Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wild Women's Weekend February 2009

Two new CouchSurfing friends and I decided to take off for a long weekend to the beach. I had been to Montezuma but Santa Teresa was new for me. Both are located near the southern tip of the Nicoya peninsula on the Pacific coast.

Ellen was in charge of planning transportation, and I called around to find rooms. Getting there was part of the adventure. We took the bus from Santa Ana to San Jose, then 2.5-hour bus to Puntarenas where we were supposed to take the 2:30 ferry so we could meet yet another bus on the other shore. But in Puntarenas we found out the 2:30 bus had been delayed to 3:45, and we didn't think we'd be able to make the bus connection to arrive at our hotel that night. Uh oh, what to do?

We saw a couple of 20-something guys driving an SUV (surfboards on top), waiting for a ferry to a different port on the other side. Age emboldens, as this story shows. Ellen and I (59 and 58) went up to the guys (Ben and Jesse) and asked if the three of us could catch a ride with them from the port on the other side to a central town where we would be able to catch a bus to Montezuma, and arrive at our hotel that night. They agreed. Then we had to buy tickets for that ferry that was already starting to load. The ticket line was very long, and we didn't want to miss boarding with the guys, so I went to the front of the line and asked a cute young guy (in Spanish) if he would buy me three tickets. He did, and we all boarded the ferry.

Getting off the ferry, we set off in the SUV over one of the bumpiest dirt roads I have seen in Costa Rica, and I have seen many. Ben, the driver, thought it was an amusement ride, and we three women in the back were airborne for much of the ride. But we made it to Cobano a good 45 minutes before the bus would leave for Montezuma. Instead of waiting around, though, we splurged on a taxi and drove into Montezuma while it was still light.

Montezuma is a throwback to the old hippie days. You can get high just walking along the street, and street vendors sell jewelry, pipes and other paraphernalia. Our room at El Tajalin had three single beds and air conditioning, and we stayed for two nights.

On Friday, we hiked up the waterfall to a big watering hole where we spent the day swimming and lying in the sun. The water was fresh, clean and refreshing. The place was a melting pot, and I met people from all over. The couple from Kanab, Utah, was my favorite. Bobbi and Sky seemed to be really enjoying their retirement. There was a woman in her 40s from Germany who has been traveling for 1.5 years, making and selling jewelry along the way. Her mother was currently visiting her from Germany for two months. Martin, from British Columbia, dared to dive from the rocks (I found out later that people have been killed doing just that) and put on a show for the audience below. I thought I was watching a suicide until he surfaced. There was a young Canadian family with two little girls who made it up the waterfall. That was no easy feat. I was wearing my Tevas and developed three blisters from the hike, one on the bottom of my foot that burst and caused me to lay off walking for the next couple of days.

Saturday morning we took a van then a bus into Santa Teresa. This is becoming a world-famous surfing community, and rooms were hard to come by. We shared a room at Casa Zen for $10/person per night. Casa Zen had a Thai restaurant, but we ate most of our meals around the corner at a small soda called All Natural. They made delicious chicken curry, bacon and eggs, ceviche to order, and a fantastic banana mango smoothie. The food was cheap (about $4 per meal) and very satisfying.

The beach was at the end of the block. It was a surfing beach, but we could go in up to our waists and bodysurf. The waves crashed on us, but there wasn't a serious riptide to pull us out. The sand was fine and soft, and there were plenty of palm trees to provide shade from the hot sun. Life, indeed, was very good there.

Nancy, my CouchSurfing houseguest, hooked up with Charlie, a guy we met at the beach. Charlie is from the US and speaks Spanish. He was working at a call center in El Salvador when a family with two small children passed through town in an old converted school bus and invited him to be their nanny. He left the job, boarded the bus with only the clothes on his back, his passport and a book, and away they went to Costa Rica. It was love at first sight for Nancy and Charlie, so Ellen and I took off for home on Monday morning without her. Some women are a little wilder than others.

My First CouchSurfing Experience

I like to meet people, and I like to try new things. So I joined CouchSurfing. I offer travelers my extra bedroom when they are passing through and when it's convenient for me, and when I want to travel, I can contact CouchSurfers in the area I'll be visiting to see if they can accommodate me.

No sooner had I joined this organization when I received a request from Nancy, a 36-year-old Australian who was traveling the world solo for a year. She wanted to stay with me for a few days, and after checking her references online, I invited her to my place.

CouchSurfing is also a social group that plans parties and get-togethers. The day I met Nancy, she and I attended a CS lunch, where we met about 40 others - some travelers but mostly folks who live around here. The group was split by age - young'uns in their 20s and 30s, and us older folks in our 50s and up. I was happy to meet these new people, and look forward to seeing them again. In fact, this Friday some of us older women are getting together for lunch, and on Sunday the group is having a cheesecake party.

Nancy stayed here four nights and to my delight, she turned out to be a wonderful cook and a massage therapist. From her Chinese background, she learned to make delicious meals from just a few ingredients. I took notes and now I'm feeding myself the way she fed me. She also saved me a couple of visits to the chiropractor by doing deep-tissue massage on my neck, shoulders and back.

