meanwhile, she is literally tutoring Jocelyn two or three days a week. So, Jocie is progressing well in her studies, and Blanca has more to do.

I think I said that this is our Tico family at the beginning of this little post, and that is exactly what they are. We have them come eat with us frequently, and we go to eat with them, as frequently. We take trips together, most recently going to see the Rio Celeste, so named because the water is almost sky blue in color, due to some mineral mixture up on the volcano where the river is born (Volcan Tenorio). Most of our trips turn into adventures, as Tulio is the one who decides where we should go, having been most places at least once before himself. The interesting thing is that, while he may have gone before, Leti and Jocie have not, so that Tulio acts as sort of a tour guide for all of us. He catches a lot of flack as well, since trips like this one don’t always turn out well (the road was particularly bad, we expected to find a restaurant at our destination that would serve fresh caught fish, the restaurant we did choose turned out to be a disappointment, and so on). At any rate, having these people in our lives has helped tremendously in our adjustment to life in paradise.


  1. Thanks for a detailed description of life in the countryside. While it isn't the United States I think we take things for granted in the city. At least it sounds like you are surrounded by nice people.

  2. John,

    Your long list of previous posts seems to have disappeared. I was hoping to find posts about how your house was built. Ten weeks is phenomenal to finish an average house here. Ours took 6 months and a big crew and everyone was surprised we got it done that fast. Would love to see pics of your place.


  3. Casey, I have photos already posted on my Facebook, if you want to see them right now. Also, some videos. Just look for my name (John G. Dungan Sr.), and be my friend (won't you be, can't you be, don't ya wanna be.......I know, I know; it was neighbor, but what the hey, you get the idea).....Or, now that you mention it, I could post some of that stuff here, too.....let me see what I can do....

  4. Casey, I've looked everywhere for a way to send you a PM, or an email, but can't find any contact link from your blog. So, here is a link to photos of our construction: