Monday, July 27, 2009

Dr. Eissenberg comes to Costa Rica

Hey! I don't know if anyone is still reading this--I haven't written anything in ages, so probably not--but if someone is, I apologize for leaving without closure. I'm not sure I'll write much more about my stay in San José anymore, but I do intend to sum up the 10 days my mom spent with me traveling about the country, and include some of my thoughts on returning home. They should help.
The following is actually going to be copied directly from my handwritten journal that I took around with my as my mom and I first visited her college roommate, Michelle, then set off to Tortuguero National Park and Puerto Viejo. It will be a bit long, but it was really part of the best time I had my entire four months down there, so I don't want to shirk on the details. Dani, if you're reading this, be sure not to skip the part where I SAW SEA TURTLES laying their eggs!! ...In the place you'd marked in the guidebook you gave me!
Without further ado, I transcribe:
Last night in San José didn't feel like a goodbye at all. Even without the fact that I was tired out of my brains, which led to being rather bored, I don't think it was necessarily the best way to bring closure to this sort of thing. We were just all at the bar (Nova), dancing and wanting to leave at different times.
Good news--they did play all those classic songs from the Study Abroad Spring '09 era: Rise Up, Destination, No Eres Para Mí, Qué Tengo Que Hacer, I Know You Want Me, and some good reggae, reggaetón, and salsa/cumbia. Of course since his death Thursday (remember this was written a while ago), no bar could resist at least one Michael Jackson song, either, and we got to all witness one last class act by Sebastién, the Swiss-French Canadian. A circle cleared around him, he took break dance-like dives at the floor, some working out, others not so much.
The dinner, though, at El Patio en el Centro was really good. Finally we did all fill out our table for 25 and took 1,035,818,390 pictures. I ate fetuccini with white sauce and salmon and dill. I also ordered my lat daiquiri dessert at a restaurant with friends for a good 3.5 months before I'm 21. It was nice to talk to everyone a little.
Day One With Mom, Thurs.
Mom arrived late to move into the hostel (4:30 pm), when I met Michelle. I went up to the mountains for a beautiful view of the city and free dinner from CEA while Michelle and her daughters took my mom out elsewhere in San José.

Day Two, Fri.
We met after my breakfast day in conversation class (I'd had my final the day before, where all we did was answer questions about our likes, our hopes, our families, and our hometowns). We went to one final lunch at the one roomed, one-womanned Soda D' Mary, and walked down to the Museo de Oro under the National Theater. Again we had dinner separately, the one described above, celebrating our last night with independents and CEA members alike.

Day Three, Sat.
Mom and I got into the jeep with Michelle, her daughter Carla, and her daughter's boyfriend, Carlos at 8 am to head off for Arenal. Along the way we saw a farm-turned-forest (called Danaus, you should go!) with a very informative guide, got lunch in La Fortuna, walked down to a very mystical feeling hot springs, and bought weird fruits. I actually slept a lot of this day, in the car, and that evening we all jsut stayed home at Michelle and her husband Luis's house and watched the Venezuela v Costa Rica soccer game with her family.

Day Four, Sun.
Rio Celeste!
Trip there=could stop along the way, were on our own schedule, so VERY relaxing. We got snacks--avena-pasas bars (outmeal-raisin) and bananas and fruit juice, and arrived at the base of the Tenorio Volcano to start our hike. One + hour up to the first sight, the waterfall. White water rushing down to pond of aqua-marine color! And this aquamarine had almost a gray-ish tint to it that I think was just and effect of the fact that it was slightly more opaque then the average H2O. Here it was a relief to have goosebumps from the cold mist--it was veeeery hot up till then.
From here we went to the Tiñadenor (or something like that, haha). This is where the source of the blue water is. We hiked up a very steep slope as a short cut, passing several deep holes in the earth wall from which emerged HOT hot steam. Once there, it was incredible. It went from a normal, clear-watered river with brown rocks underneath through a bright white, diagonal stripe, from which it emerged "extra-tinted, dude" (-guy to friend in Spanish). Carla, Michelle, and I waded out in it. It was pretty chilly, only slightly warm in the white part, and that may have been our imagination, wanting there to be soooome detectable difference that could lead to such a transformation! There was a "no wading" sign that sighted some sort of health concern, but Michelle had been in so many times she doubted its seriousness. We figured, anyway, if someone called us out on it, we'd just have my mom read it aloud to prove we didn't know Spanish. "Altow," this would go, "No banarsay ah-akwee."
So we did float down the blue stream a bit of a ways. I grabbed a rock with a SUPER thick (cm, possibly) layer of blue-green fuzz/slime. But some rocks were normal colors, with normal scum. The water didn't leave us feeling gritty, nor our hair feeling stiff. It did, however, get stinkier farther down--like sulfur.
Clothes back on (or some of them--Michelle charmingly chose to hike in her swimsuit, socks and hiking boots), we hiked back a ways and met up with Carla and Carlos sitting wither their feet in the cold water by a cool, smelly, bubbling pit.We went on to the thermal waters. It was a circle of 18 or so large rocks with three main vents where extremely hot water came in at varying strentghs. Never the same temperature on all your boday, never the same mixture for more than 5 seconds.
20 minutes in this least-relaxing-of-all-hottubs, we started our slow return to the car, including my mother shuffling heal-toe across all the log bridges. We saw a sloth caterpillar that apparently stings like a jelly fish and heard howler monkeys. Great walls of green jungle the whole way. Lady's lips, lots of mud, many tiger and red/black butterflies.
Also of note this day: the coup (golpe de estado) in Honduras. The president landed in Costa Rica at about 6:30 in the morning with just the shirt off his back.

