Back from the farm
It is Thursday afternoon, at about 4pm. Me and Evin just got back from the farm. What an incredible experience. We left Tuesday morning around 11am. A friend of Alex's took his Uncle Mario, Evin and me to the farm. Driving in this city is a bit of a roller coster ride. Everyone drives pretty aggressively. I am surprised there aren't more accidents than there already are.
When you drive along the highway every so often you see a yellow heart with a halo spray painted on the road. They told me they do this when someone dies at that spot in a car accident.
Leaving the city took a bit of a while, you wind through several roads before you hit a major highway. The roads aren't all that great so it is a bit of a bumpy ride, so make sure you go pee before you leave!
Once you hit the highways, you see people selling goods on the highway -- mostly sunglasses, cell phone accessories and baseball caps. The people sometimes stand in the middle of busy roadways, I wonder how many of the yellow hearts are for those poor people trying to make a living.
We drove about an hour to a small town West of San Jose called Esparza. This is where most of Alex's family lives. They live on a small chicken farm that has been in the family for over 50 years.
The family live in about 8 seperate houses, but I would say the "main" house is the one his Grandmother lived in. This house seemed to be the heart of the farm. I ate all my meals there, and everyone gathered outside to talk after working and eating.
Alex told me he wanted me to get a view of how Costa Rican families live. He gave me the option of going with him to Panama for work or going to his family farm. I am so glad that I got to see the farm. The people there were so welcoming and friendly. I never once felt like an outsider, even though besides one family member, Vanessa, I was the only person who spoke English.
The house that I stayed in was very minimal. It had running water and electricity. There were not a lot of decorations on the walls, a lot of food, or a collection of dvd's and cd's like you would find in most American homes.
I got a sense, right away that everyone there was very happy, and that family was the most important thing to them.
Vanessa and I were talking about my home in San Francisco. I live alone and my family lives in Montana, whom I only see once or twice a year. She told me that without her family, she would die.
The family kept me well fed. I ate better than I have in a long time. Each meal was served with rice and beans. For breakfast they combine the leftover rice with the beans and it is called Gallo Pinto pretty much a staple of their diet, and not bad with a little salsa mixed in for flavor!
The first night we walked into town to see what was going on. For such a small little place, it sure was busy. There is a town square in the middle that was swarming with people, even after dark. I loved that everywhere you could see families hanging out together, and couples holding hands and walking around. Everyone seemed so care free and happy.
Wednesday, I woke up a to a big surprise. There was an earthquake. It was pretty strong, and better than an alarm clock! Soon afterwards, everyone ran to the house I was staying at because they thought I would be freaking out because of the earthquake. I told them that it made me feel like I was in San Francisco! Later in the evening, we learned that the center of the earthquake was in the southern part of the country and it measured 5.2. Not bad!
After the excitement from the earthquake wore off, Vanessa, Uncle Mario and I took off to the rio (river) to go swimming. They warned me all morning to watch out for snakes and alligators, so I was honestly a bit freaked out hiking to the river. I would say the hike was about 3/4 of a mile from the house. Luckily, no snakes were to be seen. I did see one lizard run across a pond though. I love lizards so I was happy with that.
We made it to the river and scoped it out for alligators. We threw rock in the water to see if anything moved..nothing did, so we jumped in and swam for a while. We met another family that lived in Esparza. A man and wife, two boys and their little girl.
The children were excited to meet an American, so I spent some time sitting in the water and giving a brief English class.
We sat in the water for a few hours talking and relaxing and enjoying each others company. Afterwards, we all packed up and hiked back together. I was amazed how friendly and trusting the people are.
On the way back, I was walking behind one of the kids, and he said something in Spanish, and pointed at the ground. I didn't see a snake, so I wasn't too concerned. He pointed at a hole in the ground and Vanessa looked at me and said "Spider."
I bent way down expecting to see a daddy long leg or something like that, but it was a tarantula about the size of my fist. Luckily no one in the group understood English slang, because I let a few colorful curse words fly out of my mouth. I think I was the first one back to the farm!
Afterwards, we all showered up and got ready to go into a different town. This was going to be interesting because we were taking a bus to get there. Luckily they knew what they were doing because I sure didn't.
The bus took us to the town of Puntarenas. It's a small tourist town right on the Pacific Ocean. Sadly we got there at night, and I was not able to see much of the beach. It was lined with beautiful palm trees, shops and souvenier stands.
The town was just as busy at night as Esparza was. Again, everywhere you look, you saw families either walking together or riding bikes together.
They asked me if i wanted to have Chinese food or Seafood for dinner. Not that I dislike Chinese food, but I can get that anytime in San Francisco. We decided on seafood. We had dinner at a great place called Gugas. I ordered the jumbo shrimp with garlic. I was a little disappointed when the shrimp came served with french fries! AHHHH MAN! The shrimp was actually very good, so it made up for the Fries. I actually even got to use my minimal Spanish to order another been. UNA CERVEZA POR FAVOR!!!! (Thanks Lorena!)
There is a beer in Costa Rica called Imperial. I am not a HUGE beer drinker, but this was sooooo good. It tastes a little bit like regular lite beer, maybe a little more stout, but with an almost sweet taste too it. OK, I am not so sure if the beer was that great or if it just tasted so good beacuse of the heat! (Does anyone know if you can get this beer in San Francisco?)
Since everyone had been so nice to me, I decided I would surprise them and pay for dinner. For 4 people the bill came to $62. Not bad.
Also, FYI, they don't tip in Costa Rica, unless you feel obligated.
After dinner, we walked around the pier a little more, and I bought a couple souvenirs -- can't say what -- the person I bought for may be reading this!
We took a bus back to Esparza and walked home. I think I was in bed an hour later.
I woke up early this morning a little sad beacuse I knew I was leaving soon. I really enjoyed staying on the farm and getting to know everyone.
I made a good friend with Vanessa. I helped her out with her English and she coached me on Spanish. I gave her my address and promised I would write her a letter in Spanish someday!
I packed up my things and made my way to the main house for breakfast. The whole family made their way in and out eventually. One of the Aunts brought me to her place and gave me a wood carving of an alligator -- I think she was teasing me cuz she knew I was worried about alligators. HA HA!
I said goodbye to everyone and then Evin and I made our way to the bus stop. We had to take a bus from Esparza back to Puntarenas to get an another bus that would take us to San Jose. The whole trip took about three hours. I mostly slept on the way home, but once in a while the driver would slam on his brakes and wake me up.
As you can tell I made it home safe and sound. I've had a little time to sit and think about the last two days -- I left the farm a little envious of everyone there. My first impression was to think how sad it must be to live like they do, but after spending a few days, I realized that they have everything they need plus a lot more than most people have.
I was talking to the house keeper and told her I lived alone in the city. I think she felt sorry for me. She thought I lived a pretty lonely exisistence.
Anyway, Evin is about to order some food for us, to be delivered, then I will probably take a power nap. Tonight a friend of Alex's is picking me up. From there I will stay at his apartment, then tonight we are going out on the town. Apparently Thursday nights are THE night to be seen in San Jose. Then tomorrow we are heading the the beach for a few days, and then Alex will join us, and we will go from there!