Rose Coloured Glasses Cont. (Project Pura Vida)

At the Tambor Airport I was greeted by Ronnie, a short balding Tico man in his late 30’s to early 40’s of slightly cuddly proportions. He was to be my taxi driver from Tambor to Cabuya and was sent by my host and neighbours Jeff and Tara.  I was supposed to arrive at 14:45 and didn’t end up arriving until 16:45. With the sun starting to slink low in the sky we commenced the 30klm drive to my final destination of Cabuya. I was surprised at just how familiar the drive to Montezuma was, about 22klms from the airport passing through the main town of Cobano. It felt like only a couple of weeks ago I was driving this road with my guide on my last trip here. It was like a strange sense of Déjà vu.

I was silent for most of the trip after Ronnie and I had exhausted our knowledge of each other’s language. As Ronnie made numerous calls on his mobile while navigating the dirt roads, I lost myself in the scenery. My rose coloured glasses were most definitely on and everything looked so beautiful in its own unique and special way. Even the ugliness is beautiful if you have rose coloured glasses on. The small shack like houses with rusty tin roofs, animals and barefoot children in the yards, people casually walking along the road sides in their thongs and paddocks fenced with barb wire and living trees as posts.

The smells changing every couple of kilometres; from fresh flora, to sewage, to fermenting mango, to someones cooking wafting through the air. My mind was split between the present and wondering about my destination which was getting closer by the second. As we finally came up to Montezuma I was awash with the memories of my last trip and thought about how cool it was to be here again so soon. The sun had slunk even lower in the sky now and there was a beautiful glow over the tropical surrounds and ocean.

Driving through Montezuma and winding our way down the dirt road towards Cabuya, I find myself asking if I have done the right thing? Have I chosen the right place? Will I really like the people I meet? I eagerly take in the surroundings of my new town and try my hardest not to be too judgemental about what I see. Once we finally pulled up at my new home, I could feel my resistance still sitting heavy on my mind. It didn’t take long after meeting Jeff my new neighbour and sharing a few birthday beers for my resistance to fade and trust that I was exactly where I needed to be, no question about it.

During my first week here in Cabuya, I was in a sweet euphoria induced by the fact that I had finally done it, I had made it. It was this and the knowledge that I didn’t have to live in the real world again for another three months. My first week floated by slowly, allowing me to fall victim to the feeling of “I have all the time in the world” mindset. I have been here for four and a half weeks and I realise I haven’t got all the time in the world and I haven’t achieved a quarter of what I set out to do. I feel the guilt rising up in me occasionally because I haven’t done that much writing other than the work I am actually being paid to do.

Then I realise that I have been doing what I set out to do, I have been learning at the “Costa Rican Universidad de Vida”.  I can look back now and see that I perhaps wasn’t supposed to get too deep and heavy with my work until I could see clearly and the rose coloured glasses were off.  During my first trip to Costa Rica last year, I was blessed to have a wonderful tour guide and friend who was able to take me all over the country and show me the tourist trails. He also showed me behind the scenes and gave me a very colourful account of his life and the people around him. This was a party holiday for me and yes I got to see a lot and learn a lot but I also had a lot of fun so my filters were not always clear.

This time, I feel a bit like I am living in my very own Costa Rican Summer Bay (Home & Away), only a lot more dangerous. Yes, this sleepy little fishing village at the far tip of the Nicoya Peninsula is a potentially very dangerous village as is every village, town or city here in Costa Rica. This is a town where everyone is forced to accept the dark side of human nature due to the widespread desperation. Every human being has needs and wants, and good people do bad things in order to fulfil a need. Sadly a lot of the youth (and not so youthful) here in Cabuya and neighbouring Montezuma have a need and that need is for drugs and alcohol.

The tourists come here every summer in their flocks, spending lots of money and employing the locals. Tourism and fishing is the regions bread and butter with a bit of farming thrown in. I am often reminded of the story “The grasshopper who sang all summer” when I am talking with the locals. Once the tourist disperse after the summer, life returns to a slower and quieter pace here in the Nicoya Peninsula. The prices however remain high for the tourists which makes it increasingly difficult for the locals to support their families once the work dries up.

