Pura Vida 4: July 4, 2005

This “Pura Vida” series is a set of e-mails I sent around to my friends and family when I was traveling and living in Costa Rica in 2005.  I made no edits, just simply wanted to post them here to get my little travel blog started…

This is from July 4, 2005.

Hi Everyone,

Hope all is well with you.  My friends Leah and Sam (from Louisiana) wanted me to come and see their host family before they left Cost Rica.  I had heard a lot about this crazy family that Leah and Sam were living with so I took a bus with them in the rain to go to Moravia.  The bus ride was about $0.40 and was 20 minutes long.  It was a tiny bus/large van that carried about 20 or so people and it was packed.  It seemed to stop at random places and we got off on the side of a small street in a residential area.  Leah and Sam´s hostess has 7 children and the youngest two (34 and 32 years of age) still live with her.  The others (two sons, a daughter, and a set of twins) all live around the block.  One daughter lives right next door and they have a small window in the living room where the daughter often times sticks her head through (it´s only large enough to stick one’s head through) to yell out to her mother.  When we arrived at the house, two of the grandsons were playing in the living room, the hostess (Yolanda) was cooking something on the stove, their maid was washing clothes, Yolanda´s father was reading a paper, and Yolanda’s step mother was playing cards, and a man that my friends didn’t know was drinking something in the kitchen.

In the 2 hours I spent there, their neighbor Neffer came by offering to teach us how to salsa, one of the twins came to pick up her children, one of the sons came by to say hello, there was a small fire (a piece of paper towel caught on fire and Yolanda tried to put it out by hand and with another paper towel, and that caught on fire as well), Yolanda´s step mother taught me how to play her card game, I was fed fried yuca, kissed and hugged by at least a dozen family members, and almost was convinced to stay for dinner and then move in with them.  It was completely crazy and totally fun at the same time.  I realized that it’s not just my hostess, everyone I’ve met here has been unbelievably kind and generous.  It was Leah and Sam´s last night in San Jose, and we´ve been craving Japanese all week so we set out to have sushi.  Unfortunately the restaurant we were going to was closed so we settled for a place that had both Japanese and Korean food in San Pedro.  It turned out that the owners were Korean and I got to speak to them a bit.  They told me that there are about 500 Koreans living in San Jose- the lady tried to get me to go to her church.  In any event, I had a nice hot stone bowl of bibimbap in Costa Rica.

Our neighbor across the street, Patricia, had her baby two weeks ago.  It was her 6th.  I learned that she´s only 28 (she looks 38) and her oldest is 15.  Pretty crazy, right?  She came over with the baby two days later and wanted me to watch the new born while she and her daughter (2 year old) went to the supermarket.  I was really nervous but my hostess came home soon after, and the baby slept the entire time I was watching her so nothing happened…  whoo!  I don´t know of Patricia´s circumstances but I was told that she will be going home to Nicaragua for a while with the two children she’s living with…  The universal medical system in Costa Rica provides excellent care for its citizens and its residents.  I am told that they cannot refuse any sick minor (anyone under the age of 18) treatment and therefore thousands of sick children come here from Nicaragua come.  Most of the Costa Ricans believe that the illegal immigrants are draining their resources and taking advantage of Costa Rica (sound familiar?) There is a strong resentment towards the Nicaraguan immigrants in Costa Rica.  About a million Nicaraguans live here illegally and when you consider the fact that the population of Costa Rica is only 4 million…

On a lighter note, we went to see Señor and Señora Smith on Wednesday (I thought the movie made no sense at all but Brad and Angelia made a good looking couple) and afterwards, my hostess and I celebrated her friend Lesbia’s birthday at home.  Yahaira made a kind of lasagna with corn tortillas and asparagus in a white sauce and we had a nice bottle of red wine from New York!

We had a lot of people leave the school (graduate) in the last 2 weeks.  On Thursday, a bunch of us went out to dinner to share our last meal with those who left last Friday.  My Korean friend Kim (Salvador) suggested that we try a Korean restaurant on the other side of San Jose, so we all went to Paseo Colon.  Even my hostess, Yahaira, decided to try Korean food and came with us.  It was her first time using chopsticks but she did quite well and I had a large bowl of nangmen (cold noodle soup).  Yahaira told me that her hand hurt the next morning but she is determined to practice more so we´ll probably go to a Chinese or Korean restaurant again.  Speaking of Chinese food, I found the best Chinese restaurant in San Jose!  Excellent wonton soup and ma po tofu.  I´m definitely eating very well here in Costa Rica in case you were concerned.

After school on Friday, a few friends and I went to relax and have lunch near the school.  Lunch turned into a few drinks and before I knew it, it was dinner time.   We were planning on going to a bar called ¨Jazz Cafe¨ where they have live music every night (Friday night is SALSA night)!  Well, I never made it there.  I went home to bring my hostess to the restaurant, and we stayed out until we couldn’t keep our eyes open.  The local beers (Imperial, Bavaria, and Pilsner) are all quite good and only about $1.50 a bottle at most places (the most I’ve paid for a beer here is $2.00).  Needless to say, it´s easy to have a good time and enjoy yourself in Costa Rica!

I became friends with a woman from the Netherlands last week and we spent a lot of time together this weekend.  On Saturday we went shopping downtown and I bought a few Spanish books.  I have to look up a lot of words but I´m glad I can at least understand some of it.  My favorite teacher here at Intensa, Nuria, gave me ¨The Little Prince¨ in Spanish to read today so I´ll probably attempt to read that first.  I can´t wait to be able to read Pablo Neruda or Gabriel Garcia Marques in Spanish…  I hope one day soon.

Volcan Irazu

Yesterday, Evelien (the Dutch woman) and I went to an inactive volcano about 2 hours away from San Jose.  Volcan Irazu last erupted when President John F. Kennedy came to visit Costa Rica in 1963.  Two craters of this volcano are now sleeping quietly and the bigger crater is filled with greenish water full of sulfur.  It was cold up in the mountains (luckily, my hostess let me take her winter jacket) and the sight of the volcano was unbelievable.  We were so close to the craters that I felt that we could almost go swimming in the volcanic water.  I know that I’ve said this before but there is so much natural beauty here.  I feel incredibly lucky that I am able to do this.

That´s about all for now.  My classes are getting harder and I’ve been having too much fun–  I really must go home and study.  The O.C. is on tonight at 9PM- I will be watching it in Spanish (maybe with English subtitles..??!!)

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