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Happy Hallo-schwing! (Or, Asphinctersayswhat?)

Ever since I was old enough to understand what it was all about, I’ve loved Halloween.  It’s a holiday where you get to dress up, stay out late, gorge on candy, and you don’t have to buy your ungrateful family members gifts (kidding, guys!).

So what’s not to love?

In fact, the only slight drawbacks to the holiday nowadays are the fact that (a) costumes cost roughly the same price as a black market kidney and (b) every women’s costume—whether it’s mechanic, dentist, or offshore oil rigman—requires fishnets and a push-up bra.

I’ve never been the type to dress up as a slutty cheerleader or slutty witch or slutty fairy on Halloween–not that I’m a hater.  In fact, I’m fully of the if-you’ve-got-it-flaunt-it-cause-it-sure-ain’t-going-to-be-flauntable-forever school of thought.  But my personal beef has always been more with the utilitarian aspect of these types of costumes.

The equation in my head goes a little something like this:  Delicate exposed flesh + 30 degree temps + five hours of bar crawling = Hells to the no.

While I fully appreciate the “You go, girl!”-ness of showing off the goods in the spirit of Halloween, I’m not passionate enough about it to risk losing said goods to hypothermia just to prove I had ‘em to show off in the first place.  That’s a little too The Gift of the Magi for my liking.

Besides, I almost always go for the gag—the more silly, dorky and ridiculous, the better.  So given all these factors, when I finally find a costume I like, I will proceed to wear its ass out.  No lie–I will trot out that  bad boy year after year until either its vital components begin to disintegrate or I am no longer able to tell in which decade the Halloween photos were taken.

Here’s my lifetime progression of Halloween costumes:

– Tiger.  Worn age 1.  Comfortable, stylish, flattering.  I’d still be wearing it to this day if I could fit into it.

– Black cat.  Worn ages 4 to 10.  Crafted with minimal parental oversight, this unelaborate getup featured a black headband with ears I made out of paper Scotch-taped to it, a black leotard, black tights and a tail pinned to the seat of my britches.  Which, when you think about it, is basically every slutty adult cat costume, too.

– Mouse.  Worn ages 10 to 12.  Same costume as above, just different-shaped ears.  The cat tail made it somewhat confusing.

– From ages 12 to 17, I was far too cool to be bothered to dress up for Halloween, so I guess I just went as a punk-ass teenager.

– Flapper.  Worn age 18.  The store-bought costume was thin, insanely itchy and, three weeks later, I was still picking sparkles out of some unlikely nooks and crannies (uh, hello, like my ears, people?  Geez.).  In the spirit of the holiday, the day after Halloween I gave it to Goodwill so that next year it could go forth and haunt other poor, hapless victims.

– Nerd.  Worn ages 20 to 25.  This costume went the distance because it was comfortable, cheap and, c’mon, awesome.  Since I was a broke, unemployed college student at the time (unlike the broke, unemployed adult I am now), I went to Goodwill and bought men’s plaid pants, thick black-rimmed glasses, and a tie with ducks on it for like $4.  I then added white tape to the glasses, gelled my hair down into a slick part, acted like myself all night–and bam!

A word of caution, though:  Be sure to wear full-coverage underwear because you will be fending off unprovoked wedgies from friends and the occasional creepy stranger all night long.

– Princess Toadstool.  Worn age 28.  I think we all know by now that I’m not the princess type, but the hubs and our good friend Kevin were hell-bent on dressing up as Mario and Luigi, so it was either be her or Toad, and I don’t need to draw any more undue attention to the ginormous-ness of my head by wearing a gigantic, phallic-like mushroom cap, thank you very much.

And, yes, that is a blowup doll taped down on the table behind us.  It was that kind of party.

This year’s costume, however, is by far one of my favorites:

Wayne’s World!  Party time!  Excellent!

This was a last-minute Hail Mary idea–there was a party Saturday night and it was Saturday afternoon and neither my friend Christine nor I had any idea what we were going to be yet.

And the best part is this entire look cost me about $10.  I already had the plain black shirt and Chuck Taylors, but I found the flannel for $3 at Goodwill.  Then I went to Michael’s and bought iron-transfer letters and a black hat for $6 and had myself a little Crafty Craftertons moment.