Day 5, Monday. Farm day!
Woke up to lots of farm noises, of course. Animals such as rooster and cows and parrots and Mom's favorite the "see here, bird!" (who sounds like he's saying, "See here, bird!"). Had pancakes, green eggs and ham (no joke. Some chickens here lay pale green eggs that look and taste the same on the inside), orange juice, and pan dulce along with some Costa Rican coffee for breakfast then mounted Canela (Cinnamon) and Gitana (Gypsey), the horses who would take us on a tour with Luis around the farm. I got pretty sunburned because what I'd thought would be a 30-minute tour at 10 in the morning under a cloudy sky ended up being an hour or more of direct sun as we went up and down the steep mud and rock hills of their 75 hectare farm. We saw their 26 bulls and 2 cows, picked and ate guayaba straight of the tree, watched Luis climb a guava tree for a pod, and forded a stream on horseback. The dogs ran the whole way with us, and at the end of the tour my mom even got to seeeeee her first batch of wild monkeys!! It was a large howler family with probably 9 or 10 adults and 3 babies.
After this we did our laundry, drove Carlos and Carla to their busstop, and hung around there in "downtown" Arenal while Michelle did some errands. Here we picked up snacks for the next day and went to an internet cafe. Then we stopped at an all home-made crafts wood store and one of the lots of property-to-be-built-upon Michelle helps manage. We got to hold baby turkeys there!!
So after this was lunch and a 25 minute spell where I tied a bucket round my waist with a horse cinch and picked coffee cherries. I barely got a layer to cover the bottom of the canesta.
We next got a tour of the macadmia plant from Michelle (really cool!), talked to the loritas, and went over for a tour of "the big house," with its 4 WAY over-sized bedrooms and fabulous balcony view of Lake Arenal. She also helps manage this, I believe, she doesn't own it, and no one lives there.
Finally, then, we went to the toros a la tica in Talmacán (?), another town a bit around the lake from Arenal. It was in a small arena and we bought dinner of tamales and picadillo de papaya y pollo (trampalengua!) while we waited for the 6:30/7 show to begin at 8:45. The bulls were from nearby farms, all the humped, long-eared variety like Luis has, and several riders were local stars. it was mostly just like a rodeo but smaller and therefore with less variety.

