Sunday, November 9, 2014

Livin' The Dream and Waking Up Sweaty

Livin’ The Dream and Waking Up Sweaty
Part 1: Na Zdravie!

My new-found Slovakian friends, painting Na Zdravie on the wall.

It’s true, I live in paradise. The jungle is my front yard and when I wake up some mornings to the sounds of howler monkeys in the trees above me and exotic birds of all varieties singing songs as I make my local, shade grown, fair trade Costa Rican coffee which I buy from my coffee shop that is a one-minute walk from my house, you may get the impression that my life is heaven on earth. The sun illuminates over a hundred shades of green on the thousands of leaves that fill my vision in any direction and while the air is always warm, the canopy of trees provides a cool shade that makes it almost the perfect temperature, all the time. And yes, I live here. Yes, I am livin’ the dream.

But there are days, weeks, where reality comes in a whole new form, and the dream starts to look more like a nightmare. Where large spiders and scorpions take up residence in what I imagine is my home, because the truth is, the jungle is not my home. I do not live here, no matter how much I think I do, no matter how much time passes, I am not of the jungle, I am merely a long term guest. Snakes, bullet ants, cleaner ants, and about 50 other species of ant that can leave a bite almost as painful as a snake, rats, toads, cockroaches of all shapes and sizes, mosquitoes, bats, and other creatures which I cannot identify may all find their way into my house, any day or night. I share this space with them. This is one of the, at times, harsh realities of life in paradise. Another is the rain.

We’ve just finished a 5 day rain spell, which my friend will tell you was due to the full moon. I realize there are parts of the world in serious drought and I understand the predicament of the situation, after all I grew up in California during one of the driest times the state has seen, until now. But, when it rains, and not just your average rainfall, but tropical-downpour-rains for 5 days at a time, life can become challenging. The roads flood, mud covers everything; the storm can knock down trees and branches which in turn take out the power for hours at a time. All of this is normal life for me now.  And while at times it is challenging, I do love living here. 

To know what it’s like to live in the jungle, you’d simply have to live in the jungle. There is no amount of reading or preparation you can do to feel as though you have a grasp on this scenario until you arrive and stay for awhile. Not just a two week or two month trip, but really stay, long enough to know when termites are eating your house, long enough to change your own gas tank, long enough to identify the sound of death at night and sometimes the lingering smell of death if the event took place near or even in your house. If you stay that long, you might start to have a feel for what life is like in the jungle.

So, yes I am livin’ the dream, but at times I am waking up sweaty, uncomfortable, scared, and out of my element. Luckily there are reminders of why this place is so special, why I dreamed of living here for so long, and why I am still here now.

The other day at work, while the rain fell and I stared at a mostly empty street outside of my bar, I was counting down the minutes until I was off work, dying of boredom. Less than 10 customers had come in during the first 5 hours of my 6 hour shift and I couldn’t wait to be released from my liquor-filled cage. Around that time my British friend, Aisha, stopped by. She’s lived here for some years now, has built her own house here and is now pregnant with a child who will soon be born here. As she sat waiting for some food, she and I discussed various bits of nonsense when a car pulled into the driveway. The car had been by earlier in the day, filled with 4 men of Eastern European origin, although from where I could not say. The first trip had been for 4 beers for the beach and nothing more. Now, returning from the beach, the men were back and with only 45 minutes on my shift I was ready to ride it out.

The men came into the bar and ordered 4 beers. Aisha and I continued our conversation and the men drank their beers, speaking a language that, to me, sounded Polish or in that realm. Four more beers, and then 4 more, until finally the inevitable shots of guaro were requested. The men offered to buy a shot for me and now with only 30 minutes of work remaining I accepted but under the condition that they teach me to say cheers in their language. Well, it turns out the men were not speaking Polish and were not from Poland, rather they were Slovakians, speaking Slovakian. In all my travels around the world in the past 15 years, I cannot remember ever meeting a Slovakian and with this first encounter I was excited. I leaned the cheers, Na Zdravie!, after much practice and vocal coaching from my new-found friends. After several rounds of guaro (they wanted to make sure I had the pronunciation just right) my new Slovakian friends asked if they could play a Slovakian song on Youtube. I set them up on our iPad and they found the song and video they were looking for, leading to a whole new strange and small world.