Despite some prices being very low most items at the supermarket I have found to be of equal if not greater value than in Australia at times. For instance a packet of cigarettes will cost you anywhere from ₵700 – ₵1500   ($1.50 – $3.00USD) per packet and beer at the supermarket sells for around ₵540 – ₵900 each ($1.10 – $1.80 USD) and strangely enough glass bottles are cheaper than can.  However if you would like to feed your family healthy meals, other than beans and rice, it can get very expensive in deed.

Here in Cabuya the population is just over two hundred with about three quarters of that population being men. The closest town to meet girls is a 7klm dirt road to Montezuma where all the action and partying happens with the tourists. With an hourly pay rate in this region of only ₵1200 Colones and ₵800 in the cities ($1.50 – $2.50USD per hour) and a beer costing around ₵1000 (or ₵1500 in San Jose) each at the bar, there isn’t any money left for taxis after a night out. Sadly drink driving or more appropriately drink riding is all too common in villages like Cabuya and Montezuma.

Most people here have a motor bike because the dirt roads get so bad anything other than a 4 WD vehicle would be wrecked in no time. Push bikes are also a must have and all the children seem to have one but not much else as far as toys go. It is not an uncommon sight to see a family of four; Mum, Dad and the two kids taking the family motor bike out for a cruise, not a helmet in site. Children as young as one year old sit up proudly at the front of the motorcycle holding on tight loving every second of the ride.  It’s little wonder there is a certain thrill seeking attitude throughout the Costa Rican culture.

Almost everyone I have spoken with has been in hospital at least once as a result of a massive accident on either a pushbike or motorbike. Perhaps the Costa Ricans are similar to cats only they seem to have more than nine lives here.

Until next time love and joy,

Janie xo

Apologies for no posts…

Dear friends,

I just wanted to take this opportunity to apologise for the lack of postings these past two weeks… I have been travelling and moving around with limited access to internet, or at least for this kind of work. I hope you are all well and I should have some posts coming in the next couple of days.

I thank you for your patience and hope you have been enjoying the stories so far… Like most well laid plans, mine haven’t quite worked out like I imagined. I had thought I would spend endless hours in front of the computer downloading all of my thoughts and ideas… Turns out life had other ideas and after only three weeks of being in my writers head, I found myself falling into the trap of procrastination and living in the moment with my new friends. Turns out when you are living in a tropical paradise like this, time can easily loose its meaning and suddenly you have lost a whole week or seven…

As of a few days ago I am now living in Golfito on a small beach called Playas Cocao and it is the perfect location to really get stuck into my writing. It turns out that it is my novel that seems to be the loudest talking project at the moment. So this blog will most likely continue to be a little slow over the coming months while I work on this, however I will continue to post as often as I can.

Despite these minor setbacks with timing, I am still confident that I should be able to achieve most of what I have set out to achieve and looking forward to seeing the results of my labour of love. I hope you are too!

Once again, thank you for your patience and support, I hope to have something up in the next day or so.

Until next time,

Love and Joy to you and your families!

Janie xo

Rose Coloured Glasses (Project Pura Vida)

There is always something magical about going on holidays to an exotic new destination. Everything is seen through a different kind of lens, rose coloured glasses if you like. Our filters aren’t quite as sharp due to the natural euphoria that comes with the excitement of the unknown and the wondrous possibilities that may lie in wait for our discovery. It’s almost like the start of a new relationship; you are only seeing what the other person wants you to see on the surface. It’s not until you spend some quality time together that you start to see the different shades of light and dark behind the superficial exterior. After all isn’t it human nature to protect thy self?

After arriving at the San Jose International Airport at about 19:00 on Friday night (27th April 2012), I was met by my shuttle bus driver Alex. I had found a little B&B in the city on a site called prior to my last trip but didn’t end up staying that time. So this time I decided to stay my first night at Kaps Place in Down Town San Jose. Karla the owner organised my transfer from the airport and I was sent the lovely Alex who fortunately didn’t speak any English. I say fortunately because all I really wanted to do was look out the window and witness Down Town San Jose on a Friday night without interruption.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed; the $30us for the trip was not just a taxi ride it was also like going on a night tour of the city. There were all sorts on the streets of Down Town San Jose; there was your typical little old Grandpa, Mum & Dad and the kids, young well-dressed party goers and lovers, drug addicts and dealers, transsexual prostitutes and so much more I saw it all. The landscape of the city changed from ghetto to upmarket to ghetto to commercial to ghetto again. I was fascinated by what I was seeing from the safety of my taxi, although there were a few times I wondered if I was really that safe.

