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Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Brian & Deya met in Vancouver Canada. After a few years together we were married and made choices. One was not to have children the other was not to take life for granted. The rest is yet to come.

June 01, 2011

La Finca – The Farm

We got to our friends farm and settled in.  It continued to rain for days as we hung our clothing in the tree house and helplessly watched as nothing really dried for about three days.  After that though, under the threat of non ending rain, it became too hot and dry due to some unexpected weather pattern.  It’s hard to decide sometimes which the preference is, too hot or too wet, but at least our clothes were now dry.  We would spend several more days hanging out before doing much.  The farm had a cat, rats and a dog that seemed to show up and hang out.  The number and variety of birds around the farm is staggering and the jungle noises vast and constant all through the night.

The neighbourhood is pretty simple here and the people are very nice.  One of the neighbours that helped us the first night would come over and drop off fruit, fresh mangos, pineapples and bananas. Costa Rica has some really good fruit particularly the pineapples which are mostly exported to many lucky countries. One day the neighbour came over and asked if we wanted to meet her English teachers, the young couple that had identified us as Canadians and helped us to locate our friends’ farm.  We agreed and went to the local school where they were giving an evening class for adults.

This was awesome because we met Kevin and Megon, a young married couple who are both teachers and Peace Corps volunteers; we would end up spending as much time with them as their busy schedule allowed.  We had awesome dinners and shared good stories, bike rides and walks.  It was a real treat to find these folks making our stay at the farm very enjoyable.  Their experience and cultural training in Costa Rica was extensive and it helped us to understand the people and country a little better.  The food in Costa Rica is pretty limited, culturally speaking Ticos (Costa Ricans name for themselves) don’t like much variety and are pretty sure they have about the best you can get so aren’t too interested in what you know or think, generally speaking of course.
Tom & Jerry?

But up front that’s not the case, Ticos are very polite and like to present well, their country’s slogan is Pura Vida or Pure Life and they are often very accommodating.  Unfortunately it is a matter of telling you one thing that is very agreeable and doing another which is not.  The saying about the Costa Rican culture is, “Little by little, here and there and half way” which makes things difficult if you need something done.  Certainly though these are just observations and our attempt at learning about the culture, the fact is Costa Rica is a pearl of a country packed in between a bunch of oyster guts.  It’s safe, still affordable and has plenty of beautiful places to visit and explore. 

The Cat at the farm was skinny and lame when we got here, people don’t like to feed the animals or take care of them much, it seemed this way since we hit Mexico.  We started to feed the cat and she fattened up pretty quick, slept like the dead and never missed a morsel.  After about a week we discovered rats and mice.  She got a stern warning about her role and within the next week the rats and mice were dead or had vacated the area.  This little killer knew how to get the job done!  I think she just needed to get on her feet again, a little bit of energy and a family to contribute too, made the difference.
Gas transport specialist
We would make regular visits to the local market; one of the least enjoyable things in this trip and in general is having to answer the question of how much the bikes cost.  Each time we would go to town we would get the same kind of thing.  In fact, we noticed a dramatic change since we exited the United States, people were generally no longer interested in who we were or what kind of adventure we were on, simply they just wanted to know how much the bikes were worth.  I can’t say that I understand why this seems so important down here, I speculate and like to assume it’s simply for them to relate what they are seeing to the life they live but reasonably this is impossible.  The people that ask the most are the ones that are least likely to ever buy vehicles like ours, since those that could never ask.  So what then is their intent, if not to validate their assumption that we are rich spoiled gringos who get everything handed to them since we don’t know how to work or do anything for ourselves?

We met a very nice couple who briefly spoke to us about our journey, a typical statement came from the gentlemen, “I wish I could take a one year vacation”.  Innocently he said what many others have said before or at least thought.  The response by now comes from Deya and my lips almost instantly, “It’s not a vacation!”  We’ve been on vacations, vacations are something you do to relax and enjoy, you spend more money than you would during a typical week, you see and do things under limited time and excess of money that can often be found in a brochure.  You don’t have to give up stable jobs, your home, the comfort of friends and family, stability, the assurance of returning to something familiar and the protection and control of a regular tourist.  People don’t sell all they own, say goodbye to the people they care about, leave jobs they might even enjoy and go to Disneyland.  This is regularly difficult; the money is finite and must be cautiously distributed. Though we end up in some tourist destinations we are not tourist, travelers yes, but tourists no.  We do a budget review every 15 days, make tactical decisions on whether we go left or right, typically don’t know where or if we’ll find a place to sleep each night and make risk assessments on an almost daily basis.  No, this is not a vacation.  This is living :-) 
Some of our activities while at the farm were hanging out, swimming, biking, cooking with friends and doing a little research.  We tried to get into Dole, the fruit company you’ve all heard of, but they gave us the happy face, sad email routine.  This is not new and quite understandable, for me it says things about the company or department regarding their operational effectiveness.  Oddly, it is possible to make assumptions of what you don’t see and this kind of response is typical when a company or authorized person puts up a good show but has enough chaos and disorder that they are just not comfortable letting someone see it, they will look bad.  Sometimes it’s because they are swamped, again lack of control, it’s okay to have high levels of demand, that’s why we are in business, but not a good excuse when you are talking to professionals.  The other reasons for this kind of brush off is often because a company thinks they have created the wheel, that they are the only ones who have figured out how to make money and think everybody is out to steal their tribal knowledge.  I just laugh, this too is okay and common, which companies in this situation don’t really understand. 
The tree house
A company we did interview is a huge employer for this area and exports all their products to Europe adding wealth directly to the country.  Privately owned and family run the company produces plants for decoration.  They were extremely busy when we visited yet had no problem showing us their operation despite the elevated effort levels.  This indicates, unlike the above example, a company that can easily improve and access knowledge and technical improvements.
Assembly line

After a couple of weeks we decided to head back towards La Fortuna near Lake Arenal.  On our way in weeks earlier we drove the northern route around the lake and it was fantastic; at that time we passed a shop called, “Tom’s Pan German Bakery”.  We had gone by trying to get to our destination but the bakery kept calling to our taste buds.  The decision was made to go find it and have something German.  Our intention was to spend a few days around the Volcano and check out the bakery at the same time.

Arenal, it smokes but no lava for 8 months now

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