The song they played is by a Slovakian band and the theme of the song is home. The video shows different small villages throughout Slovakia and references these locations as great places to call home, a la 2Pac and Dr. Dre's  “California Love”. When each man’s home town was referenced, a celebration ensued. The video also shows the Slovakian band performing at a festival, the largest festival in Slovakia. Well, remember my British friend Aisha, who is still sitting at the bar with us? It just so happens that when she is not living in Costa Rica, she is building festival stages throughout Europe and she built the festival stage where this music video is taking place! Talk about a small, fucking world. 

So here we are, a Brit, a Californian, 4 Slovaks, at a bar in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, drinking guaro (Aisha has water, come on now, she’s pregnant) saying Na Zdravie to reinforce our new-found and of course, short lived friendship and I remembered why I wanted to live here in the first place. While it may seem in-congruent with my current profession of part time Caribbean bartender, I actually hold a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Global Studies with an emphasis on Socio-economic and Political Issues in Africa from the University of California and there was a time where I believed my path in life would lead me to work at The United Nations or with an international NGO such as Oxfam or Doctors without Borders. While things didn’t quite go as planned (but really, how often does that actually happen) my desire to surround myself with people from all over the world, to constantly learn new customs, new cultures,  and new ways to say cheers, did  not fade away. I have an unrelenting passion to know more about this world we live in, to meet more of the people who live here, to ask them where they are from, what’s it like there, to understand the billions of different possibilities for life that are all happening simultaneously at this very moment. And that’s why I first fell in love with this place.

When you travel you are exposed to new places, new people, new experiences, but to constantly travel takes a lot of money and can start to get lonely. For me, I can be on the road for about 2 months before I long for a familiar bed and some shelves to set my belongings on. But, by living in a place that continuously has travelers passing through, I can continue to meet new people and have new experiences while standing still, at least for a while. 

The experience I had at work the other day was so strange and beautiful and hilarious that it had to be real. There is no way to make up a scenario like that, I don’t care how good you are at writing fiction. Something like that is unique and I got to live it, the perfect moment of worlds colliding, a brief glimpse of connection, a reminder that we all do share something that unites us, that makes us partners in this human roller coaster of life. 

As I lived the event, I was happy, truly happy. As I told the story of the event to my friend last night, I was laughing at the absurdity of it all. And as I write the story now I find myself crying a bit because I know I will never see those men again. And it’s beautiful and sad and poetic all at the same time to know that these fleeting moments are what make up life. Each moment is like a butterfly, passing by you, beautiful and right in front of you for just a moment, and then gone, forever, unattainable, unique, and mysterious.

So, while the men are gone now and the moment has passed, I am left with the memory. Another to add to the archives of this strange life that I’m living. This life that so far, has taken me to over 20 different countries, introduced me to people from all over the world, taught me that you never stand still in the jungle for too long, you never cage a river minnow, and you never know what’s coming next. 

At some point today, take a moment, raise your glass and say Na Zdravie (just try your best) to honor this weird little thing we call life. 

Here’s to livin’ the dream and waking up sweaty!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Travel Tips For Costa Rica

Or, How To Not Be A Douche Bag While Traveling In Costa Rica

I know, the subtitle for this post seems harsh, and it's meant to be.

Not because I want to insult you, future, past, or repeat Costa Rican traveler, but because I want to offer some guidance and support so that you can get more out of your time in Costa Rica and not come across as a turd. I'm mainly referring to visitors from the United States, who bless their souls, are some of the few who do venture out of the U.S. and see for themselves that other countries actually have paved roads, cell phones, toilet paper, and cities, and see that not all brown people are terrorists who hate the U.S. and want to destroy us. For that, I commend you. You have broken free from some of the shackles of the U.S. media and you are discovering that the world is not so frightening, that other countries can be quiet enjoyable and that people in these other countries are not all illiterate, would-be enemies. 