I was so excited to finally be in Costa Rica, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to sleep. When I arrived at Kaps Place I was met by a lovely young girl Mae who showed me to my room. I was in awe of the cool interior of the B&B and my room was really clean and comfortable with my own bathroom. I did manage to sleep and the following day I was up bright and early to inspect the facilities closer. Francis a jovial man in his 50’s, was on the morning shift so over a cup of coffee we made friends as I waited for my taxi to the Tobias Airport.

My flight to Tambor with NatureAir, (Costa Rica’s internal airline) was delayed by a little over an hour so it was a long wait at the airport. This was an especially long wait seeing as I was over cautious with getting there on time. Not quite knowing what to expect and I was about three hours early. Again I was served by a really patient and helpful young Tico called Brandon who went above and beyond to help me organise my luggage so it didn’t cost me too much. The Tobias airport is only small however very clean and safe. It even has its own little bank however they have forgotten about hungry travellers and there wasn’t any food or drink for sale within walking distance. (I highly recommend NatureAir, they are very professional and safe)

It wasn’t long before other passengers for the flight started to roll in and finally I was on my way to Tambor, joined by several Americans. I found it interesting that I could spend nearly three hours sitting in a small waiting room with these people and yet I never once felt the need or desire to engage any of them in conversation. Even once we were on the small but comfortable aircraft I felt no pull to communicate, for all they knew I could be German. I did however thoroughly enjoy eves dropping and people watching as always. It was not really until everyone disembarked at the Nosara airport (tin shed) that we all exchanged more civilities as is custom otherwise all communication on my part had been through smiles and facial expressions. Everyone who embarked the plane with me in San Jose were all heading for Yoga Retreats which are very common here.

More people embarked the plane at Nosara on their way back to San Jose via Tambor. There was an American family of four with a very friendly and talkative Father who I also choose to only smile at after the initial polite exchanges. There was also a mother and daughter from Costa Rica and two girls from the original group stayed on the flight with me. While we were waiting for the other passengers to board we exchanged a few details about ourselves and our reasons for our trip. These girls were Yoga Instructors and staying for a month at a retreat near Montezuma. It didn’t take long for us to all turn back to our own occupations before disembarking at the Tambor airport (tin shed) where we said our mannerly goodbyes.

I always find it interesting how you can meet some people and you feel no energetic connection to them what so ever and then there are others you just can’t override the need to connect with them. Since arriving here, I have seen those same two girls on a few occasions in Montezuma. Despite both of them seeming very nice each time I have seen them I have had that crazy little conversation with myself… “Should I go and say hi?” “No, you didn’t want to talk to them on the plane so why now?” “Yeah, but I’m being rude aren’t I?” “Nope, you don’t feel the pull any more now than you did then so just leave it, it doesn’t make you a bad person” and so I’ve left it deciding something’s are just best left alone.

Until next time Love and Joy,

Janie xo

Project Pura Vida – LAX Airport

ImageThis morning I woke at 4:45am with little to do other than eat my cereal, brush my teeth and pack the few things I had left out the night before. I was down stairs in the lobby by 5:20am just in time to meet Trini, the shuttle bus driver I had yesterday when I arrived in LA. He is a very sweet man and I really enjoyed our conversations.

Once I arrived at the airport I met another lovely man at the American Airlines counter. The majority of workers in the Airports are either Latino or African American. His name was N.Duke as is common for their name tags. After several minutes of conversation and going through my paperwork, N.Duke kindly handed me my boarding pass and advised all was complete.

Hang on, I had a whole 23Kgs extra in a second bag and yet there was no extra charge? All I can say is thanks Travel Angels :)

I managed to make my way through to security where I spotted my first TV star through the glass windows in the other room… you know the guy in Grey’s Anatomy who is married to the blonde Heart Doctor and is dying from tumours? Yeah, that guy… he is actually a lot better looking in real life, I had hoped I’d bump into him again but I guess he was up in the fancy lounge keeping a low profile.

Once through security and safely inside the terminal I made my way towards my gate (I still had nearly three hours to go…) Once I knew where I needed to be I walked back down the long hall lined with little eateries, news agents etc. I couldn’t help notice the LONG line snaking out the door of the Burger King. When was Burger King so popular? Ah… the Starbucks store was tucked neatly in the corner and this was the reason behind the line.

