Jungle Culture Club Roughs it with Class

February 27, 2004

MATAPALO – STIJN DE WITTE is the man responsible for exposing whole villages of deep jungle hunters and farmers to a Martian invasion on the big screen. He toted a projector, a generator and a screen to the remote villages around his home near Matapalo in the Southern Pacific zone and showed Mars Attacks to people who had never before seen a movie.

They followed the viewing with a discussion that wriggled toward themes of cultural differences and left de Witte with a story that typifies his lifestyle. He is the last word in cultural fusion. He is a baldheaded Belgian owner of clubs throughout Europe and Asia and a welder of Tico and foreign societies in his funky conglomeration of disco and hammocks in the jungle boonies three kilometers from the tiny town of Matapalo.

I went there for a dinner and concert over Valentine’s Day weekend. De Witte hosted guests that represented three generations and a smattering of countries from Europe and the Americas in a fundraiser for his Fundación Matapalo.

THE Fundación, de Witte said, is a culture club without ambitions – just real people in the deep jungle. “All around the world you find people looking for likeminded people and for cultural exchange,” he said. “I try to promote cultural synergy – an exchange between locals and foreigners.”

Among the activities he organizes are children’s camps – up to five kids from abroad camping or living with up to seven kids from around Matapalo in their homes; a BackPack2Basics forest immersion, survival training and guided adventures, and a litany of unexpected and novel social jamborees.

The house is in the middle of the pure jungle where I saw a pair of toucans not 10 yards away from the woody-vine domed circular porch and forest lookout beside his auditorium/dance floor and in sight of the wading pool. Rumors mention that Capuchin monkeys and parrots that drop by as well.

The house looks like it is part dance club, part Gilligan’s older brother’s bachelor pad on the chill side of the Island with palm leaf roofs and part aluminum space ship with a touch of Victorian-era class.

The sound system and scant light bulbs are solar powered. Candles in wroughtiron and glass lanterns and atop empty wine bottles light the place during nighttime gatherings.

ON Valentine’s weekend guests paid an entrance fee for a roll of Java money – fake bills that bought drinks, garlic, tomato and fishy appetizers and yummy fish soup.

We applauded the father and son Perez marimba duo then, when they had stowed their keys, we nodded our heads to Canadian-native Daniel Hébert’s tranceinducing acoustic guitar and vocals.

Singer for the band God’s End, he calls his music “melodic-garage-swoon-f*** rock” and stored five songs for downloads, free of charge, at www.atgodsend.com. Perry Gladstone recorded the concert for a Canadian Broacasting Corporation radio feature on Hébert and has thrown his support behind the Fundación. His report is available at www.perrygladstone.com.

For more information on the Fundación see www.matapalo.com.

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