A man hunches over on the sand, gripping a fishing rod in one hand and holding a beer in the other. He takes a sip of the cool Imperial brew, sits back and waits.
Five hours later, the man has not moved. He remains lying back on the sand, looking out into the sunset, holding the fishing rod and living in the moment.
In Costa Rica, this is how people live life: pura vida, or pure life. The motto is the countrys go-to philosophy live one day at a time, in the moment. This stress-free, laid back lifestyle is what partially helps Costa Rica function better than any of its Central American counterparts. With no military (it was abolished in 1948) and plenty of democracy (the government relies on popular votes to do what is best for the people) the wealth is pretty equally distributed. People are content they love their government, they love their neighborhoods and they love their country. My taxi cab drivers were both pretty well-off, each owning multiple properties throughout Costa Rica and making only minimum wage. Also, I noticed speaking Spanish was less necessary in Costa Rica because almost everyone speaks English. This is a direct result of the education system in the country every Costa Rican must attend elementary high school and it is free of charge. They wear uniforms because this way you cannot tell who is poorer or wealthier, everyone is equal within the education sphere. Many of the graduates continue to college or use their skills to get higher paying jobs. My cab driver told us that a whopping 97 percent of the country has a high school diploma.
Like the fisherman by the beach, I found myself soaking in the Costa Rican lifestyle. Costa Rica is seriously a paradise. With the highest happiness rate of any country in the world, its no wonder people go there and stay. In my three days there, I went horseback riding in a rainforest, ate fruit from a street vendor, saw sloths and monkeys, visited a banana plantation, learned to salsa from locals, went tubing, slept in a hammock and biked around a beachside town. On day one, my roommate and two of our other friends did independent travel throughout the country. We hired a cab driver (our new best friend, Francisco) and went horseback riding. On the way, Francisco took us to a fruit vendor on the side of the road. For $2, we were able to try every single fruit including pineapple, mango, coconut and cocoa. After our intense but fun horseback ride (my horse, Indio, loved to go slow, eat the leaves as we were on trail and then sprint ahead of his fellow horses), Francisco took us to the Del Monte banana plantation. I dont think we were allowed to go behind the scenes, but he took us anyway. First we watched the men pull a string of bananas to the factory. They tug the chain of bananas through the entire plantation (keep in mind this is hundreds of acres of land). In the factory, some employees wash off the bananas while others selected the ripe ones and trash the others. Then they re-wash the bananas and employees put stickers on them. The process, Francisco said, takes about 12 hours a day and the employees work six days a week. It was interesting to seeing the countrys number one export in action (Next time I eat a banana, I will be much more appreciative of the labor!). Francisco then drove us to Playa Bonita (where he actually lives in a home on the beach) and this bar where we ordered a HUGE platter of seafood from clams to shrimp, the plate had it all. Did I mention it was the size of the entire table? We bought Francisco lunch because he was such a great guide for the day and then relaxed on the beach until it began raining super hard.
At night, many of us SASers headed to Limon to check out its bar and club scene. Safe? Kind of. Even in paradise, its not a good idea to let your guard down. Thankfully, as usual, there were hundreds of us SASers. But I did hear some people got held up at gunpoint and others who were pickpocketted without even knowing it. The dark side of pura vida.
The next day I went on a tubing adventure through a river in an indigenous village. The tubing was a challenge (arms sore, butt bruised) but it was exhilarating. We had to take a tractor to get from one end of the indigenous reserve to the other. None of the people spoke English and lived together, isolated from the rest of Costa Rica just the way they like it. They have one light per house, no kitchens (cook things outside on stone stoves) and no laundry machines. They live off their farms and share or trade among community members. The community gains its money through tourism, like many other areas of Costa Rica. After, I headed to Puerto Viejo, a beach-side town that reminds me a lot of Santa Barbara. There, I stayed with a few friends at Rocking Js, a hostel where you sleep in a hammock outside. The hostel itself reminded me of a hipster haven, with mosaic floors and local art all over the walls. The hostel owner told me a whopping 300 people come and go per day, some stay all night, some stay days at a time - but mostly, people come to chill. It’s just got that kind of vibe.
Next morning we explored the town and rented bikes to go around: The perfect way to end a stay in one of my favorite countries thus far. Look out for a blog on Honduras & Guatemala later tonight! Also hopefully some pictures, I am potentially going to the port to use their Internet time to upload some to the blog.