Alternate Universe

Oct 19, 2008 at 8:44 PM

Coca Cola tastes amazing here - real sugar makes all the difference. No corn syrup. It's manna from heaven. I've never loved any soda more. Better than IBC root beer, better than my favorite soda ever - whatever that was. I can't even remember now. I figured out why people used to love Coca Cola so much. It tastes effing perfect here.

People ride motorcycles on roads that would be suicide in the states. The potholes are huge here. And they do this at the apparent age of about 9, wearing nothing but shorts - no helmet or padding or anything, not even shoes.

The bridge being out doesn't stop people from driving their cars across it - finding the best path across the rubble. It's funny and scary at the same time.

The ocean is louder here - a constant, inevitable heartbeat... I can't deny the heady romance in listening to it. It sounds like life and sadness and love and beauty and the complex and simple in life, all rolled into the crashing of the waves. 24 hours a day, within throwing distance of my hotel room. Maybe it is louder because there is less white noise. (Except when the open air place next door is pumping out salsa music at ridiculous decibel levels.)

Buildings that have been condemned go on acting like nothing happened. The place next door has been condemned for ten years, I'm told. Doesn't keep the locals from throwing parties there.

My hotel is lovely. A little noisy on the weekends, but I love the location - dead center in the crescent shaped beach, with a million dollar view. Next to the town plaza (empty grass area with rotting sidewalks all round). Within spitting distance of the water, and with several tiny little restaurants around.

Another thing. Sidewalk, blacktop, and pavement of any kind appears to be made out of something far more destructible here. There are no flat paved surfaces. Anywhere. Every paved surface has potholes or worse.

But then again, I'm in the poorest remote part of Costa Rica. Which is still a nice improvement from the neighboring countries.

There is live music happening right now. A Canadian French man is singing Guantanamera in the restaurant next door. He sounds sad. But since he's the ex-husband of my good friend, I can't feel sympathy. I know too much about him. However, he sings on-key, quite well, and usually right on the rhythm, except when he doesn't remember the words, and singing on-key is exceptionally rare. His name is Mario.

Other differences?

Pineapples are so much better tasting here - fresher, and they cost almost nothing.

Apples are expensive. Oranges aren't orange here. Apparently they need frost to turn orange.

There is no real beer - only this strange yellow stuff that is called beer. No dark beer, no red beer, no stout, no nothing. I don't drink much beer - but I'm not going to be drinking ANY here at this rate. I only like deep red ambers.

Horrible corn pancake things baked between banana leaves are a popular treat. I bought some for twice what the locals pay. I hate them. Well, at least now I know.

Cake is intensely dry here.

Fruit is totally different and better here. And it's everywhere.

Trees have HUGE leaves. Just ridiculously huge, like a child's drawing of a tree.

My country is not called the USA here. It's "the states" or "estados unidos" but not a mention of America or the USA. I'm not an American, I'm a Gringa. Just like any other white lady - even if she's not from the North.

Milk products taste weird here. Milk isn't refrigerated and comes in what look like big juicy juice containers.

You can't get real yogurt. Only odd fake stuff that is called yogurt but tastes like processed kids yogurt in the states does. Bleuch.

Jelly is made out of totally different things here and comes in pouches, like most food.

Every kind of packaging or dangerous chemical process we've ever banned in the states seems to still be being done here. I don't know why, but most things don't spoil... strange and impossible in this heat. Something must be being done. So I'm avoiding dairy.

Those big black rocks offshore have a name here, Catalinas. Neat. I wonder what they're called at home. Did I just not know they had their own special word? Catalinas. I like that word. Catalinas.

The language is spoken with the mouth closed. I didn't believe Shelley when she said so, but there you go. She was right. I have no idea how they do it, but it's making learning the language difficult. I'm getting along OK, though. I can order my own dinner, but I usually get something that I've never seen, and isn't quite what I thought I was ordering.


I took a walk today, and couldn't enjoy it - there was trash EVERYWHERE. I grabbed a trash bag and started picking it all up. I ended my walk with a view of a beautiful, clean stretch of beach in front of me and a VERY heavy trash bag that I dragged back up to the trash area next to the hotel.

A group of older men playing pool outdoors (another thing you don't see in the states) at an open air bar stared at me and scratched their heads. They looked totally baffled. As though they'd never previously had the thought that trash was something to pick up and remove from the landscape.

