So it turns out that extremely fun activities come with a price. After two days of surfing, swimming, horseback riding, hiking, and hanging in the sun, followed by a five hour long bus ride, my entire body hurts! I have more bruises, scrapes, and surfboard burns than I can count. Of course, it was worth it. That goes without saying.
We just returned last night from a weekend at Tamarindo beach, a Pacific beach in the Northwest region of Costa Rica. Tamarindo is famous for being one of the more built-up and touristy beach towns in Costa Rica and it is a favorite for “gringos”. “Gringo” is the term that Costa Ricans use for us foreigners and tourists.
Being a foreigner takes some getting used to, I must say. I’m used to fitting right in in the United States, but here in Costa Rica, I certainly stand out with blonde hair, fair skin, blue eyes, and halting Spanish. It’s pretty obvious that I’m not from around here. So far, all of the Ticos and Ticas (the Costa Rican term for natives) have been nice and friendly, though! A few have even been willing to have conversations with me, despite my mediocre Spanish skills! And of course, my Tico family is more than patient with us during our breakfast and dinner conversations. And all this practice is beginning to pay off!
I’ve already been thinking that when I return to the states, I would really like to get involved in some sort of ESL program. I’ve always thought that it must be hard for people who don’t speak English to be living in the United States, but now I know first-hand how difficult it is to be the foreigner who doesn’t speak the language! I am also learning how easy it is to learn, when you put your mind to it and focus on practicing all the time. I would love to be able to pass on what I’ve learned to people that are struggling to learn English in the U.S.
The weekend before this last one (September 7-9), we traveled to Puerto Viejo, on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Most of us agreed that we preferred Puerto Viejo over Tamarindo because it is much less touristy. The town has a definite Caribbean feel, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also ate the freshest pineapple that I have ever tasted. I don’t want to spend every weekend at the beach, but I definitely will need to do some more exploring when it comes to Costa Rican beaches because there appears to be a lot of variety! However, any place with sun, waves, sand, palm trees, and fascinating wildlife is good enough for me!
And now it;s time for some biology geekiness. On Saturday night we went on an ecological tour to try and see some leatherback turtles. It isn’t nesting season right now for the leatherbacks, but we ended up being lucky enough to find a turtle on the beach in the process of laying her eggs! (Or rather, the very experienced tour guide found her!) We also saw the largest snake (most likely a boa constrictor) that I have ever seen outside of a zoo.
The coolest thing we saw was a phenomenon called bioluminescence. Bioluminescence is the production of light by a living organism. In certain parts of the oceans, there are tiny bioluminescent organisms in the water that are visible at night when they emit a bluish, glowing light. As we walked along the beach, we noticed that with every step, the sand around our feet lit up with glowing dots of light caused by these little organisms. They were in the water and in the sand on the beach, and they were triggered by movement. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen! I will definitely be doing some more research on these organisms!
We have more fun trips planned for this coming weekend, but in the meantime, I’m happy to be settled into my Tico home, learning Spanish and hanging out with new friends!