Now at first I thought, how stupid who would line up like that for a coffee? Ok, so maybe I was curious and I did have three hours to kill so why not line up and find out if it was worth the wait. It did get me thinking though as I shuffled forward every couple of minutes towards my prize. Was the coffee really that good or was it a case of sheep mentality?

How many others had simply lined up because everyone else was; believing it must be great coffee if all these other people are lining up for it too. I also wonder if the coffee simply tasted better because I had to wait so long for it or if it really was pretty good coffee?

I remember years ago watching an interview with Hugh Jackman and his wife Debbie. They told the story of how years earlier before kids they had waited in line for some tickets to a performance they had been desperate to see. They waited in line all night, along with numerous other eager fans. To pass away the time everyone in the line started up conversations left right and centre, making new friends and turning what could be a boring night in the cold into fun and laughter.

By the time they got to the ticket booth the following morning and bought their tickets to the show Hugh and Debbie had made lifelong friends in the que. Once they got into the show after only a few minutes Debbie fell asleep and Hugh struggled to stay awake also. At least this is pretty close to the way I recall them telling the story a few years back. According to them the moral of their story was “It isn’t always about the destination. It’s about the journey on your way to the destination that can be the most amount of fun.” This was the main thing I took away from their story and remind myself often of this when I am traveling.

I always meet the nicest people when I travel and more times than not it is during a line-up that I meet these people. My line up at Starbucks was no different. Today I met a lovely lady from Ohio. It turned out that her daughter had been learning Spanish for eight years and still didn’t speak it well. She had booked herself a month’s holiday in Costa Rica in a few months’ time to try and master the language. This lady was a little concerned about her daughter’s choice and I was the perfect person, in the perfect place at the perfect time to put her mind at ease about this trip and give some useful tips. We had a lovely chat about all kinds of things and once we collected our coffees, we both felt more enriched than we did before meeting. No names were exchanged only knowledge.

Now I am waiting for my flight as I type, eager with anticipation about what awaits me upon my arrival. It is actually my thirty-first Birthday in Australia today; however I am going to squeeze one more day out of my thirtieth and celebrate it in Costa Rica tomorrow instead. Actually I wouldn’t mind another caramel latte but I really don’t think I want to line up a second time… :)

Love and Joy,

Janie xo


Project Pura Vida – From the Top…

Ok, lets start the story from the top before I forget some of the finer details and have to start making stuff up to keep you entertained… I have done so much yet feel like I have done nothing at all, it’s a wonderful kind of bliss to experience. So here is the experience from the start and I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed living it and now writing about it.

Due to sheer exhaustion (and sleeping tablets) I slept for three quarters of my flights but still managed to meet some really interesting and like-minded people along the way. Some I never even learnt their names as our encounter was simply a few minutes lining in a queue resulting in a momentary connection.  There were others I connected with in a special kind of way and exchanged contacts to keep in touch and a few somewhere in between.

I arrived at the Brisbane International Airport early on Thursday morning 26th April courtesy of my gorgeous Aunty Libby. Over the years we have done a lot of airport runs together, some successful and some not so successful. Thankfully this was one of the successful occasions as has been the last several trips. I met only nice and helpful flight and airport staff where ever I went. When I required assistance, the people I asked went above and beyond to assist me. I guess you could say I had an awesome trip despite not all of my flights being on time and a few delays.

Ok, so it sounds like it’s all too good to be true but I have had so much fun discovering all kinds of random and interesting people along the way. Have you ever just looked at a journey as half the fun of getting to your destination? The interesting people and situations you encounter each with their own message to share. Each person enriching your life just a little more for having shared some of theirs with you, even if it’s only for a few moments in the ridiculously long line up for Star bucks coffee at the LA Airport.

I digress…

I was eating my breakfast at the Brisbane airport; you know the overpriced oily option from Hungry Jacks with a tepid coffee that is far from enjoyable. You then realise that it probably would have been better to pay the extra $2 for the healthier grilled Panini option and not been so stingy. Never mind, I justify it by thinking food hasn’t any calories when you are travelling anyway…

As I am thinking all of this I meet Dennis sitting across from me, an elderly gentleman, he is even dressed like a gentleman with his vest and tie ensemble. A widower from Brisbane, Dennis has a gentle grandfatherly nature about him and is on his way to Sydney for his 40th year school reunion. We talk candidly over a cup of coffee and breakfast about all sorts; my trip, travel, his involvement in assisting youth centres in South Africa, legalising marijuana, politics and the Australian health system. Then his flight is called and our brief and enjoyable encounter comes to an end.

