Social Class Reproduction

Four Rules for Teaching Writing:
Image result for image: joy of writing
Always give writing assignments that

1. you will enjoy reading;
2. students will enjoy writing;
3. students will enjoy reading what others in the class have written
4. you will enjoy writing.

If any one of these conditions were not true, then it probably wasn't a very good assignment.

Advice I give to my students: When your words surprise you, you know you are writing.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Day 9 & 10: What I'm Proving

I want to capture the rest of my day, Sunday, at Hotel La Rana, near Arenal. I spent the rest of the afternoon walking with Lola and working on a book (and trying to get the internet to work, to very little avail). Lola and I walked down to the lower edge of the property, which is quite a hike. We were hearing the rush of water and spotted a small hole in the jungle, where water was crashing down over rocks and artificial dams someone had built decades ago when this place was some very wealthy person’s getaway. I was reminded of one of my favorite literary passages—in Lorna Doone. I loved that book, I read it several times when I was in grade school, our one-room school house in Brush Creek where we all had a lot of time for reading. I can’t remember the boy’s name, but I remember when he discovered a hidden grotto and in one of his visits, he came upon Lorna—and that was the beginning of their story and love in the middle of the warfare between their two families.
Lola jumped in the water and splashed and splashed and splashed. She ran upstream and downstream for about an hour, and I just watched, gaining pleasure from her pleasure. I have pictures and videos, which I will post when I get a good connection.
After an hour, I decided I wanted to write for the rest of the afternoon and called her to come. She was having too much fun to hear me, so I left her and began walking back up the trail and hill to our room. When I was half-way up the hill, she came bounding out of the jungle and ran in circles around me.
I wrote while she relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. As the Hispanics say, this place es muy tranquillo. I didn’t want to leave. It was almost inner peace.
At about five, I heard a commotion—arrivals. It was Philppe, Maria, Sean (her partner), and Philippe’s family. There were here for afternoon drinks on the patio, and I joined them. It was a very pleasant late afternoon. After they left, I had a lovely dinner on the deck, and then went down, wrote some more, and went to bed.
The next morning was difficult. I didn’t want to leave, but I knew I should. I need to get back and take care of some things in the states, no matter how temping it might be to find a place like Arenal and just stay there.
I have been reading response to my travelblog. These are important to me. I tried to explain my response to having readers on facebook, but I don’t think I got it all down. One of my friends said she is traveling on my wave. I know that others are traveling with me, my words inviting their words. It’s impossible to explain how strange this trip has been, but it’s just something I had to do, and the words from my friends give me the courage to move into the unknown,
I didn’t want to leave La Rena. I was comfortable there. I knew what each minute would bring. But I had to go. I had a lovely breakfast, went for a walk with Lola, said good-bye, and moved on.
The first part of the trip was beautiful, winding, country roads, circling the lake. I got lost a couple of times because I wasn’t paying attention, but then got back on the main road. I by far prefer the lost highways to the main road, but I could see I could make the border by one and decided to cross.
I’m getting good at the borders. There are always difficulties, but I hire border rats, and they get me though. I could probably do it myself, but I think I need a couple of more runs. I hit the border at 12:30, and one of the rats took me through in an hour the Costa Rican side. I think he constructed difficulties, but I gave him $15 and went on to the Nicaraguan side, where my amigo from the way down (the one who wanted to charge me 60.00, down to 20. Bump fists) was waiting for me.
He did good work. The backs and forths are idiotic. They took two more hours. Lola creates mucho difficultados. But by 3:30, we were through. My border rat said they were going to shake me down, making me unload everything for a final check but that he had paid the cops 10 to get the pass. I knew that was shit, but I gave him another ten ($40) and I was out of there. He did good work.
I drove for about an hour and found a lower-class, dog-friendly hotel. It was 4:00 pm, and I didn’t want to take chances. I won’t post pictures of this place, because it’s really ugly, but I have a place to sleep with Lola and that’s something.
Thanks to all of you who are hanging with me on this trip. Knowing that you are hearing me gives me support. The trip is more than material. At times I wonder whether I will make it back. I also have a bad cold—developed when I was putting my tent up at Alexander and Silvia’s in the rain and didn’t change out of my wet clothes. They told me I would get sick. I did. And I don’t like it.
Tomorrow, I’ll cross Nicaragua. I haven’t decided whether I’ll go north to skip El Salvador. Some say the high mountains and the north are more dangerous, but I think borders are the most dangerous part of traveling. If I weren’t sick, I would be feeling pretty good. I know I can handle this. And that’s something: being able to travel solo through Mexico and Central America. But really, anyone could do it. I think that’s what I’m proving.

