—Costa Rican philosophy
—Costa Rican philosophy
Well this is it- our final day in Central America. Tomorrow before the sun rises we will turn right one more time and traverse the dusty roads to Montezuma and beyond. We spent the weekend packing our stuff into its designated containers and preparing our animals for the journey back to civilization. Luckily, we still managed to set aside some time to hike through Cabo Blanco (Costa Rica’s oldest nature preserve) and return to the Café el Coyote one last time to reminisce about our nerve-wracking arrival all those months ago…
Last night Jon was invited to play a set at Organico- his first international performance as a solo artist! This song, Free, written here in Costa Rica is a sneak peek of what is to come with his new album:
We are both excited to continue our work and to have an indoor, tajaline-free bathroom and kitchen. However, we are slightly worried about our arrival in the city of Chicago, which is sure to be overwhelming (it has been six months since we have seen a traffic light or used a cell phone). Nevertheless, it will be wonderful to see those family and friends that an endless landscape of ocean horizons will never replace, and after all, culture clash is everywhere (Ex: Granjero’s cabinas now have a Facebook page).
As for me, I am officially headed away from this computer screen and off to the sea to drink water straight from a coconut and enjoy my final day in this particular paradise. Hasta Luego!
—Winnie the Pooh
Only one week left in Costa Rica and as we pack and prepare for our triumphant return home our moods are polarized by extremes of excitement and sadness. We will be using this final week to spend as much time as possible playing with our new f-animal-y (pictured above) and staring at the ocean, aware of how much we will miss their presence once we are gone. Last week was spent bidding our adioses to our surroundings and to our amigos: we attended more than one party where we drank too much rum, cheered at our first (and last) soccer game (Cabuya vs. Cobano (it was a tie)), and ate/sang at a vegetariano potluck/Beatles sing-a-long at a local art studio. We also rented an ATV for one final trip over to the pacific side of the peninsula for one final sunset in Mal Pais.
It all started after Montezuma’s organic market. Jon had met someone who would rent us one of his all terrain vehicles at a good price, and I wound up in a conversation with a friend who told me about a secret waterfall that we could explore, if only we had a set of wheels. The coincidental conversations led us to believe that this last-minute jungle adventure was meant to be, so we reserved the quad and asked our buddy for directions to the falls.
The directions were bizarre, but we found the place, and after parking the ATV we stood atop a grooved valley with wild vegetation sprawling across it’s hills like twiggy fingers pointing towards a river that was running vertically down dramatic rock formations. We descended through the brush and in a few minutes we were standing on those rocks, the only two people in sight, gazing up at a waterfall to our left and down on another to our right. The valley appeared to stretch endlessly, but its infinite view was occluded from human perspective by dense jungle, sharp curves, and the steep drops of the cascading waterfalls. Jon tried to take photographs, but it was the depth that was so mind blowing and the two dimensional interpretation lost most of its magic.
We walked to the edge and peered into the large pool at the base of the waterfall above us. Below the surface, I could see the lower portion of the rock that supported my feet, its colors distorted by a gooey layer of algae, but beyond that the pool showed nothing- it’s waters black and eerily opaque. I knew it wasn’t black because it was dirty but black because it was bottomless, and I gulped, intimidated by the power of erosion demonstrated by the falling water. Jon dove in gracefully, but I crouched down onto the rock and slid clumsily into the abyss. The water was shockingly cool.
We splashed and swam, and Jon suggested we practice our flips as he spontaneously erupted into to a forward somersault, his face emerging from the water laughing with pure glee. I flipped too, but my giggles were mixed with splutters as I had to rid my sinuses of the water that had accumulated in them. As I regained my composure, exhausted from flipping and laughing and treading, I closed my eyes and wished that everyone would play in the water more often, because I wanted everyone’s senses to be bombarded with just how much fun it is to be a human.
We dried off, hoped back on the ATV, and sped off through the countryside towards Mal Pais. There, we spotted our first Costa Rican “craft beer” bar and got so wrapped up in the delicious hops that we actually wound up missing the sunset. Luckily, when we emerged, the star was still painting the sky, and I was able to enjoy a twilight dance with the cosmos. .
Neighbor’s kitten, Jasper, is rapidly turning into a fierce Tico gato. He is pictured above moonlighting as an adorable, snuggly guy; in actuality, he is a little punk. He terrorizes Marley, climbing into the canine’s food bowl and munching away bravely, as his snarling observer’s attack-mohawk grows. He interrupts Luna and Barro mid-wrestle, swatting at their tails and their snouts, evidently unaware that they are, collectively, 25 times his size. In his adolescence he has put a dent in the local lizard population, developed and pursued a charming crush on Clover (who does not return the sentiment), and acquired the nastiest habit of clinging with needle sharp teeth and talons to the Achilles Tendon of any unfortunate passerby (hence his presence on our kitchen table despite his layer of unidentifiable jungle grime).
One rainy, yet sunny, morning, we all lounged peacefully, the humans enjoying a cup of coffee, all species listening to the trickle of fresh droplets mingling with the sea, Japser attacking the softly clicking camera lens…when suddenly, we were interrupted by a strange noise coming from the alcove where Jon stores his guitar (this alcove is also where Marley hides from the thunderstorms). The instrument was abandoned atop its case, and Jon bravely used a toe to shift the case towards Marley’s blanket in order to determine the cause of the clatter. Immediately, four large Tajalines (colorful crabs) sprang into action, scurrying haphazardly in every direction, even attempting to climb the walls. Jon quickly grabbed the broom and swept them out of the kitchen and into the sand where they speedily buried themselves. We returned to our beverages and to our musing, but it was only moments before the noise started up again. Jon repeated his mode of attack, pushing the case further towards the blanket, but no crabs escaped this time. He investigated further, sliding both case and guitar out of the alcove and onto the kitchen floor, but still, no crabs. We shook Marley’s blanket and poked around behind the nearby refrigerator…no crabs.