And since I had some letters left over, I went the extra mile and made a T-shirt that says “Schwing!”

How ’bout them apples, Martha Stewart?

Happy Halloween, everybody!

(PS:  The title’s a Wayne’s World reference:

“Asphinctersayswhat?”

“What?”

“Exactly.”

Now go forth and prosper with that information.)

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People Say We Monkey Around…

Ok, we’ve been toying with your emotions for long enough.

We’ve teased and flirted and played coy, but now it’s time to finally give up the goods.

That’s right, folks.  It’s time… for monkey pics.

But first, I have to tell you a little story of how we came to get them.  This’ll just take a minute.  Patience, my pretties.

Here goes…

On our way to Tamarindo to spend one of our last days in Costa Rica at the beach, we made a detour to Congo Trail, a canopy tour company located just outside of Playa del Coco in the small town of Artola.  In addition to offering zipline tours, ATV rides and other invigorating outdoor pursuits designed for people with far more pep and energy than we have, the park features a butterfly preserve, snake exhibit  and monkey refuge.  Becs had visited the monkeys earlier in the year and loved it, and since she’s been pretty much dead-on with every other recommendation, we were dying to check it out.

So we arrived, wide-eyed and eager to handle us some monkeys–except, when we got there, the staff informed us that the regular monkey handler (how sweet of a job is that, by the way?) would not be in today and, as such, the monkey exhibit was closed.

Considering we’d just spent the last 40 minutes driving 20 mph down a dirt road, puttering past goats and straw huts and people who looked startled to see a large metal object moving of its own accord, this was not the news we wanted to hear.  Fortunately, after a little haggling and pleading and cajoling, they agreed to let us in.  All they had to do was prep the cage for us and then we could commence getting our sweet monkey action on.

Only there was one small problem:

This guy.

Apparently, there’s a strict social structure amongst the capuchin monkey community (totally not the hippy, free-lovin’ Phish concert vibe I was expecting), and this bad boy just so happened to be the alpha male of this particular clique.  And while he may look all “Aw shucks, ma’am” in the above photo, believe you me, he ruled his 9×9 foot domain with tiny Totalitarian fists.  And he was positively pissed about us trying to come up in his house.

When initial efforts to remove El Capitan from the cage were unsuccessful, the interim handler got down to business.  Sensing an ensuing battle, he called for backup and escorted the three of us outside the fenced area, suggesting that we go walk around, see the sights and come back in 15 minutes or so.

Not easily deterred, we let him guide us out but quickly scrambled to find a good vantage point on the other side of the fence from where we could watch the juicy drama unfold.  And man, are we glad we did, because what happened next was the most unintentionally hilarious hour-long standoff involving five grown men and a monkey that we will ever see in our lifetimes.

It was hard to tell what the staff’s battle strategy was, but it seemed to involve each man taking a turn tentatively stepping into the cage, only to sprint out two seconds later with three pounds of screeching, frothing, pure and unadulterated monkey rage quick on his heels.  At one point, one staff member finally succeeded in snagging the little guy in a net; however, in his excitement, he failed to follow through by covering the gaping hole at the top and the monkey ended up escaping and scaling onto the top of the nine-foot-tall cage.  From there it proceeded to shriek and taunt the staff members, possibly even saying bad things about their mothers.

With this latest turn of events, the group below did a quick huddle and, after some lively discussion and finger-pointing, one of the staff members climbed up on top of the cage as well and the two reluctantly began an awkward  interspecies tango involving zigging and zagging, advancing and retreating, parrying and thrusting, shucking and jiving.  After about 15 minutes, the monkey finally decided it had had enough of making a fool of the staff and allowed itself to be humanely captured.  Although Katie, Becs and I didn’t actually witness the resolution because, by that point, we were steeped in our very own melodrama of trying to laugh without peeing our pants.

But  the saga did have a happy ending and the grim-faced, beady-eyed staff finally allowed us in.

And here’s what I learned about monkeys that day:

They are very affectionate.

Very, very affectionate.

 

Maybe even a little too affectionate.

