Monthly Archives: November 2012

My Walk To The Village…

I was thinking it would be fun to document some of the sites along my way to the Santa Barbara village from my house. The walk is up and down hills, through a small barrio or neighborhood, and has amazing vistas that are hard to capture with my camera, but I’ll attempt to explain as we go along…

Just outside my gate.

To begin, we are walking down the hill toward the infamous turn in the road where the dogs attack me if they are so inclined. I’ve discovered that they actually might be short-sighted and are trying to figure out what an ankle is, instead of having the intent of biting it off my foot.

We are at right around 4,000 feet above sea level here. My walk to the village goes up and down hills, so it’s an aerobic experience evidenced by my pants now sliding off my hips.

Corner neighborhood store.

We are now about 2 1/2 city blocks from my gate. These little neighborhood stores have front counters with the proprietor sitting behind it. S/he will gather the groceries you want and bring them to the front counter. It’s interesting. You see this type of store all over the neighborhoods and sometimes they have little kitchens where you can have a nosh as well… those are called Sodas.

Half way to the village.

The next photo kind of explains how the walk to downtown Santa Barbara from my house goes up and down hills. The hill you see in the background here is at about the same elevation from where I started. I descend and climb about three of them on the way to town. I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m still walking down the hill from my house. You can see that the homes here are protected with various types of gates and sometimes at the top of the gates you’ll see coiled barbed wire. This is because there aren’t enough police in the country to be on-call if burglars are prowling around, so people protect their properties with obvious gates, fences, etc. Behind these gates are deep and sometimes really large gracious properties and yards, so looks are very deceiving along the roadsides.

Rico Pan means Delicious Bread! One of the primary streets in Santa Barbara.

One of the busy streets in downtown Santa Barbara. This store is where I buy my bread. I walk in now and the ladies know me and immediately grab a plastic bag and tongs, reaching for the freshest bread just out of the oven. We all have big smiles on our faces as they hand it to me and it’s still warm from the oven. I do my happy dance with squeals of delight at their generosity! It’s a baguette direct from heaven that’s still warm even after walking a block away afterwards, catching a taxi to take me back up the hill to the gate, walking two blocks from the gate into my kitchen where I slather it with butter for my breakfast. I don’t eat all of the baguette, although I’d like to… as you can imagine. It’s enough for sandwiches for lunch, too, and heavenly cubed and toasted in a skillet until firm, then topped with homemade black beans and freshly grated cheddar cheese for dinner to finish it off. Ahhhh, just another day in the life, huh?

My Reward!


These past two weeks have had days with incredibly beautiful and vivid sunshine. Hot to warm with cool breezes blowing in from the pacific coast. I totally marvel at the clarity this degree of sunshine imparts to the eye. The incredible focus of the sun on everything is absolutely succinct. Up to now in my life, I’ve only seen this type of clarity in a photograph.

Do you think it’s because there’s no pollution? Because the definition of the brilliant blue of the sky against the myriad greens on the ground are so intensely defined? Because I’m closer to the equator and the sun is simply more brilliant here?

I don’t know why, but I do know that I’ve never experienced this type of scenic beauty before, except in John Hann’s photography.

Whatever the reason, what an incredible gift to be able to sit on the porch with a bright orange sunhat over my face bathing my body in the warmth of the sun.  And, I know you’ve heard this before, but the sunlight in the tropics is different… it goes deeper than your skin… quickly. Yesterday I felt the same type of feeling in my bones as when I’ve walked from an outside snowy landscape into a room with a woodstove burning. The heat sinks into your bones, all the way to your heart and just fills you up with warmth you can’t put your hands on. It’s not an enervating heat, it’s a contentment-inducing warmth.

Plantains, Conversations and Falling Leaves, among other things

Delicious Fried Plantains

Fried plantains are now my go-to munchy treat. They’re sweet and satisfying when fried in a combination of olive oil and what they call here in Costa Rica Numar margarine (which is I think a combo of oils used extensively in most cooking here). Plantains are similar to bananas but much larger. I like them cooked when they’re yellow and starting to get brown spots because they’re becoming sweeter at that point. They are used when green as a starch here in stews, like potatoes. Yumyumyum, give ’em a try as a snack or side dish. They’re not going to get crispy, so be warned they’re not chips, just a creamy sweet textural addition to eat instead of a cookie, which I happen to be weaning myself off of…

I’ve now facilitated two English Language Conversation classes at the UTN college campus in Alajuela. Not only has it been a fun experience and really satisfying in terms of ‘giving back’ or community service, but it’s gotten me out of the house and to a new major city here in Costa Rica. I’m still lost but I find myself interested in the city itself as a great place to wander and explore, much more so than Heredia which is a larger city and perhaps therein is the difference in my attitude. Both classes were small with interesting folks participating. With only 4 or 5 people, an hour of facilitated conversation is a bit difficult…. you really have to be prepared with many topics… and I have to admit I floundered a bit until I realized that the students wanted to know as much about life in the US as much as I wanted to know about Costa Rica. Another realization occurred when I suddenly realized that I was there to have conversations, not forced responses to topics chosen to discuss one by one around the little circle of chairs. A much more vibrant response was had by all this time around!

On my walk to the University I realized the leaves were falling off the trees! My initial thought was – perfect timing because it’s November after all – then immediately followed by ‘ Wait!! It’s not fall in Costa Rica, it’s Spring bordering on Summer!’ The leaves fall here because it’s warming up and the trees don’t have enough moisture to support the continued greening of their leaves. Kinda the opposite of what I’m used to in the US in a strangely wonderful twist.

The city of Alajuela is warm bordering on hot right now. I’m sure as the weeks progress into Summer it will be a bit excruciating. Thank God I haven’t tried to wean myself off potato chips yet… my rationalization is that the salt of the chips will stave off dehydration, especially if coupled with Fanta Orange Soda.