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Paso Canoas:

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Literally means Gutters. The southern boarder of Costa Rica and Panama.






If you've ever been to a boarder town you know how intense they can be. however, I said that to a friend of mine who grew up in one of the international boarder towns of US and Mexico and she was deeply offended, so take it with a grain of salt.

Not all boarder towns are like Paso Canoas, and i know on the outskirts of town the area is quite lovely; however its just always such an intense day for us traveling from #pavones, whether on bus or in car, or taxi. Most anyone living in the Zona Sur of Costa Rica (#zonasur #costarica) has to venture to the boarder to shop, to get gas, and/or do a boarder run, as in renew their 3 months visa to stay longer in Costa Rica.

The prices in the stores and gas are cheaper because it's Panama, and the economy of Panama is basically china meets the east coast of the states meets Central America.

It takes a little more than an hour by car to get to Paso Canoas, depending on the state of the road, usually a severely bumpy ride up the dusty windy hill to get out of town, through the town of Conte (sometimes spelled Comte, depending on which bus your on) and passing the countless football fields every few kilometers, around the ominous acres and acres of rows of mossy, shadey Palm oil groves, passing the foul smelling palm oil refinery, and numerous cute brightly flower-lined gardens and little communities with names like Bella Luz. There are plantation style working communities with ticky tacky family housing, where a group of houses are just a repeat of each other; a repeat of the palm oil plantation life-cycle, people using horse drawn carts to carry the huge red palm fruit bounty to collection points, an almost archaic image, yet such a modern oppression- a health crisis in every degree and livelihood of countless worldwide.

There are plenty of cantinas to have a beer at which used to be my normal boarder run mode, however not today at 7 months pregnant. But we do stop in Naranjo to get snacks at the bakery or go to the Ropa Americanas, the second hand shops. On the way back we'll hit up the Viviero, the closest nursery.



Finally when pulling up in to Paso, it's always a rush-- like "Time to send it". preplanning all the stops needed.

Swinging into the confusing road system, driving along pedestrians, vendors, passing hustlers and foreigners; refugees from Haiti and other countries from south and Central America lining up by the bus depot, or congregating, migrating, camping out.

Guayami women of the indigenous group who's reservation spans across the Panama-Costa Rican boarder with young children all in their brightly colorful traditional dresses passing through; many with hands or cups out.

The other day I drove with Dee my friend. Its worth it to drive out there just to get gas: in Pavones town today a gallon costs C3,500 (colones) , which is about $7. At the boarder the price is less than half that price, and coupled with other bargains at the department stores, makes for a weekly or biweekly trip, despite the hassle.

It's been really hot lately but that day we had some cloud cover, making our late start not as unbearable as other days. In the morning I had a massage with Sherman, our local charitable "sheriff" of "Shermyville". Dubbing himself Papa Rainbow, he has been doling out land in the neighborhood of La Heirba, developing and expanding the creative potential of the area for decades. I owed him massage since last year, so after that we cruised out around 11 am, making really good time stopping in Naranjo for a snack and hitting up the Bazaar, a funky little shop with art supplies and a ropa americana section in the back.

We got into Paso right after noon, as the road is nicely graded at the moment.

Things went smoothy. We did our big shop at City Mall, the go-to department store. My biggest concern was getting a few of these newly stocked 2 pound boxes of medjool dates (pure gold), which was a success, and some meat for Little Bear. Plus other odds n ends.

I wasn't completely aware of how out of place i looked until i noticed all eyes on my big pregnant belly, poking out from under my shirt. Or were they looking at my tiny shorts? i was planning on changing before getting there but neglected to and basically looked like i was wearing only underwear.



After some typical and light harassment by the parking lot hustlers, we walked through town past encampments and empty lots filled with exhausted coconuts and trash; vendors along the road, and then to the building that actually spans the boarder, through the strange hallway of side stores, like an underground cave system, its bunker-vibes, florescent lighting, and full of people selling discount shoes, clothes, belts, electronics. This is the sneaky and also main way over to Jerusalem, a different department store with slightly different products and a ferretaria, a hardware shop.

After Dee got some sewing parts, our boarder mission was almost complete, we needed to stop and get gas and then we would be on our way back home, not a bad trip considering the late start.