Goto Day 10: And I Thought I Wouldn't Have Anything To Write

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Day 9. Time

I wake slowly in the morning. My wrist-watch says 8:00, but I know I have crossed a time zone, and it is only seven. I have checked this difference several times with my iphone and I know it’s really only 7:00. I don’t change my wrist-watch because I like the moment after I look when I realize it’s (whatever it is) really an hour earlier.
I lie in bed for an hour, just thinking and feeling. At 8:00 (real time), I shower, and Lola and I go for a walk so she can pee. The landscape (paisaje) here is beautiful. I wish I could include pictures in this travelogue, but the internet here is very weak, to put it kindly. It takes forever to get a connection.
I am continuing one of my thoughts I had mulled over while lying in bed. One: I would not try to cross the border today, because it is Sunday, and there will be a line-up. Two: I think I will stay here another day because this is just a beautiful, calming place.
It is strange, actually. On my walk with Lola, I saw a primitive road, two parallel stone tracks, leading down to the tennis court. The tracks are mostly overgrown with weeds. I feel as if I’m in some kind of Henry James novel, a place built for the wealthy, who have long since abandoned it, leaving it as a bed and breakfast for this indigenous woman and a much older man, Reinhart, perhaps her father, who seems to do the labor, to take care of. The landscape is beautiful and expansive—far more than one would expect of a hotel with four rooms, most of which are empty.
Lola and I go upstairs for breakfast at 8:30. El perro de Cecilia, Blacky, is a small, aging dog lying on the landing leading into the restaurant. He snarls at Lola, but Lola is learning not to answer these kinds of aggressive conversations; she walks barklessly on her leash around Blacky.
We go out on the restaurant deck, where Cecilia has coffee, pineapple, mango, and banana slices ready for me. She comes out and asks what I want for breakfast. I ask for eggs and toast, and then unsuccessfully try to get an internet connection so that I can post my travelogue and take care of some other business. When she returns, I ask her, puedo quedarme aqui por una dia mas? Por supuesto, she says, clearly pleased that I want to stay another day.
By staying here, I am slowing time almost to a stop. I know it’s silly, but I feel as if I have won some kind of battle, doing the obvious when my social conditioning has taught me to do otherwise. I am savoring every bite of this breakfast, paying attention to each moment. I am on this deck overlooking the beautiful landscaping, beyond which lie the lake and the mountains behind it. To my right is a feeding stand for birds. A dozen or so different colored birds, like parakeets, are feeding there. A little later a large, colorful bird arrives for its breakfast. It’s an ojo pendula, Reinhart tells me, and he tosses out food, which the Ojo catches.
After breakfast, I rewrite and try to repost some of my blog entries—and write thankyou notes to some friends who have responded to my travel postings, but no luck. No connection. That’s not a sign.
Then Lola and I go for another long walk, down to the pond, where she splashes for a while, down to the tennis courts, through various kinds of jungle trees and over to an edge where the open land is bordered by an impassible jungle. There seems to be some kind of steep drop there, and down below, I hear rushing water. Lola tries to get down there, but the jungle is so thick that she gives up and comes bounding out of the foliage.

