I hate being sick, but here I am so I thought I would try to get something accomplished while I lie here. But then I decided to blog instead.
Can you imagine reading a blog about someone’s sickness? I’m not talking about people with serious illnesses that we do read, but about someone’s experience during a cold, or sinus infection, or something non-major. Of course we wouldn’t read it, because it is so boring and annoying to hear minute details about someone’s minor illness…unless we’re sick with the same thing! And also food allergies…if you don’t have them, you don’t want to hear the details, really. But if you do, suddenly you talk about it ad nauseum. I know, because we used to not, and now we do.
So I would never blog about my sinus infection, but if you have one too and want to talk about it, Facebook me immediately!
Instead, let’s talk about minor illness in Costa Rica! Much more fun! Woo hoo!
We’ve just returned from Costa Rica, a place we’ve wanted to go for 15 years. The hub works for an airline, so we flew with passes and found an all-inclusive deal for airline employees. Apparently, we took strep and cold germs with us from the last week of school — happy summer! Ironic, too, because the Travel Well Clinic had us stressed out about all of the germs they have in C.R., and instead, we were only affected by germs we got in the States before we left. So, sorry to all of the Costa Ricans who came anywhere near us, and know that we did not kiss any of you for that reason! 🙂
Fortunately, we dealt with our issues and since this blog is absolutely not about minor illness, suffice it to say that we had medicine from home and managed. Our daughter’s ear infection was kindly and effectively treated by the resort’s First Aid staff. Many thanks to them and their excellent English skills.
The remainder of this blog, I promise, will be “Observations and Stories from Costa Rica that Do Not Involve Minor Illness.”
Iguanas were everywhere on the resort and walked around kind of like squirrels in the U.S. However, if food were nearby, they would come after it even if it were on your pool chair. One jumped on a sleeping man who we tried to warn (“uh, Senor!) as it went for his leftover food on the table. He got scratched up, too. Lesson learned: iguanas love french fries.
Monkeys lived down the road and the hub and the boy went to visit them with a guide. The girl and I skipped out and stayed at the pool. The monkeys will climb all over you and will take food from you. They said one kept screeching at them. Too close for comfort, I say. Great photo op, but I was fine with just seeing the pics. Lesson learned: go with your gut when it comes to monkeys.
There were no sea creatures where we swam in the ocean. First time in the Pacific Ocean, and thankfully no scary stuff. Incidentally, the seafood was fantastic. Lesson learned: I prefer my sea life cooked and on my plate.
This is the place. They have the beach and mountains, zip-lining, surfing, kayaking, hiking, volcanoes, rainforest, and wildlife. So much green everywhere…it rained every afternoon and/or evening but the last, and it did not interfere with anything, thankfully. In the rainy season, plan your activities in the morning and you’re good. The rain usually didn’t start until 4 or so when you’re ready to go in anyway, and the clouds made the temps just right. Lesson learned: C.R. reminds me of North Georgia, where it’s green, mountainous, and rains in the afternoons a lot.
The resort actually had a majority of Costa Rican guests. There were some other Americans, but we were the minority. It is weird to be the minority but very good for us to experience. I wondered if they thought we wore weird clothes, I was self-conscious of my bad Dora-the-Explorer Spanish (I awed them with my hola and gracias, though), I wanted to blend in, and I didn’t want to offend them. I imagine people from different cultures feel similarly when they visit America, or come to live there. I am so amazed and impressed by anyone who relocates to a different country and learns the language.
The resort was mostly families, with some couples, and a mix of all ages. The Costa Rican women all wore bikinis and seemed so comfortable in their skin. No plastic surgery, no airs, just nice seeming people. The children were beautifully behaved, never loud, never a tantrum seen or heard. With all of the swim-up bars, I only saw happy people having fun, never a drunk or fights. The only drunk person I saw the whole time was, you guessed it, an American. The typical Ugly American, a woman, arguing in a slurred, loud voice with the manager of a restaurant, after asking them to sell her a bottle of wine to go. He handled her beautifully; I did not. I was so furious with her and gave her my “Eat Caca” look. The hub had to talk me down, and was right to. But she embarrassed me. We were guests in their country and the staff there was incredibly nice and she was talking to them like they were her servants. Yuck, it was so hard to watch. I wrote a good review of Jose, the manager and submitted it as an apology on behalf of all Americans. Lesson learned: the Ugly American is a cliche for a reason.
On a more positive note, the food was delicious; surprising, considering it was an all-inclusive deal. They had international choices, but their local food was lots of beans and rice (even for breakfast), homemade tortillas, tamales, empanadas, custards, coconut desserts, coffee, seafood, braised chicken, grilled pork and beef, lots of fresh pineapple (the best!), papaya, watermelon, mango. And the rum. Oh, the rum drinks until sickness settled in were fabulous. I am hooked on dark rum now. The kids drank Cokes like the adults drank rum. Everyone was happy! For lunch, the kids could get hamburgers/hot dogs/pizza/fries so they got their fix and were up for trying new things at dinner. And p.s. the water was fine on the resort. Lesson learned: again, go with your gut!
Our tour guide, Charlie, told us that some years ago, Costa Rica eliminated their military and their government used the money to go toward education and teachers. Their president was elected on ending war and socializing medicine in their country. He said Costa Rica is now the most educated Central American country, and they learn English in school. Their top industries are tourism, computer products, and agriculture. According to Charlie, the rest of Central America looks to Costa Rica the way that Mexico looks to the U.S. — as a land of opportunity. Lesson learned: their guy would never have been elected in America.
There is a good amount of crime there, according to Charlie. All of the homes in the towns had fences around them and some had electric fencing. At the resort, if you were on the beach and started walking away from the property, a tourism official would make you sign out and sign in when you returned. They did not advise leaving the property because of crime. Kind of scary, but I was glad they were looking out for you. Lesson learned: stay on the resort’s section of the beach and take a guide when leaving the resort.
You hope you will get a good one, because you’re trusting this random person in this foreign country to take care of you. We set up the tour through the hotel, and they did us right. Charlie was awesome. His son had just finished medical school and had gone on a government scholarship; he had to work for the gov’t for 3 years at some place far away in the boonies and then could start his own practice. Most average Costa Ricans finish high school, but they can not afford college without a scholarship. He showed us pictures of his daughters, both pretty teenagers, and I said, “you better get a big baseball bat, ha ha.” And he laughed and said, “I already do! I have one hanging above my front door, painted red with the words ‘Daddy’s Bat’.” He also told us about the earthquake in 2009 that destroyed the area where we were touring, and the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. He was working there when it hit and they were stuck there for 3 days until someone rescued them. When I said how horrible and scary it must have been, he just said, “it was ok, we had food, and well, we’re just used to it.” No comments on how ineffective the gov’t was or wasn’t, no anger, just acceptance and life goes on. Lesson learned: Charlie is a good ambassador for C.R.
Siblings in Foreign Countries:
Lesson learned: Siblings, when visiting foreign countries that speak a foreign language, will actually play together happily. Parents will watch with great pleasure.
Electronically-Addicted Individuals in Costa Rica:
Lesson learned: These individuals will not only survive, but thrive, without constant access to electronic devices and wifi. They will learn new things, and observe their new environment with enthusiasm. They may even be able to write a blog when they return to their homeland.
So if you’ve ever wanted to go, go. You will love it and take your kids. They will love it too, and have those memories when they grow up.
A good reminder, too, that we can learn so much from a country the size of West Virginia. So very much.
Take care of yourselves and each other,