They like to eat sunflower seeds and have atrocious table manners.  As such, you will spend the rest of the day picking  shells out of your hair and from down the front of your shirt.


They have zero qualms about personal space.

None whatsoever.

And although they are masters at volumizing, oddly enough they do not make the best hairdressers.

Mainly because they don’t take customer feedback well.

Yes, a monkey bit my scalp.

So that’s that.  Thanks again to the Congo Trail staff for all the memories!

And, don’t worry, we made sure to tip them.

Our stylists were another story.

Katie – 1; Metal Frame – 0

The promised monkey post is coming soon.

I SWEAR.

But I had to share this with you.  Now that I’m back home, I’ve been trying to distract myself with various projects I’ve been putting off around the house.  We’re going to be having several house guests over the next week or so, and it’s time some of these things get finished.

So.  I love maps.  I love looking at them, using them – hell, I MADE them for a living at one point in my life.  GPS?  No thanks.  Maps – yes, the foldy, papery kind – are far superior.

I’ve had this world map that my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas for years now, and I’ve never hung it anywhere.  The map itself is beautiful, and I didn’t think the black metal frame did it justice.  Enter this horrible reproduction painting I bought on a whim a couple of years ago and also never hung.

Yes, that is dust from 2 years of closet banishment.

I noticed the frame happens to be the perfect size for my map.  Easy switch, right?

Not so much.

It took an embarrassing amount of time, but finally – finally – I won.

I may not have been a fan of the metal frame, but no one can say it wasn’t quality.

Speaking of quality, I didn’t actually have a way to attach the map to the wood frame.  Enter the masking tape.

Classy,  no?

In the end, I think it was well worth the effort.

Go me!

Now.  Is it too early for a beer?

Today Erin’s an OldER Lady

That’s right, folks – In an effort to maintain the lovely little tradition Erin started a couple of weeks ago, it’s time to plaster the internet with grainy (and hopefully somewhat embarrassing) photos from Erin’s youth.

Why?

Well, exactly 29 years ago TODAY, sunny-smiled, freckle-faced, chipmunk-cheeked baby Erin graced the world with her presence.

Okay, she wasn’t quite THIS big when she pushed her way in, but you get the idea.

And she’s been wreaking havoc ever since.

Don’t let the innocent baby face fool you. She may have appeared timid at first…

Who, me?

But with 2 older brothers, it didn’t take her long to learn the merits of pure intimidation.

Rawr.

(And it’s clear she hasn’t changed much over the years.)

Compassionate and caring, she’s never been afraid to try walking in someone else’s shoes.

Ever the outdoor-enthusiast, she doesn’t let the elements get in her way.

It’s ALWAYS important to travel with the proper gear.

And her patriotic support of our nation began long before she married a military man.

What’s more patriotic than a tri-corner hat?

Her appreciation for fine cuisine stemmed from an early age as well…

This is why I had to padlock our fridge in Costa Rica.

Along with her insatiable passion for travel to unknown lands.

I will go where no baby has gone before.

You’d think that after 29 years on this planet, a person might change.   But looking at these photos from her childhood, it’s clear that Erin still is and always will be the compassionate, adventurous, wanderlust, food-loving girl she was when she first pushed her way into this world.

And while her brother Kevin knows she needs a little help forcing her way through a concert crowd from time to time, we all have to admit that she’s been doing a pretty damn good job of forging her own way through the world ever since.

Chasin’ Waterfalls

You’re in for a special treat today, kids, because this post was written by both Erin AND Katie.  They both loved this particular Costa Rican adventure SO much, that they couldn’t agree who would get to write the post.  So they opted for the third-person introduction, while the blue font that follows was written by Erin and the green font was written by Katie.  Look out, TLC!  We’re chasing some waterfalls, whether you like it or not.

Now that we’re done making forts with our luggage and have finally put them away, let us commence, as promised, with the juicy deets (the kids are still saying that, right?) of our last week in Costa Rica.

So, last Monday we spent five hours navigating an assortment of buses west to stay overnight in La Fortuna, a quaint town with clean streets, high-end restaurants, unique arts and crafts shops and jacked-up tourist prices tucked cozily in the looming shadow of Arenal Volcano.  La Fortuna’s cooler climate, lush tropical vegetation, and proximity to a large number of waterfalls, whitewater rapids and the aforementioned volcano have made it a well-established hotspot for tourists seeking tales of daring outdoor adventure to take home with them.

