The visit of President Barack Obama of the U.S. and the presidents of other Central American countries is affecting a lot of activities in San José. The Little Theatre Group has put out a notice that tonight’s performance of “God of Carnage,” at the Laurence Olivier Theatre has been canceled due to circumstances beyond” their control. There will be a Saturday night performance at 7:30 instead of the Saturday matinee. Obama et al. will be leaving Saturday afternoon.
The Sunday matinee at 2:30 will take place as planned.
The visit will be a bonanza for workers in the city. Wednesday was a legal holiday, being Labor Day in Costa Rica as well as many other countries, so rather than figure out the complicated logistics for the rest of the week, many companies and government offices are closing and people will enjoy a five-day holiday and won’t have to go into the city, at least not until Saturday night. And it looks as if those of us who live in Sabana Norte and environs are going to be confined to our homes, since the American Embassy is in Pavas.
Some people have been asked what they would say to President Obama if given a chance to talk to him. I would say, “Mr. President, I know you dislike war as a solution to problems. Yet you have inherited and continued to wage the longest lasting war in history, or will be, and that is the war on drugs.
“Wars don’t just kill and injure people. Wars brutalize and corrupt people, especially people who can make money from them. How many officers of the law are going to be tempted to make some easy money cooperating with the drug lords. How many banks are profiting from laundering money, and how many empty high rises are we going to have blight the skies in Costa Rica as the result of the drug war? And how many guns will be smuggled into this country to aid and confront the drug war? And how many innocent people will be caught in the cross fire?
“Just read the local papers and you will find evidence of all of that. Costa Rica is not a perfect little country, but it was a lot safer and happier and there was less corruption before it was included as a full member in the war against drugs.
“Not only that, once it was a nonmilitary country. Somehow, war, any war brings the military. That is an unfortunate state of affairs, to my mind.
It’s a big order and you have a lot on your plate. I wish you luck.”
Meanwhile, life goes on.
There are roosters in the morning that awaken people who live in the country. The city has its yigüirro, a bird whose name I can neither spell nor pronounce.
It is the national bird of Costa Rica, and I love the fact that Ticos have chosen this ordinary brown bird, about the size of a robin, without the red breast, as their national bird. It is not colorful, not powerful, and it is useful to humans (and probably other animals) because it announces rain.
Or rather, it is supposed to. This year it is as confused as the rooster who thinks dawn is at 4:30 a.m. and as muddled as the meteorologist in today’s world of climate change
Like the roosters, my neighborly yigüirro start their frantic “the rain is coming!” chirping at 4:30 a.m., and they do it so loudly that only earplugs will silence them so I can sleep at least until 6:30.
After 6:30, there are other birds that appear on my balcony looking for the banana I usually put out. The little blue birds make their stops and fly away, hoping they will get lucky later. Another species, which I call “yellow breasted nutcases” throw themselves against my windows time and again demanding bananas. Friends have told me that actually they are seeing their reflection in the window and are attacking it.
My friends underestimate the intelligence of birds.
These fellows stop their attention-getting self-battering after I walk into my living room and give them a stern look, arms akimbo (a look and stance I learned from my mother that made me behave). Once I put a banana out they share it quite peacefully, but not nearly as politely as the blue finches.
Probably, even without the presence of roosters or yigüirro, or dogs, newcomers to Costa Rica would be wise to buy some earplugs. Ticos can tolerate more noise with nonchalance than any people I know, except perhaps Brazilians during carnival.
Editor’s Note: The call of the yigüirro can be heard via a link from an archive story.