Saturday, December 27, 2008

mangrove update

So, I went on another man-yak adventure in the manglar and discovered the source of all the rice krispie snapping and popping. Turns out it is some clam like animal breathing through the mud. Finding things out is an imagination killer, here I was thinking that it was the mangroves rocking in the breeze, or maybe small mangrove spirits communicating with one another. I guess a little shell breathing in the mud is pretty cool.

cocktails from the city

I love San Francisco, I miss San Francisco. The City combines so many great things at once, bohemian undertones, a riotous history, a potent melting pot of cultures and fantastic food. We also have quite the history of cocktails, and it seems we are still making an impact, or at least the nyt says so. Read on...

Friday, December 26, 2008

the haps in costa rica

(Images, from top to bottom, Newly macheted trail and a 'walking palm,' the view from the 'hotel' back down on the disco and dining hall, the famous Rara Avis spine destroying tractor)

I'm in my new christmas sarong sitting in my hotel room in cuidad josefina reflecting on where the last year has taken me. Christmas passed with fewer fireworks but more beach as well as an entertaining round of Secret Santa with my group. It is a bit strange to be divorced from the strange consumer culture of Gringo Christmas and realize what the rest of the world does for the holiday. Strange, but incredibly liberating, I completed all of my christmas shopping in a 15 minute stint on line (books for brothie and pops, an orion magazine subscription for momma and lucky eva). Here christmas seems more to center around family, fireworks, drinking, tamales, church if you are so inclined and/or salsa dancing in the street. I have come to conclude that the Latin way is preferable though there is the possibility of injury by renegade fireworks.

I spent most of the afternoon with Isaac (a fellow tour leader) on the beach discussing why latin/gringo relationships do and do not work, as well as why we need a new name for gringos other than calling ourselves "Americans," which the Ticos find incredibly offensive. The Ticos have a point, America in fact includes both the north and south continents as well as greenland (I think). So the word, American, is kind of a general geographic area, not specific to our country. I am pushing for Statesians, that or Unidians, either really works, or Gringo.

Additionally Isaac explained how he feels like the heavy Gringo influence in Costa Rica has been eroding the core of Latin culture, namely the family. It is true, globalization, mobility, etc, etc... the world's leaning towards mcdonalized homogeneity has an affect here. Isaac reckons that family is more of a responsibility in the States rather than a priority. I feel like that is a pretty generalizing statement, but it has roots somewhere.

Generally in my travels I do see the erosion of a lot of traditions, the revival of others, I see good things happen as the result of tourism, and bad things too. With most of life, I am realizing that it is best to live well, with integrity, to try to do the right thing when presented with choices, and accept what we can't change. It can be hard watching tourists feed monkeys food that is going to make them sick, but I also can't talk to every tourist. I also don't want to be some over aggressive angry chick muttering about how bananas make monkeys sick, how your camera's flash disorient animals, and that yelling in english or botched italian at spanish speakers doesn't make communication easier. I have learned to try inform the people that I can and to pick my battles, and some things I am just learning to accept quietly. Good news is I can brainwash my passengers into believing anything I want, namely convincing them not to buy non-sustainably harvested hardwoods, that feeding animals is bad, that the tap water in monteverde is the best in Costa Rica and it is a crime not to drink it, oh and introduce them to the wonders of guanabana the world's best juice.

Other things worth mentioning....

I finally saw a huge fat male resplendent quetzal and was so excited I forgot all about taking a photo. He sat for 15 minutes, threw up two avocado seeds (a much smaller variety than hass), took a poop, and then flew away. How can you not love a bird that feeds almost exclusively on aguacate?

Rara Avis
is my new favorite place in Costa Rica. It is a jungle lodge, 12k out in virgin rainforest only reachable by foot or on the back of a tractor, complete with rastafarian tourguide Wilburth and amazing fried chicken. Riiiigght???

Finally, an important lesson, just because you think you learned how to dance Cumbia once while you were drunk does not mean you will remember how to do it when you get drunk again and try.

Feliz ano nuevo.
damn I need to find the enay on this machine.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I have a new obsession: mangroves. Man are they a cool ecosystem. I had the chance to go kayaking last week in the mangroves near Manuel Antonio. It was a 3 hour trip, some how I ended up being the only one in a single, but I managed to just keep up.
Mangroves grow in the places where fresh and saltwater meet, they grow in the mud that is deposited by freshwater on its way out to the ocean. The way that they survive living in the oxygen poor mud and water is by growing these crazy root systems that are exposed at low tide. Different species use different systems to accomplish respiration, some have little snorkel like tubes that stick out of the mud, some grow father up the shore line, some have tall root systems that stick out of the water. Ooooo they are cool.
But the best, most amazing part are the super tall white mangroves. They can be 10-20 meters tall, have long trunks and amazing roots that support their heavy trunks. They only grow back from the main canals as they need firmer mud to support them. Along the canals grow the shorter more bushy red mangroves and the pine mangroves.
The nice part about being in the kayaks is that is was super quiet, we could hear everything, and mangrove forests make a lot of noise. Sort of like a bowl of rice krispies, cracking and popping, I am not sure what makes the noise but it is really amazing. The whole thing reminded me of the life of pi, when he gets stuck on that island for a while.
On the paddle back home we fed some capuchin monkeys palm fruits (one of their normal foods, unlike bananas). My passengers were totally stoked on it, I was pretty impressed but kept my distance, I still haven't gotten over the monkey attack in Nicaragua.
There is something so magical about being out on the water under your own command, sans motor, just cruising along. I think that the weirdness or other worldliness of the mangroves makes the whole thing more special.
okay I am going to take my dreamy self and get ready to start my next trip.

la gemma perdida

coming at you live from San Jose, Costa Rica, ciudad Josefina, with a smog induced sore throat and jonesing for the ocean iiiiitttttttttttttttttt's Hemma!
Ok, so I have been sucking it up on the blog the last while. I keep telling myself I am going to get online and make it happen but life keeps getting filled up with other things. I am not sure what those things are but I have a feeling work might have a bit to do with it.

Mostly the last while has been dealing with the beast of a cold front that trampled its way across Costa Rica. I have never bitched so much about the weather in my life. It was so wet that my shoes started to mold and I forgot what the sun looked like. Finally it made its appearance making my last crew of passengers very happy. I threw myself on a chaise lounge and burned the crap out of my left armpit, so much for sun protective deodorant.

I've been off for the last couple days in SJO, not my favorite place to be stuck, but it does have its charms. I managed to get about half of my clothes stolen (yes mikee I have just decided going au natural is better) so when ALAINA arrived I made her go shopping with me. Shopping has lead me to a cultural observation here... regardless of your actual size everyone here thinks they aren't bigger than a medium which makes shopping and a griga gigante pretty frustrating.

More importantly has been the incredible amount of laughter that has occurred as a result of Alaina y Gemma in Costa Rica. Not unlike most times it is hard for me to recall what exactly was so damn funny, but here are a couple of my top moments...
telling the story of Eva puking in the cab on my, oh wait I mean ALAINA'S jeans in spanish
ordering extra whipped cream on our tcby sundae the day I decided to stop eating dairy
jumping rope in mall San Pedro

Alaina thinks that I should share that I have bought a jump rope in another attempt to not be an embarrassingly out of shape ex-athlete. Good idea dad.

Otherwise it has been randomness, laughter, a bit too much pilsner, an amazing trip kayaking through the mangroves (i should write more about that) and my first sushi since leaving the states (if that isn't a reason to love San Jose I don't know what is).