COSTA RICA:  Pura Vida, Vida Pura

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My SASter and I set out on a journey months before the new year, in celebration thereof. A trip starts not when you begin your travels, but right when the idea of it comes to mind. Destination: Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is a small country. Tiny, even. But it is home to 5% of the entire world’s biodiversity, and this is something it takes care of. It is the first country in the Americas to ban hunting for leisure, it’s doing so well with the elimination of carbon emotions (thank you Wikipedia)– and, unlike where I live, recycling bins are everywhere — and not just recycling bins, but the kind that confuses you and puts you through a semi-physics lesson before releasing you from its grasp.
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To be honest, the diversity of its ecosystem did not impress me as much as the diversity of its people – it is the first Latin American country that I had traveled to that wasn’t plagued by slavery. It was somehow, inherently, and in a way that I can’t describe, symbolic of a utopian equality. I’m sure Costa Rica is not free from racism; no country is, but this one in particular made me take a step back and stand in awe– in wonder of what this world would be if all countries were like this, as unassuming as its flora and fauna.
I won’t go into detail about every single thing we did, but I’ll summarize a few of my personal highlights.
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I strained coffee through a sock.
Talked to a really nice bodega– lady owner — I actually liked all of the colors playing together in her store; they formed a stark but nice contrast against the neutrals of the earth.

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I also liked observing the differences in the packaging. Her rocking chair was my favorite though. The sign above her kiosk in the picture reads: “I’ll lend you money tomorrow, but not today” — I’ve seen the same here.
It was my first time making tortillas on my own — it’s hard to flip them! And picking spinach straight from a backyard.
I visited a farmer and his wife.
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He showed me his pigs and pictures of his hunting game over the years. She gave me homemade cheese.

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I saw where Cuban refugees are being hosted — Costa Rica is really doors open. The rule is that if they can get themselves to America (the US), then they’re not refused. But to get there — extensive travel through Central and South America is necessary — or on a boat. Many die via the latter.

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First time driving in a foreign country — which was, of course, scary, especially in the evening when the only light in the streets is the one emanating from your own vehicle. But I, along with my two passengers, survived (wipes sweat off eyebrows).
We had to leave the beautiful jungle/forest we were staying for reasons I won’t disclose, but we ended up at a lovely beach, right in time for New Years Eve, where a surfer offered to host us — this happened just as we were on our way to potentially locate a hostel or another form of housing, sitting on the back of our taxi’s pickup truck, where we stopped for lunch. #GoodTiming #ThanktheCouchsurfingGods #Especially #ThankYouHoel
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Where We Stayed Next

New Year’s Eve. Costa Rica explodes with fireworks. 2015 slips away. Resolution: I will meditate every day. So far, I’m on top of my game.
We spent the next two days picnicking on the beach. A few of my favorite things: coconuts, wine, grapes, cheese, more grapes, and the meat from the coconut. Crunch. Yum.
More beach — each day, I notice how different it is in its sameness. The sand changes, the wind, the people — I guess it’s not so easy to get bored of it.
Our time is up, we have to go — off to another surfer — this time, at a sugar plantation where our host is offered housing by the company. We drive during the night to a field burning in the distance, and as we approach it, our host informs us that this is the first step to processing the sugarcane before it is harvested. We arrived just in time. It smelled like cotton candy, everywhere.
A coconut fell from a tree next to us and exploded with venomous ants. The locals left, and so did we.
We danced. Of course.
We zip lined, and I superwomaned — it was great.
I SEE MONKEYS! THE MOST ADORABLE MONKEYS IN THE WORLD!! This one vvv eats a seed off of someone’s hand. I wish that was my hand.

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I saw stars. Many many stars. I should have paid more attention in my astronomy class.
My time ended with a zumba session with the local ladies, who are wives of and/or employees of the sugar plantation — it reminded me of a college campus. It even had its own store.
Bye, Costa Rica! Thanks for the start of 2016.
———
Best food had: Rice – it may sound minimalistic, but Costa Rican white rice isn’t so, without its uniquely flavored seasoning, consisting of onions, garlic, and an array of spices that varies depending on the family; I found it lovely in all of its simplicity, the ingredients playing well together

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Best thing done: zip lining — it was the first time I ever did it, and it was great to do it with my bestie.
Favorite city: I didn’t leave the Guanacaste region, so not much outside of Liberia and Playa del Coco/ Panama, but I greatly appreciated the vibes in Filadelfia, even if we were only there for a few hours
Interesting thing(s) learned: 
Before I left Costa Rica, I kept thinking about how in New York, the recycling bins were smaller than the garbage bins, when in reality it should be the other way around, and in Costa Rica, that’s exactly the case!
Lights are turned on at the airport only after sunset and only in parts which are being used; I know because I was there until late evening – waiting to be picked up
Apparently, the locals in Costa Rica eat the iguanas that roam freely, and according to what our host told my friend, they’re called ‘chickens of the trees’; it’s an endangered species because of that
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Processed cheese — unlike how it would be in the United States actually seems to be a selling point in Costa Rica
Tico = a Costa Rican guy
Tica = a Costa Rican girl
Mai = equivalent of ‘brother’ or ‘son’ (informal)
Pura Vida — they say it all the time and for everything — it means ‘pure life’ — but is, as I learned, like the hakuna matata of Costa Rica; it sure did seem that way!
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