Day 1: Mommy!

by Kelli on November 11, 2010

Costa Rican Mommies

Wow. Enter learning curve.

This morning Brad and I stayed in the hotel until noon, each of us using one laptop to search for places to live, sending e-mails with questions, and finding ourselves a little dismayed about the lack of availability until after the beginning of January on many places.

We discovered that nothing has an address here. Our first stop after we left the hotel was the LDS temple. Its address is literally “600 meters west of the Marriott.” Anything you’re trying to find is a certain number of meters in a certain direction from a landmark that also does not have an address.

Heck yes we went back to our car rental place and got a GPS unit. Even without any addresses to go by, just using it to find a city or landmark was incredibly helpful.

We spent an hour traveling 20 miles to a town called Grecia and looking at a house there. By this time I had already been surprised by many things, not least of which was this city being named the cleanest in Central America.

Before we left the town, we walked around in search of food – we were both starving. We wandered past many a fried chicken, hamburger, or pastry shop looking for something we could eat. It started raining pretty hard (yes, we packed away an umbrella at home for use whenever we return to the desert from the rainforest . . . brilliant). We stumbled upon a Costa Rican version of Seattle’s Pike’s Place Market. We wandered from shop to inedible shop (shops selling either ingredients we had no way of preparing, or food that would put me down). Before we even got through the entire market, shops started closing down right and left – it was 4pm.

I thought briefly of all the comforts we had just left behind in the U.S. What a stark contrast to walking around a dirty, strange city where I could barely speak the language, soaking wet, starving, looking like an orphan pick-pocket and not being able to do one thing about any of it.

As we approached an exit from the market back out into the downpour outside, I glanced to my right and saw several women cooking in a fairly open kitchen. I saw squash and other root veggies in a pot on the stove and heard a pressure cooker going. Could it be? I grabbed Brad and pulled him around. Before I could construct the words in Spanish in my mind, this lovely woman with very kind eyes asked me if we wanted some food. We put in our order, and she served us up that fantastic veggie stew, rice, beans and plantains. It was honestly the best meal I could have imagined. I was so amazed and touched by the kindness and compassion these women showed to us. In my vulnerable state of missing my former home, not feeling well and being cold, wet, discouraged and starving, these women jumping right in with genuine care and concern and doing what they could to make us comfortable warmed my heart more than anything else could have done. At that moment, they all became Costa Rican moms to me.

Costa Rican Mommies

Costa Rican Mommies

Right now we’re back at the hotel checking e-mail responses from this morning and our day tomorrow is taking shape, including where we’re going to lay our heads tomorrow night and if we’re going to need to purchase a car while we’re here.

I’m heading straight for the vitamin C for my lovely head cold that is setting in with a vengeance.

Hmmm. Cars are 5 – 10 times the price here than in the US. A week ago Brad and I joked about driving our Maxima down here. We’re not laughing anymore.

Ok, we just got back from dinner. Brad found us a great place to eat dinner: rice, beans, salad, two fried eggs, and a banana. Ah, yeah (this really is the kind of food we loved eating in the States – seriously). I’ve decided I don’t need to cry myself to sleep tonight after all.

Sorry for the long post, but to sum up what I learned today: Ticos decided not to bother with addresses or street signs; Costa Rica is very different from the U.S., and it’s also different than what I had imagined before coming; there seems to be a big problem here with people being able to jump over 6+ foot high fences (every, every building has a huge fence with rolls of razor wire on top, usually accompanied by guards); most properties look like compounds (see prior comment); having some food in your stomach makes life much more manageable than being extremely hungry; it’s hard to find places to rent in December here; I don’t think CR has any kind of emissions standards for any of its vehicles, and I’m starting to wonder what’s in the fuel here; I can’t tell the difference at first sight between a fried banana and a piece of mystery meat; cow’s tongues are very, very large, and I can actually keep eating my own food while watching someone cut the taste buds off of one; all the people I met today were very kind and generous; the weather here is amazing – perfect temperature and humidity; the mountains are green and absolutely gorgeous; I can see why people love to live and visit here.

In all honesty and sincerity, I’m really looking forward to what I will learn tomorrow.

bungalow in playa dominical

Our bungalow in Playa Dominical, end of day 2

{ 4 comments }

Kyle November 12, 2010 at 8:26 am

Haha, that is awesome! I like the part about it being the “cleanest city in Central America” – makes me imagine where Guatemala City ranks on that list :)

Caldo (stew), plantains and beans + rice all bring back great memories. Eat some for me while you’re down there.

Why are cars so expensive down there? Maybe because the ones stolen from the states don’t make it that far down Central America?

Kelli November 12, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Hi Kyle. Thanks for commenting – made me laugh out loud.

Seriously – what was Guatemala City like? We met a Guatemalan guy when we got off the plane and rented our car. He was just visiting Costa Rica on vacation. He spoke English very well, and gave us some advice on where to go and what to see. We should have taken his advice on getting a GPS right then.

We’ll definitely enjoy some rice, beans, plantains, and salad for you. The rice, beans and salad they call “casado” here. Es la comida tipica (what the locals eat). And they usually include the fried plantains. Sooo yummy. I’ve always thought I could eat that everyday, and I think I’ve got my chance to see if I really can.

I’m not sure why the cars are so expensive, but I’ve been told the importation tax is really high (about 25% of what they’re worth). So I guess the sellers have to try to recoup that, whether they’re stolen or not. :)

Kevin November 17, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Nice. What an aventura! Imagine the kind of acclimatization until all that becomes a normal part of a normal day for you. It’s like…going to the grocery store in bare feet. :)

Kelli November 17, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Imagine, indeed! I’ve wondered so many times since we got here if and when I’ll get out of survival mode and finally feel like I’m living. What do you reckon?

Oh, wow, I can remember so clearly going to that grocery store in Australia in my bare feet! Yes, many aspects of this experience so far feel just like that. “This is not what I’m used to,” is a common thought for me nowadays. We’ll see how I go now that I can’t simply get back into the car and put my shoes back on.

Cheers!

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