We went to Costa Rica in January! Sorry it took me until now to post about the trip. Rather than bore you with our first day there, which was mainly traveling for 21 hours, missing our flight to Nosara and driving a rental car on death-defying roads in utter darkness to get to the coast, I thought I’d just start off on Day 2. Day 2 was pretty much perfect.

Palm tree outside our window

The palm tree outside our window

The birds of the jungle woke us up at first light, and the howler monkeys. We didn’t actually get a monkey sighting for a few days, but you could hear them screaming in the palm trees above our room. Then the construction started shortly after first light. Nosara is in the throes of a construction boom, and a lot of new housing and tourist sites are just barely in the early stages of digging or framing. The sounds here all day are power tools, hammering, and the constant growl of generators. Then there are the trucks and motorcycles. The roads all over Costa Rica are notoriously awful, and in Nosara they’re all unpaved, unbelievably dusty (it’s the dry season), and more pothole than flat surface. Add that to the (to an American) reckless driving that seems universally encouraged, and you find yourself taking your life into your hands every time you cross the road to the Mini Super Delicias Del Mundo corner store for a popsicle.

We had to be at the Nosara Spanish Institute at 7:00 AM our first day there for placement, so we got up with the bird-and-monkey alarm. Our room at the Kaya Sol Surf Hotel was all tropical comfort: screens and wooden blinds on the windows, furniture made of local woods, cool tile floor, walls in the exact shades of deep spearmint and blinding fuschia that I wore to the 7th Grade Spring Fling in 1987. There was no hot water, but there was no AC either, just a ceiling fan, so a cold shower was actually a welcome relief from the heat.

Our room, decorated by laundry

Our room, decorated by laundry

After inevitably getting lost in the string of tiny commercial districts and rural roads surrounded by jungle that make up the Nosara area, we found ourselves at the language school. Super friendly Marco chatted to us in Spanish and pretended he understood our fumbling answers. We each spent 90 seconds with an instructor and were informed that we would be in class at 1:00 that day. Then Marco won me over forever by making coffee. The Tico way of brewing coffee is with a hanging reusable filter suspended over, in this case, an aluminum pitcher. Coffee is one of Costa Rica’s main modern claims to fame, and this was some of the finest I’ve ever tasted.

We left the school to have breakfast at the Cafe de Paris nearby, where we tried out the national breakfast dish, gallo pinto. It’s a big scoop of red beans and rice with mild spices. We got it with eggs and local fruit and sat watching a magpie jay preening on the back of someone’s chair, and then we went to the beach until class time. Playa Guiones, the beach nearest to our hotel, was full of surfers and locals selling pottery. I tried out my new rash guard and board shorts in the water, hoping no one would think that my wearing a surf costume meant I knew how to surf, and then we sat in the skimpy shade of a palm tree and Nadja tried out her new camera.

Playa Guiones

Playa Guiones

Spanish class was in an airy classroom which soon turned out to be our favorite place in Nosara because it had actual air conditioning.  Rita, our instructor, plunged us right into immersion-style learning and had the 4 of us in class making fools of ourselves trying to answer her questions right away. It was a very good system of learning. I’ve wanted to improve my terrible Spanish forever, and one of the big appeals of Costa Rica as our destination was all the opportunities for language study here.

Nosara Spanish Institute

Nosara Spanish Institute

We spent the heat of the afternoon sitting by the pretty but scummy pool at the Kaya Sol, and had a nice dinner of Thai lettuce wraps at the Guilded Iguana across the road. Then we took the foam futon off the couch in our room and set it on top of the concrete slab of a mattress in the bedroom and slept long vacation sleep.

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