But, while venturing out of the homeland is a great start, there are a few steps that you can do to avoid being a complete and total ass while in Costa Rica and that's what I want to discuss today. Also, I would like to make it clear that it's not just people from the United States that come across as douche bags during their Costa Rican holiday. Other international citizens can suck, in a major way. So, whoever you are, wherever you're from, you too can learn from my travel tips.

We're going to dive right in with an easy to process list of Do's and Don'ts, which should be suited to the short attention span of people alive in 2014.
  • "Panama (or Nicaragua or Guatemala) is so much cheaper!" Tip #1; stop saying this. I realize you may have just entered Costa Rica from one of the other Central American countries, and yes they are all cheaper than Costa Rica, but you must realize why and stop being shocked that a country in Latin America might have a strong economy or a high standard of living, making it not quiet dirt cheap compared to your standards. Consider this, Costa Rica is the only Latin American county to have been a democracy since 1950 or earlier. While it's neighbors were bogged down in civil wars (Guatemala Civil War 1960-1996), revolutions (Nicaraguan Revolution 1960's to 1990), and dictatorships (Panama's Dictator Noriega 1983-1989) Costa Rica enjoyed a more or less peaceful transition into the 21st century filled with tourism, thus strengthening the economy. And while Costa Rica may be a little pricier than it's neighbors who are just know seeing the benefits of tourism in their recent peaceful states, I still think a $2 beer, a $1 shot, a $10 dorm bed, and $10 dinner is pretty damn cheap. Maybe that's just the California girl in me, but really, are you going to complain about price when you're in paradise? The beach is free folks.
  • "There's not a lot of good tequila here" No folks, there's not, because this isn't Mexico. Again, I think we need to realize the distinct culture of the different Latin American countries before visiting them. Tequila comes from Mexico, the glamorous Guaro is the national drink of Costa Rica, and they don't have much in common. You see, tequila is distilled from the agave plant, which lives in the desert. Here in Costa Rica, we have rain forests, cloud forests, and tropical dry forests, but we don't have deserts. So before you tell me how much you love Mexican culture, take a minute to remember you didn't buy that plane ticket to Cabo, you chose Costa Rica instead.
  • "How do you like island life?" Ok, before you ask this question, let's go over general geography. Costa Rica is not an island. It is part of Central America, a narrow strip of land that connects North America to South America. This piece of land is a bridge between 2 continents, creating a unique situation where species from the 2 continents meet. It was one of the most bio-diverse places in the world. I know, especially on the Caribbean side, it can seem a lot like a Caribbean island with Rastas puffing on mary jane and Bob Marley playing at every street-side stall selling birds carved from coconut husks, but trust me, it's not an island, so don't ask anyone living here how they like island life.
  • Put the toilet paper in the trash can, not the toilet. This may seem very strange to people coming from the U.S. and parts of Europe, but in the majority of the world sewage systems and water treatment plants either do not exist or operate at a much lower standard than we are used to. You can't flush your T.P. here folks and as weird as it may seem, it is the truth, so get on the band wagon. I realize you may have to recondition your habit when it comes to going through the motions, but please try your best and stop clogging up the toilets in all the bars, restaurants, and hotels you come across. 
