Monday, April 28, 2008

Pura Vida

Ah, Costa Rica! I appreciate their whole Pura Vida ("pure life") concept and all, but I've decided that they really need a new slogan:

Costa Rica. Where Houseplants Come From.

I shit you not, there were houseplants everywhere! All those philodendrons and mother-in-law's tongues and all that kind of stuff were just laying around like they owned the place. Amazing.

We rented a small house on the central Pacific coast. In the yard grew bananas (probably decorative), pineapples, mangos, and coconuts. I'm guess many of those didn't just spring spontaneously from the ground and were probably planted solely for the benefit of gringo renters, but it was still cool. We didn't do any beach lounging -- Mr. B and I both being Very White People -- but we did sit in the shade of the gazebo and stare a lot. I think that's pretty much my favorite vacation activity. Especially staring out over the ocean. Lest you think me a total slug, we also did a guided hike and a boat tour to see some wildlife. May I just say: crocodiles rock.

(Sorry. I had to go there.)

And I found a new love in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican national dish is Gallo Pinto and it's an exceedingly yummy combination of rice and black beans and assorted seasonings that I could probably eat every day, which apparently is not an uncommon practice in Costa Rica. The key ingredient is Salsa Lizano. It's a distinctive flavor, kind of like Worcestershire sauce but less salty and more vinegary and somehow 'greener' tasting. I didn't bring any back since Mr. B has the most of a large bottle left from his last trip. But now I'm thinking I should have. Oh well. I'll just have to go back.

Other things I learned about Costa Rica*:
  • Since they are so close to the equator, the sun rises and sets about the same time year round -- a more-or-less constant 12 hours of sunlight per day. After all my whining about winter, now that it's light here until after 8 pm, it was strange to have it completely dark at 6 pm.
  • All yellow lines, solid or dashed, apparently look exactly the same to Costa Rican drivers. If they want to pass you? Oh, they will pass you. Steep curve, steep hill, or steep curve on a steep hill be damned. Fortunately, they are very good at it. I, however, am not. I pissed off a lot of drivers in Costa Rica.
  • It's amazing how quickly driving a stickshift comes back when needs must**.
  • Waking up to the screeches of scarlet macaws overhead is not a bad way to start the day, even at 5 am.
  • There are a lot of dogs in Costa Rica, mostly small, cute ones***. I saw one cat.
  • Most male animals in Costa Rica are not neutered. I have not seen that many testicles in... ever. C'mon! How can you not look?
  • The water quality is OK. Not recommended for gringos with delicate systems to drink, but OK to brush teeth with, cook with, wash produce with, etc. I hear it bothers some people but not others.
  • You cannot flush toilet paper in Costa Rica. It goes in a trash can, sometimes a trash can with a lid, if you're lucky. I was not a big fan of that. Even with a lid.

  • I also learned that I really need to learn some Spanish. I mean other than what I've picked up from Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street over the years. I was pleasantly surprised, however, at how many words I did recognize, even if most of them were completely useless when it came to figuring out what was going on. Names of colors and fruits will only get you so far, you know.

    And the best part of all is that it's the first time in recorded history that I came back from vacation without having gained a single pound. It's amazing what 90 deg. temps will do to an appetite. I don't know about you, but that's a big freakin' deal in my book. Mr. B lost 5 lbs but he doesn't recommend his methods. (see footnote below)

    I know there were other highlights I wanted to share but my brain is having trouble transitioning back into Real Life Mode so I'll have to get back to you later.

    * And by 'Costa Rica' I mean the small percentage of it that I saw. Which is totally enough for gross generalizations, right?

    ** Mr. B picked up an intestinal bug and was not able to drive us back to San José, a 2 hour drive over the mountains, to catch the plane home. I took a deep breath, nutted up, and managed to acquit myself passably well. The only casualty was an already-dead iguana. Even though it was already dead, I still felt bad.

    *** This is Mimi. She belonged to the caretaker of the rental house and came to see me every day. I so wanted to bring her home....
    See that foot? I told you I was a Very White Person!



    1. I can't concentrate on your foot. You lost me with all that talk about the testicles.


    2. I would want to bring her home too. She is precious!


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