Sunday, January 24, 2010
So, I'm now safely down in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, after a very short flight on the smallest plane I've ever ridden. Tonight will be the fifth different place I sleep in five nights, with a sixth on tap tomorrow, so I'm a little tuckered out. As such, I spent most of today taking it easy and watching football, and tinkering with the blog layout.* I did get to walk around Manuel Antonio just a little though, and I saw enough to know that I'm really excited about being here. Manuel Antonio National Park is very close by, and the town of the same name is nestled into a hill on the Pacific coastline just to the North. I'm particularly excited by the little I've seen of this place in part because the natural beauty is just stunning (an ocean can really do wonders for that), and in part because fish is a much larger part of the diet. I had a pretty incredible sauteed mahi filet for dinner, and a fresh tuna and avocado salad for lunch. Consider my mind blown.
Anyway, there will be plenty of words to devote to this next adventure, but I thought I'd take a moment to close the book on Nicaragua, since that part of my journey has come to an end. One word you'll hear a lot around Nicaragua is "tranquilo," which (as you'd expect) means tranquil or calm. If you ask someone how they're doing, "tranquilo" is the stock answer, not "bien." And based on the people I met, the answer is appropriate. It's a remarkable thing to see from a country where so much of the populace remembers the still recent civil war, and so many people lost property or, worse yet, family and friends. But in spite of the history of radicalism, and plenty of remaining bitterness towards former and current president Ortega, "tranquilo" is the way they go. They are unflinchingly even-keeled and level-headed, and ceaselessly amiable. Nicaragua is very definitely a country at a crossroads, with a stagnated economy, and a growing number of expats promoting the fool's gold that is a further increase in tourism. It is certainly a place in need of a great deal of assistance, but I definitely encountered a population that wanted to find a way towards sustainable development. Importantly, the tranquilo mentality seems to have moved them to an ethos of cool-headedness. And though it's hard to know right now, I think the approach will suit them well.
I have to say that this worldview was a very valuable thing for me to come into contact with, particularly at the start of this journey. For me, Nicaragua was in many ways a laboratory, where I got to start figuring out how I'm going to want to approach the next few months, and try out a variety of things that held some appeal. I've learned that I felt safer than I expected to while gliding along a zipline through the trees. I've learned that there are ways to deal with concerns about theft other than hiding out at home all night. I've learned that, at least in Central America, plenty of people will really start a conversation just to start a conversation, and that this is something I can even do myself (even if it's in Spanish). I've also learned that, on a trip like this, you really never know where your next friend will come from, or, relatedly, what your next adventure will be. There are times when it's important to stick to a plan, of course, but if you try to be too rigid about it, you might end up missing an experience you'll remember for the rest of your life. So, in the spirit of the people I met, the friends I made, and the things I did, I'm going to stay tranquilo, and that's how I'll handle whatever comes my way.
I'm off to bed, with my first day of classes here in Costa Rica starting in the morning. Tomorrow night I'll meet my new host family, and settle in for what should be the first of several consecutive nights in the same bed.
*I added the map and picture widgets on the right, as well as Google ads. Please let me know if you find the ads obtrusive. I put them at the bottom of the posts to try to keep them out of the way (as opposed to a more prominent spot). I primarily set them up because I submitted the blog to Lonely Planet, and I figure that on the off chance that they direct some traffic my way, it won't hurt to have a mechanism in place to get something out of that.