Costa Rica

They call it Rich Coast for a reason.  ´´This is the expensive country, so just skip it and keep traveling in Nicaragua.´´  That’s what we heard from EVVVVVVVERYone.  It’s not that bad and the beauty should not be missed.  We make it cheap by cooking a lot and renting a house for $100/week.

First, we have a proper 7-course Turkey Day meal in Alajuela, outside of San Jose.  (San Jose feels and looks like neighborhoods in eastern Brooklyn.  It is extremely affluent and westernized in terms of restaurants, shops, and advertisements.)  The meal is 7 courses because we only have one propane burner.  Pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, fresh bread (from a bakery down the street), stuffing, green bean casserole (this is nowhere close to the correct recipe, but still satisfies), oreo creme pie, and banana pudding.  Mostly firsts for Hilary, the food blows her Kiwi mind.  Banana pudding is her favorite, and being from the deep south of her country, leads me to believe that southerners are similar in lots of countries (I know this works for Germany).  Good choice, Hills.

At the last second, I decide to go with Hilary to Montezuma for silent treatment on the south shore of Costa Rica.  Every six weeks or so she has a completely silent weekend where she does as little as possible.  Since I was born, the only time I stop moving and doing stuff is when I am unconscious.  Even then I am quite talkative and have had a couple of adventures around the house.  On the ferry to the Nicoya Peninsula, Hilary has a cheap-boxed-wine connection (called Clos. It’s not wine, but it’s Clos) with Maisie and Michelle.  We follow them to Santa Teresa for a night.  I play bodyguard with a big stick on the supposedly dangerous beach while the girls play in the moonlit ocean.  No banditos in sight so I play a little bit, too.  We meet Gregory around 2am on the shore, and he invites us to his Bungalow.  The next night we take him up on his offer.  I was concerned he might be interested in the chicks because they are hot and much younger than him but he makes not one creepy move and is just a cool, fun loving guy.  He lives in Switzerland, originally from upstate NY, and works around his skiing schedule.  We walk down to the semi-rave club by the water, shoot pool, and quote the good Jimmy Buffet songs.  I have to add the following detail because some reader will recognize the genius in it.  He travels everywhere with a little stuffed monkey named Afika or Afi for short.  After his 365th photo with Afi, he´s gonna start a second calendar with Big Mama, Afi´s mom.  He found them in thrift stores in two different European countries about 5 years apart.  Afi has a basket, sleeping bag, and surfboard.  Hilary asks Gregory, ¨Does he have some little skis?¨  Gregory replies, ¨Of course, but we´re in Central America!¨  Afi was made in 1920, which makes him over 90 years old.  Gregory gives us a ride to the adjacent town of Mal Pais where we will rent the house.

It´s quiet with the exception of some dirt bikes and a family of howling monkeys that live in the surrounding trees.  You can vaguely hear the surf.  For the next two days, Hilary and I interact as little as possible, using hand gestures and writing notes to communicate.  The first day, I take it pretty well and stay still in the hammock on our porch from about 8am until noon.  It´s interesting watching plants reach up to the morning sun.  I spend the rest of the day lying around, sitting in a chair, and looking out the window.  Occasionally I cook.  I thought about conflicts that haven´t crossed my mind for well over 10 years.  On the second day, I am not happy and become very restless.  I discover that over the last couple of years I have become angry with people that I am close with because I have developed a habit of making excuses.  I didn´t always do this, but towards the end of college, I started to undergo psychological changes.  It´s a wonder I had enough momentum to make it through grad school.  Anyway, I realized that I need to stop making excuses and re-assume responsibility for my disposition and life.