Gas was easy minus Dee slamming her fingers in the door, but not so badly. We cruised back to whence we came from. Stopping one more time in Naranjo to pick up some chocolate doughnuts for Renzo, Dee's partner. I had pulled up having to pass a very sickly looking dog incessantly scratching itself in the middle of the road and momentarily after Dee jumped out of the car to grab the doughnuts, my car horn was stuck on.

It took me a second to realize it was coming from my car and as soon as i did i was hitting the steering wheel to try and turn it off, turning the car off and on, to no avail. Dee comes out and hits the horn and it shuts off- ok maybe i didn't hit it hard enough? 2 seconds later i turn my head just in time to see the sickly dog that was still in the middle of the road getting ran over by a massive truck. Dee saw it too and she began to scream at them- what the f*ck is wrong with you?! and i saw the man in the passenger seat grimacing as they drove by.

I couldn't bare to go over there, but she did and managed to blast the poor creature some reiki before it took its last breathe. Most everyone on the sidewalk and store front was just watching, as if this happens everyday, which i wouldn't be surprised if it did.

By the time Dee came back over to the car it started its persistent honk again as we began to drive away. Hitting the steering wheel, nothing was changing so we pulled over and tried to pull out the fuse, and couldn't find it so we popped the hood and found it and it wouldn't budge; meanwhile, as with most of my car trouble events, a man casually walks up and fixes the problem in 3 seconds, in this case unplugging the wire connection to the actual horn which was right on the grill of the car.

We got in the car and continued on our way, in total dismay of the tragedy we saw.

We stopped and got some dinner on the way home, at La Piña, as if the day couldn't have gotten any longer, but it did and it does because that's how boarder days go, and by the time we got home it was dark.

The next morning i had a plan to go to my La Heirba property and conduct the cutting of a teak tree that was looming over my house. My house has been rented for about a year now to my friend, Gaby and she will be there for another month or so, therefore i have been renting from a different friend on the other side of Pavones in Punta Banco since I've been back. I am hoping to continue to do so as long as i can.

Punta Banco is my real home away from home but land is not as affordable as where my house in La Hierba is. However, within the past year i bought the small lot next to mine mostly because i couldn't even imagine someone building that close to me, and as far as manifestation goes, the stars aligned for that to happen, so my next manifestation is to have a house in Punta Banco, too. And so this teak tree is on the new lot, and now that its mine i get to take care of it as its pretty dangerous to have it hanging over my roof and all, not that i like cutting trees down but sometimes it's necessary. So I had planned to do this everyday for the past 3 days, but my guy had issues with his tools and so i asked some other fellas in the neighborhood to help me out.

I had this idea of planting corn on my empty lot and creating una milpa in traditional fashion and asked the Grandfather of the neighborhood if he would be able to help me. He cordially agreed, like a true mountain gentleman and we had decided that indeed I needed to cut this teak down and he said one of his sons could do it.

There was the power line literally attached to the tree and so the day before i had arranged for someone to come and take it off when the cutting was supposed to happen.

Well we were all there and all the fellas somehow agreed that the power line didn't need to be removed (even though it clearly did), and so they decided they come cut the tree down the next day.

So grandpa and i sauntered through my yard talking plants and then in his milpa, him handing me corns and sweet peppers and pointing out his babies everywhere.

Suddenly, when we went from bright midday sun to the dark calm shade, i had a floater in my eye, like a huge splotch just missing from my vision- and in that moment it reminded me of this dream i had a few weeks ago while I was still in Florida: I had this dream that Little Bear's mouth was gone and it scared me; her whole snout was missing and she was kind of slinking around some interesting dark landscape and when i woke up i didn't even want to think about it because it freaked me out so much. But just then in the shade i noticed that i couldn't see her mouth, her snout was missing just like the dream, and she was slinking around the roots of the large shade-providing tree. And i always become extra aware when dreams line up with reality, like there is a lesson or a realization to be had.

I went and sat at Abuelo's house for a moment and he offered me some fresca, i was thinking "un fresco" like some fruit juice but it was actual fresca soda, and i agreed to just a little bit and he poured me like a half of glass, way more than i wanted to drink, and i sat there and took a sip, trying to blink the floater away, and then all of a sudden i remembered that i had a phone appointment with Ines, my birthing doula, at 10 am-- I asked Abuelo what time it was and it was 10:08 am, so i excused myself, thanked him and went off to my house, assuring him i'd see him in a day or so.

