Do you Know the way to San José? I do!

Yassssss!!! I finally experienced Costa Rica! What bliss!

I’ll happily share my experience with you but it would of course be better for you to experience it yourself. How else would you sit on the verandah of Daniel South’s chocolate farm and take a deep inhale as you look out over the lush greenery (including a mammee apple tree) that surrounds you? How else would you would stand under a sea almond tree, watching the two-toed sloth in its branches, while reminiscing about eating almonds and sea grapes and fat porks at the beach as a child in Barbados? How else would you meet Karla, the best interpreter/naturalist/culturalist I’ve met in over 35 years of international travel? How else would you have that special opportunity to witness a country that is internalizing ‘sustainability’ and wielding it as a verb – as ongoing action, rather than admiring it as a static concept?

That fresh, cacao-scented air at Daniel’s, the nostalgia of growing up in the Caribbean, the common ancestral memories, drinking lemongrass tea at Don Juan’s Organic Farm, and more, are expressions of the interconnections, inextricability, and importance, of our natural and cultural heritage. They epitomize what this Costa Rican experience was for me.

After years of studying and teaching about this amazing country, I was finally able to immerse myself in its bounty, though for too short a time. It was humbling and glorious. I was at home in the Costa Rican ‘Caribbean’ though seeing it for the first time and it was magnificent!

Signs that your trip will be epic: on day one, your tour guide extraordinaire mentions Archie Carr, who was a professor at the institution where you studied, some of whose work on sea turtles you read, you’re on the listserve of an institution carrying on his work, and you’re writing in a notebook from the institution where you both did your PhD! 🤯

In the next few (or six) blog posts I’ll share more thoughts, maybe some sounds, and many, many photos. At the end, I think you’ll understand why I hope this trip was just the first of many in-person interactions with Costa Rica. I plan to return, maybe you’ll join me on the next adventure.

Don’t be afraid? Be deathly afraid? You choose 😁

So … talk about a smorgasbord of delight. Where to start? How to choose what to share? How many posts? How much research to do? Photo dump? Educational commentary? Edutainment? Interpretation? I was thinking of all of this and more during various bus rides from site to site. I still have no definitive idea, so I’m jumping in. Wha dey, wha dey! Just kidding (kinda). I’m going to do a brief intro, to get you situated (aka sort out my thoughts).

So you’ve never heard for Costa Rica?! Here’s a quick rundown (not ‘rondon’, but I’ll get to that). Costa Rica is in Central America, sharing its northern border with Nicaragua and its southern border with Panama. Its east coast is the Caribbean Sea and its west coast the Pacific Ocean. It’s known for disbanding its army in 1948 and instead investing in public education and health. Costa Rica ranks high on the World Happiness Index, depending on the source, as high as 16th in 2021. Its currency is the Costa Rican Colón (¢) – uno colón, dos colones.

Costa Rica’s population of approximately 4.89 million is diverse. Indigenous populations include the Bribri, Chorotega, Maleku, and Boruka. Descendants of formerly enslaved Africans and of Jamaican, Chinese, and Italian immigrants, among others, make up the rest of the population. In the natural world, Costa Rica is small but mighty, providing habitat for some 5% on the world’s biodiversity despite accounting for only 0.03 percent of its landmass. Some 30% of its territory is protected (and not because of tourism). If you know me you’ll appreciate that I smile whenever I think of this statistic, that is really so much more than a statistic.

With its abundance of natural resources (and my interest), you may have surmised that tourism is one of Costa Rica’s main economic drivers. Agriculture and manufacturing (e.g. of medical equipment) are others. Like many countries around the world, Costa Rica was significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but recovery is ongoing (Information sources: visitcostarica.com; The World Bank; Costa Rica (N. Solano for Moon).

Did you guess that San José is the capital?

Did I whet your appetite? Are you ready for more? I’m not sure that 7 posts will suffice (I have to cover national parks and conservation; greening tourism; food and restaurants; guava, plantains, cassava, and gallo pinto; adult beverages; sorrel (flor de Jamaica, pronounced ha·mai·ka aka Hibiscus sabdariffa; red sorrel, Roselle) and tamarindo; The ‘Caribbean’; the hotels I want to stay in and the places I want to re/visit on my next trip; how I wish my extra day in Costa Rica had turned into an extra week or month …) but we shall see.

Next post coming soon. Pura Vida! 😊.

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