What EVER. Especially since I'd picked up about 50 of the exact kind of beer cups they were holding.

Among the trash I picked up were whole bags of trash themselves, several Nike shoes and sandals - no matches - a whole lot of empty glass bottles and those horrible plastic six pack holders that are banned in the states now - the ones that kill dolphins.

It makes no sense. This is possibly the prettiest stretch of beach in the world, in a gorgeous tropical paradise, and the local people have no sense of maintaining its pristine beauty. My theory? Preservation may not be part of a culture that has probably never had any (non-manmade) serious threats to survival. It's never cold here, there is always food, plentiful water. You get it. No need to worry about wrecking something, because there is plenty more like it.

The locals are all about 5 feet tall. I'm tall and exotic looking here. My blue eyes are unusual enough to get stared at. You'd think they'd seen other blue eyed people before, what with all the gringo visitors.

I have been hit on more times than I can count, and had two people declare their love for me on sight. It's quite flattering. But obviously a tear-away, disposable kind of love that I could wear myself out following up on looking for any substance. Nothing is treated as permanent here -- especially not a love affair. And I'm not the type to find value in that kind of easy, passing love. I can't help but wonder, what would these people think of a certain friend of mine, Melly? She's blonder and taller than me. I think some of these guys might fall over in a dead faint from the sheer weight of their temporary love.

Whenever I'm not the immediate love interest of a local, they completely ignore me.

I'll have no trouble dropping the weight here, because i'm sweating like a pig and eating pretty much nothing but enzymes and protein. I'm not fond of the bread items (dry). The milk is probably pure chemicals, and I've already quit smoking so my bad habits are all cut down.

Plenty of my favorites: chocolate and coffee.

The coffee -- even at the diner or from some kind of cafeteria -- is fantastic. I haven't had a bad cup of joe since I got here. It's all so smooth and strong and perfect.

The chocolate is seriously lacking. No flavor at all. Not creamy. Not sure what's going on there.

I took another walk of the beach later and made it to a natural barrier, some volcanic rocks that separate the two beaches from one another, Playa Brasilito and Playa Conchal. Playa Conchal owes it's beauty to that volcanic eruption. Otherwise it would be grey like this beach. Playa Brasilito is a simple (still stunning) grey sand beach, whereas one of the world's most famous white sand beaches is Playa Conchal, right next door.

This beach, Playa Brasilito, is a crescent shaped beauty itself. I like it. A LOT. I'm going to take my walk North tomorrow. I've only been walking South so far.

The sand on this beach, because of all the clay that has poured out of the mouth of the river lately, is a study in mathematical perfection. Red and grey and white streaks playing in complex patterns that I could study forever.

I walked staring down today.

I felt like an intruder, mashing the ink in a constantly evolving Escher lithograph, a metamorphosis in creation. There are perfect sworls in the sand, leading to diagonal rivulets or fresh water that run in a red meshwork across the perfect wave patterns of grey and white; evocative geometries.

Presently, as I continued to walk, I came across a plain of some kind. Those same patterns, but through which some tiny sand creature that lives just below the surface had drawn spirals and squiggles, along with all of his thousands of mates, in a completely unpredictable fashion.

I laughed.

It reminded me of the impetuous persistence of life. Mathematical precision in the patterns the waves leave behind, and life making its own intensely beautiful counter-action against that.

But again, you have to have my exterior view of it to recognize the beauty in it. There's the irony. Can't be it and see it.

Much of life is like that, I think. Break away, get some distance, and it starts to be beautiful, to be art, and even the rowdy, unpredictable shapes we make start to make more sense.

Maybe that explains what I'm doing at the equator, looking at the beach.


  1. Kat Says:

    YAY, Costa Rica stuff!

    I really, really want a Costa Rican Coke now.

    The Ocean... ahh. I love your description of that sound. Gorgeous.

    What color are the oranges? The fruit and coffee sound marvelous, but non-spoiling dairy. Eew. Sad about the chocolate. You'll come home skinny.

    Amazing about the trash. Have you seen that "Set a Good Example" video? That's you.

    Wow, the patterns on the sand...your writing here


    The offer to come hang in L.A. for a while remains open. The coffee is worse, but the chocolate is better. You don't have to answer, just come if you want.

  2. Shelley Says:

    I thought I was the only one who thought he sounded sad. I thought maybe I was just putting that there. I'm glad to see you're enjoying some of the beauty here while you're working your ass off!