Story by Jerre Repass
Photos by Jack Repass
Visiting another country can be a most satisfying cultural experience or just another week in a hotel. Staying in people’s homes, talking to the natives, shopping in the markets: That’s what makes a trip as far as we’re concerned.
Seeing our family in Costa Rica was made all the more pleasant because they had become friends with the local people, and we were part of the neighborhood scene for a couple of weeks.
Costa Rica is a country given to the love of plant life both indoors and outdoors. Even though most of the homes have walls and locked gates, there seems always to be grillwork allowing anyone walking along the sidewalk to enjoy a view of the gardens within. Even families of modest means feel they can afford a gardener, and the individual yards look like model homes.
Most homes we visited (except those really high on the hills) have neither heaters nor air conditioners. But the houses are built to maximize all the ventilation. Louvered windows are opened and closed during the day for creature comfort. Some homes have “rain walls,” a solarium of sorts with the top open to the sky so that frequent rain waters the plants imbedded in the walls. A tile drain carries the water away, but what a lovely sound it makes as it feeds the thirsty vegetation! Even laundry rooms are open at the top to allow the moisture to escape and aid in drying clothes, many of which are hung on clotheslines inside.
Going to the open market on Saturday morning is a weekly ritual for the local people
On the weekend we stopped by La Feria, an outside market where local people stock up on all manner of vegetables and fruits for the week. People bring huge boxes and can fill two or three of them for around $10. Serious shoppers arrive around 6 a.m. to beat the crowds as they browse the produce, handmade jewelry, honey, and herbs.
What’s very cheap by US standards? Insurance, utilities, and of course, coffee. The government has a lot more control over what’s sold and sets the prices in many cases. No need to shop around for gasoline, it is all the same price no matter where one buys. There are government owned banks as well as private banks, and waiting in line for service is a given.
Pharmacies sell pills and bandages singly or in a four-pack if you want to purchase them that way. When the aluminum foil runs out, ladies keep the box and just buy a refill. Finding any location is a little tricky with a lack of street signs and numbers. Even business cards give addresses as near a recognized landmark.
Wherever we traveled, there were places to pull over and take a little walk amongst the ferns or stop to see the hummingbirds searching for a little something sweet.
How much better than hiding out downtown in a hotel!