An American Tourist in Paradise: Earlier this month, my amazing, incredible, talented friend ASHLEY came to visit us. Below is a Q&A all about her experience with us in Pura Vida land.
Megan: What was your favorite place in Costa Rica and why?
Ashley: This is so difficult! I really liked the Baldi Springs, and I really liked the beach. I liked standing underneath a waterfall because I so seldom do that here.
Megan: What was your favorite food? Least favorite?
Ashley: Favorite food: Another hard one! If you ask Megan and Ross’s students what my favorite food is, they might tell you it is “knives,” because I kept accidentally telling them I enjoyed “cuchillos de cerdo” (pig knives) instead of pig ribs. Ah, Americans are funny that way.
I liked most everything! Megan and Ross turned me onto the wonders of buffet dinners, lunches, and breakfasts. I can’t argue with the logic of finishing every meal with chocolate cake.
Least favorite: Hongos. I don’t care what country it is and what they call them there. If I find out it means “mushrooms,” I will be very unhappy and may leave the country prematurely.
Second least favorite: A bowl of spaghetti with cream and ham. Or whatever that was we had for lunch at school. Generally unimpressive.
Megan: Approximately how many rice and beans pounds (yes, they are different than other kinds of pounds) did you gain in your week here? (Convert that into Grams, multiply by roughly 51 and that will be my answer.)
Ashley: At eight days in the country with a rate of three base meals per day, of which at least two containing rice and beans, with the exception of maybe two meals in touristy locations, when I probably ordered rice and beans anyway ….
8 x (3-1) – 2 = 14 meals of beans and rice, or the equivalent of 28 beans and rice pounds.
Megan: You brought some donations (ie gifts) for poor people here (ie us) when you visited. Are you planning on writing these off your 2011 taxes?
Ashely: I would consider this, but then I’d have had to notify the Costa Rican government that I was bringing them in before I entered, which means of course that I’d have to let the U.S. government know that I was planning to do this in the first place. Then I’d have to find where to fill out this information on my tax forms, and since I don’t know how to change colones into dollars very well I’d probably end up writing something like $600,000,000, which they would never believe anyway.
Megan: It’s worth a try…
Megan: What was the biggest challenge you faced while traveling in a Spanish speaking country? (and yes, your hair iron is a perfectly acceptable answer to this)
Ashley: Although I did speak a bit of Spanish before I arrived, and remembered a lot more upon attempting to communicate with residents, communication did pose a bit of a problem. I wandered into a breads shop one afternoon, pointed at a loaf trying to indicate that I wanted to buy it. I knew the word for bread, I knew how to specify that I wanted it, and I had adequate money. Somehow I walked away from this situation without any bread at all. Sometimes when I got nervous in a conversation and couldn’t think of the appropriate response in time, I simply blurted out “Nice to meet you” (Mucho gusto).
In reference to the hair iron comment, it is a challenge for those with unruly hair, like myself, to look respectable in humid environments. You may notice in the photos from my trip to Singapore, I am not in any of them. This is not just because I am an insecure person, it is because people intentionally cut me out of photos.
Megan: Sorry about that…
Megan: Who do you like more, Costa Rican or American children (and no, ‘monkeys’ are not an acceptable answer here)
Ashley: This is a tricky question because I can’t understand most of what Costa Rican children are saying. On the other hand, it is very often preferential not to understand what children are saying (this is why people like babies so much), so that does not necessarily count against them. More than any other aspect of comparison between the countries, kids are kids. They are excited, look up to you, and are often a lot more fun and open-minded than adults. Until they get to fifth grade or so when they just become a nuisance.
Megan: Speaking of Monkeys, why do you like them so much?
Ashley: Please. Name one other animal that swooped down from a coconut tree, sat down next to your head, stole your belongings right before your resting eyes, and sprang back up to its branch to delightedly go through your things. They are very intelligent, yet cuter and fuzzier than humans.
Megan: I don’t know, I know some pretty cute and fuzzy humans…
Megan: What did you learn during your school visit?
Ashley: School was great! I learned that there are a lot of things I don’t know how to say. I also learned that stickers are the currency of the future.
Megan: Sum up the host family experience in 5 words.
Ashley: Perrito embarazar hormigas Kool-Aid tortillas
Megan: Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Megan: Is San Jose really as bad as its reputation? Worse than any other big cities in the States?