This is how we have passed our pleasant morning. A warm wind is now blowing off the lake as I sit on the porch overlooking the landscape and lake, writing this post, Lola lying on her blanket beside me. I would like to say I’m at peace, but I’m not. But I’m close. It’s so quiet here, one can hear time breathe.

Day 8. To Make One Cry

I am up at seven, taking down my tent, and repacking my car. While I am in the middle of repacking, the tent down, Alexander comes out with coffee in hand and asks whether I would like some.
I’m going to give you just enough details so that you will understand why I am still in Costa Rica although I had planned on being in Nicaragua today.
A was very friendly and wanted to know about my life. Everyone is curious about a crazy old gringo (for Mary) driving though Central America with two bikes on his car. The policia rarely ask for my license—they get distracted by the bikes and usually want to know how much they cost.
Soon (while I’m trying to pack) the conversation swerves and A wants to give me traveling advice. We work on the map and he insists that I should take some time out and drive to Fortuna to see Volcan (volcano) Arenal, the highest point in Costa Rica. Fortuna is considerably out of my way, but A says the drive is the most beautiful drive in Costa Rica. Although I had wanted to make Nicaragua today, I consider taking the Fortuna trip. After all, it really won’t make much of a difference if I arrive in Haddonfield a week early or a week late. I’m starting to get used to the fact that I don’t have to be anywhere anytime. This is weird. Deep inside, something nags at me—that I should have a destination, a purpose, a schedule, a way of saying, there, I got that done today. This is crazy; deep conditioning.
Silvia comes out with a huge breakfast for me: eggs, ham, tortillas, rice, beans, watermelon, mangos, and coffee. Out of duty, I eat everything but the watermelon and mangos. I’m just stuffed and can get only one piece of watermelon down.
While we’re having breakfast, A’s brother and sister-in-law come out. Like A&S, they are curious about my life and my having driven down here with a dog. By this time, Lola has worked her way into everyone’s heart and has the run of the house. She is constantly being petted and loves it here.
This is a really nice morning for me. I love trying to communicate in Spanish, and the entire family is patient and helpful, helping me with my word choice and pronunciation. Other travelers/campers report the same experience. You learn more and experience more by camping. You get to use your Spanish, whatever it is worth. Hotels don’t give you the same experience—you get a room and close the door with a little conversation at dinner time. I wish I could camp in someone’s yard through the rest of Central America.
So I say I’m going to head for Fortuna and ask for specific directions. But since A’s brother and sister-in-law were going to San Ramon, the last city before Fortuna, they asked if they could come with me to San Ramon and then show me the way to Fortuna.
So I say my good-byes (this was really a GOOD experience), get A&S’s emails, and the four of us pack into the car and head off, Lola sitting on the brother-in-law’s lap in the front seat.
A was right. After about twenty minutes, we hit the high mountains. I use the time to endlessly chatter about everything, about Sarah, my children, my struggles with being alone, and they are very helpful, asking questions. They know they are helping me improve my Spanish. I also learn about their lives, his car accident and paralyzed arm, their children and grandchildren. The time and beautiful drive slides by.
I wrote in yesterday’s log about my drive from the cabin outside San Isidro; it was beautiful. This drive is that to the tenth power. I have a hard time keeping my eyes on the road—which is necessary because the road is barely wide enough for two cars to slink by each other. And it twists and twists and twists. Average speed is 15 mph. A part of my mind thinks, this is going to be a long trip; the other part of my mind is in the now: this is the trip.
I leave the brother and sister-in-law in San Ramon. I hate to see them go. I simply enjoy meeting people.
But they exit, warm good-byes. The brother-in-law wants to take Lola with him—she has been on his lap for two hours. And I continue on.
If anything, the drive gets more beautiful. Jungle, high mountains, endlessly twisting roads. I love driving. I can’t explain it. I love driving through beautiful country I haven’t known. I think I have become a traveler. (Zoe—pay attention—this is what you did to me).