After silent time, Hilary and I explore secret beaches, a tiny fish market, and cooking bread without an oven. A bakery quality loaf resulted from a fragment of cinder block we found in the yard, which was heated inside of a foil-lined pot atop the propane stove.  If you do ever create an oven from these materials, use a smooth stone or line it with foil, otherwise the bottom of your loaf will be gritty.  Trial and error taught us bagels should only be flash-boiled for a couple of minutes.  The longer we cooked them, the more they shrank and the more they seemed uncooked.  Like all ¨arts¨ cooking remains profitable through fear mongering and the general public’s lack of confidence.  The vast majority of eaters are afraid it is overly complex to make meals.  Add things that you know you like the taste of.  Heat is often optional.  For bread, mix flour and water until you can shape it.   Yeast and heat are for texture.  Other ingredients are for flavor.  If you add an ingredient with a really strong flavor or pH imbalance, such as baking soda, you have to balance it with something like vinegar or another acid in this case.  You´ll know by the flavor.  Ten bucks at the grocery store and a couple of hours of trial and error will teach you the basics.  After some struggling and some ´Ahhhh, I see!´ moments, then it would be effective to look at recipes and continue experimenting.  The reason there are so many variations of the same dishes is that most of the ingredients aren´t crucial.  Grow some balls and cook.  There´s not a person on Earth who doesn´t want to know how to feed themselves.

Final notes on Costa Rican beaches, de Pacifico.  Big rocks, frozen lava looks really cool and is everywhere, great seashells, pick your wave size, and walk on completely undeveloped postcard beaches until you die of starvation.  If you are too cheap to stay in $10 hostels, walk for 20 min and build a campfire with the abundance of dry driftwood.

Instead of going back to Montezuma to ride horses to waterfalls on the beach, we decide to walk 90k´s along the beach to Samara.  There are no buses  not even a dotted line on the map.  There is a road, and we get lucky with two hitches, one of which takes us though the country for about 3 hours all the way to Samara.  I wonder how much hitching karma I have left.  The couple that picks us up are from Detroit and run a composite-veneer furniture company called Context Furniture.  We drive on the beach, through tidal creeks and waist deep rivers, off and on roads, and see various facets of CR countryside, occasionally stopping to enjoy fresh coconuts and beer at world renowned beaches.  Thank you Brice and Keryn!

The first person we meet in Samara is the mayor, who moved to CR 18 years ago and likes that he doesn´t have to wear shoes to work.  I may return to open a dive company.  Smooth intoxicating energy in this town.  

We wake up in the sand at daybreak, and, after a brisk morning swim, grab our stuff and take a morning bus to Liberia (lee-berry-uh).

In the heart of the cowboy district, Hills and I are greeted by old cattle ropers sporting boots and rodeo hats.  The bustling, yet quaint, streets forming a grid system are adorned with rustic saddles and ropes (not the polished, stained decor at Longhorn Steakhouse), jumbo electronics and grocery stores, and is the 3rd largest city in the country.  Hilary didn´t sleep on the beach, and sweaty, sandy, bug-bitten, with a sinus aggravation wants a swimming pool for our last night in CR.  I´m on board.  Steak and red wine at the hotel restaurant.  WacArnold´s for breakfast.  I mention the night before it would be cool to arrive at the desayuno-almorzado (breakfast-lunch) cusp.  I walk next door and order consado (rice y beans) con huevos and a coffee.  Before the meal is served, the menus flip and I order a Big Mac and a coke.  The orders come out at the same time.  Einstein said, ¨There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.¨

–Controversial Tangent:  Anyone who disses McD´s can suck an egg.  Affordable food, millions of jobs worldwide, and go wikipedia “Ronald McDonald House Charities”.  After you get past the sad, failed attempt of hippies trying to find faults with the article, you can read how big the benefactor ballers at WacArnolds are.  EVERYONE has craved some greasy hangover food at some point.  I´m not too worried about the battle between the arches and their arch nemesis though.  Some claim that people have a right to eat healthy.  I say people have a right to choose.  I like to enjoy some ¨poison¨ every once and again.  I´ll do some extra pushups today to make up for it.  I´m not real big on people telling other people what they can and can´t have.  Furthermore, the fuel we consume is insignificant compared to what we do to burn it.  I have not come across any form of food that gives you a cardio or skeletal muscle workout.  Proof of this theory is in Usain Bolt´s interview after setting the new world record for 100m in 2009.  ¨I woke around 11am and decided to watch some TV and had some nuggets.  Then I slept for a couple of hours more.  Then I got some more nuggets and came to the track.¨  He is a legend and doesn´t need the endorsement.  Briefly study  how the guy lives and you´ll realize he wasn´t bribed to say this.  The ¨unpopular¨ giants don´t need my defense, but I like to hit folks in the face with a bucket of reason sometimes.–

The bus for the border town of Peñas Blancas is exceptionally nice.

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