Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fiestas and fun in the sun

My first few weeks back in CR were slow as far as my work schedule goes; however, the past few weeks have been busier than usual. I'm enjoying the change in pace, although at times I feel like my time here is running short. On the other hand, sometimes I feel like I'll be ready to move on in May.

Anyway, I've traveled every weekend since coming back to San Jose, mostly to various beaches. However, around the middle of January I went to Palmares for the famous fiestas that take place every year. Lucky for me, I have a friend who lives there so I was able to stay at his place. Palmares is normally a quiet little town outside of San Jose, but for two weeks in January it is converted into the biggest party of Costa Rica.

At first glance, it reminded me of what a county fair might look like in Kansas. There were various rides and "carnival type" foods to sample. The crowds were full of families young and old. The main difference however was the absurd amount of alcohol readily available and the various people passed out on sidewalks, park benches or wherever they fell. As you can imagine, after nine o'clock the once family-friendly environment began to look a little different. The various bars that had been constructed solely for this occasion were full of thousands of people. My friends and I went to "La Barra Imperial" which was the biggest (3 stories) and most popular. Despite the fact that getting a beer or seeing the stage were both challenging tasks, we had a great time.

The next day I had the opportunity to see the Tico version of a "corrida de los toros". Basically, there are a few professionals but anyone can enter the ring to run around and taunt the bull. The only incident worth mentioning is when a drunken gringo got a little too confident and got attacked. After it was clear that he wasn't going to get up on his own, a group of Ticos (with no concern for spinal injuries) rushed over and picked him up to carry him to the red cross station. Luckily, he was fine and was even brave enough to enter the ring for a second time. I'm sure he was feeling great the next day.

Besides the fiestas in Palmares and a few other random weekends full of surfing, this past weekend I checked out a new spot called Playa Guiones in Guanacaste. It's a little harder to get to, making it off the beaten path. I knew of one hostel there; however, I wasn't able to make a reservation (because they don't have a phone). Andrew, Antje and I decided to just go and hope for the best.

We arrived at the hostel around noon on Saturday and were quickly told that it was full, which wasn't surprising due to the fact that there was a surf competition (that we didn't know about before arriving). Wondering what to do next, we started to walk away and were stopped by a woman who demanded to know where we were going. We explained that the hostel was full; she quickly responded that she would "make room" for us and then turned to the others and said: "Would I ever turn any of you away? Come on!" Regardless, there were no beds, just a couple hammocks and couches in the communal living area. We gladly accepted this offer.

I really enjoyed seeing a new part of Guanacaste, especially during dry season. Everything looks very different and I couldn't get over the large number of butterflies. We spent a lot of time watching the surf competition on Saturday and I even got in some of my own surf time on Sunday. Considering that and the consumption of two bottles of Flor de CaƱa, I was exhausted upon returning to the city Monday.

I'm hoping to catch up on rest tonight, so I'm ready for the Costa Rica vs. Honduras soccer game tomorrow night.