More like ten bones, actually (Oh SNAPPPP, how will you ever recover from that sophisticated snub?!). But before I go all negative Nancy, Debbie downer on you, let’s rewind a bit. To 1999. I’ll set the scene: I was 17, donning pink Umbro shorts a la 1992 and listening to The Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” like it was my j-o-b. In other words, it was impossible to find a more well-rounded and multi-faceted teen. You, Costa Rica, were my first Latin love. You spoon-fed me white-fleshed pineapple while whispering sweet Spanish nothings in my ear. You merengue-d my tired tootsies raw and introduced my hips to salsa’s seamless swivel. Your rainforest’s reverberations coaxed me to sleep at night, promising new adventures come sunrise. It wasn’t long before I fell hard for you, and you deserved every ounce of my smitten affection.
People in this picture are either, a. sans coconut, b. graciously palming one coconut, or c. shamelessly double-fisting coconuts. Naturally, I am the only one partaking in option “c”, and apparently, I’ve never been happier.
As the above photo illustrates, each of our adventures was accompanied by a treat of some sort, and coconut wasn’t the only food that tickled my fancy in Costa Rica. Long before eating organic was a trend, Costa Rica was dishing up the freshest food from the purest of origins, and its flavor was unbeatable. It wasn’t uncommon for our guides to disappear into the jungle with their machetes, only to return a few minutes later with a bounty of exotic fruits for us to enjoy. I was in heaven, and when I wasn’t licking fruit juice from my fingertips, I was daydreaming about our next meal or snack. Embarrassingly enough, I fashioned an entire scrapbook from the wrappers of the unique snacks I was trying. I use the term “unique” loosely, as you’ll be able to deduce from the scrapbook page below.
What is this newfangled thing that Costa Ricans call a “Ring Pop”?
My scrapbook was joined by a diary that was meant to document my entire experience in Costa Rica. Rather unsurprisingly, the only thing it actually details is every ounce of food or drink that met my mouth while there. I recently stumbled upon this food journal, and was eager to take a trip down memory lane. I’d love to include an excerpt here, but I am too humiliated by the glaring grammar and spelling errors that saturate my writing. After reading (for the fourth time in one entry) that I spelled machete “muschetti”, I decided that there was no need to further reminisce. You’ll just have to trust me when I say Costa Rica’s food was worth writing home about.
After my first rendezvous with Costa Rica, I returned to the U.S. a changed woman (or so I thought). I stood at my bedroom door, astonished by the excess that surrounded me. For the first time in my life, I realized that simplicity and quality of life are positively correlated, which made me question the necessity of 70% of the things I filled my time and living quarters with. I felt foolish about the abundance that I had taken for granted, and in an act of solidarity with all that Costa Rica had taught me, I threw out my hairdryer. Two hours later, when I had trouble sleeping on damp tresses, I dug my hairdryer out of the trash bin, dried my hair, and prayed that my mom wouldn’t mock me for my capriciousness. In school that fall, I broke up with my boyfriend because how could he possibly relate to the “metamorphosis” that had transformed me while abroad. Five months later, I brazenly begged him to take me back (ah, the frivolity of youth!). It seemed that the changes that Costa Rica had inspired within me were resistant to longevity, but no amount of lapsed time could negate the fact that the trip had brought new clarity to my dreams. I wanted to work in developing countries, I longed to speak Spanish fluently, and I looked forward to listening to the same five merengue songs over…and over…and over again. Forever. Costa Rica had at least planted these seeds, and I knew I had to get back to Latin America to till them, which I eventually did.
I just recently made it back to Costa Rica, and I couldn’t wait for the country to welcome my return with open arms. Much to my chagrin, this is the exact opposite of what happened. Rather than bore you with a dramatic monologue of Costa Rica-related minutiae, I had visions of making a short film for your enjoyment. In this video, I was going to personify Costa Rica by acting out a dialogue between the country and myself. Although I am pretty well-established in the realm of cinematography, this video just didn’t pan out for a variety of reasons (I couldn’t figure out how to dress up like Costa Rica to differentiate our separate roles, or how to get my camera to stop zeroing in on my crotch). For now, the script of our conversation will have to suffice. While Costa Rica obviously didn’t “talk” to me, all of the happenings mentioned in our dialogue actually occurred. Read and learn.
Lindsay: OMG Costa Rica, it’s so nice to see you again!!! Come in for a hug!!!
Costa Rica: No thanks, I’ll pass.
L: Wow, cold-blooded. Perhaps you don’t recognize me. My friends and I were here in ‘99 to wander your beautiful land and do some volunteer work in your rainforest.
CR: Yeah, you and a million other gringos. Do you really expect me to keep track of all of you?
L: Listen, I’m not expecting any special treatment, I just thought we’d share the same bond I felt last time I was here. If it isn’t too much to ask, I’d really just like something good to eat, which shouldn’t be hard to find if I remember correctly. You see, I have a food blog, and I’d love to include all of your culinary treasures.
L: Wow, Costa Rica. You are not nearly as pleasant as I remember you being! Please just point me in the direction of a good restaurant. We are in the capital city, so I presume there are many in the vicinity.
CR: If by “good restaurant,” you mean hole-in-the-wall-eatery that will charge you six to ten American dollars for a small serving of flavorless rice and beans topped with a smidgen of fried banana, then you should walk for twenty minutes in any direction from here and you’ll find one. Maybe. I’m not really here to cater to your food hankerings.
L: Do you mean to tell me that in a city this large, I have to walk for almost a half hour to find food, and when I finally do, it’s going to be outrageously priced?
CR: Precisely, but that’s nothing compared to what we will charge you at the airport in taxes and baggage fees on your way home.
L: Well aren’t you a charmer, Costa Rica! You know what, forget about it, just tell me where I can get a bowl of soup. I’m not feeling so well.
CR: Again, walk about a half hour in any direction, and you should find somewhere that will serve you a miniature bowl of soup for eight dollars.
L: Eight American dollars???! That’s ridiculous!
CR: As is the size of your head.
L: Good one, like I’ve never heard that before. Ugh, Costa Rica you are so lame.
CR: Not as lame as the massive bug that’s about to burrow in your thigh that you’ll have to have surgically removed by a 75-year-old stranger.
L: ARGH! I CAN’T WAIT TO LEAVE YOU AND NEVER LOOK BACK! YOU AND ME, WE’RE KAPUT!
So what changed between 1999 and now? Was it Costa Rica or me? Did too many tourists spoil the place? I’m not sure, but what I can offer is my opinion. I strongly dissuade you from visiting Costa Rica unless you love foraging for food that is less than mediocre, and then having to spend ridiculous sums of money on it. Sure, people are friendly, and the views are nice, and I even stayed in the country long enough for it to redeem itself a bit (a topic I will address in my next entry). However, I still think there are countries that have more to offer tourists, particularly if those tourists are foodies. I can say with certainty that I will NOT be going back, ever, unless Rivers Cuomo decides he wants to have our destination wedding on a beach there, but he’s going to have to make his case pretty strong. And we’re also going to have to import our wedding food and cake. And spend our honeymoon elsewhere.
Now that that’s settled, I believe my job here is done!