This has to be the best bicycling and motorcycling road in the world (that message is for Vickie). When I first saw Volcan Arenal, I was a bit disappointed, because the upper third was in the clouds. Fortuna and the surrounding areas are high tourist scenes—and that’s a bit on the downside (ignoring my identity as a tourist), but the towns are charming and the landscape beautiful, a volcano hiding it’s top third in the white clouds sweeping by.
It’s about noon. I could stay, I think, at one of the many eco lodges in the area (most hotels and lodges here seem to be eco-something), but one, I want to keep driving—I’m in a driving mood; and two, it’s too early to stop. That’s the retrograde part of me that thinks I need to get somewhere by sometime.
So I drive on. I love these thin, twisting roads, the sides drenched in jungle growth.
I reach Arenal at about one. This is a charming town. I stop at a German bakery and get a pastry, delicious. I take Lola for a walk: she pees and poops, and I pee. I think, I should stay here for the day. There are several cabinas that look pet-friendly, but I decide to drive on. I would like to hit Canas by the end of the day, putting me within three hours of the dreaded border.
After about a half-hour of driving, I see a sign for a B&B, swiss chalet.  I decide to ask, drive up a steep driveway and am met by three great danes, one young and aggressive. I shout, Hola, and an older man (about my age) comes out. I tell him I’m looking for a room and I have a dog, but he seemed to miss this conversation. He wanted to talk about Trump (he is a transplanted gringo). I thought I had been clear: I wanted a room and I had a dog—but he didn’t get it. After about twenty minutes of political nonsense, he is surprised to find out that I was asking for a room. He told me they couldn’t accept dogs.
I leave presto. I drive for another twenty minutes and see a sign en el campo por una Buena B&B. I ask la mujer, a middle-aged indigenous woman with a soft, pleasant face, about dogs; no hay problema, Cecillia  dice. $35.00 con el desayuno. Es muy bueno. The right choice.
I have a wonderful afternoon with Lola—this place has expansive ground, beautifully landscaped with an ancient tennis court overgrown with weeds and black mold farther down the hill. It looks like a court one would discover in the jungle where the Aztecs played. Then beyond the tennis court lies Laguna de Arenal, a huge lake formed by a dam and encircled by volcanoes and mountains.
Lola is very happy running free, chasing a coconut down the hill and bringing it back up to me. She loves to run—she looks as if she is laughing when she runs. Over to the right lies another area with a pond, which Lola jumps in and splashes around. She loves to hit the water with her paws and try to bite the resulting froth.
I go back to our room and write until the days begins to fade. I go out onto my patio and play my guitar, singing, “I Go Where I Want To.” My room is very private, on the lower of a two-deck hotel/restaurant. I think there are only about four rooms in this hotel, and I haven’t seen others, so I thought while singing that I was singing only to myself (and Lola, who actually seems to listen). But when I finished my song, I heard clapping from the deck above me—the restaurant deck. I shout, Gracias, and a thin, handsome, young Hispanic man comes down to find out who is playing the music. He doesn’t speak English, but we manage to combine our languages, and he asks me to come up to join him and his amiga and play more songs.
His amiga (actually, the woman, an internet entrepreneur, lives with a different man—these two are only friends) is a beautiful woman, gringa, in her mid-thirties. Her beauty lies in her open face, not the kind of beauty you see on TV—just a very pleasant, open face, no make-up. We have a few beers, and we tell each other our stories, mixing English and Spanish so that we can all be in the conversation. This is the thing about traveling: people want to learn about each other, and I suppose because we know we probably won’t meet again, we are very easy about opening up about our pasts, our struggles, and where we think we’re going. This is a lovely, soft evening.

They leave—they were here only for beers on the patio (they live near-by), and I have spaghetti and wine, sitting alone on the patio with Lola, the lights from a small village shining across the lake. This is the perfect end to a perfect day. Enough to make one cry.
Goto Day 9: Time