That day my tenet, Gaby, had gone to the boarder herself to do a visa run, and i was planning on being there doing yard work on the new lot (which didn't happen) in which case i would also be able to feed her cat, Leo. So i was inside and checked in with Ines on the phone. While i waited to hear back from her, i started to feel super strange and started looking online about floaters in your eyes in the third trimester and immediately got results about preeclampsia, a sudden blood pressure increase occurring in pregnancies generally post the 20 week mark that can escalate rapidly and become a medical issue. I thought to myself, this is what Jackie had with Henry in that she ended up having to have a c-section at 8 months.

I talked to Ines and she said to find a way to take your blood pressure. Now back up just a moment because it was acutely coincidental that there is this woman, Jenni, that lives in the La Heirba neighborhood with her son.

I have been hearing about her for ages. She does acupuncture and sounds totally wonderful from everyone i talk to. Well it just so happened that my roommate had an appointment with her that day and when i got wind of it i asked if i could stop by and meet her since i'd be in the neighborhood. So that was agreed upon, but coincidentally, as i was walking to meet Abuelo that morning, she drove up and we both immediately knew it was each other because we had both been hearing about each other for so long. So finally we meet and chat for a few and then we go about our days.

Then back to that afternoon and the issue of finding a blood pressure cuff comes up... I post in the neighborhood group chat, does anyone have a blood pressure taker? Jenni responds,

i do.

Is this the Jenni i just met this morning?

It is!

Well hot dang i'll be right there!

I walk over and she is just so lovely and takes my blood pressure and it is totally normal, which is an awesome relief. We chat about Hawaii, she is from Maui, and just moved to CR from Kona. She's a single mom to a teenage genius and is as happy as can be.

Even though my blood pressure was normal, I still felt strange and she so kindly asked me if i'd like to have a session with her before Shelly, my housemate, arrives? Of course i do! Jenni says loves lomi and agrees to a trade. And so we proceed.

It was a lovely treatment of course, after some cupping, needles, and tuning we came to the conclusion that there was stagnation in my liver possibly due to anger and that i was dehydrated from such a long day at the boarder the day before.

I left feeling so much better than i did before and needing to rest. I got some lunch in town as i was so hungry and then headed home to Punta Banco.

In my resting i had chills and felt strange but woke up after a little nap feeling a lot better, resolving to rest the next day to rest, recoup, and rehydrate myself.

That next morning the guys are at the property and wanting to cut the teak tree down saying they need to move the power line (duh) and cut the power for a few hours. Well Gaby was about to be home so i thought we could do it another day and decided to plan on Monday to do it all, but we were talking through Sherman and communication gets funny and they ended up cutting the tree anyways. But an unfortunate thing happened, later that day Gaby sends me a video of all the trees along the fence line getting taken out, including what i considered to be my protector tree, the old Sour Orange tree that protected the door way. I was shocked. Were they drunk? how could they have done that? Why would they have done that?

This tree was so special. I spared cutting it when i first cleared the lot because she had been there so long, and had borne fruit for so many people for so long. I built my house around this tree, respecting its presence, grateful for allowing me stay.

A couple years back, as i was breaking up and kicking out a short term romantic situation, there was this incredible white owl gracefully and powerfully standing her ground for me, on her branch, in the Sour Orange tree. A beacon of reason and protection, she stayed on her branch for three days, without moving. At eye level, she was so close you could almost touch her. The entrance of my house being on the second story, she stared into the soul of whomever dared look into her stunning yellow eyes, enchanting my ex to depart.

Her presence, the energetic of my grandmother, of all grandmothers, the strength and valor unparalleled.

After the third day she left but so remained her majestic thrown, the Sour Orange Tree, until her fate too was to be a memory.

I didn't find out until the next day when the fellas found me in Punta Banco to get paid that the teak tree fell very close to the house, barely missing it but taking out the other trees. Unfortunate, but must be taken in stride as i was going to have to work around my beautiful old Sour Orange Tree in my upcoming plans on the property. Now that she's gone, and i can't go back in time to save her, i just have to accept the fact of the matter and move on.

Mournful, and remembered in this few days of feeling gutted by strangeness.







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