Which is precisely why we were there.  On the enthusiastic recommendation of Aaron and Becs, our friends, hosts, tour guides and all-around upstanding citizens (ok, they were our bosses, too, but that didn’t influence the description, promise), we’d come here determined to try our luck at waterfall rappelling.

Waterfall rappelling is exactly what it sounds like, and despite the astounding array of travel company reps pitching their packages (ahem, tour packages) to us along the sidewalk, apparently there are only two companies that offer this unique experience in La Fortuna.  But we’ll get to that in a minute.  Stick with me here, people.

So we arrived in La Fortuna in the early afternoon, checked into Gringo Pete’s, a clean, charming and ridonkulously cheap (hello, $4!) hostel recommended by a backpacking Canadian couple we met, and then proceeded to semi-stalk, on the bus ride there.  After dropping our bags off, we spent the rest of the day walking around and window-shopping before making our way to the Lava Lounge to talk with the restaurant’s California-bred owner, Scott, over a couple of industrial-strength piña coladas.  Aaron and Becs had met Scott a few years ago when they were in town for their first rappelling experience, and had asked us to stop by and drop off some hot sauce to him.

Fortunately for us, Scott happened to be good friends with Cynthia, the lovely owner of Pure Trek, one of the two companies that offered rappelling in the area.  So when we mentioned to Scott our plans to go rappelling the next morning with her slightly cheaper competitor,  he phoned Cynthia on the spot and she proceeded to make us a counter-offer we couldn’t refuse.  So Pure Trek it was!

[Editor’s Note: Yes, I admit that, at the time, it was all about the Benjamins.  However, having done my post-trip research since then, I now see that our reasons for choosing Pure Trek should have been:

(a) their commitment to safety.  Their slightly higher price tag covers the cost of regular equipment change-outs and safety upgrades; and

(b) the fact that their belaying technique provides customers a more authentic rappelling experience than the standard zipline style used by most other rappelling companies.

Thus, even though we ended up choosing wisely, it was for incredibly unwise financial reasons.  So don’t be stupid like us and try to scrimp on this once-in-a-lifetime experience, mmkay?]

Next morning arrived right on time, and the bus came to whisk us off on our adventure, which started with a 20-minute drive out of town and then a 15-minute putter up a steep and winding dirt road in an off-road Jeep.


The view from the dirt road.  I could live there.

This being the rainy off-season, our group was small and intimate, consisting of only three other American tourists and five Pure Trek employees.  Our guides were Ticos who spoke English very well and exuded an air of confidence and outdoor prowess befitting their Teva sandals; if they had no idea what they were doing, they at least put on a really good show otherwise.  And it didn’t hurt that every single one of them was cheek-pinchingly adorable.

At the top of the hill, we stopped at a small outpost station where we proceeded to trade in whatever remaining cool points we had for ginormous helmets and underwear made of seatbelts.


Safety first.  Fashion, an extremely distant second.

From there, we locked our valuables in the truck and descended down a rocky yet well-maintained trail into what felt like the beating heart of the jungle.  Even though it was only a five-minute walk, it truly felt like we were the first explorers ever to set foot there—everywhere you looked were palm leaves the size of Volkswagens and thick, tangled vines in a thousand variations of green competing ruthlessly for the sun.


In fact, we were in such awe of our primal surroundings that we almost forgot what why we were there in the first place.  And that little nugget of awareness came back to us just about the time we approached the edge of the 175-foot waterfall.

Gulp.

While the rest of the staff efficiently went about ensuring all the safety measures and belays were in place, our main guide briefed us on how to properly hold the ropes and position our feet so as to preserve our knees and faces in case we wanted to use them at a later date.

And then the time came for us to demonstrate our listening comprehension skills.


GULP.

Despite the abundance of safety ropes snugly attached to you, it’s still a somewhat terrifying feeling to take that first backward step off the edge of the platform and let yourself dangle in midair, contemplating the 175 feet of nothing standing between the bottoms of your sneakers and the ground.

