Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pura Vida: Local Flavor

In an interview with Knight Arts, Miami poet Emma Trelles said "Anything can thrive down here. You could fling a tadpole into a gutter puddle and have a colony of frogs a week later. That kind of insistent life is inspiring."  This is true about Miami.  It's true in Costa Rica a hundred fold.

Geckos cover the streets of Miami, those little ones people up north buy at pet stores.  In Costa Rica, we saw these bad boys outside of a restaurant:  

That black triangle in the upper-left corner is the edge of the patio roof.

Iguanas like plaintains.

Speaking of lizards, I took this picture not for the gator, but for that thing behind the rock.

Seriously, Nature - what the fuck?
But if you want gators, enjoy this shot of the pond outside the Universidad de Costa Rica:

The smell was something else, like Toad's breath after a three-day bender.

You couldn't walk anywhere without encountering monkeys in the trees.

We took scores of pictures of dozens of monkeys and those two shots are the only ones which clearly show something simian.  The rest look like "can you spot the hidden _____" pictures.  To give you an idea, there are two monkeys in the second picture, and the less-visible one is still more visible than every other picture we have.  Pro tip?  Spot the poo, then look up.

This means monkeys are near.
Sloths are also experts at being unobtrusive, and we have plenty of shots of apparently empty trees to prove it.  Fortunately, sloths don't shit from trees like monkeys do.  Once a week, they climb sloooowly down to take care of business, which allowed Becky to get great pictures.

Sorry about your privacy, but... baby sloth belly!

As we walked on our second-to-last day, we passed a big billboard advertising "La Fiesta."  At the lunch place where they put lettuce and plaintains outside in giant, stone braziers (to attract birds and those ginormous lizards), the coverage of La Fiesta was non-stop.  Turns out we were merely half an hour away.
We heard it offered a lot of local color.
It's like the field days or county fairs you remember from your youth, except the stately vacas on display make the cows you remember look like craven, withered, traumatized things.  Ticos' livelihood doesn't just depend on breeding, they take the same care with their animals as an artisan chef takes with his backyard garden.  Looking at their shining, muscular flanks, I felt retroactively guilty for witnessing the fly-covered, shit-caked beasts I'd seen as a child.

But la Fiesta's main focus was horses.  Well, horses and Imperial.  And live music.  And scantily-clad cowgirls.  We got there early and the drinking was already in full swing.  When you first walk in, there's a paved area around a small arena, with vendors selling farm equipment, fair food, cars, knick knacks, rides over water inside a plastic bubble (we wondered how the kids could breath, but no one suffocated that we could see), drinks, tools, security devices, rides on some Disney characters who looked a little off.

Walking down the main drag, I didn't expect much from la Fiesta.  A giant field lay behind that, where we'd just missed the dirt bike races we'd seen on TV.

The entire day, an endless parade of horses and cowboys wound around and around the field.  People parked and raised tents facing inwards, drinking, barbequing, dancing, and cheering.  We didn't know if people had paid for the spaces (they all had numbers, like the vendor's booths) to watch the parade close up, or if they were home base for the cowboys in the parade, or what.  Between these horse-themed family barbeques-with-a-view were a bunch of stages, some built from scratch, some just a flat-bed with a tent roof, all of them filled with competing music, much of it live.  How did we get around this parade?  Like the ticos and ticas, we walked.

Horse of different color!  Don't know if you can quite tell, but those bad boys were pink.
Becky making friends.
The crowd thickened as the day wore on.  We walked shoulder to shoulder with horses, a truly nerve-wracking experience that the natives took as a matter of course.  The people got rowdier.  The music got louder.  The cowboys and cowgirls got flirtier.

Becky and I decided it was time to leave, but the parade area became too choked with bodies to pass.  The awards had been handed out, so the rotating parade slowed to a crawl as all the single cowfolk starting trying to hook-up.  We decided the best way out was to cut around the outside of the tents.

This was like walking backstage at Cirque du Soleil; you saw a lot of things that were never meant to be seen.  The drinking had been going on all day, and young people don't know when to quit, so the amount of vomit was impressive.  No one wanted to wait in the long lines for the toilets, either, so the riverbanks became a makeshift urinal.

If Becky had taken this picture in the other direction, you'd see a dozen Costa Rican penises.
We passed more than a few young people who'd been completely incapacitated by alcohol.  Fortunately, they were surrounded by family, so we didn't worry.  An ambulance tried to cut through the crowd without success.  A truck got stuck in the parking lot and a crowd gathered to free it.  Becky and I finally reached the exit, where we cabbed it back to the restaurant, and a walk in the dark to the tree house hotel.

We went to Costa Rica without anything scheduled, but this was one day we didn't fill with anything touristy.  In some ways, it made the trip.

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