September 15, 2013

“Suave, man”

A resident outside a building in Puerto Viejo, Costa RicaThis seemed to be the catch-phrase of the small corner-of-the-universe town Puerto Viejo. Deemed to have a “loud and proud bastion of Rastafarianism” by my Lonely Planet’s guide to Costa Rica, this town was certainly a unique place to be.

 

Our guide, Gil, was able to teach us a bit about Costa Rica during our 5 hour bus ride into Puerto Viejo. We went through a tunnel that allowed us to pass through a mountain. When built, it marked a huge advance in Costa Rican travel. Before, it would have taken 8 hours or more just to get to the port city of Limon!

We also passed by a banana plantation. Did you know that bananas are actually the largest herb in the world? Who knew! Also, if you have ever seen a banana plantation, you’ll notice that they put large plastic bags over the bananas. Why? Take a guess! The answer’s at the bottom of the post ;)

We stopped along the side of the road, the only long road available to reach our destination. Fortunately, it was a smooth ride, but if something were to happen at any point, the whole road would get blocked up. We stopped, and Gil bought a huge bunch of small bananas. They’re technically second-rate bananas, because the first rate ones get sent to the USA, but the first-rate ones get sent when they are still green, and they ripen as they arrive, whereas the second-rate ones ripen here. I was surprised at how much of a difference in taste there really was. I think I’m going to miss these bananas when I leave!

Relaxing in a hammock outside our room

Relaxing in a hammock outside our room

We settled into our hotel, then went back out to a nearby restaurant called Max’s. It was a really fun, relaxed sort of environment, and we got to watch the Costa Rica vs. USA soccer game while there. Costa Ricans REALLY love their soccer. I was glad to have been able to be a part of what turned out to be a really intense game. I ended up rooting for Costa Rica, and they won!

The next day we went on a snorkeling trip. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures because I was nervous about bringing my camera on the boat. I’d gone snorkeling before, but always with my family, and I’d always been anxious then too. I’m not the most comfortable when it comes to being in the ocean.

When I saw the boat, I started to get really nervous. The boat was VERY simple; think giant canoe with a bunch of cement benches coming out of the floor. Luckily, the rock of the boat concealed the shake in my step, and I boarded. Most people took their life jackets off when they went in the water, but for my own personal comfort, I left mine on.

The snorkeling was fun! For once I was glad for the clouds, without which it would have been a very hot day. We walked along a small trail to get back to our bus, along which we got to see some wildlife! There were some not-too-exciting termite hills (apparently termites taste like peanuts… no, I didn’t try one) and the very exciting Capuchian monkeys! There were even some little young ones! I was upset I didn’t have my camera to capture the moment.

The outside of a store in Costa Rica

After we got cleaned up, we spent some time exploring the town and all the stores. There was a down-to-earth, hippie style feel to the town. Probably not a place I would want to live full-time, but definitely a fun place to visit!

The beach, framed by tree leaves, in Costa RicaThe weather was hot and sunny the next day, which allowed for some luxurious time spent on the nearby beach. Being able to just relax in the Caribbean waters and sun-warmed sand was beyond glorious.  A nearly empty beach in Costa RicaIt’s hard to believe that all of this is happening while we are at school! I feel blessed to have such incredible opportunities.

The sign outside Bread and Chocolate restaurant in Costa RicaOh! Also – before we left, we stopped by a restaurant called “Bread and Chocolate” to have lunch with our Professor. If I ever were to live in this area, this would without a doubt be my type of place to work. Filled with homemade delicacies, fresh sandwiches and salads, and handmade chocolates, I didn’t want to leave. While most people got more meal-type foods, I went straight to the comfort food – a turtle sundae: scoops of locally made vanilla ice cream, topped with homemade chocolate and caramel sauce, and a dollop of whipped cream. After a day spent sun-bathing on the hot beach, I was in heaven.

This past weekend certainly proved that my time here is beyond incredible, and I have to admit that I’m still adjusting. I do find myself missing home, and familiar comforts, but I’m glad to discover little joys and advances throughout the days. Such as my host mom complimenting my Spanish. Or feeling confident in walking alone home from the gym. One aspect of Costa Rica that will take a bit more time to adapt to is the frequent rain.

For a Spanish presentation, my friend Adrienne and I had to go to the el Museo Nacional, the National Museum in San Jose. Our professor showed us a map of where it was, and we had a general feel of where to go. Getting there was fine, and the actual museum was really neat. It’s set up inside an old castle type building, so as you roam through the exhibits, you’re simultaneously exploring the castle.

Old-style jail cells in the castle of Museo Nacional, the national museum in San Jose, Costa Rica

Old-style jail cells in the castle

Also, the museum started with a butterfly exhibit! How cool! We found what we needed, and were ready to leave when the downpour started. Although it rains a lot in Easton, that doesn’t do a whole lot to prepare you for the rains of Costa Rica. At first we decided to try to walk back anyway, but we quickly stopped under an overhang as we were getting quickly drenched, even with our umbrellas. After waiting 10 minutes, 20 minutes, a half hour, we realized the rain wasn’t going to stop anytime soon and the streets were just getting worse.

Walking again, we somehow missed a turn and got a little lost. After stopping to ask for help at a police station, and taking time out of the rain, we eventually just took a taxi back to the University. A bit chilled and fairly wet, we survived and had yet another experience under our belts. The rain here is something to be aware of and respect, but it’s hard to not let it control your experiences. I expect that with time, I’ll continue becoming more comfortable.

The dog, Blu, lays on a couch

As always, Blu remains an awesome friend and comfort. Puerto Viejo was an awesome trip, and Blu was here to comfort me post torrential rain.

 

 

Due to some internet issues in my house, my posting is a little delayed. I hope to share with you about the most recent week and weekend’s adventure very soon!!

 

*The answer to the question about the bags on the banana trees: they’re to keep bats away!

posted in Rebecca Murray

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2 Comments

  1. would love to be there. feeling sad I am not.

    says Gebon
    September 15, 2013 at 7:02 pm
  2. Oh man. Went abroad to Costa Rica last year and Puerto Viejo was by far my favorite place to visit. Went back twice before the trip ended. I’m immensely jealous.

    says Mick Kowaleski
    September 16, 2013 at 2:35 pm
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