There is quite a bit of solid research demonstrating that experiencing ‘awe’ makes us feel better, and since we walk around so much here, and since it is Costa Rica, there has been plenty to inspire awe.

Both last year and this, I felt enormous awe from being around something tiny: butterflies. Our first stop today (after a breakfast featuring gallo pinto, which did not inspire awe, but was still tasty) was at a butterfly farm. Technically it’s a butterfly ranch, but let’s not quibble. There is a growing market for butterflies (for use in butterfly gardens and at special events like weddings), and this company is trying to expand to meet the demand.

We learned how the butterflies lay eggs, how the cocoons are harvested and packed, and how butterfly shipping is a massive logistical challenge: neither FedEx nor UPS are licensed to ship live animals, and the chrysalises must be shipped and delivered on schedule so they don’t hatch while still in transit. But demand is reliable, since butterflies are short-lived and must be replaced regularly.

The most awe-inspiring part was wandering around inside the butterfly house, where various breeds and colors fluttered around, landing from time to time on people and phones. Both times I have visited, I have been amazed at how, well, amazing it is. I could have stayed there longer but we had other places to visit. If you ever get a chance to visit a place like this, I highly recommend it. I know the butterflies look like they are Photoshopped in, but they aren’t.

 

And one final, practical demonstration of what a “butterfly kiss” really is:

 

Lunch was delicious, served in an open-air school gym, and featured beans and….yeah. After lunch we headed to another experiential tourism site to bake bread and empanadas, which we followed up by eating bread and empanadas, leaving us all comfortably full and a bit sleepy.

bread 1bread 2

We then returned to the school for a cultural presentation, followed by games with the kids. There is allegedly video of me pretending to be a bull in one of the cultural presentations, but this is a complete fabrication (fake news, alternative facts, etc.). The tall man wearing the Gilligan hat and the blue bandanna is in no way me. No I will not help you find the alleged video, since it does not exist.

One of today’s highlights for me was meeting Victor. While the rest of the group wasvic learning about local history (I heard the presentation last year) I was working on this blog. Victor, a 13 year-old, came over and sat down next to me and began to chat. I know English and a little Spanish, and he knows Spanish and a little English; joined by an 8 year-old girl (who showed us a picture of her with Laura during last year’s visit), we all stumbled along “communicating.” A friend told me a few weeks back that the best way to practice Spanish is to talk to kids, since they are very patient and don’t get tired of you as quickly as adults do. I had a great time, and I assume I didn’t accidentally say anything offensive or creepy, because he came back to talk again later.

Like most good Church of Christ kids, I never learned to dance. So it was with some trepidation that I learned we would wrap up the day with salsa dancing lessons. Although I am generally fine with learning new things, I was not overly enthused about this plan. But I steeled myself to be a good sport and expand my skill set, partly because it seemed pretty obvious that we were not going to eat dinner until the lessons were accomplished.

In dancing, as in life, I am blessed with a wonderful partner. Part of what I appreciate about her is her candor; she is very comfortable telling me what she thinks. Unfortunately this sort of assistance was not entirely helpful in my learning endeavors. While the instructor gave me several affirming nods, Laura seemed less impressed with my moves. Tony Manero (Saturday Night Fever) I was not. tony-maneroThe most noteworthy feedback I got was her observation that when I stepped forward I should use my whole body, not just my leg, which she explained in this way: “You’re not doing lunges.”  I’m not ever taking her dancing again!

After a delicious dinner and a cultural show featuring dancers who yelped as they danced (seriously) the morning and the evening were the fourth day. It was a long day, but a good day.

IMPORTANT TRAVEL TIP: Most countries require a valid passport to come in, but many require a passport with at least six months left on it. They do this so you won’t come in, then not have the documents you need to leave. On our last trip to Costa Rica a student had travel documents with less than six months left; she was stopped at immigration, forced to sleep in the airport, then flew home the next day, missing the trip entirely.

Worst. Trip. Ever.