(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.