I have met many interesting, bizarre, and fascinating people in my travels. I spent almost an entire week with a director of the NSA in Laos, I met a veteran of the Vietnam war on the Myanmar border who didn’t realize the war was over, and even spent a summer researching in Africa with a professional Dutch soccer player. All of these people have left permanent and distinct clipits of moments in my mind, yet the one with the most bizarre tale to tell may very well be my French airbnb host, Michel. He lives out in the middle of nowhere in the Nicoya Peninsula. I selected his house because it was relatively close to Hojancha and the Blue Zone I was in search of. The reviews people had written for him stated that his house was a magical place to relax and that 4 wheel drive may be a good idea. To those people I would like to ask, “Were you smoking something at the time of your arrival?” 4WD is not a good idea it is necessary. He lives up a 1 km hill with massive boulders making the trip up to his place an adventure meant for a 4WD with high clearance which my small Bego did not have. I got to the house feeling a bit shaken and shocked by the ordeal of getting there. My accommodation was basically a renovated barn. Everytime I touched the running water in either the sink or shower I was zapped with electricity, so showering was out of the question. Unfortunately, I did not discover this fact until after I had used soap. Yes, as you may assume I remained sticky for the following day. The welcome cupcake on my bed had been half eaten by an animal and the windows had no screens or panes. It was right around the time I discovered that I had no screens that he said, “In that tree live poisonous snakes, in that tree poisonous spiders, in the forest there is at least one panther, but the biggest concern for you are the scorpions. Make sure you don’t leave any clothes on the floor. They like to nestle in shoes. All the other critters will probably stay in their own place.” My response in my head was, “Great! How much am I paying for this again?” Thank goodness I only booked one night. So, I took advantage of his balcony and watched the massive poisonous frogs catching bugs and a colony of ants diligently carrying leaves down their massive highway system across his lawn.
He came to sit with me and proceeded to tell me his life story. I respect that it is his personal tale to tell, so I will only give a brief summary. He began by explaining that his father was a very respected scientist in France. He spent 30 years researching a common insect in France. He used his research to assess pollution in France’s rivers. He assisted homicide detectives in deciphering the time of death of victims based on the stage of development of the bugs. He was a true environmentalist and he would often take Michel on adventures in the wild. It was obvious he had a deep respect for his father. Then his story took an odd turn. He explained that he had returned to France to take care of his father for several years while he struggled with Dementia. During that time he discovered the papers that documented his “adoption”. He hadn’t been adopted, but bought! In the 60’s in France you could only adopt children from Africa or Asia. So the massive number of French orphans were hidden away in prison like orphanages. His biological mother hadn’t been able to handle raising five children by herself while her husband was away driving trucks. One day Michel, the youngest, began to cry uncontrollably. She put her cigarette on his face to teach him to be quiet. A neighbor witnessed this so all five children were sent to the orphanage. Michel remembers a very kind care-taker from the age of 1-3 and then the horror of orphanage life. At the age of five he was purchased by his parents to be. The rest of his siblings were left in the orphanage until the age of 18. Thus, they are quite bitter.
His parents wanted him to have a sibling, so they adopted a little girl. She had some mental disabilities and that is when his new home became a dark place. His parents were very strict and had high expectations of their children. Michel was often beaten and left to take care of the difficult younger sister. He shared so much more of his sad story. It is obvious he finds solace in nature and that is why he chose to move all the way out on his quiet hill with nothing but the animals as his companions. Before I headed to sleep, he offered to give me a tour of the property in the morning. I agreed to it, having no idea the story that went along with the land I was standing on!
I was awoken by an animal attempting to open my shudder and laid there staring at the ceiling until the monkeys decided to join the symphony of animal sounds at 5 am. As offered, Michel was there ready to lead me around the place. He started off by explaining the previous owners. The house had been well constructed by a genius German who eventually lost his genius (a lot of the house’s quirks were constructed by him- like a room with no roof intended for nude sunbathing). He went crazy and spent the rest of his life living primitively in the forest. The next owner, an American, had to put some serious effort into hunting down the German in order to buy the property. The American was a well-respected software engineer. He had met his wife, an Italian call girl, at a business party in the US. He wanted to take her away from her line of work, so he decided to work remotely from Costa Rica. He expanded the house. Apparently, he was a very good carpenter on top of his many other attributes. Michel assumes he was a Mason because the house’s many carvings incorporate Mason symbology.
The story didn’t get really weird until he led me down a newly cleared path. He explained that the whole property had been overrun by trees and bushes and that everything clear now he had cleared in the past 10 months. While cleaning up the yard, he had discovered what appeared to have been a path in the past. Now I am getting ahead of myself, but the American owner died leaving the property to his Italian wife. She had told Michel that he would probably find some structures out in the woods. She knew that her husband had secretly been building something, but she didn’t know what. So, Michel kept cutting trees and clearing bushes, until one day he found something big! He found a second house, yet this house appeared to have been built with a very specific unknown purpose. The open top floor has many power outlets which leads one to assume it may have been used for some sort of work meetings. The bottom floor had a bathroom, small kitchenette, and a storage closet. Michel wonders if this was a meeting place for Masons. Why keep it a secret from his wife? How was that even possible? The amount of materials he would have had to truck up that hill in order to build it would have been tremendous. Just for the record, if my husband is hauling cement, wood, and other building materials up a hill I am so going to investigate. There are not going to be any mysterious and secretive meetings without me knowing about it! Michel suspects that perhaps the Italian woman didn’t care because he assumes she was only with the American for his money. Perhaps, but wouldn’t she be curious anyway?
Wait! The story gets weirder. The American got brain cancer. To help the pain the locals suggested he take cocaine. They began delivering it on a regular basis. Then one entrepreneur pediphile realized that he could pursue his own pediphile activity on this hidden property up in the hills and make money while at it. Since the American was drugged up on cocaine and no longer his good samaritan self, the locals began charging him money to bring young children to the property. The drug dealers and the pedophiles all squatted on the farm and made a big mess of the place. Michel said that the situation in Costa Rica is quite sad for children now and that a large percentage of children are exposed to some degree of sexual abuse. I do not know the validity of this claim, but it is what he said. The American died and the property was abandoned. His wife wanted to find someone to lease the property to keep the squatters away. That brings us to Michel.
We walked for over two hours in the woods. He showed me many plants and the source of the spring that supplies the farm. I think the Italian woman found the right person to love the property and to be its guardian. I hope that the property continues to be a place for Michel to have a peaceful existence and that the story of the land from here on out is a tale of serenity.