الخميس، 28 فبراير 2013

A visit from peter

Just after my friends from college left, my younger brother Peter arrived in Costa Rica. Minus a road trip with the family through Canada when we were quite young, it was his first time traveling abroad. Moreover, having gone to college in Iowa and worked in Illinois and Minnesota, it was his first time outside the midwest in a while. I was super excited to have him visit and travel around with him. I did lots of planning before he came, as he was taking precious vacation days to come visit (not lots of those in your first year working for a big corporation) and he had said he wanted the trip to be safe and comfortable. Sadly, traveling around Costa Rica is often the opposite of those two things-but I did my best to make arrangements so that it'd be close. Between my sister and I, he packed exceptionally well for the trip-so that was good. What wasn't good was the mechanical failure on his second flight made him miss his flight to Costa Rica-and thus delayed his arrival by six hours-which threw the first day of the trip for a loop. But, we got the car rented nonetheless, and I made a quick reservation at the hostel I had stayed at the night before when seeing Dave and Greg off.

(Rio Celeste)

 In the end, we had a great trip, with only a few hiccoughs-all my fault. We went ziplining around the base of Arenal Volcano with EcoGlide-which was awesome. I had not gone during my entire time in Costa Rica-somewhat of a rarity, and didn't know what all the fuss was about. But after going, it was well worth it-we had a great time, caught some amazing views, and it gave Peter a great way to see a totally different natural environment than he'd ever seen before. We relaxed by the pool, him soaking up the sun and delightful weather-a nice respite from a Minnesota winter. We took an awesome day trip to Rio Celeste, hiked in, had a basic picnic, hiked back-for some reason the guard didn't charge us for entry (bonus!). We went on a wonderfully informative and delightful coffee tour at Mi Cafecito in San Miguel de Sarapiquí, and were treated to a fantastically delicious and plentiful lunch at its conclusion. We stopped briefly in my first site, he was able to meet my old host brother and sister, see where I lived, and get a brief glimpse of the town. 
(our lunch at the Mi Cafecito coffee tour)
He was the star of my going away party-matching my host dad shot for shot and doing his best to speak Spanish with the members of my extended host family. It was really special to have him meet the people I'd been spending my life with for the past year-and by visiting Liverpool, see both the places I had lived during my service. After my site was when some of the hiccoughs started to happen-having never driven in Costa Rica, I was not the best at giving directions-especially when it came to places to park in Limón-the city near my second site. I always just got off the bus-never paying attention to the one-way streets, no parking areas, areas with paid parking, etc. But everything worked out, and even though I didn't pay close attention and made us drive in a 45 minute loop along the Caribbean Coast (a really stupid mistake-one of only two that can even be made on the entire road), we arrived at Playa Negra Guesta House in Cahuita-which was a gorgeous and delightful place to stay. 
(Petey and I with my host mom, and host dad)
During this trip challenge I had foreseen was very present for me. Having been in Costa Rica for over two years, many of its quirks and differences from the US had become normal to me. Although I have never experienced much "reverse culture shock" upon coming back to the US from any of my stints living abroad, I do understand the concept of having a new normal. While the US will always be my reference point and the norm, two years was a long period of time. So, in many ways-especially daily occurrences-Costa Rican customs and ways were the norm-yet for a visitor they are shocking. It's always a challenge to keep this in mind when someone visits-that their reactions are genuine and normal-I had them too-just two years previous. Being Petey's first time traveling abroad, I tried to stay especially aware of this-but it was difficult. I've been fortunate to have traveled a lot and in diverse places, so many things that I would breeze by were troublesome or awe striking or interesting to him. 
(learning about coffee)
In Cahuita we visited the park and hiked all the way out to the point of the peninsula and then some. We got some great, close views of a few howler monkeys. One more thing-for me not that special, but for Petey-just five days off a flight from Minnesota-a pretty spectacular site to see in the wild-just 10 feet up in a tree. We had some solid Caribbean food and visited a small house run by an indigenous family where a young woman showed us the entire chocolate making process. We both bought some samples-everything in the chocolate was grown on that property. We had a blast watching a storm of shooting stars that night poolside, enjoying some brews and making jokes. At times we could barely contain our laughter and not disturb the other patrons also watching the shooting starts. After the drive back to San José, a stop at the office to pack up coffee and buy some gifts-I dropped Petey off at his hostel (I was staying with some friends in the center of town) as he had a 6 am flight home the next day. Of course, after having assured him pre-trip that almost all the flights I've ever been on have been on time without problems-he was on Frontier Airlines first flight out of Costa Rica-and all sorts of clerical delays and disorganization made the flight two hours late. Luckily he had a long layover and he got home fine. I guess that's how it always works out-when you promise your brother that it'll be fine-it isn't. 
Although there were some logistical bumps and we were hustling and bustling for much of the trip, I'm so glad Petey spent the money and time to come visit me. He wrote me this a few days later: "It was a great opportunity for me to see how other people live in developing countries, as well as remind me of the bubble I live in. Looking back now it was very good for me to get out of my comfort zone/midwest bubble." That's what a real vacation should be: relaxing and eye-opening. 

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