> jumping into life.


tequila and i get along well. he looked me sideways when i asked for it, and when i insisted that i'd take a straight shot of tequila before almost any other drink. but it gets me feeling languid and fuzzy and warm without being sleepy and dizzy and dumb. it gets me dancing, in the hipslinging way that's the only way i dance. and it's the only drink i think i legitimately like - i don't even shoot it properly, but let it sit in my mouth a bit, swirl off the salt, and make sure i've finished it all before i hit the lime. although probably, the fact that you get to drink it with lime and salt is half the fun, since lime and salt are two of my favorite things.

i'm going to nicaragua tomorrow, for as long as i can until i feel too guilty about missing classes. but i'm reading las ruinas circulares in the original, and that makes me cooler than i've ever been before.


volcan arenal. mistshrouded, lavapouring beauty. few tourists, mostly european and speaking quickly in languages i don't have to pretend i understand. hotsprings, steamrising warmwater stargazing wonder. a brazilian named fabio who followed us around, paid for the taxi and a margarita, gazed with puppydog eyes but emphatically did not get laid. toucans flitting through the trees, butterflies outside the window, cool nights and the volcano looming over it all, placid, implacable and green. a wonderful little art gallery with a watercolor that grabbed me, snagged me, and wouldn't let me go until i'd traded $100 to have it in my hands.

then yesterday. a banana plantation, outside limon, deep wet heat and dusty soil, acres spreading on acres of banana plants, tied each to another with orange string because they are too weak to stand alone. the brown sweated men pull down the racinos, slice with sharpsharp knives, and hoist over their shoulders each weighing 50 pounds and more. then hang on a line, 25 at a time, and pull the miles to a warehouse, where sadfaced beautiful women wash them in fungicide and wax and the rejects are wasted. the woman who puts the sticker on each group will likely get some sort of cancer from the glue and the chemicals. until ten years ago, they sprayed chemicals known to cause sterilization while the workers were in the fields, while the workers were eating lunch, and even now the pesticides drift into the company housing where babies play in the mud.

when we were in panama, we the army, we the guns and bombs and fighting for freedom, we burned down neighborhoods and executed civilians and we, we the middleclass paper-reading righteous, we never knew a thing.

i want to start a letter: "dear god," but it isn't god i'm addressing (though driving in taxis through san jose streets has renewed my interest in praying). "to the world," perhaps, or, "o, my fallen bretheren." i am sorry that i was born white and pretty and female in america when that's all i need to live a reasonably happy life. i'm sorry i think that a $5 meal is cheap, because i know you may not make that much in a day. i'm sorry that i can travel here, visit, take your picture, and then drive away without asking your name. i'm sorry that i will forget you for the largest part of every day, that i will wear new shoes and glasses, eat rice and beans because i like them, and then maybe lobster because i like that, too. long ago i decided to stop feeling guilty for my happiness in life, insisted that my joy increased the total joy of the world, and that there could be no evil in that. but i will demand a guilt for every moment i do not realize what i have, every night's sleep i take for granted, and i will allow myself the mortification of one from a country in which we die from eating too much.


and then i lost my umbrella.


evidently, they tell us, it is normal to hit a third week slump. to suddenly realize exactly how much you don't and may never know, to mix all your tenses and forget the easy ones, to stop understanding anyone when they say anything, to dream in spanish that isn't spanish but just loud noises you can't understand, to feel like you can't think and can't stop thinking, like your head is going to get so full and numb that everything may just grind to a horrible, embarrasing stop, to feel so tired and weary and busy all the time, to feel lost and lonely, to feel hideously american and greedy and foreign and conspicuous, to forget your english so that you can't talk to anyone properly, at all. to generally feel awful and shy and incapable and dull.

to top it off, i got in a spat with a classmate, and one whom i respect and admire, because i'm a dipshit when i feel insecure and the only thing i happened to know that day was how to conjugate the preterite and she happened to be doing it wrong. therefore i feel uncomfortable in class, uncomfortable more when i'm doing well than when i'm not, and as though i can't be right because it makes her wrong.

and it won't fucking stop raining.


in the precolumbian

gold museum,

nestled under the throbbing


heart of costa rica,

i stand long

at a cool glass case


i don't know why

but a single

one figure,

gold and shining

as gold does,

bright under its lights,


and i stood


and wanted

to place it,



on my tongue.

imagined it heavy,



tasting like sexsweat

and coins.

imagined my teeth

closing carefully around it.

but not imagined.

something stronger

something harsher,

some itching urge

to feel the gold

the sweetshiny gold

to taste

to swallow this country whole.

and later,

walking through the rainswept streets,

i wanted to taste you,



we went dancing last night.

i thought i could dance.

i can't.

but not as much as the boys can't.



take highway 17. remove the guardrails and the median. it's four lanes like usual, but decrease the width of each lane by a foot or so. make it a little twistier, make it rush hour, and make most of the traffic buses and semis. remove smog checks. add pedestrians, either walking alongside the road, trying to cross it, or both. make it raining, and give a few of the other drivers something to drink. in fact, let them drink it while they drive. you've got the interamericano norte, part of the highway that runs from mexico to brazil. the road from san jose most of the way to monteverde.

now make it nighttime, still raining, and remove the paving on the road. that's the rest of the way.

of course, you're also adding incredible vistas, huge green mountains, monkeys, toucans, tangled vines, and guanabana soda. and once you get there, you've got a private hot shower included in your $5 a night hostel, you've got dinner for $3 and a kickass canopy tour. so as long as you survive the trip, it's worth it.


a monteverde! y jesus, the drivers here are crazy.


