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Thoughts in Puerto Viejo

posted at 1:43 pm
on May. 14, 2013

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As I sit down to write… I realize that, for once, I don’t know what to write or where to start.

I could tell you about my trip to Puerto Viejo.  It’s a small town on the Eastern coast of Costa Rica, and it is the most chaotic, crazy party town I’ve ever been to. Passing a tattooed gangsta-type who was teaching his two-year-old how to long-board down the town highway’s main road… Being offered weed by a rastafarian on a bike as we walked to our hostel… Riding our bikes down the hotel’s hallway to our room…

The town is also as sleepy and casual a place as you can imagine. It’s not all night clubs and beaches. Eating freshly cut coconuts on the side of the road; stopping for breakfast at a combination hostel / yoga studio / chocolate factory—basically, the place of someone’s dreams, and now of mine, too smile

But that isn’t even 10% of the story.

I came here in order to visit the Sloth Sanctuary. Not because I love sloths, but because my close friend does, and coming to it would be so much vicarious fun for her. I have loved having adventures for that sort of nonsensical reason: driving to the most South-Westerly point in Ireland, for example, or visiting a mushroom museum in France because my mom Loves Mushrooms.

The sloth place was amazing, and on the way to the sloth place, I discovered another place, equally dear to me: the Jaguar Rescue Center, filled some of the most amazing animals I’ve seen—and Luis suggested we bike-ride there, as it was only 2 km out of town.

But wait, that’s barely 25% of the story! Who’s Luis?

Luis is a 25-year-old staff member of YWAMSJ, who is from this area and offered to come with me.. or, kind of actually was volunteered to accompany me, by Tony, the base’s hospitality and tourism expert. So Luis and I have been hanging out all weekend; which has really only been a day and a half.

Luis is half Afro-Caribbean and half native Costa Rican, and comes from a family of about 10 brothers and sisters, and about another 10 half-brothers and half-sisters. He’s the youngest, or one of, and has has some amazing challenges in his life that he really ought to have is own blog about. He currently works on the base helping to build homes for others, volunteering his time. He’s trying to learn English more gooder—and the weekend has been a great big long practice session for him. smile

He used to live and work in Puerto Viejo, and knows so many people we pass here on the street; I have gotten “local” rates twice, including the aforementioned coconuts; and we got a special tour of the jaguar center because he knew someone working there.

Unfortunately, Luis’ magic connections did not go so far as to get us a bed at the town’s good hostel, Pagalú Hostel, so we ended up in as low-grade an accommodation as I’ve been in since I slept in an abandoned truck in Denmark. The room we’re in has two beds, two mattresses, two pillows, two sheets, a side table three empty shelves, a lightbulb in the ceiling, and a fan bolted to the wall.

No hooks, no trash can, no bathroom of course, and the walls are thin enough that I can hear the headphones of the person in the next room.

We could have stayed at the town’s big hostel, Rocking J’s.  Rocking J’s is.. well, it’s rocking. It’s loud, and you can sleep in a hammock or bring your own, or stay in a tent, or get a dorm room. We didn’t stay there because you don’t get much sleep there. We did, however, meet Sydney there, because that’s where Sydney was staying.

Ah yes, the story unfolds! Who is Sydney?

She’s a woman from Hornby Island, just a small distance from Vancouver.  She ended up in Costa Rica on a vacation that turned sour, and she’s old friends with someone on the YWAM base. So when it turned out that she was going to be in Puerto Viejo this weekend, her friend asked Luis and I if we’d meet up with her and help her have a decent time.  We said yes, of course.

Though it turns out, there’s not a lot we could do to improve her experience… because she drank the water. And is sick as a person who drinks the water in Puerto Viejo. Poor thing. She had white rice and off-white banana for dinner. And white coconut meat and coconut water for lunch, and nothing for breakfast.  Seems like she’s slowly, slowly introducing colored foods back into her diet. smile

Meanwhile, Luis and I have been continuing our conversations about God and faith and how hard it would be to start a mission out here, where clearly the Rastafarians and yogis and, frankly, the hedonists and college students could use a little missionarying.

Well, if you’re Luis, you start with a piece of land. Which he has.  Then you get some materials. Which he has. And a plan. Also, has. Check! Then you have to know how to build houses. He’s getting that. Then… you need volunteers and some money. And that’s where we are today. Anyone want to build Luis’ mission?

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to spending tonight in my hammock, because Sydney is in Luis’ bed, and Luis is in mine, and I’d much rather sleep in the hammock than spend another night in the nook-sized room listening to the fan clang and bang all night.

Oh, and did I tell you I had a Costa Rican empanada? It’s made of corn meal, stuffed with chicken, fried in oil, and then sprinkled with the ground-up wings of fairies or unicorn horn or I don’t know what but it’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life. Seriously. So good. Maybe I was just hungry.

Oh, and did I tell you that I’m coming back on Tuesday?

Oh, and did I mention that we almost didn’t catch the proper connecting bus in Limòn and almost got stranded there overnight? And that Luis reminds me so, so clearly of my elementary school best friend Alan? Or that I saw a dead horse beside the road? Or that I played frisbee with some street kids?

Or that I swam in the Atlantic, and did yoga in the jungle in the rain? And had an omelette?

And of course, I haven’t even mentioned last weekend, when I went to minister to some of truly young children in a poor, neglected area of San Jose, where we held an impromptu Sunday School with lessons and songs and teachings and parables and prizes and toys.. Such a strange experience.

Well anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to, and I guess I should just start writing about it. But it’s late, and I’m covered in sweat—and have been for two days ever since I came over to the Caribbean side. I don’t think I’ll ever be dry again, it’s that humid. And so I’m heading to bed/hammock.

Good night.



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