Friday, January 29, 2010

More monkeys than a barrel of fun

I apologize for my recent absence from the blogosphere. I've been hanging out in the spectacularly beautiful coastal towns of Quepos and Manuel Antonio, in Costa Rica. Manuel Antonio and Quepos are on opposite sides of a large hill, with a bus that runs between them every half hour. Manuel Antonio is home to the beach and the park, and is where pretty much all the tourists go, with Quepos being a waystation between here and other cities. Almost none of the locals live on the Manuel Antonio side, or even on the hill in between. Oddly, even though all the tourists stay on the Manuel Antonio side, all the nightlife is either on the hill or on the Quepos side.

Once again, I'm staying with a lovely host family that takes good care of me, but doesn't have internet. I'm fine with that, as it means I'm more inclined to be out of the house or, when I am home, reading or playing guitar, or practicing my Spanish. My host parents are Doña Haydee and Don Victor. Don (and Doña, its feminine equivalent) is a Spanish term somewhere between "Mr." and "Sir." We don't really have the equivalent in English, but it's a term of respect that one uses with one's elders, and in formal settings. It's not very common in Nicaragua, but it's a big part of the culture here. At any rate, Doña Haydee and Don Victor are incredibly sweet septuagenarians who have welcomed me into their home. They have five children, each of whom has children of their own, and lives in the neighborhood. They also have two adorable great granddaughters who live next door, Meiying and Junmei (their mother is of Chinese descent). I've spent a good deal of time playing with them. Junmei, the older one, is three, and our ability to speak Spanish is roughly equivalent at this point, so we've had some very fun interactions. She delighted in giving me her my little pony doll, and having me do voices for that doll's interactions with a stuffed giraffe. She also likes to point at pictures of animals and identify them, e.g. "eso es mono" (this is a monkey), or "eso es tortuga" (this is a turtle).

Another reason I've been a bit out of the loop is that I reunited with my friends Ben and Sam, from Nicaragua, and we've spent the better part of my post-class days hanging out at their hostel or out on the beach. There's not a whole lot to do here other than walk through the park (which I have not yet done actually) and go to the beach (which I have). I'm okay with this, as I'm still recovering from the volcano trek. I planned this part of the trip to be a bit of a relaxing beach vacation in the midst of some more aggressive travel, so I'm okay with it. Tomorrow I'm going to Arenal Volcano, which is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. This is one you look at from a distance, as it sends up almost nightly displays of lava, fire, and smoke. The town also has hot springs, which are fed by the volcano, so I'm expecting to spend some time enjoying that as well. I've heard it's one of the most beautiful regions in a country that's full of them, so that should be pretty great.

Sam skipped town yesterday morning, but Ben is still here, and we've been having a lot of fun hanging out with a group of German girls we've met, Anna, Valerie, and Olive (the latter of whom also left yesterday). Last night the director of my Spanish school, David, invited me to come with him to a friend's house for a guitar jam session, so I brought the crew. Thomas, another good dude I know from classes, also came long. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. Almost all expats and travelers, and too many guitars (I think I counted six). There were almost no times that we were all playing the same song, so it sort of devolved into little groups of people playing and singing. It was mostly a lot of fun, though there was a weird moment when an extremely drunk expat got a bit aggressive and unpleasant (I'll write more about that later, I think). The primary point, for the moment, is that the people here are great, and life is tranquilo. Pura vida, as they say here.

The two reasons to come to Manuel Antonio are the beaches and the wildlife. I've only been to two of the four beaches, but they were pretty spectacular. Three of the beaches belong to the Parque Nacional, which requires a $10 entrance fee. I got in at the end of the day with a friend's used ticket, so I didn't have time to make it to the last two beaches. I'm expecting to get to do a bit more of that next week when my friends skip town. The wildlife, however, has been incredible even without having yet ventured into the park. Look through my pictures and you'll see two types of monkeys (including the unreasonably adorable squirrel monkey), a three-toed sloth, and various lizards. More remarkable than the presence of these animals is their ubiquity. I've seen squirrel monkeys so many times that right now there are literally over ten of them about 20 feet away from me, and I'm just sitting here typing instead of going over and taking pictures--they are crazy precious though, like little people.

The sloth, or perezoso in Spanish, is a relative of the bear. I honestly have no idea how evolution has allowed these animals to continue to exist, but I'm glad it has. It is undoubtedly my new favorite animal--it looks like an animatronic plush toy. They move very slowly. I definitely recommend checking out the pictures and two videos I took of the sloth.

Right now, however, Anna is bugging me to stop typing and go to the beach, and I think she's got the right idea. So I'll try to check in from Arenal this weekend, but you may not hear from me again until next week (I get back Monday). Pictures of Quepos and Man. Ant. available here.


1 comment:

  1. Love the monkeys (and the little dog). Thanks for the food pictures. Can't wait to see the smoldering volcano.


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