ayer, when i said it was raining, i was kidding. i meant "sprinkling" or "drizzling" or "a light mist." despite the fact that two hundred houses were flooded yesterday, in san pedro, it drizzled. today, it rains. rains hard enough that i can't hear my own typing, that i can't see more than a few blocks. and me without my paraguas. i'm sitting here even though the day is officially over, hoping that it'll let up a bit so that i can scurry my way home. my house is probably 300 meters from the school, but the road doesn't go that way, so i walk for twenty minutes in a big rectangle and get soaked. like i'm about to do right now.

we have a computer lab where the internet is free; however, there are rather a lot of us here, so i'll be able to get online almost every day but not necessarily. write me if you want - it's a treat to read anything in english.


its raining. that's because its the afternoon. it rains in the afternoon. also in the morning, and generally every night. and, it seems, whenever else the clouds feel like letting loose.

therefore, everything is green. todo es verde, ah, que verde! we have an avocado tree in the backyard, a banana tree in the front. flowers and fruits that i don't know the names of and couldn't pronounce if i did. more greens than pennsylvania even, and we watched tonto y mas tonto on tv last night, after the futbol but before los simpson.

i speak more spanish than i thought i did; i understand almost everything, provided i can get whoever is talking to me to speak slow enough. i learned probably thirty new words today and don't remember any of them. but tomorrow i will learn them again. they let us speak to each other in english today, and during our tour of the area also spoke in english when we needed it. after tomorrow, they won't. mi madre does speak english, enough that she can fill in for the words i simply don't know. we sat on her couch for a few hours last night, the dictionary between us, and i tried to explain what my dad does for a living, what i want to do with my life, and how i feel about the american government - all topics i have enough trouble explaining in english. in class we talked about the recall, and the weather, and whether the color of my hair helps me blend in enough to counter my blue eyes. i told him that Jason's dog is crazy because she runs around and barks a lot - when he asked my why i don't like Bush, i told him because he's crazy and he barks a lot. it was comforting to realize that i can have a sense of humor even in a langauge i barely understand.

this is a city. a city famous for its catcalls and pedestrian deaths, in a country famous for rainforests and justicia socialidad. in the empty lots, plants claw and crowd, soaring feet above the fenceline, shadowing the houses. this is the rainiest month, and noviembre the greenest.

tambien: it's very lucky that i like beans and rice. even for breakfast.


my essay is up, even though i doubt they could have gotten my contract yet. maybe just knowing it's in the mail is good enough. just knowing my check is in the mail is small consolation, since it'll arrive after i leave.

i leave today. in less than nine hours.

last night i realized that i was never afraid of leaving before because i never had any reason to think that i'd be anything but fine and happy wherever i was. but i wasn't fine, or happy, in philadelphia, and now i'm afraid i'll never be happy anywhere, and more specifically afraid that i'll be unhappy there. right now i'm so nervous i could puke. but i won't, because i'm wearing the only clean clothes i don't have packed, and one thing i don't need is to arrive smelling like puke.

there's an internet cafe a few minutes' walk from the school, and i imagine i'll make my way there once a week or so to check my mail, and write a bit here. i'm bringing a bigass journal and i'll probably be sending stuff to the doj's "distant views" section, so look over there every once in a while too. i'm trying to have as few expectations as possible, which is fairly easy because i have no idea what to expect. i've got one suitcase and my backpack, a dictionary, some neruda, two 800 minute phone cards, and more nervous energy than i can comfortably sit still with.

leaving! leaving today! today today goodbye!


well, we're getting close. i'm essentially packed, except that i still don't have flipflops or bug repellent. though i do have a mosquito net to put over my bed, and two canisters of malaria pills, valued at 125 goddamn dollars each. i bought my host family - a divorced mother and her two adult sons - some ghirardelli chocolate and a calendar.

i keep having minor breakdowns. i've been listening to shannon campbell incessantly for the past week and a half, and i've got her voice reverbing in my bones. this whole thing stresses me far more than i expected, but i have to act like it doesn't because my parents are flipping out anyway. in fact, the energy required to deal with them, and their bickering, and their looming worry, is enough to exhaust me entirely. i got so used to living on my own if not alone, to solving my own problems, making my own plans, that now i curdle every time i'm told what to do.

also this: i realize that i would far rather have a truly comfortable conversation with my father than go to costa rica. given the choice, i think i'd prefer to go back to when we lived in a little house and my mom was a dog trainer and my dad dreamed of starting his own business, and friday night pizza was all the extravagance we needed.


i shouldn't be this fragile anymore. but there's just so much to do, and i'm so afraid of leaving - afraid like i've never been before, the only thing scaring me more now is the thought of going back to school - and my parents were just awful to each other last night, and i didn't get enough sleep, and then one backhanded phrase sends me reeling like its last january. but it isn't. this is now, and i'm leaving, and i've left.

i'm sorry.


it's the end of wednesday. that means it's almost thursday. which is almost friday, which might as well be saturday and then i'm in costa rica and i definitely still don't speak hardly any spanish nor have i obtained gifts for my host family nor have i started to pack.

i miss jason like a big hole in the ground that i keep sidestepping just in time, because i know the hole would spin me all the way to china, and for god's sake i don't speak ANY chinese.

i still can't sleep.


alright. only thursday and friday now stand between me and saturday.

if you want a postcard, give me your address before then.


my good friend paul just changed his major from cs (which he didn't like) to international relations (which he does). i'm sure its been percolating for him for a while, and he did credit the sudden-inspiration fairy, but i like to think that my indecisive-liberal-arts-hippie-girl visit on friday was sort of a catalyzing factor.

of course, he says he wants to use his degree to go into business or banking. but hell, if he gets a year of satisfying classes out of it, that's something. every step in the right direction is a good step.

and besides, while neither business nor banking appeal to me as such, they must be the perfect careers for someone. who am i to judge?