Waterfalls, Costa Rican Homes and the Environment

18 06 2010

We’re sitting in a food court near the “Coca Cola” bus station in San Jose, with tickets for a 5pm bus to Jaco. (We’re getting off near Orotina, where we’ll spend a few days with Rita Ugalde, a retired Costa Rican lawyer.)

Yesterday was fantastic. We spent our time hiking up a mountain that we heard harbored waterfalls. It was the first serious cardio workout we’ve had since arriving, and felt great! The climb was steep and seemed endless, and once we reached the end of the path up Jay was almost ready to turn back. But we had seen a small (barbed wired off) path off to the side, with signs implying (a) that the land had been set aside for regrowth, and (b) that hikers weren’t allowed. Hikers had clearly been disregarding that sign for a while, as there was a small but clear path through already well-regrown forest. We carefully made our way through the barbed wire fencing, and went on our way. The wildlife was great! We saw a huge toad, tons of butterflies, and were rewarded at the top with a gorgeous and private fifteen foot waterfall. And no rain! We later found out that some tourists from the States had paid an outfitter to take them on a similar excursion. 🙂

Speaking of wildlife, there are stray dogs everywhere!  Amy’s summer program warned her that many of the dogs are sick and that she should stay away, but it’s hard to internalize that dogs in Costa Rica are like squirrels and pigeons in New York.  The dogs that are kept as pets are the least friendly, as they have been trained as guard dogs and viciously growl as you walk by.  They’re certainly no Muffin (Jay’s family dog) or Kabuki (Amy’s family dog).

It was interesting to experience a real Costa Rican home this week.  Our host is upper-middle class.  On the one hand, his house was small, his ceiling had water stains and he left our fruit and bread on the counter leading to an enormous amount of flies around the kitchen.  On the other hand, he had a cleaning lady who came weekly to tidy and do laundry, and had an internet connection.  Even the shantytown houses that were half falling apart in El Alto del Carmen had televisions and music available to them.  (Our host shared with us that many of these families are Nicaraguan immigrants who have re-wired the town’s electricity, cable and running water to reach their illegal homes.  As long as one community member knows how to do the wiring, everyone has electricity and so forth.)

We asked our host how Costa Ricans feel about the environment – whether green Costa Rica is a tourist ploy or actually homegrown.  It seems to be a combination of the two.  Ticos recognize that agricultural and environmental tourism is an important part of the economy, so they support it on a macro level but it doesn’t trickle down to the daily lives of Costa Ricans much.

We’ve just received an invitation to an expat lunada, full moon party, on the night of June 26th.  Jay will be back in the U.S., but Amy may trek out for the experience.  It’s almost 5 PM, so it’s time to walk down the block and elbow our way onto the next bus!  (We were “elbowed out” of the 3 PM.) Hasta luego!

posted by jayhorowitz and amybetho

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