Sunday, April 29, 2012

Friends, Family and Food [Semana Santa]

The title says it all. Semana Santa or Holy Week is a time of friends, family and food. Lots of food actually. For us, our last Semana Santa in Costa Rica was a time in which we could really enjoy those that we have come to consider dear friends and in some cases family. 

With Orlando and Alejandra
We started the week with our friends Orlando and Alejandra at a nice little retreat called Recreo Verde and spent the first of April soaking up the heat of natural hot springs on a cool mountain day. We took occasional breaks from the water, dipping into the cold water pool long enough to realize that it was a mistake! We also joined Orlando and his son for a game of foot-volleyball. They were the clear winners of the match. Chris held his own, I failed horribly but had a great time laughing at myself and my ill-placed volleys.

After a delicious lunch by the river we rushed home so the guys could watch the Saprissa-Liga game. (For those of you not living in Costa Rica, these teams define who you are while in country. They are the most popular soccer teams in the country and nearly everyone you meet will ask, "¿Qué es su equipo?" You hope that you do not offend by responding one way or the other. I personally like to say "Las Brujas," a team that people shrug off and laugh at.) Alejandra and I chose the nap route, though we were occasionally awoken by cheers by the neighboring Liga fans. Saprissa sadly lost.

As the game wound down I started making pizza dough. While we have occasionally shared some of our favorite foods with locals, most people find it funny and kindly pass it by. At the mention of pizza though, Orlando and Alejandra were more than happy to give up their toaster oven for the evening. For us it was the first time in two years that we had actually baked a pizza (two little ones actually) in an oven and were super excited. Orlando praised the meal enough times to make me believe that he meant it.

Food became a theme throughout the week as our host mom and neighbors would knock on our door saying "buenos días," hand us a plate of food and then walk away. Nearly every day of the week we received plates of sweets or breakfast goodies and the occasional lunch. I guess that's the upside of kind of living by yourself.

Liseth and Anderson looking for guavas
At the end of the week we spent a day with our host parents, Maria and Rafa, our neighbors and some cousins out at our neighbors country house. We started the day with a truck ride over the bumpy roads that pass through our community and ended it in the same manner. In between we walked through the fields in search of the delicious treats that are known to grow on trees in Costa Rica. We worked with the family to gather up guavas (not what we know as guava in the U.S., but a seed pod filled with velvety sweetness), guayaba (what we know as guava in the U.S.) and cacaoita del monte (wild miniature cacao). In between these food seeking excursions we were filed with food made at the house, empanadas, pan dulce, and arroz con atún (empanadas, sweet breads, and rice with tuna). 

When we were all ready to roll out of our chairs and onto the ground we decided to take a walk down to the river. Several kids from town were enjoying the cool water. We failed to come prepared to swim though and just watched from the sandy beach. Rafa, our host dad, challenged some of the high school kids to swim across the river and off they went with the family laughing and yelling "Vaya Willy" (they had been calling him Free Willy earlier). They made it across and after a break to catch their breath wearily jumped back in the water to return. They climbed onto the beach exhausted. 

Discarded guayaba
We returned to the house and then made that bumpy ride home, bags of fruit piled into the back of the truck. Chris and I were also blessed with some freshly made cheese from our neighbors suegra (mother-in-law). She had shown me how she made it and kindly gave us about a half kilo! It was one of the best cheeses we have eaten in Costa Rica.

The rest of the week passed with more food deliveries and one more round of pizza. This time we made it for Maria and Rafa. We wanted to give back after all that they have done for us over the last couple of years. This time we had to make it on the stove top, dutch oven style, but it still turned out quite well. Maria even asked for the recipe.

It was a great week, even if it didn't include dying Easter eggs or hunting for candy filled baskets. This is a part of the culture that we love, the un-commercialized celebration of holidays. Perhaps we'll be able to take a little bit of that home with us.

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