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Costa Rica Travels Part Three: Home Sweet Home

March 19, 2011

I have only traveled internationally to 2 countries, Mexico and Costa Rica, and I did both the same way: had a home base with a host family and took excursions to other places. CC found our hosts through her Spanish school.

The families are used to hosting people. They provide meals, laundry and housekeeping (Doña A. would not let me lift a finger) and insist on speaking Spanish at home (though both Don E. and Doña A. lived in New York for 20 years and speak excellent English). All this for $150-200 a week.

The breezeway
The breezeway in our lovely home away from home

The cool part about this set-up is that the visitor can get important hints about where to go, where not to go, where the bus stop is and learn about local customs and quirks.

For instance, we were told that the “tu” form isn’t commonly used in Costa Rican Spanish the way it is here. Here, as soon as you learn someone’s first name, you can start calling them “tu” without being considered rude. Costa Ricans are a little more reserved and formal, so I stuck to the “usted” form unless I slipped up.

I learned quickly that most Costa Ricans are proud of their environmental efforts and take recycling and not being wasteful very seriously. Doña A. had a rule about eating all the food we took and encouraged us to think about the number of plastic bags we used.

There are separate trash containers for glass, plastic and paper in many public spots and reminders all over that we need to save the earth.
Mural, San Jose
Save the Earth – a mural at a girl’s school in downtown San Jose

I also saw cabbies waiting at the taxi stand shut off their motors and push their cars by hand ahead to the next spot in line rather than starting them up again.

We visited a coffee plantation and learned how the coffee by-products, such as the outer part of the beans and the plant clippings are used as fertilizer or to fire drying equipment.

Coffee plants and Melvin
The clippings are gathered and mulched or used to burn for heating the bean-drying equipment.

It's like you stepped back a century in time
The coffee machinery was built in 1908 and is still being used.

Recycled staircase
These milk crates were being recycled into a staircase – later in the week they added sides.

Parrot Planter made from a tire
Art made out of an old tire

I love traveling this way. I feel like both times, I have gotten a special window into the place I am staying, a sweeter, deeper feeling than just dropping in, seeing the sights and leaving.

  1. March 19, 2011 13:04

    That is a great way to travel! I’m loving your recap. It’s making me want to travel using host families on my next international trip.

    • March 20, 2011 07:41

      Thanks, Patrick. The other bonus: good homemade food!

  2. March 19, 2011 18:31

    And now? I must go to Costa Rica immediately. Damn you.

    • March 20, 2011 07:40

      Go, go. I think a spa vacation at Arenal would be just the thing!

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