Finally, we were forced to come to the conclusion that the crab must be in the guitar. Jon grabbed the neck, picked it up, and peered inside, laughing as a tiny, yet tough, Tajaline peered back at him, pincers up and open, ready to fight for his territory. Knowing it is a crab’s main duty in life to decompose matter, and that it was only a matter of time before it started eating through the shiny wood and the brass strings (and also that there was no way to get Jon’s guitar back through customs with a crab living in it), we agreed we had to get him out, and we (well, Jon, I mostly laughed and snapped photos) tried a myriad of techniques…
Poking him with a large, serrated, bread knife…
Good ol’ gravity…
and of course, just plain pleading…
Eventually, we heard the tell tale music of shell and claw falling through strings and both Jon and Tajaline stood abruptly, weapons aloft, ready to fight…
Of course, Jon surrendered immediately, but the crab, recently jousted from the safety of his home, now found himself surrounded by cats and dogs, noses and ears twitching with excitement. He stood bravely, ready to take on the challenge, and as we shooed the other mammals away, the crab seemed to swell, impressed with himself for his incredible victory.
—Native American, Chief Seattle
Sorry I disapparated, I discovered Pottermore…
The seasons are changing here in Costa Rica. Along with the first rains came the refreshing scent of a well-drenched Earth, and consequently, the harvest of the mangos. I have never had a mango before, and I can truly say that it was love at first bite. A few weeks ago, after having finally tried one, we arrived at Granjero’s farm in hopes of snagging a few more. He showed us to an enormous tree (both tree and Granjero pictured above), and upon close inspection we noticed the branches were dripping with colorful ovals, full of succulent juices, just hanging in their clusters waiting to be enjoyed. Granjero brandished a stick, about three times his height, and explained that he was going to hit the mangos out of the tree and Jon was going to catch them. Granjero did his part all right, but the mangos tumbled so haphazardly that Jon couldn’t catch a single one. I picked the fruits up off the ground and placed them into our bag, quickly following the men, and the dogs, as Granjero ran away from the trunk of the tree swatting around his ears and shouting “avispas! (wasps!)”. Since that day we have returned to the farm multiple times and Jon has become an expert in mango catching. The sheer abundance of free, delicious, organic fruit inspired us to do a fruit fast (for 3 days we ate only mangos and avocados-we both missed coffee more than grains).
The other colorful species that the rains have brought forth from the planet are the crabs. Like clockwork, at dusk, the sands of the Beach House are inhabited by hermits of all sizes, along with a particularly vibrant species known as Tajalines (the latter have more than once stood up to a broom-wielding Jon, boxing-glove claws aloft). They take over the shower and the kitchen tiles, the hermits attacking one another for the choicest shells and both species introducing the cats to the delicacy of crab legs. This particular one is our favorite- he traded in his vintage shell for a modern plastic cap.
So the Green Season has begun, and as the thunder rolls through the clouds and the dusty, parched plants regain their vibrant green, we soak in our last few weeks here in Costa Rica. There are many things we will miss about this magical place: the sound and smell of the sea, the laisse-faire rhythm of life in the jungle, the mind-blowing landscapes, and of course all the friends we have made along the way, both two and four-legged…
This is my husband Jon Walker (he is the larger of the two adorable creatures pictured above, the other is Neighbor’s new kitten, Jasper). Jon is a musician and has been writing and playing in bands since before I met him over a decade ago. He came to Costa Rica with the intention of working on songs, and has since written enough to fill an album and then some. He continues to create, jotting lyrics down in a worn-out notebook while absently strumming his acoustic, but often, he finds himself trying to stay busy while anxiously awaiting our return to Chicago where he will get to record aforementioned songs…
Awhile back we tagged along with Neighbor to Open Mic Night at Organico, a vegan-friendly bar/cafe in Montezuma Centro that makes a fantastic cappuccino. We were impressed by both the local and the traveling talent and genuinely surprised to find great live music tucked away in the jungle since so many open mics in the city had been awkward and lame. When my parents came to visit, we took them to the show and the margaritas at the happy hour beforehand encouraged Jon to hop up on the stage and play a few of his new demos for them. The entire crowd was appreciative and Jon was glad, determined to come back a little more sober and a little more practiced.
He kept his promise and dedicated his days to perfecting a few short sets filled with new demos, old songs and some covers. When we returned to Open Mic Night the following week, Jon found himself onstage the entire time, playing his sets and accompanying other musicians on guitar, drums, bass, and sometimes even bass and kick drum at the same time. The crew of local musicians seemed more than happy to initiate new blood into the group and Jon’s years of touring allowed him to humbly yet effortlessly set up microphones and tune guitars, helping out in any way he could. As I stared at him, all sweaty and concentrated, I smiled. This was what Jon loves most about music: playing and collaborating, speaking a language that only other musicians can speak but that everyone can appreciate. He lives for the act of picking up an instrument and turning it into a song and truly appreciates when he comes in contact with others that can help him do just that. As I sat in the audience sharing drinks and laughs with the band’s significant others, I was reminded once again: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Want to stay updated on Jon’s musical happenings? Visit jonwalkermusic.com