Baudelaire is not as good as a bowl of crickets.

Whereas you might think the title is a personal philosophy, it is, in fact, a direct translation from one of my Chinese students. Every time I receive a new student, I look for a comment regarding his or her needs. Usually, it says “want correction” or “need grammar”. This particular student’s comment was in Chinese, so I went to my handy google translator. And what popped up but “Baudelaire is not as good as a bowl of crickets.” As a former literature major, I can claim much knowledge about Baudelaire and other French authors; I have never, however, had cause to compare him to a bowl of crickets or any other type of insect. Maybe Baudelaire is the name of an exotic Chinese dish which didn’t live up to my student’s expectations…. One wonders.

Last week, I had the pleasure of a visit from my Florida family (brother and his wife), who came to Costa Rica for six days. We had a great time together, and I got to show them a couple of my favorite locations. We went into downtown San Jose for a tour of the majestic and historic National Theatre and the more modern Gold Museum, which had treasures from the pre-Columbian period (before Columbus and the other Europeans) and some other great exhibits. The travel highlight of the week was a visit to the Arenal Volcano and a wonderful resort with stunning views and hot springs of various temperatures. We also went to a sloth park (yes, they exist) and saw, with the help of our guide and his telescope, numerous sloths.

The first sloth park we visited was recommended by someone at the resort as a wildlife park which we could wander and see sloths. When we arrived, however, we were informed that we needed to take a 2½ guided tour (for free, at least) and that we couldn’t go alone because it was hard to predict where the sloths would be. We declined, due to time, and found another park where we were allowed to spend as little or much time as we liked and where, contrary to the first place, the guide knew exactly where the sloths were. This made more sense to me since sloths move once every eight days, when they come down from their trees to feed or change trees. By the way, the Spanish word for sloths is perezosos, which is also Spanish for “lazy”, as in one of the seven deadly sins. The guide also knew showed us how to connect a cellphone camera to a telescope and take photos and videos. My sister-in-law, in particular, was delighted.

The advantage of traveling in temporada baja (low season) is that we had the entire resort, sloth park, and, later, the Botanical Gardens, to ourselves. The disadvantage was driving, which is treacherous on a good day, through intermittent but heavy rains. The gods were with us in Arenal, where the weather cleared up when we arrived and began to get bad as we left. The rains held off in Cartago, where we visited the gardens, again until after we left.

With the exception of one crappy lunch downtown (a last-minute recommendation of our guide), we had great food everywhere. El Novillo Alegre, in Escazu, and Furca, in Santa Ana, were elegant and amazing; the restaurants where we had lunch in Zarcero, on the way to Arenal (and described in an earlier post) and near Saarchi, on the way back, served very good authentic tico food. And for those of you who might one day come this way, the Hacienda Marriott in Belen, near the airport, is a huge and fully-equipped resort, with restaurants, a gym, pools, hot tubs and a golf course. And great service.

As for me, I am once again solitary and carless, neither of which is a bad thing. One of my business English clients has stopped classes, but I have another group who wants to meet twice a week, so I’ll start that on Tuesday.  The end of this month marks three years in the land of Pura Vida. My Spanish is quite good (speaking A, writing A, comprehension B or B-). My health is great. To my surprise, giving up carbs hasn’t been hard at all; finding food to eat in casual restaurants, however, can be a challenge. I ate more food in one week with family than I did in the previous three. (A higher-fat diet does tend to curb one’s appetite.)  I loved it, and I am inspired to find more creative dishes to prepare at home.  In my quest for brain health, I weaned myself off of my sleeping pills, which I’d taken for almost ten years. (I say “weaned” because it is very dangerous to stop that class of drug cold turkey.) Now, I’m working on finding a way to stop ruminating in bed (no, not chewing) and get a decent night’s sleep.

Hasta la proxima ves.  Ciao

Oh, another treat at the sloth park was the viewing of a jungle chicken.  Yep, that’s what he called it. Apparently, they hop from bush to tree until they achieve the desired height.  Who knew?