Day 6, Tuesday. On the way to Tortuguero.
Woke 5:45 to get to Michelle's house for breakfast at 6:30. Then we drove around Lake Arenal to La Fortuna where we were supposed to get picked up by the bus-to-Tortuguero company at 8. Along the way we kept our eyes peeled for pizote. These are those monkey-mixed-with-raccoon-mixed-with-ant-eater things. Apparently along some stretches of the road, one will stand out and look cute and when drivers stop to feed him or anything, a bunch more of his buddies crawl out from the woods behind him! Cute, right? Well we didn't see any pizote, but laong the way, as Arenal came into view, we did get a little history lessong from Don Nago, Luis's father. He said that the people didn't used to know it was a volcano till it blew in the 60's, bcause they were distracted by the one next to it which had "agua roja" in a lake at the top of it, and had one time blown its top so completely that it covered much of the area in sand-like ash. Thus the name Arenal, or "Sandy" for the region.
It was a pleasant drive once we were picked up an hour late, for we stopped to see iguanas at one town (FIFTY-FOUR OF THEM in an area the size of my parent's first floor or smaller) and to have a leisurely lunch. Unfortunately we then had to pay for this comfrot because we missed the 1:00 boat to Tortuguero. So we waited at the restaurant/bar till 4:30 when we got on the clic-clic boat. It was like 2 of the Panama boats end-to-end, and the day was so perfect I could have sat on it forever. The woman in front of me talked to me often in Spanish, pointing out a cocodrilo, monkeys, and herons. Mom described it as beeing at Disney World--it's just it was all real national park.
In Tortuguero we finally met up with our tour guide, Juancito the Vaca. We had dinner at the Budda Cafe, which was pretty good and overlooked the canal as the suns set. All very relaxing, Tortuguero reminded me of a much bigger, slightly cleaner, less Afro-Carribbean Bastimentos, Panamá.
At 8 Juan came to take us on a "turtle tour" along ht eocean beach. We walked for an hour and 45 minutes in the dark along the sand, but the best we saw of the turtles was their half-moon tracks (of the Green Turtles, he could tell by their size), and places they had come to lay their eggs the night before. Had we turned right down the beach (he only had a permit to go left), we may have seen 5 turtles, but oh well. I had wanted to see some for Dani, but I did see the one swimming by Montezuma, and we couldn't use a camera then anyway (only red lights allowed).

Day 7, Wednesday
Woke up for a canoe tour that started at 5:30. Saw spider, capuchin, aaaaand howler monkeys. Saw caiman and fish and lizards. Heard all kinds of birds and saw many, too, especially herons (smaller and mostly brown) with huge feet. Mom's first typical breakfast afterwards. Then we washed up and met Juan again for our hike around Tortuguero National Park. We heard but didn't see a toucan clicking in the trees (did I mention I saw one from the clic-clic boat? The kind with the brown and white bill, though). We saw more spider and capuchin monkeys and even some howlers far away at the beginning. There were TONS of lizards: bright green, striped/spotted, some misisng hteir detachable tails. And we found more tiger herons, saw lots of the blue morpho butterflies and their tiger and other black friends. Saw hawks on the ground guarding a nest of food source loudly and fiercely, a mini, poisonous oropel snake (bright yellow), and many green parrots, yellow headed and red (remaaaaarkably hard to see in the trees!). At one point we watched what looked like a fight between a giant spider--length of my fingers--on her pyramid nest and a wasp going to and from her Eventually the wasp stung the spider or something and minutes later she died from the venom, hanging amongst her babies from only one foot on her sticky thread. THAT is nature. We also saw the biggest grass hopper I've ever seen and listened to the oro pendula birds a lot. Juan was so silly.
After this tour we said good-bye to Juan and went to rest then find food before our canopy tour at 3. Mom was sooooo scared, but she did it all! Then it was typical Costa Rican casado of chicken in sauce, rice and red beans, weird spaghetti in the same sauce as the chicken, and plátano. We had a Tamarindo refresco to go with it, which tasted kinda like pear.
That night we got to go on another turtle tour for free, and it wasn't the same horrible trance as the night before. We actually saw TWO turtles laying eggs! But I have so many pages written about it, I think I'll make that into a separate blog for anyone who's THAT interested (you'll have to be reeeeeeeally interested to enjoy the whole hting).
Day 8, Thursday. Tortuguero a Puerto Viejo
Well it was a long day, but not unpleasant. We left Tortuguero on the boat Parismina, a small boat like a roofed Panamá one, named after the town whence came the driver/capitán, José. We were on here for 4 hours with a Swiss-German couple and 2 very energetic girls from Spain and France.
Along the way, which tooks us something like 96 km slowly through the windy rivers of Limón (including a flat section of the Pacuare), we saw caiman, Jesus Christ lizards (so-called cause they can run on water for a little bit), spoon bills, and countless herons. About halfway through we pulled over to pick up 4 children and take them maybe two hundred meters down stream to school.
We ended the journey at 2:45 or so in Moin, an ugly port town that didn't amount to much from our angle. Here we smushed into a taxi for the drive of $10 a piece (with the Swiss) to Puerto Viejo. It cracked my mom up that the driver was talking on the phone constantly, yelling at his mom (just to speak up, no worries), pulliing over for empanadas then a coke then forgetting to take us to the bank. she htought it was funny his honking at everyone, his friends, bikers in the way, cars in the way, etc. I don't think she liked how in the rain he still didnt' apply his breaks soon enought to avoid having to swerve slightly to the side of cars stopped in front of him so as not to crash. But, thankfully, we made it.
In Puerto Viejo went to visit Rockin J's for a look at its awesome mosaics and set up. Then we just bought a lot of things. A mask made of chonta palm roots, jewelry, etc. We had dinner listening to a live Calypso band (the leader had declared, "No reggaetón y no Lambada!") from a wooden balcony facing the ocean. We ate coco-curry chicken, Carribbean sea bass, and Rice-N-Beans, coconut flavored and spicey! Then we came back and went to sleep. Relaxing day.