But just as quickly as that fluttery-stomach feeling came, it went, and the experience was no longer awesomely terrifying but just awesome.  While that first waterfall was by far the tallest, each of the three subsequent ones we rappelled down presented different terrain challenges to keep you entertained, as well as new opportunities for our playful guides to keep themselves entertained by dunking us in frothing 60-degree water.  The little scamps.


What’s that?  You want me to hold you right in the middle of the fall while my friend takes pictures of you gulping down mouthfuls of riverwater like a large-mouth bass?


What’s that?  You want me to hold you right there while your face takes a tsunami-force shower?

By the end of the morning, our little group had pretty much gotten the hang of rappelling and needed the belayers below to keep us from smashing ourselves against the rock wall only a few times.

Soaking wet and a little tired (in a really, really good way) from navigating jungle canyons spider-man style, we thought our Pure Trek experience was over.  But our guides piled us into the vehicle and trucked us back down the mountain to the Pure Trek oasis.  It was really a resort-like compound, but I call it an oasis  with its cozy lodge, open-air restaurant, and the most beautiful restroom we’d seen in Costa Rica.

Erin and I were thrilled to take a nice, hot shower in the spa-like facility, complete with towels, shampoo, conditioner, and even body lotion.


Pure Trek Bathroom


Pure Trek Restroom

That’s it.  I’m moving in.

We felt invigorated and refreshed after our showers, but we also felt something else…  HUNGRY.

Apparently physical exercise does that to people.  Who knew?

We walked through the lush garden to the open-air dining area where Pure Trek’s chefs had an authentic Tico lunch waiting for us.



Pure Trek Dining

A hot plate of rice with chicken and black beans and a wonderful salad (sorry, no picture – did I mention we were hungry?) was brought to our table.  We were able to relax with a glass of fresh pineapple juice and watch a slideshow of the professional photos taken of our rappelling adventure on a monitor in the corner.

After our completely satisfying lunch, we were escorted back through the garden to the main lodge, where hot Costa Rican coffee awaited us.


The space was incredibly inviting and relaxing.  We were waiting for our transportation back to our hostel in town (provided by Pure Trek), but it hardly felt like waiting – we didn’t want to leave!



This experience truly was one of the most outstanding highlights of our trip.  Thanks to Aaron and Becs for telling us about it, Scott at Lava Lounge for setting us straight on where we should go, and Cynthia and the guides from Pure Trek for showing us a completely amazing time.


It’s gonna be hard to top this one…

Costa Rica Critter #4

As Erin mentioned yesterday, today’s critter is just a little preview of a story to come later in the week…

But we have a LOT of pictures of them, so I figured we’d use a few more here…

So get ready to get up-close and personal with MONKEYS!

Wal-Mart Should Make the Fourth Trip Free

As you know by now, Katie and I are now back home, safe and sound and at least as sane as before we left on our whirlwind tour of Costa Rica.

I know I’ve been slack on the posting lately but that’s because the last two days have been a blur of laundry and phone calls and sleeping and hourly trips to Wally World because I no longer have even the vaguest idea what this household consumes on a regular basis.  And the few days before that –the last ones we spent in Costa Rica – were a whole different kind of frenzy.

In fact, everything last week happened so fast that we didn’t even get to say goodbye to a good chunk of the people we’ve come to know and love in Bagaces.  Which is just as well because I’m incredibly bad at farewells, so all they missed out on is me muttering something unintelligible, smothering them in an awkward bearhug and then punching them in the arm before sprinting away.

Nevertheless, to those who we didn’t get to say goodbye to, please give yourselves a big, sloppy hug for us and know that we fully expect—nay, demand—to be on your Christmas card list for the rest of eternity.

Anyway, we’ve still got a few saucy tales from Costa Rica up our sleeves—specifically, about what we did in the days just before we left—but we’re also in the midst of relearning how normal life works so even though I know the suspense is absolutely destroying your will to live, you’ll just have to hold your horses until we can piece this big ol’ mess together.

Just know that upcoming posts involve daring animal encounters, escaped inmates, exotic beaches, death-defying stunts in the jungle wilderness and… wait for it… freakin’ adorable monkeys.

