WHERE the Heck Are We?

As soon as we arrived in our new living space, a walk-up condo with a view of the ocean and muchas escaleras (many stairs), I taped a map of Costa Rica to the wall. The intention was to mark the spots we want to visit this year, but also as a reminder of where we have landed.

 Costa Rica is a country with a small physical footprint—51,00 square kilometres. (For some perspective, geographically, Alberta is almost 13 times the size of Costa Rica.) Population is around 4.9 million.


We are nestled between Panama to the southeast, Nicaragua in the north, and bordered by Pacific Ocean on the west coast, Caribbean on the east. Costa Rica’s government is considered to be one of the most stable in Central America, and in 1948, they did away with their army after winning a civil war. Up until recently, (April of 2018) when people were killed in human rights and anti-government protests, Nicaragua was also considered to be a safe(r) place to visit. (Because Trump probably made the news before this did, you can read about it here and here.)


Costa Rica is made up of seven provinces—Heredia, Alajuela, Cartago, Puntarenas, Guanacaste, Limón, and San Jose, where the country’s mountainous capital city lives. Costa Rica’s biggest exports are bananas, medical instruments, and orthopedic appliances. Tourism is also a big money maker at around 2.7B USD a year, and responsible for creating around 300K jobs. In 2017, Costa Rica hosted close to three million tourists, most of whom visited Guanacaste, named after the province’s distinctive tree.


With the sun’s intensity and half-moon sitting on its belly, I was under the impression we were closer to the equator, but in fact we are still around 11,500km away, about a three-and-a-half-hour plane ride. Cali, Columbia, Quito, Ecuador and Fortaleza, Brazil are some of the South American cities that sit at the equator.


The “casado” is the national dish, made up of beans, rice, fried plantains, salad and a choice of chicken, pork or fish. Finished off with Lizano (a delicious salsa sauce found on every restaurant table, alongside the salt and pepper), it is one of my favourite go-to meals. I’ve also discovered the Mamon Chinos, a lychee-like tropical fruit with a bright-red, hairy exterior, also called a Rambutan, Spanish Lime, or Chinese Sucker. Sinking your teeth into its sweet flesh after dinner is the perfect treat, but they will soon disappear come the end of October when they are out of season. Pineapples never seem to be out of season, and they vary in price drastically. For example, you can buy four off the side of the road for the same price (1,000 colones, around $2.30CDN) as one at the AutoMercado—an upscale grocery store on the outskirts of Tamarindo.


Book I am reading

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. You might remember a reference to the author and this title in the Oscar-winning Shawshank Redemption. Andy Dufresne is teaching a fellow inmate to file books in the library, and makes reference to Alexandra “Dumb ass.” Dumas, also well-known for his novel The Three Musketeers and Prince of Thieves, wrote in all genres, including playwriting.


  Quote for the day


“How we think about what is going on around us is arguably more important than what is happening around us.”


            -Zat Rana