  • Follow the customs. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. This is not so hard if you bother to pick up a guide book, go to a few travel sites, and read something about the customs of Costa Rica. Learn a little bit about what they eat, what they drink, how they greet each other, if tipping is expected, you know, things like that. It may be your first time here, and you're going to have a lot to learn, that's OK, but try a little bit folks. Don't just show up, not knowing geographically where you are, what you're going to be eating, what the climate is going to be like, and then be totally shocked that you feel out of your element. Yes, it's a tropical country but there are different climates throughout the different regions. Figure out what the average temperature is like in the parts of the country you're going to visit. Yes, we have a rainy season and a dry season and in the rainy season, it can rain, a lot. Don't be shocked when you visit in the rainy season and you don't get to see the sun for 5 days in a row. Check the weather, plan your trip at the appropriate time of the year. And oh yeah, if a hotel doesn't say they have air conditioning, it's because they don't. If you can't deal with the heat, don't visit the tropics. 
  • Put down your smartphone. Sure you want everyone to know what you're doing in Costa Rica. Who wouldn't want to update and check in every time they see a sloth or drink an ice cold Imperial while a band plays calypso music, but if you spend all your time Facebooking, Tweeting, Instagraming, and Snapchating you're going to miss out on a lot of things. You don't have to get on wifi at every bar or restaurant you stop in at. Play a game of dominos instead. Strike up a conversation with a random stranger. Or simply watch the ocean dance for a while. You're on vacation, slow down, put the tech toys away, and enjoy the slow pace of life.
  • Speak the appropriate language. The national language of Costa Rica is Spanish, although many Costa Ricans also speak English. If you visit Costa Rica, it is polite to learn, at the very least a few Spanish phrases. Buenos Dias, Como esta, Gracias, Como se llama, Donde esta el bano, Una mas cerveza por favor. Use these if you like. Ticos like to hear gringos try the local language. But, if you do not speak Spanish, or if you barely speak Spanish and the person you are speaking to, whether Tico or Expat speaks better English than you speak Spanish, speak English! Ordering in broken Spanish to a native English speaker is a sure way to mess up your food. I know you're trying and that is appreciated, but use some common sense and use the appropriate language at the appropriate time. 
  • Slow Down! You are on vacation. You are in the tropics, where the heat alone forces everyone to relax a bit. And if you are in Puerto Viejo, or the province of Limon, then you are in the Caribbean and things take time here. Food is not ready before you order it, a cook has to cook it, it's going to take time. Cocktails need to be made and what's the hurry, all you're going to do is sit and enjoy it, so why rush it? You have nowhere you need to be, and while that is a hard rhythm to get into, it's why you wanted to come here in the first place, to unwind, to relax, to take a break from the rat race to the bottom that is life in the U.S. Don't get grumpy when you have to wait for things, for your room to be ready, for the taxi to arrive, for your food to arrive, for your server to bring your bill. Just relax. It might be hard at first, but you can do it. Take a deep breath, watch the waves roll in and out, and remember you wanted to come here, so enjoy it. 
I know this is a bit of a rant, and I'm sorry if I offend anyone, sort of. It's just that after a year and half of working in a bar in Puerto Viejo it's getting a little old the whole people not knowing anything about where they are. Sometimes I'm shocked that people actually made it because they really don't seem very together when I encounter them. I almost think that nations should start making tourists take a small test about the culture and history of their country before you're allowed to purchase a plane or bus ticket entering the country you wish to visit. That way, at least all of the tourists would have a basic understanding of where the hell they are. Instead of being on Facebook all day, use that smartphone to look up some facts about the place you're visiting and actually get a little smarter.