Ashley: Difficult to say. I did not get mugged, beaten, or kidnapped in San Jose, nor did I see anyone get mugged, beaten, or kidnapped. Or if I did, I just assumed it was “a kind of Costa Rican playing.” My hosts did a good job of sheltering me from any of the dangers of San Jose (I seem to remember Ross saying, “That’s not a rifle, it’s a cane! He’s simply trying to return the cane to the forgetful old man by batting him about the head with it!”). If I had been left to wander San Jose in the dark by myself, I may have had a different opinion.
Megan: Have you already attempted to make fresh Papaya juice in Boston since your return?
Ashley: Sigh, no. I’m afraid my attempt would be a flop and I’d destroy the perfect, delicious taste in my head (not taste of my head). I have talked about it a whole lot though.
Megan: Did you really just say “taste of my head”?
Megan: Has your hair recovered from the rainforest climate?
Ashley: I think rainforest climate is most likely good for your hair, with the extra moisture and all (I have not researched this in any way). It’s the battling with the rainforest climate that destroys it. Of this I am guilty.
Megan: In your own words, define the meaning of ‘PURA VIDA’
Ashley: “Pura Vida” means I agree with what you’re saying on the basis that I don’t understand what it translates to in English. Pura Vida means I’d love to tip you, but I can’t because I didn’t bring enough colones out. Pura vida means I live in Costa Rica so I can throw garbage wherever I like. Pura vida also means you are an absolutely bird-brained cab driver, and if I had a choice I’d charge YOU for driving me around in circles, but I sense that I am losing this argument and my girlfriend is giving me the look of death so I am just going to throw in the towel now.
Truthfully I did not get a grasp on what Pura Vida means. I think I know what it’s supposed to mean, but do not understand this in the context of situations when it was actually used.
Megan: What were your thoughts on the public transportation system in Costa Rica?
Ashley: The buses were great! They were manufactured by Mercedes-Benz in 1980 and all the seat cushions have multi-colored 80s fabric patterns that you’ve missed so much. Halfway through the trip, they drop you off at a mecca of bathrooms as far as the eye can see and entice you to buy everything that Costa Rica has to offer in under fifteen minutes. They don’t let you back on the bus if you haven’t bought some fresh mango. It is probably best that you travel with as many people as possible, because I think the lower the number of travelers, the less total human worth you represent to the driver, and the more likely it will be that the driver will drive recklessly with his eyes closed.
Megan: Biggest accomplishment? (probably throwing down “no me digas’ within your first 5 minutes of meeting our host mom)
Ashley: A few accomplishments to list. One was telling a joke in Costa Rica (okay so telling the host mom about the time I lost my clarinet in grade school isn’t actually very funny, but she laughed and I was just impressed that I could tell a really stupid story in another language). As Megan suggests, I was also very happy that I got to say “No me digas!” so soon, in a totally relevant context and not at all contrived. If I could have taped the exchange and sent it to my brother as proof, I would have done so.*
*For unknown reasons “No me digas!” is one of my brother’s favorite expressions. It is pretty fun to say, however, so I don’t think it requires further explanation.
Megan: First impression of Mango?
Ashley: Mango is a delight. He likes to lay on his back with his legs in the air and bite people’s hands. Very fond of licking. Not a fan of cold showers. Also enjoys bar-hopping.
Megan: Oh I was asking your impression about about Mango, not Ross…
Megan: Who was the best host(ESS) and why?
Ashley: I don’t understand the question.
Ashley: Oh, right! Megan was an incredible hostess who made sure I got to do everything I came for, including visiting a shirtless local veterinarian, participate in a school assembly, and eat beans and rice. It’s almost as if she’d had a copy of my bucket list beforehand!!
In all seriousness, Megan was a terrific host as expected and that’s why she was preemptively rewarded with Reese’s peanut butter cups and beauty magazines.
Megan: Did you feel ripped off when you exchanged 10 million colones for 2 dollars and 50 cents?
Ashley: For better or worse, I didn’t know what was happening the entire time I was in Costa Rica. I pretended the money was play money someone had given to me to practice using my Spanish in “real-life” situations. I did have to be defibrillated at the Miami airport when I’d realized how much I’d spent, but treatment is going smoothly since my return.
Megan: That defibrillater better still be available next month.
Megan: Would you ever come back to visit Costa Rica in the future?
Ashley: Of course! But I’d want to go back with the same people, partly because I liked relying on them to translate things into Spanish for me. Also we’d rent a big cool automobile so Mango could come with us.
Megan: Anything else you would like to add??!!??
Ashley: No me digas! (taken out of context)