Saturday, May 23, 2009

Jaco Beach, Costa Rica – The Good – Part 1

Well, so enamoured were we of Costa Rica after our January visited that we decided to return in March, my wife having found an excellent deal (2 weeks in Jaco, plus airfare but no meals for $917 Cdn each). While I have alluded to the fact that this was a far-less enjoyable experience than our January sojourn, it was nonetheless another learning experience, and there were some enjoyable aspects to it.

First, the place we stayed, less than a one-minute walk from the main drag and about a four-minute walk to the beach, was meticulously maintained. A real oasis from the bustle of the town, every day people were busy watering, trimming palm trees, etc. The plants and vegetation were soothing, and the pool inviting, especially as the day’s humidity rose. As well, during our stay we pretty much had the same maid, Helen, who spoke very slowly in Spanish to us, in effect inviting us into the language. I had brought the audio version of Spanish for Dummies with me on the trip, (I think I must be an idiot rather than a dummy, as I found it of limited utility) so everyday I would speak a little more Spanish to her. She was a genuinely warm and friendly person, at one point bringing us a vase with some native flowers, another time two mariposa (butterfly) fridge magnets which she invited us to take with us when we left, and even brought a couple of wine glasses (copas) when she noticed I had bought a tetra pak of wine. The warmth of the Ticos (native Costa Ricans) that I have read so much about was epitomized in Helen. As well, everyday day brought a new example of ‘towel art,’ an example of which follows:

Our accommodations, while hardly lavish, were more than adequate and included a fridge, coffee maker, and a two-burner hotplate, reminding us how a few basic appliances are enough to live well but simply. And it was this simplicity that my wife found particularly attractive. Our breakfasts and lunches were nutritious and uncomplicated, consisting of locally-purchased fruit and cereal, bread and cheese, while our suppers were pasta and sauce or what is known as ‘typical meals’ or casados at local sodas, small open-air restaurants serving healthy meals of beans, rice, chicken, plantain, etc, at extremely inexpensive prices. Usually we paid the equivalent of $10 or less for the both of us, and that included a 10% built-in gratuity.

Which brings me to another positive aspect of our trip: the opportunity to meet and associate with local Ticos, something we had only limited opportunity to do on our first trip. Being amongst them so closely, having very limited ability to communicate, is a humbling experience, reducing some of the complacence that all of us tend to have on our ‘home turf,’ while at the same time engendering appreciation for the small kindnesses of people. More about that later.

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