Remember, this is not just for U.S. tourists to Costa Rica, but anyone visiting. And the tips can be applied to other countries as well, not just Costa Rica. Figure out a little bit about where you're going before you get there, and you too can avoid being a douche bag while on vacation.

Happy Travels!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Party Puerto Viejo: A Guide to the Nightlife Scene in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Party Puerto Viejo: The Ultimate Guide to Puerto Viejo Nightlife!!!!!

Puerto Viejo, Party Vortex, Permanent Vacation
After a year of living in Puerto Viejo, Jahsiah and I had an idea. We wanted to find a way to
remember what was happening on any given night of the week. When we first moved down here to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, we didn't go out much seeing as we lived pretty far from town in our jungle mansion. Our main event each week was Trivia Night at Tasty Waves, which takes place every Thursday, but other than that we couldn't tell you what was happening anywhere in town. As friends came to visit we realized just how little we knew about what was going on in Puerto Viejo in the way of nightlife.

Once we moved closer to town and could suddenly bike around, rather than drive our big ass Yukon, we started going out a bit more and enjoying all of the great things that this town has to offer. We started to learn about deals like two for one Bloody Marys on Sundays at Mango's, or two for one cocktails and live music every night from 5-7pm at The Lazy Mon. By this time I had started working at Tasty Waves Cantina, and as such, we both knew the nightly and weekly schedule of Tasty Waves, but when customers would ask me what else was going on in town that week, or what they should do since they were only going to be in town for a few nights, I would draw a blank. I could only tell them a couple of things to do and places to be, not a very good resource as a bar tender. When someone comes to the Caribbean and wants to know where they can go to hear reggae or see live music, as a bar tender, I feel as though I should be able to help that visitor out.

So, combining our personal need to know what's happening around town, plus wanting to be able to help travelers and visitors know what's happening in the way of nightlife in Puerto Viejo, plus wanting to help our friends who own bars and restaurants in Puerto Viejo stay busy during the low season, we decided to launch Party Puerto Viejo! As of now, the site only represents The Lazy Mon, Mango's Sunset and Tasty Waves Cantina, but over the next few weeks we should be adding the rest of Puerto Viejo's bars and some of the restaurants to the site as well.

You can use Party Puerto Viejo to help plan out your time in Puerto, or if you live here, you can use to it to find out about specials and events that you might not know about. We'll also be featuring special events in the area as they come up, like the Chocolate Festival that took place a few months back and the surf competitions that happen throughout the year. Visit the site to see what's happening in and around Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, and find us on Facebook for daily information and updates.  Please feel free to send us messages about anything that you know of that's going on in Puerto Viejo that we may not know about. We really want to make this site a resource for travelers, expats, and locals so that we can all connect a bit better. It's not just about finding the best parties or the strongest drinks, it's also about meeting cool people, people from all over the place that have been drawn to our little funky corner of the world.

So, let's grab a beer, let's drink a cocktail, let's do a shot, let's tell some stories, let's dance the night away, let's laugh, let's celebrate, let's Party Puerto Viejo!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Puerto Viejo Nightlife Part 1: Mango Sunset

Here's the deal. Jahsiah and I have recently decided to start a new business and website called Party Puerto Viejo. All of the blogs that I have done and will do concerning Puerto Viejo Nightlife will now be featured in the blog section of Party Puerto Viejo, so to read about Mango's Sunset, please click here!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Puerto Viejo, How I Love Thee

I gazed out the window as the plane began it's descent into Juan Santamaria International Airport in Alajuela, just outside the capitol, San Jose. Even though this was the biggest metropolitan area of the country, it was so green and lush. From every angle there were hills covered with trees, framing the Central American excuse for a big city. Memories of family vacations to Hawaii surfaced and I knew I was going to like this place. Getting off the plane and out of the airport the air was so thick and heavy, like a blanket draped over your shoulders, which produced an almost instant layer of sweat, making me stare in wonder at the taxi and shuttle drivers clothed in button up shirts and long pants. The chaos of cries from every direction was overwhelming. "Taxi! Taxi! You need taxi?!". No, I did not need a taxi as I was part of a volunteer group and our shuttle arrangements to take us to our hostel were already set. I liked this place. I liked the thick air, the pushy taxi drivers, the chaotic small airport.

That was my first impression of Costa Rica. I came here when I was 18 on a volunteer program with International Student Volunteers. One month in Costa Rica, which included a two week home-stay in a small community in the Alajuela Province, followed by a two week eco tour of the country, starting on the Pacific side and ending on the Caribbean. I was captivated by everything I saw and I knew within minutes of my arrival that I would end up living in this funky little country. The long bus rides through mountainous forests, stopping for snakes in the road, monkeys in the trees above, passing through small communities with nothing more than a soda as the center of entertainment, arriving at beaches that made you think you'd fallen into a postcard. I drank it all in and I couldn't quench my thirst. After that one month, I returned home and the only thing on my mind was how and when I could get back to Costa Rica. For the next ten years it was all I talked about. Everyone who knew me knew how obsessed I was with this place that some had heard of, since their cousin or their aunt had been there for their honeymoon or on vacation a few years ago.

