We spent the past week in Costa Rica. For some time now, we’ve wanted the boys to have a chance to hear Spanish spoken outside the classroom. After doing some research we decided Costa Rica would be our best bet, factoring in all the variables at play for us. We spent the week in the Arenal region near La Fortuna, based on Trip Advisor’s recommendation for family travel in Central America (we stayed here).
As we left the airport in San Jose, we passed a block where the street level windows were all protected by bars. Behind one of them a little dog wagged its tail madly. A woman walking down the street stuck her hand through the bars to pet him. As soon as we left the city, roadside stands selling strawberries and fresh cheese cropped up every half mile or so. The road we traveled wound past terraced coffee plantations, fields of sugarcane, pineapple plantations. Vultures alone and in pairs circled over every field.
Tiempo means both weather and time.
The place where we stayed has a cow, chickens, and pigs. Every morning, Abbott helped with the milking while Cal collected the eggs that would later become our breakfast. The restaurant was open to the air on one side, and we watched all manner of birds as we ate our meals. It was paradise. With breakfast, we were served some combination of starfruit, papaya, melon, guava and pineapple, to eat and in juices; the starfruit and papaya were grown on the property. Our morning coffee was Costa Rican. After my first cup I said, ‘Bueno!’ – and our server corrected me, ‘Muy bueno!’
We spent a day with a local farmer and his family, and I saw my first Costa Rican lemons. They reminded me of miniature melons on the outside. They're more globular and more similar to an orange than are American lemons. Together we made chimichurri for lunch, and empanadas filled with guava jelly and caramel for an afternoon snack. Abbott and Cal played with the farmer's daughters, who happened to be their exact ages. They rode ponies and played cards and hide and seek.
Every day we saw sloths.
Birds, staggeringly beautiful, were everywhere. We learned Costa Rica’s national bird is an ordinary robin, chosen because it can be found everywhere throughout the country, and because of its beautiful song.
Our first full day in the region we visited the Arenal Hanging Bridges with a guide. It was an incredible opportunity to observe and learn about the intricate life of a jungle; the symbiotic relationships, the plants’ efforts at maximizing their sunlight via such measures as ‘walking,’ above-ground roots. We swam in hot springs at the end of the day.
There were endless lines of leaf-cutter ants everywhere. I got used to seeing their movement in my peripheral vision; started seeing it with my eyes closed.
We traveled by horseback through the rainforest and past fields of bulls and dairy cows. Our guide, Enrique, pointed out that cattle grazing and deforestation go hand in hand. Enrique had a little dog that ran alongside us; he found an armadillo. Apparently, they can’t see or hear very well, so they’re easy to catch. Enrique picked it up; the poor animal growled and trembled until he let him go. We rode to a waterfall. While we changed into our swimming suits, Enrique cut up a pineapple for us to share, using a giant leaf as his cutting board. We swam, then sat on sun-warmed rocks in the water and took it all in as we ate chicken salad sandwiches. Not another soul was in sight. At the end of the day, we encountered a few Costa Rican children swinging Tarzan-style on vines, and they invited the boys to join in.
We spent a day floating down the Cano Negro, watching Jesus Christ lizards walk on water, spider and howler and white faced capuchin monkeys in the trees, basilisks and turtles on the banks, bats in the trees and, as everywhere else, paradisical birds everywhere.
me and a baby white faced capuchin at the ASIS Wild Animal Rescue Center