I dare you to try telling this face that you’re not going to read about it.

And just to maintain a satisfactory level of chaos, I’ve got a nasty cold right now (because my immune system likes to kick me in the proverbial cojones at every inopportune time it can) so let me rest my bones for a spell and I’ll try to crank out a decent (or at least substantially less lame) post by tomorrow.

Which should be about the time I’m done unpacking my toiletries bag.

Seacrest, out.

Mi Taco Es Su Taco

*Please forgive the unforgivably dark/blurry photos in this post and any of my posts hereafter.  By this point in the trip I had busted my favorite low-light camera lens (something I’m not yet ready to talk about) and I was making do with what I had.

On one of our last days in Costa Rica, our friend Becs showed us one hell of a time.  There was a crazy monkey chase (more to come, I promise), pool-crashing at the beach (more to come, I promise), and the most wonderfully orgasmic tacos I’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring.

That’s what I’m going to tell you about now (in case the title of this post led you to think otherwise – again, get your minds out of the gutter).

I can tell you from experience that after a long morning of horsing around with monkeys and a long afternoon of frolicking in both the Pacific ocean and a guest-only hotel pool (a hotel of which we were definitely not guests), there is nothing – I repeat nothing – more satisfying than a tall glass of Costa Rican beer and the best tacos I’ve ever had in my life.

At first I thought Becs was mistaken when she pulled off the main road onto a rocky dirt driveway overgrown with weeds and shrubbery.  Surely the nondescript, unlit home in front of us was not a restaurant.  Was it?

But as we approached, I saw the understated sign next to the front door:

Tacos.

‘Nuff said, apparently.

Tacos in Liberia, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

I’d be lying if the place didn’t make me conjure up thoughts of some crazy old guy in the back butchering up human flesh to serve with tortillas and Lizano al a Sweeny Todd.  (My first “real” date took me to see that play, by the way.  Remind me to tell you about that gem some other time.)

Hey, I have an active imagination.

But the inside was cozy, and I settled down when the owner brought me my cerveza and I saw that at least, if he was going to butcher us and serve us to the other customers (of which there were exactly none), he was at least willing to let us have a drink first.

Imperial with Ice

Yes, that’s a chunk of ice in the glass.  It took us 2 months to get used to it, but non-touristy bars/restaurants in Costa Rica serve their beers with a glass of ice.  It’s actually pretty nice when it’s hot and humid out and the beer bottle isn’t exactly cold.

In a corner of the room there was a large chalk board with the menu (and surprisingly steep prices), along with a gas, flat-topped griddle and a wire shelf hanging from the ceiling.

The first thing we ordered was queso con chorizo, which is exactly what it sounds like – a bowl of delicious melted cheese with bits of chopped up chorizo.  The restaurant’s owner (sorry, forgot his name!), who is originally from Mexico, took several chunks of wonderful white cheese and melted it in an iron bowl over a charcoal grill.

Melting queso on a charcoal grill

We waited as patiently as 3 hungry women who’d been at the beach all afternoon could possibly wait.

Then he threw in the chorizo that he’d cooked on the flat-top, and the result was a greasy, gooey, stringy bowl of deliciousness that really can’t be properly described with words.  We spooned it over grill-warmed tortillas and then we died.

Queso con chorizo

Ask me if I care that this likely turned my arteries into sluggish, gummed-up muck.  ‘Cause I don’t.

Meanwhile, the Taco Guru was working his magic back on the flat-top.  While he’d been making our queso appetizer, he’d put all of the ingredients for our tacos on the hanging wire shelf.  We’d ordered one plate with beef, onions and cheese, and another plate with chorizo, cheese and grilled pineapple.  (Turns out we really didn’t need 2 plates – each plate comes a huge stack of tortillas, and one plate would’ve been more than enough for the 3 of us.)

After the meat was cooked, he piled everything on the plates and brought them to the table.

Beef, onion and cheese tacos

Beef, onions and cheese.

Chorizo, cheese and pineapple tacos

Chorizo, cheese and pineapple.

All I can say is these tacos were ah-maz-ing.

Best Tacos Ever

He served them with shredded cabbage, homemade guacamole and a spicy salsa.

We ate them and died again.