Once on my flight, I am seated next to David, a tall well-dressed man in his 40’s with a feminine energy that has me questioning his persuasion. He is a teacher, happily married to his childhood sweet heart and proud father of four daughters (I’m still not convinced). The book in his hands tells me straight away his is a Christian. We chat for the entire trip from Brisbane to Sydney about education, travel, schools, family, history and all other general matter. We eventually discover we are also on the same flight to LA.

Turned out David is also a Christian minister and our conversation eventually comes around to spiritual beliefs. I was surprised at David’s reaction when I told him that I like to believe in reincarnation. I had no idea that the Christians didn’t believe in this concept and that some people were so fearful of the alternative. It didn’t take long after this part of the conversation for me to realise that David would not be seeking out my company once we disembarked this plane. For David had cast his judgment upon me based on a difference of belief because it made him uncomfortable.

I flew with V Australia and once again I was very impressed with the service, I still haven’t manifested a business class upgrade but I will have my moment. Once we left the plane, we were told another flight of five hundred passengers had just disembarked so we would have to wait. As tiresome as it is to wait in a line, it is always really interesting as well. As you either know or can tell I absolutely LOVE people watching and line ups like this really do showcase some interesting personalities and attitudes especially after thirteen hours in the air.

When I made my way to the head of the line I found myself next to David the minister, he either didn’t see me or pretended not to as he looked around the room averting me every time. This was ok, as I really didn’t have anything to say, instead I just mused about human behaviour in my head. Before I walked through the doors David was forced to make eye contact as I said my goodbye to him he gave me a genuine and warm smile and he was gone. By the time I got to the checkouts, I was waved pretty much straight through by friendly staff and finally I managed to get out of the terminal. My first point of call, an ATM machine.

What? What do you mean $47.00 on my travel card? Ok, so I might have left it a little late to transfer my money. On the upside, I mustn’t have spent all of my money from my last trip like I thought. Just enough to get by I hoped.

Once outside, the reality of carrying three really heavy suitcases and a computer bag was kicking in. I just kept imagining what it would be like to have a set of those really cool hard shiny four wheeler models I keep seeing around… I make a promise to myself, next trip I take, I will have a new travel set. Walking out of the Terminal I was pleased to have brought some warmer clothes as the day was warm and sunny, but the breeze was fresh.

By the time the courtesy shuttle to my hotel arrived it was about twelve noon and the sweetest little Mexican man came out to greet me. His name was Trini, and I had the good fortune to have him as my drivre to and from the hotel. Trini had lived in the States for thirty-eight years and still spoke with a strong accent. He was short, almost dwarfish with a hair-lip and an energy that was endearing. He was excited about bringing his father and sister to the states for a month’s holiday and was as proud as punch to be able to do this for his family.

Arriving a little early I was checked into the only available room which had a spa only to be asked not to use it. I agreed, and made my way to my room with all my bags stacked on the luggage trolley. By the time I reached my room I had made the executive decision to leave the trolley in my room unless they asked for it back. I had intended (ok, half-heartedly) to catch a bus and check out Hollywood Boulevard, looking around my room I decided to check out the 7/11 across the road instead.

I really struggle with American food, and my trip around 7/11 was fascinating and scary all at the same time. Fatigue suddenly washed over me so I bought a drink and returned to the hotel room. Switching on the telly, I flicked through what seemed like hundreds of channels or sheer rubbish and eventually settled on “Auction Houses”.  Getting comfy on the bed I just closed my eyes for a moment and…. What? 4:45pm!!! How could I possibly have slept for another 4 hours after all the sleep I had on the plane? No Hollywood Boulevard for me, might be a 7/11 dinner yet. After the world’s best shower, I opt for a frozen Mac and cheese for dinner whilst watching an omnibus of Auction House, clean and snug in my PJ’s. Life is good!

By eight thirty I am fortunately ready for sleep again, it doesn’t take me long to drift into a deep slumber once more.  Another big day of flying and travel ahead not to mention my thirty-first Birthday well at least in Australia. I managed to squeeze an extra two days out of my thirties with this trip and the leap year, pretty clever I think.

Love and Joy to you and all your families,

Until next time, Pura Vida!

Janie xo