FYI, breakfast today included Gallo Pinto.

This was our first working day, made more challenging for some of our team members by coffee depravation. Part of our work here is to visit local sites and tourist activities, then advise the owners on how the experience can be improved for a typical American tourist. Many of these organizations are small startups led by women, who have very limited opportunities here compared to men.

Our morning jaunt took us to an archeological site (Guayabo), where we visited the remains of an ancient village which was once home to several thousand people. Just like in America, the size of your house conveyed your importance in the community, so to reach the big dog’s house, visitors had to walk down a long approach and climb a steep set of stairs, all while gazing upward at his dwelling.

guyabo

From there we headed to one of the businesses we are consulting for, what we would know as a Bed and Breakfast. A typical arrangement here is for a family to offer one or more guest rooms (sometimes added on to the main house) and to provide one or more meals each day. The house we visited was beautifully maintained and very welcoming, and the lunch we ate was delicious (as was the coffee). It was a major step up from some of the room rentals Laura and I had in Asia, which featured thatch walls and pillows stuffed with sawdust. Lunch on the patio was outstanding in a climate where outdoor dining is a 12-month a year activity.

Our afternoon experience was provided by a woman who grows and sells herbs and medicinal plants. We learned how the plants are cultivated, dried, and prepared, as well as which plants are best for which conditions. It’s a full-service shop, as her husband’s business card describes him as a chiropractor, pastor, and evangelist, so whatever is ailing you, they can treat it! Many of the plants were said to be effective in treating either digestive or blood issues, but I was most impressed with the ones that could apparently repair broken bones. (NOTE: The FDA has not evaluated these claims, so I’m just reporting what we heard.)  We also saw plants that are so toxic their juice will remove warts or scar skin. We enjoyed delicious lemongrass tea, or something similar, which is undoubtedly good for digestive and blood issues and perhaps broken bones.meds

SMART TRAVELER TIP: If you return to the United States from Central America with medicinal herbs (i.e. a small plastic bag full of dried green plant material), you should have an explanation ready when the customs officer holds up the bag and says, “What have we here????”

Our last stop of the day was unexpectedly therapeutic. We visited a pottery studio where a very patient, incredibly joyful woman helped us all turn flat sheets of clay into tiny animals, wall-hangings, and in my case, a mushroom (see the photo up top for one of my fellow artisans). I have thought for a long time I would enjoy taking a pottery class, but now I am sure. Feeling the clay in your hands and turning it into something is very soothing. Or in my case, turning it into nothing is very soothing. Or into something besides what you initially planned for it to be…you get the idea. If you haven’t played with clay or Play-Doh lately, it’s good for your soul. But it’s not good for your stomach, so if you have a history of eating Play-Doh, consider finding another way to relax.
doh

 

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Our first working day was very productive: four stops and four very different experiences.

 

FUN FACT: Costa Rica is home to a lizard known informally as The Jesus lizard. Here is why:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CW0TijmAUqY