Thursday, December 1


This internet cafe nestled in the jungle; linked to the outside world by satellite, has become my refuge from the torrential rains just outside these thin walls. I can reflect as I am gazed upon by a wall of brightly colored Borucca masks. Many of the carvings incorporate a face vividly decorated by the animals commonly found here: parrots, toucans, snakes, lizards, frogs, jaguars, and bats- to name a few. Their craftsmanship captivates me. The rain against the roof sounds like a flowing river, soothing my mind to a place I was this morning.

Through the stench of bug repellent, I fear the film recently applied to my legs will saturate the notepad that rests upon them. A slight breeze in an otherwise maximum-perfect temperature allows periodic relief from my better-than-the-consequences stink. The rancho provides ample shade for my bamboo-rocking chair. I explore the interruptions of a smooth rocking motion demanded by the natural ridges of the bamboo. Two of the four German Shepherds that guard the hotel entertain me. I watch and listen to nature, in amazement. A hummingbird flutters around a tree I do not know the name of. A pair of squirrels chase each other in and around a gigantic tree. My eyes are sensitive to the numberous types of birds in my presence; many far more colorful than I've ever seen before. It is wonderful to feel this alive.

This tranquility is occasionally injected with delightful conversation with our hosts. Aspects of this paradise remind me of home and I find myself wanting to return here. The Hotel Papagayo is run by a married couple who inspire the perfect quantity and quality of friendliness. I can't help but be reminded of my wonderful stepmother, Lil Toot, when speaking with the wife: their mannerisms and smiles are almost identical. One of the four hospitality German Shepherd's name is Rosco; as was my mothers shepherd. This place even inspired a lengthy dream starring my lovable brother. And our hosts speak English (except the dogs who speak German-as my mother's did).

Being the only occupants of the hotel at the moment we are spoiled with offers of picked-on-the-premise coconut, agua de pipa (coconut water), star fruit, and "help yourself to the" coffee. The hospitality is unmatched. I'm crunching numbers to see if we can stay another day.

Well, the rain has stopped for now, my coffee is almost gone, the masks are beginning to look angry and my patient travel companion is waiting. It is time to return to paradise for the first "home" cooked dinner in two weeks. We'll try to cook chicken, accompanied with noodles topped with salsa and tomato paste. Sounds yummy?

Wednesday, November 23

How do you say, "Where the hell am I?"

If you go looking for a culture shock, you'll most likely find one. I fell into the rhythm of a foreign heart beat for which my own is learning a different tempo. I wanted to stay off the beaten path and go trek about Costa Rica as the locals do. But for some reason I hadn't quite pictured it like this while daydreaming beyond the pages of my travel book. But like most things, I learn best on the most difficult paths.

Traveling any distance on public transportation in Costa Rica is grueling, despite the gospel words of the guide book. They pack the buses; forget about sitting, there isn't even any standing room to spare. And just when you think that - not even - one more chicken could fit, the bus driver stops at a random spot and lets five more people on. It can be exhausting wedged in the isle of a hot and sweaty bus for several hours. And the roads are BAD. They consist mainly of potholes--paved or not. After all that effort to get somewhere, my travel companion and I don't know how to distinguish our intended stop. To gain any kind of distance is a full day's affair. I am relieved in the absence of time constraints. There are expensive alternatives.

The stress of navigation is eventually rewarded. There's something exotic and irreplaceable about waking up to the sound of howler monkeys at 5 am. I have tasted the best Dorado fish in tomato and caper sauce while being hypnotized by the waves of the Pacific Ocean in nothing other than perfect temperature. Breakfast and lunches are accompanied by Magpie birds, cats, Iguanas, monkeys, squirrels, and/or Hermit crabs. No where else have I enjoyed a hilltop dinner in a restaurant where the clouds do not discriminate between indoors and out.

The scenery comes with a price, though it may not be monetary. Fortunately each place has its own style of seduction, something that entices us to stay--if only to recuperate for the next travel day and study some Spanish.