Sunday, January 16, 2011

¿dónde está Portasól?

We had driven nearly all day with the first 3 hours of driving through intense fog. We stopped at the Super Market in Quepos to buy groceries, visited Manuel Antonio by mistake and had to back track and get on hwy 34 for the last part of our journey. We arrived at the very small town of Portalón just as the sun was setting in the western sky. We bumped slowly over round stones in a rough road that wandered along Rio Portalón. The river rumbled over massive boulders on the left. An old man came slowly forward on his bike, rolling left then right and back as he found his bumpy way slowly along the narrow road. He concentrated to keep his tire on the smoothest path between the larger stones. We stopped to allow him to pass. Concerned that we were lost, I rolled down the window, and asked, "¿dónde está Portasól?" He stopped and backed up slightly. I had awakened him from a road that required as much intense concentration as our own. I repeated my question in poorly remembered Spanish and I wasn't sure that he understood. He gestured with his head back in the direction from which he'd come to inform us that we had nearly arrived.

We continued at our slow pace over the rough road, crossed a narrow single-lane bridge with a small waterfall at right. Going further we were almost relieved to find ourselves at a guardhouse with gate. The sign said Portasól, but the gate was closed. We tried to explain ourselves to the guards in English and what little remained from my 9th grade Spanish class, and were finally led by ATV up to our temporary home overlooking the Pacific at a distance and the Costa Rican jungle close at hand on 4 sides. Carlos hit the switches on the lights, and we awakened to the contradictions and contrasts of 21st century Costa Rica.

I am not sure how to explain all this, but I know that by writing about it, some may become clear. So, instead of dwelling exclusively on the mess we have made of American education, culture and economy, I want to share more pleasant things over the next few days.

I wondered each day as we drove slowly down our road, about the lives of the people we passed. Surely there were stories there. And each day, as we traveled that very bumpy road, we took in what we could without making nuisances of ourselves. Are there some great Spanish writers who have explored the paces of village life? The photo above is what we had just missed by arriving late. We did not miss sunset again during our stay in Portasól.

If you want to visit the village of Portalón, its Google Earth coordinates are 9°21'15.37"N, 83°58'47.82"W

The photo at left shows the nearly completed jelly cabinet made of cherry and maple. A bit more sanding, drilling of the holes for shelf supports, and it will be ready to hang the doors and apply Danish oil.

It seems that violence involving guns is inescapable, but then that was the purpose for which they were made. On the day before the shooting in Arizona, there had been a school shooting in Omaha, Nebraska, in which a troubled young man  shot and wounded the principal, shot and killed the vice-principal, and then took his own life.  The gun lobby will insist that there were other factors at play. In this case, the father is a police officer, and the weapon used was his service revolver.

The dark fantasies that surround firearms lead to their use in that which they were created for. Children with tools have other things to live for and work towards. I learned about the school shooting in a conversation with my sister who teaches in Lincoln, Nebraska public schools. She also told me about one of her students who had taken a class in decorating cakes. A new sense of self esteem and creative purpose literally changed every aspect of his life. Can we not see that regardless of how one feels about guns and gun legislation and availability, the lack of creative tools in the hands of children is the far greater problem?


  1. Anonymous3:17 PM

    At the risk of over-generalizing, I've often wondered whether a fundamental for kids (particularly boys) is one of power. Kids are in relatively powerless positions, being dependent on adults for food, shelter, education, etc. Having a creative outlet, be it woodworking, cake decorating, music, etc., allows one to experience personal agency, making a difference in one's life and local world. Destructiveness (vandalism, bullying, homicide) is another manifestation, but I wonder if deep down this violence is driven by a frustrated need to express some agency in the world?

  2. Maslow called it "self actualization", and it seems to be a thing widely ignored these days. Teachers would work for less pay, if they felt "actualized". We all need to see some effect.

    There can be a sense of power holding a gun in one's hands. But there is also a sense of power holding a saw and knowing how to cut wood.

    Kids will find some way to feel agency, or actualized if I understand Maslow's term correctly.