Thursday, June 21, 2012

Life at the Compound

Life at the Compound By: Savanna Rovira This place is full of life. It's a mini hub, a familial city. My foot kicks open the heavy red fence. It's a seemingly oxymoronical thing; its menacing outside is met with a warm, welcoming inside. Sort of like the family dog. Or one of those spiky fruits with the delectable and delightful flesh. The second I step inside, the sounds and smells and laughter and stories and personalities and above all, flavors, of the Pechuga Compound bombard me. Why Pechuga, right? Pechuga is the nickname given to the men of the family. Chicken breast. You laugh but their chests stick out and you sort of think of chickens too. Proud and noble chickens though, the kind you would want to be your host family, if you were a chicken. Our compound is comprised of a few brothers and sisters and their families. The matriarch is abuela. Each house (I think there are a total of five) has its own little family, and each is part of the bigger union that resides within this fence. Children and dogs, and the occasional chicken or monkey, scurry around the premises. The little ones fly in and out of the houses, interacting with the mamas of each, and playing with their cousins as if they were siblings. My own host mother runs next door to grab a cup of sugar (unfortunately I think I'm depleting their supply, although she won't say so. The only way I can convince myself I like coffee is by adding four spoonfuls of sugar...) and stays for a while to chat. The doors and kitchens are never locked, never closed, never unwelcoming. Behind each, at each dinner table, sits someone willing, hoping, waiting for conversation. And then there's us. Thrown into the mix at seasonal intervals. But it doesn't really matter at all that we aren't Costa Ricans, that we aren't "pechugas," that sometimes we confuse the words "perro" and "pero," and that we aren't all that accustomed to rice and beans. For a few weeks, it doesn't matter whose blood you have, or to which country you owe your allegiance, or which language your tongue babbles in. We're thrown into the life and spirit of this place, treated as one of their own. We all become Pechugas. Their smiles become ours. And ours theirs. It reminds me of my own big italian family at home on Sunday dinners. Forty people, Nonna, pasta on pasta. If someone was to sit in and be an observer of our life for a few weeks, or do a home stay with us, they would probably be writing down things similar to those I write down now. That people come and go and it's a never-ending cycle of new faces and smiles. And the dinner table stretches to meet any size, any amount of new or old friends. And the fence is always open. In all, we're loving it here so far. Pura Vida (which apparently means anything and everything, from hello, goodbye, life is good, etc.).

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