A Week in Paradise

We have one week in the books. And okay, nothing is paradise, but sometimes you get damn close enough to small it. I’d like to say that we’ve developed a rhythm to life here, but that’s not yet the case. Most days are filled with trying to get things we need and determining where that would be, looking for things we unpacked, and then sitting around trying to determine what comes next. Each meal is a bit of a challenge. We don’t have the same things available to us as in the States. We don’t have a microwave (yea!) or all the proper kitchen accoutrements yet. And with Jean being gluten free and vegan for better digestion, a good portion of each day is spent determining what foods we need to find. The day will come soon enough when we are back to having a schedule filled with people, events, and obligations. But we’re in no hurry.

We are also in no hurry to do all the tourist things—canopy zip lines and bridges, night tours, bat sanctuary, coffee and chocolate tours, volcanoes, hot springs, sloth reserves, etc. We’d just like to set up our lives here first. We’ll give that stuff a few weeks. We do have an appointment in San Jose on Saturday to have fingerprints done for our residency application. So yeah for road trips.

Our new friend Esteban took us into the Curi-Cancha Reserve just up the street for some birding. He is a phenomenal birder who did a “Big Year” in 2016. That’s where birders take an entire year to document as many species as they possibly can. Esteban did well over 700 species that year, all right here in Costa Rica. We had just entered the reserve and were talking when he suddenly touched my arm. “Do you hear that?” he asked excitedly. “Do you hear that sound? That’s a quetzal.” He wandered about thirty feet up the path and placed a small speaker on the ground that played a quetzal call. Then he squinted up into the canopy. “There it is!” I looked and saw nothing but about a million branches.

He quickly set up his telescope and had the bird centered in about ten seconds. Using a laser pointer, he guided our eyes near to the branch where the bird was perched. The resplendent quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala and was a symbol of divinity to both the Mayans and Aztecs. It’s not hard to see why. Its feathers are iridescent like a hummingbird’s, turning green or blue depending on how the light hits it. It’s tail feathers are long. It’s breast is a bright red. Mayans maintained that it dipped its chest into the fatal wound of one of their great dying heroes. Though their numbers have been threatened in recent decades, they have made a comeback in the cloud forests of Costa Rica.

Later, we saw a three-wattled bell bird. It is not as rare but still not that common. You can often hear its call, however, as it is one of the loudest birds in the world. It can best be described as a “bonk” or perhaps a smoke detector with a failing battery. (check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gnu8QbpImWw) Once again, Esteban followed the call and spied it high in the trees.

We also came across both Capuchin and spider monkeys. Some from very close quarters.

Grumpy monkey

The ficus trees here are AMAZING. The ficus (or fig) vines begin by growing around an existing tree of another species. Eventually, and after many decades, the tree within suffocates, dies, and rots. Give it a century or so and the tree inside is completely gone, leaving nothing but a hollow passageway within the ficus itself. Often, you adventurous souls can climb up the tree from within.

Jean and Esteban

Nature continues to be the one thing we must have in our lives every day. And all we have to do is wander out our door. When we began looking at retirement destinations, one of the things that initially turned me off the Costa Rica was its lack of a culture. That may sound hash, but you’ve likely never seen a Costa Rican restaurant or heard Costa Rican music or marveled at Costa Rican architecture and art. Things are a mish-mash of cultures here. They have delicious local dishes, but no national cuisine. Their culture here really comes down to two things: the amazing and completely unique biodiversity and the warmth, general happiness, and Pura Vida vibe of the people. Everything else can be imported.

So, we may not have all the gadgets and tasty treats we were once used to having; Amazon no longer delivers to our doorstep; but we have a bountiful array of people, plants, and animals that we plan to explore for a long time to come.

Pura vida.

Published by Tom Cox

Tom & Jean, a couple of contemplative ex-pats from Pittsburgh, shed all their earthly belongings and move to Costa Rica. What could possibly go wrong?

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