And so, over the next decade I returned to Costa Rica every few years, falling more and more in love. The gallo pinto, the guaro, the Imperial, the friendly disposition of Costa Ricans, the lush vegetation everywhere you looked, the laid back vibe, the wildness of it all, I feel more and more deeply in love with each visit. Every time I returned I would go to a part of the country I had been before, like Arenal or Monteverde or Tortuguero, and I would also visit a new place. It wasn't until my fourth visit that I discovered what is now my home, Puerto Viejo.

To be honest, I didn't really like Puerto Viejo the first time I came here. The place we stayed was run down and some bummy surfers who were staying there as well stole our food out of the communal kitchen. The vibe was a bit aggressive and the town didn't seem to have much to offer if you didn't plan on surfing your days away. So, after a few nights we headed down to the end of the road, Manzanillo. Much quieter and much more removed, we found Manzanillo to be to our liking. We made friends with a guy who was building a hostel and the plan was hatched that if we moved down we could stay with him and help run the place. So set in motion the events of the next 4 years of my life.

We'll fast forward a bit, past the story of our attempted drive to Costa Rica and our homeless stint on the beaches of Mexico, that's for another time, but in the end we landed in Puerto Viejo and all of my dreams came true. I had accomplished the largest life goal that I had set out for myself thus far. I was finally living in my happy place. I was worried that when I got here, reality would get the better of me and I would realize that this place wasn't as great as I had made it out to be for all these years, that the vacation would be over and in the end this place would be just like any other place, stagnant, boring, fake. But, thankfully, after one year of living here, I find that I am still in love, with not just this country, but Puerto Viejo specifically. I've been with my boyfriend for 5 years, I've had my dogs for 7 years, and I've been in love with Costa Rica for 11 years, so this is the longest relationship I've ever had, and I'm proud to say it's still a healthy one (minus all the guaro).

For the sake of the Buzzfeed and Facebook generation, I would like to list the reasons why I love Puerto Viejo. I will use bullet points because I think it makes it easier for people who like to skim ahead and they also give off the air of importance.
  • Great Weather Year Round Sure there are days and weeks of torrential rain, but for the most part, you can live without ever wearing anything other than shorts and a tank top. It's always warm, if not down right hot, which makes every day a beach day, a great day for languidly lounging in a hammock, walking dogs, and drinking cold beer. Flip flops are the only shoes you'll ever need and you don't need to worry about whether or not you need to bring a jacket when you go out for the night.

  • Street Food is Abundant and Cheap I'm a sucker for street food; from pad thai on the streets of Bangkok to bacon wrapped hot dogs in the Mission, I love buying food from street vendors and sampling some of the finest local cuisine for the most affordable price. Here in Puerto Viejo we are blessed with pattys, meat sticks (more eloquently known throughout the world as kabobs), empanadas, fried chicken, and my personal favorite taco chinos, or simply put, egg rolls. There are even more options as well, usually being carried around by some traveling gypsy Argentinians, but I'm not sure what to call most of these items. All I know is that for one or two dollars you can have your hands on some awesome piece of food and you don't even have to get off your bike to complete the transaction.

  • You Can Bike Everywhere When we first moved here, we lived in what I like to call The Jungle Mansion. It was far from town and we had to drive most places, especially at night since the 3 kilometer road through the jungle wasn't exactly easy to navigate on a bike. But, once we moved to town we entered the world of beach cruisers and I have never looked back. I love biking everywhere, to work, to go grocery shopping, to go to dinner, or meet up with friends, biking makes me feel like a kid again. Riding bikes has got to be the most enjoyable way to commute ever, and I think everyone in the world would be much happier if we all just rode bikes more often.