One of the women I met at the CS lunch is Ellen, who lives on Vancouver Island in Canada, but is staying here in Costa Rica for a few months. She, Nancy and I decided to take off last weekend on a Wild Women's Weekend to the tip of the Nicoya peninsula on the Pacific coast. See my post on that fun adventure!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

La Lunada Potluck Jam Session

Last night I went to my first (and hopefully not my last) Lunada, thanks to the invitation of Sally O'Boyle. Sally sings in a band with other folks around our age called Harmony Roads. Once a month around the full moon (Lunada), the band members and invited guests who are musical and some who are not gather at the beautiful home of Barry Biesanz, the leader of the pack and exquisite artisan who works with wood.

The house is situated high on a mountain in Escazu with an astounding view of the Central Valley. The musicians jammed in a room lined with windows, so the audience had a sweeping view of twinkling lights in the background.

Before getting down to the business of making music, we shared a potluck dinner. Most of the gatherings I go to involve bringing food to share. I brought my easy-to-make coconut flan pie, which got wolfed down before I had a chance to take a bite (a blessing in disguise?). In turn, I stuffed myself with homemade bread, curried chicken salad, and Hal's delicious lentil soup, which I had also had for lunch when I was at Hal and Sally's house earlier in the day.

Harmony Roads bills itself as Costa Rica's oldest gringo band, playing eclectic music: oldies, country, folk, blues, 50s, and rock and roll. La Lunada wasn't a concert, although I did enjoy listening to the music. The experience for me was more of seeing close up how people get together and create music, like making magic. They brought their guitars, violin, drums, harmonica, voices and put them together, and out came songs.

The musicians had fun making their music, and for one song, I jumped in and banged a tambourine in rhythm (I hope) to a country song. The greatest delight was the attendance of Ben and his violin. Barry found him on Craigslist and invited him to come to the event. Ben is very talented and could improvise on any tune.

This morning I've still got music on my brain. Yee haw!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

SuperBowl Party 2009

I'm a big New England Patriots fan. For some weird reason, the Patriots didn't make it into the SuperBowl playoffs, even though they had 11 wins and only 5 losses during the regular season.

So I had no vested interest in which team won the SuperBowl. But there's something about the Pittsburgh Steelers that I just don't like. Maybe it's their yellow and black uniform that I find threatening, or maybe it's the meanness and unusual heft of their defense, or the fact that they have beaten my team. Whatever the reason, I didn't want to see them win the trophy. I had no problems with the Arizona Cardinals, though. I didn't know much about them, other than the team moved from St. Louis. But they must have done something right to have made it as far as the SuperBowl. So I decided to root for them.

Diane hosted the big SuperBowl party on Sunday. During this season and last, we took turns hosting football parties to watch our favorite teams: Diane's Dallas Cowboys, Ellen's Miami Dolphins, and my Patriots. I have a tendency to get obnoxiously excited when my team is winning, but my friends tolerate me just the same.

On Sunday about 13 of us brought food and drinks to Diane's, and settled in to watch The Game. Somehow I lucked out and got to sit in the big chair - a leather recliner that tilts so far back that it becomes a bed. I lack the weight/power to close the leg rest, so once I'm reclined, I have to climb over the side to get in or out, like a toddler in a crib.

To make the game interesting, we all placed bets in a pool. Diane and Mark created a grid, and we each paid $2 for a cell in the grid. I bought two cells. Depending on the score at the end of each quarter, someone would win $10, and the big winner would take home $20. I won nada, zilch, zero.

Not only did I win nada, zilch, zero in the group bet, but I had a side bet with Shell. Shell is my sworn nemesis. Whomever I cheer for, he cheers for the other team. In 2006 and 2007 when the Patriots were in contention, Shell was particularly nasty to me, which is probably why I have become so obnoxiously excited about my team. So even though I didn't really care too much if Arizona beat Pittsburgh, I bet Shell that the Cardinals would win. The last quarter's action was electrifying for both teams, and Shell and I ribbed each other mercilessly as each team scored. But we all know how the game ended: Pittsburgh beat Arizona 27 to 23. And I had to hand over another $2 to a jubilant Shell.

I did come away richer, though, from having shared a fun evening with friends and eaten delicious food.

Monday, February 2, 2009

CRL Get Together at Tequila Joe's

Saturday I went to a CRL get together at Tequila Joe's in Santa Ana. CRL stands for Costa Rica Living. It's a Yahoo group that I joined four years ago (could it be that long ago?!) when I was thinking of moving to Costa Rica. It's composed of about 4500 non-Costa Ricans who either live in Costa Rica or want to.

When I was first researching Costa Rica on the Internet from my home in Florida, I was befriended by several people in CRL, a couple of whom are still friends. By reading the questions and answers about everyday life and moving to a foreign country, I learned much of what helped me land on my feet when I finally made the move in August of 2005.

Every few months, whoever feels like it initiates a lunch get-together at a different restaurant. I volunteered to scope out Tequila Joe's because It would mean not having to drive very far. I talked to the owner, an American (geez, there are so many of us here), who assured me the indoor/outdoor restaurant could accommodate 100 or more of us, all with individual checks. The moderators of the Yahoo group decided this would be the place, so about 35 of us turned up for lunch. The Mexican food was just okay, but the socializing was very good.

I got to see old friends (George and Fred, John from Texas, Sharon/Dick/Maia - original friends from four years ago, LizBrit and Dick, Janet and Courney, Steve my grammar buddy, bold and funny Robbie, Sally/Hal and their two handome manchildren -to call them boys is such an understatement) and made some new ones.