Pura Vida

Published: October 23rd 2010
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Pura Vida, the pure life. Pura vida is the national saying/phrase/expression whatever you want to call it, of Costa Rica. And I have experienced it more here in Quepos/Manuel Antonio than anywhere else I have been so far. In my mind it is kind of like a “hang loose braw” surfer call, or a “keep it real man.” Except it has way more meaning than that. People will just throw it into the middle of a sentence, or it will be a sentence in itself. Last night I used it as we left the restaurant, after saying thanks to the waiter. It is also a way of life, and while I felt it in Tamarindo, I didn’t feel it much in Monteverde or San José, but I feel it a lot here. The people are more relaxed, there is more sunshine, everyone seems happier, and life seems simpler. As I reread what I’ve written above, I feel like I’m not doing a good job explaining pura vida. I don’t know if it is due to my deficiencies as a writer, or that it is generally difficult to put down in words, a feeling and way of life that one experiences. I guess you will just have to visit for yourself sometime and interpret it as you like.

Tomorrow I leave Quepos for my 5th and final destination, Playa Flamingo. I can’t believe it has already been 6 weeks! Time is flying by and every week passes faster than the last. I’m very excited for Play Flamingo because I finally get to be a real beach bum. The school is literally within walking distance from the beach, less than 5 minutes! The school also has a pool in the center of campus if I feel too lazy to go to the beach or don’t want to be too far from my internet. All the problems I had here with going to the beach will be a non-issue. No waiting for and taking a 30 minute bus ride, no having to worry about my stuff getting stolen, no monkeys or raccoons eating my food and taking my bag. The only worry will be, do I have enough sunscreen on. I’m already more tan than when I got back from Egypt and I have another month of poolside lounging. I’ve never really been that into working on my tan but it does make one feel better about themselves when it is all said and done.

This past week has been rather uneventful, except for Tuesday and last night (Friday). Tuesday I finally went to the national park and it was more than worth the $10 entry fee they charge. It was very different than I expected. For some reason I assumed that as soon as I walked in the grounds would be overflowing with wild animals, colorful plants, and thousands of birds and insects everywhere; reality was far different. There was dense jungle no doubt, and lots of insects around but not a lot of larger animals. I saw a lot of monkeys, almost too many, and a lot of raccoons and other small rodents. I didn’t happen upon any sloths or colorful birds however. I saw a few lizards, and the first animal I saw about 4 minutes after walking in was one of those lizards that can run across water, it was so cool but I didn’t have my camera ready and I waited around for another 10 minutes hoping to see another one, but with no luck.

The beaches inside the park are amazing. You literally have dense jungle up against a white sand beach. Can’t get much more heavenly. The only problem with the beaches, or at least with the main beach, Playa Manuel Antonio, is the domesticated population of monkeys and raccoons. You have to be very careful with your belongings as the rodents are not scared of people and the monkeys have even been known to unzip bags in search of goodies. I had a bad encounter with a hungry raccoon. One snuck up behind me as I was eating my Ritz crackers and scared the bejesus out of me. I dropped a cracker and it quickly snatched it up before retreating back a few meters. Then it came back for more, and it wouldn’t be denied. With my bag only inches from me, the raccoon grabbed it by his teeth and began dragging it towards the woods. I shouted. No result. I swung my arms. No result. I picked up a stick and ran at him. No result. I swung the stick at him. No result. I hit him with the stick. Results. He dropped the bag and retreated a few feet before making another attempt. I had to ward him off again. After about 5 minutes of this stupid game I’d had enough and packed up my belongings; so much for reading my book in the peacefulness of secluded beaches.

Previous to this beach encounter, I had taken a wonderful hike at cathedral point, a picturesque point that juts from two beaches into the ocean. The loop around the point was only 2 kilometers but the elevation gain was about 100 meters or so through a muddy and overgrown trail. I didn’t encounter many animals until about half way through my jaunt. I had stopped at the viewpoints to grab some water and take photos, experimenting for a few minutes with my self-timer (you’ll know the pictures when you see them) before heading on my way. It was between the first two viewpoints that I saw what appeared to be an overgrown rat. It looked like a giant, steroidal rat. It creeped me out and I didn’t stay long at viewpoint number two. Between viewpoint number two and three, I finally saw some monkeys, however more than I wanted. At first I saw one a few meters off in the woods, then I saw another, and another and before I knew it there were 8 or more of them around me. I heard some branches rustling and looked up, another monkey was descending straight down at me, or so it seemed. I let out a loud shriek, snapped a few photos without looking, and began to run. I had heard stories about the cute little monkeys attacking visitors and since I was alone in a remote part of the park I didn’t want to take my chances. A few monkeys are ok, but when 8 of them have me surrounded I’ll pass. I put my camera away and made my way back down to the beaches as fast as I could, and it was then that I attempted to get some rest and eat a snack before the raccoons ruined my plans.

That was my afternoon. My evening was just as enjoyable, but for far different reasons. Tuesday night was the last group game for the CONCACAF champions league, and the Seattle Sounders were hosting Saprissa from San José, Costa Rica. Saprissa is the team of the country, and people from all over call themselves Saprissistas (a cool word meaning more or less, big Saprissa fan). I had made plans to watch the game at my house with my host dad and the daughter’s boyfriend. To my surprise, my host dad had bought some beers and handed me one as the game began. He is form Nicaragua so is not a Saprissista, but the boyfriend is. It was probably the best moment I have had in a month of being with host families. We spoke Spanish, made jokes, cursed, cheered, and shared some laughs. It was a very enjoyable two hours and I will always remember that game for far more than the product on the field. Saprissa ended up winning 2-1 thanks to a few errors by our defense and goalkeeper. Having already been eliminated from the tournament I was not too distraught by our performance, and Saprissa really needed the win to move on so I was happy for them. Perhaps next year, if Seattle plays Saprissa again in the group stages, I will travel to San José for the game. I’ve been to Saprissa’s stadium and could visit my old host family. The possibilities are endless no?

Well it is Saturday so I’m going to head over to the sports bar and watch some football (and use their internet to post this entry) but look for another entry in a few days with an initial report on Flamingo. Thanks to everyone who has been reading. I’ve been averaging about 8 hits a day to the blog, which considering how infrequently I post is great. Not many comments though, come on people I know you have thoughts on what I’m writing! Also, if anyone wants a postcard, send me your address please! I sent out a batch last week, and would love to write more.

Hasta luego,



25th October 2010

Hey Matt, I am loving your blog! I especially loved the bit about the raccoon and your Ritz crackers, LOL! I am so glad you are having so many adventures! I'm sending you my address in hopes of receiving a post card. Hope I'm not too late.

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