Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More checks and more visitors

Lately we've been checking things off our Costa Rica list that we hadn't intended to ever PUT on the list. Well, at least Ian has.

The other day our gardener brought up two cashew fruits from a tree on our property. Personally, I had enough interactions with cashew fruit during my time in Brazil years ago and wanted nothing to do with the nasty things. But naturally Ian and Sadie were curious. For those that don't know, the cashew nut is actually the seed of the cashew fruit, and the large fruity-looking thing above is an "accessory fruit" or "false fruit," known as the cashew apple. The cashew apple is a very popular thing to eat and make juice out of in some places, but to me it tastes terrible.

Anyway, Ian and Sadie commenced to exploring the cashew apple while I excused myself to do something else. "Hey Caitlin," hollers Ian from the kitchen, "is the cashew nut poisonous?" "Yes, it is, don't eat it!" I reply. "Uhhh...too late...." Sure enough, they had managed to get the nut (seed) out of the casing and had both tried it. "My lips hurt," says Ian. "My tongue feels funny," says Sadie.

The cashew seed is surrounded by a double shell containing an allergenic resin, anacardic acid, a toxin related to what is found in poison ivy. "Raw" cashews sold in stores are not actually raw - they have been roasted in order to destroy the toxin.

Thankfully, it was Ian who had done all the hard work of busting through the shell to get to the seed, and it was he who suffered the most severe reaction. Sadie's tongue stung for about 24 hours, but was fairly mild. Meanwhile, Ian's lips blistered, he developed a rash on his arm that soon spread to his torso, and the skin on his hand began to peel. Not life threatening (though believe me we did lots of internet research) but very annoying. More than a week later, most of his symptoms are gone with the exception of a rash on his belly which is taking its time to run its course.

Learn the hard way to not eat raw cashews.

This past weekend we were treated to another round of visitors - Libby, Rich and Kalin. Kalin is a good friend of Sadie's from home and she was thrilled to pieces to have her visit. While they were here we did all sorts of the usual fun things, including going to the beach of course.

We were enjoying a nice Sunday morning at Playa Pelada and Ian goes to take a turn with the boogie board. He had barely walked out into the surf when he stepped on something painful and came back out of the water to take a look. His foot seemed to have a small cut and it was bleeding. It must have been a stingray we guessed. Sure enough, within seconds Ian was in absolutely excruciating pain. He looked and sounded like he was in labor, as he rode wave after wave of horrific pain that went from his foot all the way to the backs of his eyeballs.

Well, lucky for us, Rich happens to be an aquatic biologist and diver who is trained to respond to all sorts of underwater emergencies, including from poisonous marine critters. "Hot water" he says. So we gather the (somewhat frightened) girls and all our stuff and make our way back to the house, Ian writhing in pain in the front seat, unable to talk or even hear what is going on around him.

Once at home, we deposit Ian on the deck, put his foot in a cooler and begin to pour in hot water. Almost immediately Ian has some relief from the pain. Rich monitors him closely as we continue to pour in hotter and hotter water (again we take to the internet to make sure there isn't some other type of even more poisonous creature that could have caused the injury - but all agree it was definitely a stingray). Ian suffers waves of progressively subsiding pain for the next 90 minutes. Within two hours he is able to get up and put pressure on the foot and soon after it is as if nothing ever happened. Everyone stayed calm, the girls did a great job making themselves scarce until the scary part was over, and all was fine in the end.

Stingray barbs - Hot water. Immediately. For 90 minutes.

Despite the drama of the stingray, we had a great visit with Libby, Rich and Kalin. We did lots of bird watching, critter hunting and bug playing. In the mornings we watched birds and at night we watched fireflies and geckos. Keeping their promise to the girls, Libby and Rich managed to catch a baby gecko, which spent only a terrifying half hour in the bug house before being let go.

Sadie gave Kalin a scorpion we had found and had the surf shop guys encase in resin (it was already dead, I promise), Libby gathered cicada skins to adorn our hair and clothes, and Rich took some great photos of the bats that live under our house.

We also ate a lot of course. We celebrated Rich's birthday with calamari, tuna and octopus at our favorite restaurant. (Check out his blog posting on his birthday meal)

We hugged them all goodbye yesterday and as they headed inland on a little plane for more Costa Rican adventures, they managed to find our house and captured us waving to them from the balcony.

Hasta luego!


  1. What a crazy time. Ian, my man, you are better for it. Right? Right.

  2. Poor Ian!!!!!! xo, Rucha

  3. I second that Ru, poor Ian! And just when I was thinking 'why on earth would they ever come back here???'