Day 9, Friday. Puerto Viejo.
I'm so glad mom said she wanted to go here!! At first I was worried, remembering how much students associate it with weed, but she said she WANTED to go experience the culture, so I just swallowed my opinion for once and agreed, figuring she can't blame me if marijuana is part of the Rasta way of life.
I think she had a great time, too. It started with tasty sweet panqueques and croissants and continued to be great. We initially went to the beach, a beautiful, long black sand one that I missed the first time here (don't know how, it was like attached to the rusty boat beach I DID see!). About 10 minutes in, though, or less, it started to rain. We washed all the gallons of sand off ourselves into the shower drains, woops, and went back out shopping. We were at this, admiring, being indecisive, buying, buying, buying, the usual, until two or so in the afternoon. Then we went back up to the beach for another 10-15 minute bout riding the great waves. Though Mom kept giving her usual schpeel "Don't go too far out," "Oh, no, Rebecca, come here, the surfer will get you," in the end, walking back, she said that it had been a lot of fun. And it had. Driven off by the rain, there hadn't been enought time to get bored nor burnt. It was great.
From here we bought a few more things and went to dinner, laughing at the bikers riding while carrying umbrellas. All we really did the rest of hte night was look at the giant yellowish-white frabs, look for ice cream, and retire from the rain to review our photos. But itw as a good day. Super to have a full one here.

JULY FOURTH, Day 10, Saturday.
Definitely didn't realize the date until I wrote that. But it was a good day anyway. For the most part travelling with my mom was WONDERFUL (save a few bickers). We had an uncomfortable but uneventful fiiiiiinal trip in a Costa Rican bus back from Puerto Viejo from 7:30 am to 11:45 or so.
Then we arrived at our fabulously fancy Hotel Europa right by downtown. We stayed on teh third floor in a huge carpeted room that had a phone and lamp and a desk and a TV and armchairs and airconditioning at two full beds and a giant mirror and a great clean bathroom with warm water that came out with a discernable spray and EVERYTHING!!! And breakfast in the fancy restaurant where they had Karaoke at night. And it was all only $55 a night! I was in my first elevator in at LEAST 4.5 months this day. Twice!
But yeah so in town we hit up the artisan market for presents and MOOOOORE jewelry, dropped off our stuff, then went back down Avenida Central for one last churro and a guanábana refresco each. We took these to go sit in the remarkable full plaza on top of the gold museum and next to the national theater. There were tons of pigeons bobbing after the corn kernels that hoards of small children were throwing to/at them. Everyone was so cute, many bundled up for the sub-75°F weather (literally in coats, scarves, hats), all smiles. So many Papis take their kids around here and enjoy it. Live music was playing on the far right corner from us. I loved it. Despite the chill.
After this we FINALLY got a public telephone to work and got ahold of Tita. We ended up going over to her house, which still kinda feels like my house, at 6 for dinner. It was her wonderful arroz con pollo I know I"ll never duplicate with the recipe in my journal...with té frio!
We talked almost exclusively en español, my mom actually enjoying following along. Tita's new student had arrived just that afternoon, and it was kinda like a full circle thing for me. I coudl tell I was muuuuuuuch better at talking than I had been when I was living with her. lmost never was I confused. We spoke of scarey diseases, of family, and of Rebecca Dos (turns out Tita did think she was crazy after all). We finished, of course, with plátano maduros, which Mom loved, and it had been a lovely meal. Things like that, having people I know here, make me really wonder if maybe I will return after all. We shall see.

Notes on the following day from this one:
Tomorrow to arrange my suitcases, show my mom my photos, and go to Café Britt one last time. How very strange to be leaving. It's not set in at all yet. Or, actually, I kind of feel like it's done the opposite--I HAD accepted it and now I'm almost in denial. Cannot comprehend it. I've never left a place for good in my life yet.

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