Week Three: Lexi and the Chocolate Factory

Ok, so it wasn’t a factory, it was a farm.  But every cheesy kid-in-a-candy-store metaphor that you can think of still applies.  Last Saturday we caught the 5:00am bus (nope, that’s not a typo and I’m no fun at that time of day on a crowded bus without breakfast or coffee) to Golfito.  For those playing the home game, Golfito is located at the north end of the Osa Peninsula and is the nearest actual city to where we are staying.  Now, I have to add a couple things about the bus system in Costa Rica.  The buses are decently clean, usually on time and very cheap if you need to get around (you can go almost anywhere in the country for $3-$6).  However, the buses don’t have any bathrooms and they don’t make stops, which can make the rides interesting as you go over the very bumpy roads!  From there we took a 3-hour long taxi ride to Villa Vanilla Rainforest Spices.

At VV we met Henry, the owner of the farm.  Henry is what many would call a conspiracy nut; over dinner we discussed, among other things: fluoridation of water supplies, mercury in vaccines, swine flue, Bill C-6, global warming, sacred geometry, homeschooling, public schooling, government mind control, the pharmaceutical industry and even a little bit about spices and biodynamic farming.  Of course, this meant lots of interesting conversation and very little that I could put into the article I was writing.

The article for Health Action goes into a lot of the details about biodynamic farming and will be on the website soon, so I don’t want to go into that stuff here.  Here, I will share with you the complete sensory overload that took place.  Touching and smelling the vanilla beans at every stage of drying and curing.  Opening up a fresh cocoa pod and eating one of the raw beans, covered in sweet pulpy fruit.  Watching the tour guide pull a log of cinnamon out of a stack that looks like the firewood pile outside many Canadian homes, hack off the tough outer bark with a machete, then make thin strips of the inner bark that she passed around for all to taste.  I ate cinnamon, allspice and Mexican oregano leaves, tasted fresh tumeric root and peppercorns and picked a ylang ylang flower.  After doing the ‘spice walk’, they took us up to a lookout point with a truly spectacular view and fed us cinnamon tea, Aztec-style hot chocolate and homemade cheesecake, cookies and ice cream made with spices from the farm.

Of course, then they took us to the shop.  That was dangerous.

That night and the next morning we spent a little time in Dominical.  Between there and the town of Uvita is the area where we had thought that we would move after November in Punta Banco is up.  Now however, we are conflicted.  Dominical is way too touristy for me: the local colour is gringo.  Uvita is definitely better and could be a possibility.  While we enjoyed the amenities of the larger centres; reliable internet access, good restaurants, shopping, buses at times other than 5:00am, etc. we really missed our little piece of paradise with a warm, clean ocean a few steps from our “door”.

Those other areas are great for people who want to be tourists.  What I am really interested in is the community and we are slowly fitting into it here.  The soda at the other end of town makes a great desayuno (breakfast); gallo pinto (which is, you guessed it, rice and beans, but breakfast style!) with eggs, fried plantains, fresh unripe cheese and papaya from the tree out front. I’ve chatted with the fellow who lives there a few times.  He saw us walking to Pavones the other day (we were going to wander the town, shop for groceries and catch the bus back) and he picked us up in his truck and drove us in.  We saw him in town again later and he waited for us while we shopped so he could drive us back, rather then us waiting for the bus.  Our neighbours are great and everyone is patient with my spanglish.

Spanglish es mi mother tongue amigo!  It leads to funny conversations in restaurants like, “Buenos!  Cuatro casados con pollo, dos cervasas, dos jugo de naranja por los ninos y…um…some napkins? (insert pantomime of me wiping a child’s grubby face here)”  By the way, the word “casados” in the above sentence literally translates to “marriage” but here means the traditional dish of…wait for it…rice and beans!  What’s really funny though, is the fact that Aidan somehow learned enough French in school to mix words up, so he speaks a little something we like to call “Franish”, where he shoves a French word in every once and awhile.  Franish gets especially bad after a couple beers when he’s losing at crib.

Fun Facts about Costa Rican Wildlife

-Geckos make a clicking noise that sounds as if they are laughing at you

-Iguanas, like cats, appear to always land on their feet when jumping out of trees or off of rooftops

-Howler monkeys sound like a freight train in terrible agony.  It’s worst at about 4:30am

The most frightening animal we have encountered since arriving here however is the ant.  I know, it doesn’t sound threatening but we watched a veritable four-lane highway of leaf-cutter ants marching up to the very top of a tree, cutting down leaves and carting them across a road.  When I sweep up our outside space in the morning, you can see where bigger bugs have met their doom – only the legs and bits of wings remain.  They remind of the militant penguins on Madagascar – I can totally imagine them commandeering a boat or plane at some future point in time.  When I meet with snakes and poisonous lizards, I know I’ll be fine.  Hey, I’ve had ants in my house.

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