The end.

Erin, Taco Guy, and Katie

Thanks for the laughs, the cries and the jiggly thighs, Taco Guy.  We’ll remember you fondly.

Out-of-the-Box Shock

I’ve been home (in my house) for approximately 2 hours.  I’ve been home (in the U.S.) for approximately 13 hours.  And I think it’s safe to say that while I’m quickly becoming readjusted (I experienced a minor bout of panic when I went to get a glass of water and couldn’t remember in which cabinet the glasses were actually located), I’ve definitely been experiencing a bit of culture shock.

But I’m hesitant to call it culture shock because it has become undeniably apparent to me that roadside America really lacks… culture.  If you define culture as “the characteristic features of everyday existence shared by people in a place or time,” it really is more difficult to pinpoint distinguishing characteristics than the lack of distinguishing characteristics.  We like chain hotels.  We like chain restaurants.  We like chain stores.  So is that our culture?

For example, Justin and I stayed in a roadside motel last night since my flight came in at 9:00 p.m. and we still had a 6-7 hour drive to get home.  I couldn’t tell you which motel we stayed in because really, they’re all the same.

We hit the road this morning and I may have passed out periodically from jet lag, Motel Bed Syndrome (MBS – it’s no laughing matter), and a general unwillingness to accept the fact that  I have to start facing responsibilities once again, and I was confused every time I awoke because it never seemed like we’d gotten anywhere. Same stores, same restaurants, same people.

Toto, I don’t think we’re in… wait, what town are we in again??

So the term culture shock just doesn’t seem to cut it.  It was the lack of culture that shocked me.  Maybe I should call it redundancy shock.  No, doesn’t have the same ring.  Commercialism shock?  That could really apply in many countries.  How about out-of-the-box shock?  You know, because nearly every roadside town looks like it was put together from the same ready-to-assemble boxed set.

If I need to buy a new leather belt in one of these towns, I know I can likely find a Kohl’s, Target, or JC Penny that will carry something in my price-range that will fit my needs.  Everyone can.  And everyone will have very similar belts.  In a place like Bagaces, it would’ve been a much bigger hassle to get a new belt.  I would’ve had to inquire if there was a “belt guy” somewhere in town, describe to him what I needed, and wait for him to make it.  But no one would’ve had the same belt.  It would’ve been MY belt.


Street in Bagaces.

Does that really matter?  Probably not.  But it’s interesting, nonetheless.

In all fairness, I’ve been around this country enough to know that its different metropolitan areas have unique and interesting qualities (architecture, food, dialect, etc.) that set them apart from each other, but you have to admit – if you take away any regional vegetation or notable terrain, you could spin yourself around like a top and topple over into nearly any part of rural or suburban America and seriously have no freakin’ clue where you landed.

But at least you’ll be able to buy yourself a thin burger patty and an iced latte.

Oh, and apparently it’s autumn now.  When did that happen??

 

Overcome.

We’re back in our comfortable apartment – the place we’ve called home for the past 2 months – for the last time.  Costa Rica showed us a proper goodbye, complete with a 2-mile, dirt road walk at dusk in the pouring rain to our favorite open-air bar/restaurant, Kattia’s.

We met some of our closest friends here for dinner and a few last cervezas.  We spent the last of our money. I spent the last of my smiles.  At least for a little while.

There are so many people to whom we didn’t say goodbye.  And the truth is, most of them won’t miss us much at all.  They’re used to seeing people come and go.

But me?

I’m overcome.  I saved my tears for now, while Erin’s in the shower and I should be finishing up my packing.  I’m never on-time, anyway.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I get home.  Figure it out, I guess.  Plan the next trip.

We have many more stories to share from our trip here – from our waterfall rappelling adventure to the best tacos in the entire frickin’ world, it’s coming soon.  But now I need to try to chase my sleep, even though I know the race is fixed.  It’s an early morning tomorrow and a long day of travel.

My body’s beat, and my emotions are raw.  I’ve never experienced the two spectrums of happiness and sadness at such simultaneous extremes, and it scares me a little.

We’ll see what happens, no?  Thanks for sticking around.

We’ll miss you, Bagaces – and the rest of you.  You know who you are.