Ball Room Dancing

Tropical sunshine is something very special and amazingly strong, not that this constitutes news. Simply an observation. As mentioned before, the month of October had been somewhat overly moist and quite chilly here in our mountain perch. The temperature in the house often didn’t quite reach 70ºF/21ºC, forcing me to find socks for my icy feet and don one of my little vests to keep my kidneys cozy. On some of those pouring-like-buckets days, which also brought fierce winds, I’d slip on my bathrobe as a top layer, like a Hugh Hefner on welfare – my robe is cotton, not silk. Today, however, the sun broke through the clouds a little while ago, and immediately that tropical feel returns! As it turns out, it was for a short while only, but it’s a morale boost nevertheless.     
 
Dealing with rain is apparently a response one acquires early in life. As a Northern European, rain signifies cold, damp, uncomfortable misery to me. It congers images of windswept grey on grey skies over churning seas, reed thatched houses huddling behind dikes about to break. Even after all those years in Texas, where, except in January and February maybe, rain isn’t necessarily cold, I always expect it to be cold. Possibly this early training in wet nuances of lead to pewter also instilled in me a distinct preference for the depressing crime literature produced by authors of nordic countries. I have cherished my complete edition of Swedish police procedurals by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö since my tweens. Wahlöö described their writing efforts as: “… use the crime novel as a scalpel cutting open the belly of the ideologically pauperized and morally debatable so-called welfare state of the bourgeois type.” If that doesn’t sound like a barrel of fun! Then there is the more contemporary Swedish writer Henning Mankell*, who picked up the Sjöwall cum Wahlöö social criticism sword with an intimate portrait of his own brilliantly depressed Inspector Wallander. Just don’t buy his last one, it’s not up to par. The newest and most highly acclaimed Swedish crime fiction writer, the late Stieg Larsson, hit the charts with one of the biggest bangs ever. At first, I couldn’t quiet get into his exceptionally violent novels, but meanwhile I’m a fan of his very intense and three-dimensional characters, too, albeit a little less enthusiastically than most. Instead, I’m beginning to discover the lovely bleak situations presented in Islandic police thrillers. Not only is this yet another wonderful country with endless winters, a juvenile alcoholism epidemic and an inaccessible countryside, it also presents a unique anthropological situation. Island’s insular population shows one of the most stable DNA distribution known, which is an invaluable and rare opportunity for all manners of scientific research. Islandic first names have the tendency to look very similar to each other. They’re difficult to pronounce and have no clear gender affiliation for the untrained foreign reader. Only the family name ending of ‘dóttir’ for ‘daughter of’ helps to sort through this name confusion. One must therefore read Islandic crime novels slowly and carefully not to get completely lost in the swirling mist of diffuse characters.
 
To quell any possible melancholic tendencies in ourselves, we go out occasionally. Most often for dinner, but sometimes we go out to dance. No, not really. I used to dance, I loved it. Barry never dances. We listen to the music and watch others dance – with considerable envie on my part, I have to confess. A view weeks ago we watched some pretty intense dancing. We had gone to ‘Don Tadeo’ in Atenas Centro, a sports bar right next to our pleasant town park. A friend of ours, Nancy Wallace, performed there with her band ‘Bed Rock’.
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They do great nostalgic stuff, rock and folklore, reminding us old fogies of our misspent youths. Nancy is a beautiful singer and we enjoyed a great evening at Don Tadeo’s. I took a truly atrocious video of the band doing ‘Pretty Woman’, but the server wont upload it. Most likely, because Nancy would kill me, if I would publish that one!
Yesterday evening we had again planned to attend a concert. This time we wanted to see the very popular Costarican band ‘Gaviota’. These seagulls have been soaring since 1977, when the four brothers Guzmán founded the band. They have performed all over North, Central and South America and Europe, especially France and Germany. The venue for the concert was a recreational center, the ‘Quinta Roma Vista’ in barrio Mercedes, the Mercedes suburb of Atenas. This is a large, multi-use park, as you can read in the following excerpt from the promotional brochure on-line:           
 
Roma Vista es un lugar abierto con gran cantidad de zonas verdes, canchas de fútbol y basquetball, amplio parqueo, piscinas, salones de fiestas y ranchos*.
 
* a ‘rancho’ is a covered pavilion used for outdoor cooking or as a tiki bar
 
We’ve never been to Quinta Roma Vista before, but even in the dark and rain it’s an impressive affair. Lushly landscaped grounds surround a beautiful, partially glassed in club house, which can be subdivided into three ‘salones de fiestas’ or party rooms. Last night the whole area was used as a ballroom, with tables surrounding a spacious dance floor facing the band. The round tables were set with linen in white and green, with a flower arrangement in the center. Each table could accommodate ten guests and waiters served the room from a kitchen area and bar in the back. We were comfortably ensconced at the table of a friend, who very graciously included us. I enjoyed observing an expression of Costarican life, which you don’t encounter often anymore either in the US or in Germany, the inclusivity of generations. Many of the tables were taken by apparent family groups, including teenagers, older siblings with their spouses or partners, parents, uncles, grandmas – everyone is welcome. Not only welcome, but appreciated. You see them whisper, and laugh, and dance together, obviously enjoying each other’s company. And our table was essentially no different. Our friend and his group were almost two generations younger, yet we were welcome and warmly included. Next year we may even be able to participate in the conversation a little better, or so one hopes!
 
And the dancing was fabulous – to watch. So energetically skillful and joyously graceful. An integral part of the delight of this evening, which we almost missed owing to north-country rain perceptions. Another atmospheric low had brought a lot more rain and the thought of attending an outdoor concert was not exactly enticing. Remember, we were not familiar with the venue! We grudgingly got dressed, very warmly. It was the first time in Costa Rica that I wore a jacket and shawl under my raincoat and Barry donned a long-sleeved shirt plus rain jacket. Barry’s ultimate sacrifice was abandoning his Wisconsin Badgers v. Michigan State Spartans game on the computer for a potentially wet and unpleasant evening. Were we ever surprised and charmed!
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