Monday, March 5, 2012

Visitors!

Our February adventures did not slow down after our trip to Nicaragua. In the last week of the month we were blessed with a visit from Chris' sister Sarah and her friend Molly. They escaped the [much] cooler weather of Minnesota during their spring break from law school and enjoyed a week in the sun with us.

Sarah and I in Cahuita
I met the girls at the airport bright and early on a Friday morning and it was well worth it to see the look on Sarah's face when she saw me waiting! Pure joy. (I've been blessed with incredible in-laws.) We ignored the money-hungry taxi drivers and hopped on the next bus to the center of San Jose. Once in the city we walked to the bus terminal and ate a typical breakfast of gallo pinto and queso frito

When 10:00 rolled around we climbed on a bus for Cahuita, Chris' and my favorite little beach town on the Caribbean coast. We were joined by a bunch of obnoxious gringos that thought it was in their best interest to travel laying in the aisles and taking up as much space as they possibly could. Needless to say, we were happy when they did not get off of the bus with us in Cahuita.

We checked into our hotel and then went wandering. We settled in at a little corner bar on the main street in town so that we could keep an eye out for Chris who was coming in from Colonia. We ordered fresh fruit batidos (milkshakes) and patacones (fried, smashed plantain) and Chris magically appeared right after our order was delivered. He must have smelled food. Sarah ran out to greet him in the street and he happily joined us for our afternoon snack.

Sarah hanging out in the national park
We went for an evening walk through the national park. We were happy to spot howler and white face monkeys in the 30 minutes that we had before the park closed for the day. With the darkening of skies we found a place to have a typical Limon-style meal: rice and beans (cooked together in a coconut oil base), fish, patacones and salad. Then we called it an early night since we were all exhausted and were hoping to snorkel in the morning.

Unfortunately snorkeling did not happen. The water level was low at the reefs and the waters were rough so the guides weren't going out. Instead we had a delicious breakfast at our favorite place in town, the Swedish bakery, and then went for a walk in the park again. This time we walked in about 6 kilometers. We saw crabs, lizards, butterflies, birds, tiny toads, snails, a sloth, an eyelash viper and on our way back some white face monkeys. Unfortunately the white face monkeys that we saw had been lured down to the beach with the promise of food from tourists. The thought of food made all of our stomachs grumble though and so we went in search of our own.

We stopped by one of the local's houses and picked up some panbon (traditional spice bread) and then Chris and I hoped we would find our Italian friend from our visit last May. We lucked out. Claudio happened to be stopped along side the road as we were turning the corner after a quick stop at the hotel to pick up beach gear. At first we didn't recognize him because he had a new bike (one that significantly increased his bread carrying capacity). We gladly purchased eggplant pizza, sweet pepper pizza and cheese pizza (they are little pizzas, I swear!). Then we stopped in the nearby pulperia (corner store) for some juice and the meal was complete.

Sarah and Molly watching the sun rise
We walked down to the black sand beach and found a shady spot to eat our pizzas (the panbon would need to wait). With our bellies full we ignored all conventional wisdom and did a little wave jumping. The water felt amazing. Later we relaxed and chatted on the beach, the girls in the sun and us in the shade. Chris and I squeezed in one last wave jumping session before heading back to the hotel - one in which he received a welt on his stomach from the ocean and I mistimed a couple of jumps and ended up with a wave hitting my throat and another knocking me off balance and hurting my knee. (Are we getting to old for this?) It was a wonderful afternoon and we returned to the hotel to clean up and snack on some panbon.

That night we had an Italian dinner. (I personally think it is impossible to eat too much good pizza.)Then we grabbed the world's most expensive dessert (organic brownies and carrot cake) and a box of wine and hung out on the balcony of the hotel for a couple of hours. Chris called it an early night, the day in the sun stole his energy, but the girls and I stayed up well past my normal bedtime and chatted away about life. It was wonderful.

Sunrise in Cahuita
The next morning we returned to the Swedish bakery and then packed up for the trip to La Colonia. Four buses and a lunch break later we arrived at our house and quickly left again. There was a soccer game going on in the plaza and there is no better way to experience rural Costa Rica than by participating in one of its favorite activities. 

At the plaza the girls met some of our kiddos, watched a little bit of soccer, but most importantly had their hair braided by Ashlyn, one of our first graders. All the while they were interrogated as to whether or not they fall down when roller skating (the gymnasium had just been turned into a roller rink for the month of March), whether or not Santa Claus exists and if so why she did not get a bike for Christmas, and if there was really snow in the United States. It was a riling conversation, really. When it got dark out we decided to head home and have cafecito (snacks and coffee - minus the coffee since Chris and I don't drink it, but we did have agua dulce, a hot drink made with cane sugar).

The next morning we headed out for our grand adventure of the day - CHOCOLATE! We went on a chocolate tour at Tirimbina a local biological reserve/resort. Chris and I had gone in November with the parents and decided it was well worth the trip. We learned different aspects of the history of chocolate this time around and had a great time and of course ate a lot of chocolate. 

Chocolate: From bean to belly

That afternoon we took advantage of the trail system in Tirimbina and got some hiking in. We spotted a couple of toucans, a blue jean poison dart frog (actually seen during the chocolate tour) and a crazy bunch of white face monkeys. We hung out watching the monkeys for a while and shortly before we left they started going crazy (kind of like those that we saw in Corcovado). They were jumping from trees to vines, chasing one another through the jungle and screeching as loud as they could. As we were walking away there was a low grunt at ground level that got us moving a little faster. We're unsure as to whether it was another monkey or if it was a predator that was making them go crazy, but we didn't want to find out. We hustled out of the jungle and back across the river. There we took a spiral staircase down to a little island for our last trail of the day. Unfortunately Sarah was attacked by some ants (which Chris washed away by spraying her with his water bottle) and so we finished the trail as quickly as possible and left the jungle for good.

Our Tirimbina friends
That evening we had chalupas and patacones for dinner followed by fruit salad for dessert. We had insisted that the girls try fruit salad for another Costa Rican experience. While you would think you were getting a bowl of fruit, it is actually a little bit of fruit, a whole lot of ice cream and some red Jello for good measure. It's delicious (I highly recommend trying it if you're planning on visiting Costa Rica).

The next day had us up nice and early as Chris and I had our Close of Service conference to attend in San Jose. The girls took advantage of their time in the city and visited the National Theater for a dance performance, the National Art Museum, did a little shopping and went on a nearby canopy tour. We were able to spend a couple of nights together after our sessions ended and had some good food over Seinfeld reruns and great conversation.

The visit came to an end far too quickly. We are glad to know that in just a few short months we will once again be living in the same country as our family and friends and hope to see them more than once every two years! 

Thanks for coming Sarah and Molly! We had a blast!

1 comment:

Ken Ferrell said...

Re: fruit salad. I still remember when my host sister was responsible for lunch one day and decided we go get fruit salad. How healthy, I thought, oh how wrong I was...