  • The Absence of Parking Tickets and Smart Phones My biggest grievance with "civilized" society is the smart phone and second to that is the infamous street sweeping ticket. Aside from fresh off the boat tourists at my bar asking for the wifi password, you don't see many smart phones down here. A lot of the locals have them, but they don't dominate social settings as they do in California. When you spend time with your friends, you're not constantly interrupted by Facebook notifications, text messages, or Instagram updates. It's nice being in the company of your peers and actually having conversations. The other absence I am incredibly found of in Puerto Viejo is the parking ticket. Tickets from street sweeping, expired meters,and expired registration do not exist here and this makes me profoundly happy. Trying to remember that you can't park your car in front of your house or apartment on the 2nd and 4th Thursday and the 1st and 3rd Wednesday is something that I hope to never experience ever again. Whenever a bat flies into my head, or a giant spider turns up in my bathroom, I just remind myself that it's been over year since one of those stupid little Interceptors has placed a $72 ticket on my dash right as I'm running outside to move my car.

  • Monkeys and Sloths, Oh My! I'm sorry, but there is really nothing cooler in life than waking up, rolling over in your bed and seeing a sloth, silently and stealthily passing by your bedroom window. And how about troops of monkeys playing in the trees above you while you work at a beach bar? Sorry, but my life is cool, probably cooler than yours.

  • Characters, Everywhere You Look This place is bizarre and as such, it is filled with many bizarre people. From the locals who have grown up in this removed and slightly isolated corner of the world, to the foreigners who have flocked here for a variety of reasons like retirement, entrepreneurship, or avoiding felony charges back home, everyone down here is a little weird, myself included. People here are different and I like to think of this place as the Island of Misfit Toys, although it is a not an island, even though lots of people who vacation here still sometimes think it is. I love it, traveling salesmen that offer up pillows and back scratchers, wizards, old surfers who got lost in the waves, musicians, bar and restaurant owners, everyone here has a different story, and each one is just as interesting as the next. There is no end to the entertainment that can come from striking up a conversation with a random person at the bar or at the bus stop. It's like constantly living in one of those comedic movies that tells vignettes of different characters and then has all of the stories intersect at different times. 

  • Endless Hours of Free Entertainment Aside from talking to the myriad of characters in town, this place can also offer up endless hours of free activities and entertainment. Spending the day at the beach, walking through the jungle, or exploring what's further down the road costs nothing and no matter how many times you visit the same place, there is always something new to see. Butterflies, iguanas, monkeys, sloths, birds, caterpillars, snakes, frogs, and horses are plentiful and you never know what you will encounter just off the main road if you venture in a ways. For a little bit of money you can buy a bike and take yourself on countless expeditions, exploring new paths. The rivers are always changing, as is the ocean itself and you can bear witness to new waterways and shorelines every day. Fruit grows freely and as you explore you can dine on some of nature's finest offerings, all without ever spending a penny. Maybe I didn't know where to go back home, but I never felt like there was so much to do without costing anything. I think the freedom this place offers is what is so appealing to so many of us freaks and miscreants. Wandering in the quiet beauty of a place like this, you can truly let your mind go and be open to any inspiration that comes your way.
 I know this place is not for everyone, and I'm happy about that. If we all loved it to the same degree, it would be overcrowded and overrun with people from everywhere flocking to Puerto Viejo and then it would lose its charm. I know that I may outgrow this place, I may change and evolve and this place may no longer suit me, my wants, dreams, or desires. As with all relationships, change is inevitable. And I'm OK with that. I love this place for what it is right now, and for who I am while I'm here. I'm content knowing that I made it, and that it was, in the end, what I wanted it to be, and so much more. More and more I think of this place as Never Never Land, the place where we come to never grow up, to stay young, to live as if we have no cares in the world. Maybe one day we'll have to leave, have to grow up, have to get "real" about life and responsibilities, and street sweeping tickets. Maybe one day I'll decide that riding a bike is silly and something that only kids should do, that laying on the beach is a waste of time, and that watching monkeys play in the trees isn't that cool. But, somehow I doubt that very much.

So, if you need me, or you want to find me and you're not quite sure how to get here, to Never Never Land, just follow the second star to the right, and I'll be here, falling deeper and deeper in love with my life.

"The second star to the right, shines in the night for you
To tell you that the dreams you plan, really can come true
The second star to the right, shines with a light so rare
And if it's Never Land you need
It's light will lead you there"