Walden World

The wacky and wonderful tales of Beth's and Catherine's global adventures. And all things Walden too.

Monday, July 10, 2006


Experiencing "Calinda" was, I guess, like seeing some early Joe Strummer gig in a grotty London pub in the 1970s; or better yet, seeing the Pogues in Temple Bar in Dublin, long before the area's gentrification.

We first met "Calinda" at the hotel we stayed at in Samara, Costa Rica, and this is the story of how we came to know her.

We had left the strange environs of Monteverde cloud forest way up in the mountains and sought an "express bus" to Samara Beach. Our hotel proprietor advised that he would arrange for the bus to pick us up at 8:00 am the following morning. To our surprise, the 'bus' was a guy in an SUV who placed us and our bags in the rear seat. We, being Canadian, sat looking at each other, anticipating that he would drive us to the 'bus' (too polite to even ask "where is the bus?" all the while hoping that we hadn't been kidnapped by some local drug lord and were to be held for ransom).

When other passengers were picked up some two hours later, in a far away town, we realized that this was the 'bus'. So much for street proofing. Jeffrey Dalmer could have served us rehypnol laced Sangria, driven us straight to his house and we still would have smiled politely and spoke pleasantries to him about the weather in broken Spanish.

After a long and awkward drive (the other tourists were just as confused as to whether this was the bus and thus we sat staring at each other, pretty much saying nothing) we were dropped in dripping rain outside our hotel in Samara.

We then met the proprietors: an affable Austrian punk fellow, who spent all day and all night drinking beer, and his surly, Italian wife.

The hotel was a Swiss Family Robinson affair with wooden spiral staircases, bamboo everything and an open, covered living room/restaurant seating and kitchen area. Throughout the covered grounds were countless spinning fans, hammocks, swinging chairs, and oddly, knotted ropes dangling from all the ceilings.

It was then that we met "Calinda". Out of the corner of my eye I saw a brown, fuzzy figure racing across the tables. I turned to see a modestly sized monkey clambering up and down chairs and making its way to the large couch.

I stood shreiking and pointing: "Look a monkey!" convinced that a rabid local troop of primates had decided to invade the hotel. The proprietors then advised me that this was, in fact, their "baby". She was a Howler Monkey whom they had adopted as a newborn after her mother was killed in traffic and they had bottle fed this little ape, whom they named "Calinda", and raised her as their own child.

Now Calinda made "Curious George" look like "Dull and Disinterested George" by comparison. She was the naughtiest and haughtiest monkey I have yet had the pleasure to meet.

Firstly she would spend her days climbing tables and chairs, grabbing your coffee, beer or whatever beverage you happened to be drinking and steal it, to drink for herself. According to her parents, the beer was the better option, as caffeine tended to create an ADHD like super-monkey who behaved like some tweeker after a night of crystal meth binging.

Calinda also liked to sit up top in the rafters and lay in wait to spring on you, whereupon she would pull off your glasses, earrings or best yet, leap on a very little girl who lived there, pulling the child's hair and attempting to wrestle her to the ground.

Calinda, being a New World monkey, also had a prehensile tail. This meant she could use it as a third hand,"it" (the tail) having an actual palm and all. I remember my concern one time when Calinda lept onto Catherine, and tightly wrapped her tail around C's neck like a boa constrictor, whilst she hung upside down in a strange, spinning-dangle, like an artist from Cirque de Soleil, all the while trying to look up Catherine's dress.

On one particular day, Calinda joined a troop of wild Howler Monkeys in a tree adjacent to the hotel. While not entirely accepted, she was clearly having fun. When the Austrian pater and his loyal dog showed up to try and get Calinda to come on home, she dangled by her tail, and, while we watched, picked up a long stick from the ground, peeled off its bark, sharpened the end to a rudimentary point and then climbing higher in the tree, launched her makeshift missile at the poor dog.

Perhaps the worst trait about Calinda was, that if you actually liked her and wanted to play with her, she would studiously ignore you. Thus C and I spent day after day, hanging around the common area trying to get her attention (instead of going to the beach) only to have Calinda run away, ignore us, or worse, flip us attitude. Instead she elected to lie in wait and spring upon unsuspecting hotel patrons who would run terrified, wanting absolutely nothing to do with the crazed monkey who descended from above.

Most interesting was also the way Calinda's mother elected to discipline her. As I noted in an earlier entry, the surly proprietess spent her days sitting around chain smoking and drinking cup after cup of black coffee and bossing the Tica maids around. She was altogether lazy, surly and unhelpful to all customers.

While Calinda ran amok or created awful havoc, the proprietess would lie swinging in a hammock, smoking away and shout: "Ah Calinda, no... basta..." in a rather languid and disinterested manner.

A couple we met from L.A. had a 'time'. On the day they were to check out, the female party had to run from the pool to their hotel bathroom up two stories. She heard the room door open and someone come in and start rummaging about. She sat on the toilet, and concluding the maids had come in to clean up for check-out, began yelling "Ola, Ola...!! We're not out yet!". Her statement were only met with a stoney silence.

Convinced then, that her partner was playing games, she began to call out: "Jeff?...Hello...hello?...are you there???...(rising panic)...This isn't funny Jeff...!!! Jeff, answer me!!!"

Finally, she pulled up her bikini bottoms, and ran out from the bathroom only to see Calinda, atop the couple's open suitcases, rifling through their things and hurling Jeff's delicates about the room. When she tried to shoo Calinda out, the monkey clambered up onto a clothes rack and began to swing like Tarzan from hanger to hanger.

This crisis was again met with a languid and disinterested admonition from the surly proprietess, who eventually came upstairs to say: "Ah Calinda, No! basta..." (Cue sound: 'puff exhale', 'puff exhale')

When Calinda wasn't menancing patrons, children, luggage or even the collection of beer caps on the fridge that she sat and licked each day, she would swing back and forth in one of the hotel's many hammocks and stare intently at her little white monkey "nether-region" as if trying to solve some great and profound mystery.

When we returned home, I looked on Wikipedia to research Howler Monkeys. The site warned that of all monkeys in the world, Howlers, were generally never kept as pets by anyone, European or Amerindian, because of their reputation for being surly, ill-tempered, lazy and intoxicant-addled.

After reading the entry, I could only conclude that Calinda was really at home in the mad hotel of Samara.

Catherine and I cannot wait to get back to that hotel.


Post a Comment

<< Home