It’s been almost two years since I’ve posted on this blog. I’ve enjoyed maintaining this little plot of cyberland, but will say I’ve found it increasingly difficult to prioritize creating – writing – over the past years. Shall we blame it on social media, responsible for incessantly ramming insipid details and curated images into the brain? Why yes, we could do that. The glut of self-promoting media and contrived content certainly has reached a deafening roar in recent years. With everyone else shouting “look at me look at me LOOK AT ME,” I haven’t particularly felt the need to add my voice to the din. Quite uninspiring.
Realistically, though, I’ve been busy. I created this site nearly a decade ago when I had the most free time I’ll ever have in life. A junior in college, embarking upon a semester abroad with wide eyes and wide mind. Over the years, as I have explored and found my way in the world, this has been my space to capture and create, write and remember. Though ten years later I’m still growing and thinking and observing life with saucers for eyes, it’s become harder for me to take time out of living life to write about it, perhaps for fear of missing living another moment. Truly, if 2020 taught us anything, it’s to cherish the lived moments we have, and to be wholly present for them.
So on the two year anniversary of a total lack of input on this page, I grant you these words and with them the knowledge that I am alive and quite well. Perhaps one day I’ll catch you up on my assorted contemplations and the myriad adventures life has taken me on. But for now, I’ll just let this post relieve the self-imposed pressure to make my first post after two years a profound one. Also here are some trees.
It was February, and I had left behind a Massachusetts in which every particle and every follicle was laced with frost, brimming with frost, encrusted with frost. But here I stood in Costa Rica with my friends, gawking at…frost.
I was not impressed.
But when you’re traveling in Costa Rica with Costa Ricans, frost has a novelty all of its own. You don’t expect a country 10 degrees north of the Equator to be reaching south of zero degrees in temperature. Which brings us back to why at 4am I was gathered with my friends around this mound of frosted moss, photographing it, posing with it, and squealing with glee about it.
Lest you be concerned, seeing frost was not our primary mission (well, I’ll speak for myself). We were summiting Cerro Chirripó, the tallest peak in Costa Rica at 3,821 meters. The most popular trail, which begins in San Gerardo de Rivas, is well-marked, though steep and somewhat strenuous at parts. SINAC (National System of Conservation Areas, in English) limits the number of permits available to enter Chirripó National Park each day, so for much of the hike, we marched to the tune of our own haggard breathing. And the majority of those people we did encounter were ticos, which made my corazón happy. Having lived over two years in Costa Rica, hiking Chirripó had been fidgeting on my bucket list – and I had the most sublime time crossing it off.
Chirripó National Park encompasses five ecosystems, and should be a multi-day experience for anyone who actually wants to enjoy it (biased opinion). Exhibit A: We met a deranged couple in San Gerardo who ascended and descended all in one day, but they candidly admitted they felt like they were dying. Here’s our timetable, which I’d recommend for maximum enjoyment of all there is to see at the top:
Day 1: Travel to San Gerardo.
Travel to San Gerardo de Rivas & check in with SINAC offices by 4pm. Night in San Gerardo de Rivas.
Day 2: Hike San Gerardo – Crestones Base Camp.
Begin climb at 3am from San Gerardo to Crestones Base Camp (we totaled 7.5 hours – average time is 8 hours). Night at Crestones.
Day 3: Summit Cerro Chirripó for the sunrise…
Begin ascent at 3am from Crestones Base Camp to see sunrise on Cerro Chirripo (approximately 2 hours hiking).
…& then hike to Los Crestones.
After sunrise, hike to Los Crestones, via Valle de los Conejos. Including the sunrise hike, a total of 8 hours hiking. Night at Crestones Base Camp.
Day 4: Descend from Crestones Base Camp – San Gerardo.
Descend from Crestones Base Camp to San Gerardo (~4.5 hours for our group).
Sights from the summit
Where to stay
San Gerardo de Rivas (night before ascent)
We stayed at Hotel Urán, which provided perfectly good, clean, basic accommodations. A private room with bunk beds and shared bathrooms cost us ~$21 each, and the hotel included breakfast – which they kindly packed and bagged for us the night before our ascent to eat along the way. The best thing about this hotel was definitely the location – the entrance to Parque Nacional Chirripó is maybe 1 minute walking up the road. Casa Mariposa, located right next door, also has a great location (though a bit pricier). If you’re staying elsewhere, remember to inquire about what transportation is available to get you to the trailhead (especially if you’re beginning your ascent early).
Crestones Base Camp
This’ll make it easy – this is your only lodging choice. Clean, simple, chilly. Rooms of two bunk beds apiece (hostel-style), shared bathrooms, and ICE COLD SHOWERS (<– yes.). Make sure you buy meals in advance. Hiking around Chirripó will take your butt and freeze it and if you do not sign up to eat hot meals I do not know how you think you’re going to thaw it. The meals are expensive…but remember that horses and humans lugged your uncooked calories up the mountain on their backs and then complain.
Start booking your spots 6 months in advance.The number of permits granted to enter Chirripo is very finite – and this is a good thing, as the park maintains its natural integrity and you don’t have to throw elbows. During the dry months, which will give you the best views, spots sell out almost the day they’re made available – which is six months in advance.
Make sure to arrive in San Gerardo to check in BEFORE 4:00 PM the day before you plan to ascend. You’ll receive tickets and passes, without which you won’t be allowed into the park early the next morning.
Begin your ascent early. For us, the first three kilometers were some of the most difficult – but would’ve been more difficult (mentally) if we’d been able to see them. By starting at 3:00 AM and lighting our way with flashlights, and walking while practically asleep, these kilometers faded away like a really strenuous dream.
See the sunrise on Cerro Chirripó. It’s truly, deeply, absolutely worth it. We left Crestones at 3:00 AM, and walking at a brisk clip, summited the final bit just as the sun started tinging the sky with light.
Y’all…it’s COLD. At Crestones, it was below freezing when we left for our sunrise hike. Bring those gloves. Those hats. Those layers. Do it. You’re welcome.
The air isthinner. My abode has me living right at sea level, so I felt the few thousand meters of elevation in my lungs; it felt like no breath was quite deep enough. For me, though, this passed after a day.
Don’t count on having wifi or service at Crestones. I didn’t manage to connect to the wifi even once over three days. Electricity is also limited – this is cut off at 8:00 PM every day.
Flashlight/headlamp & batteries.
Gloves & hat.
Layers. I brought a thermal undershirt, 2 long-sleeved t-shirts, 1 short-sleeved t-shirt, 2 pairs of leggings, a zip-up hoodie, and a rain jacket. I needed everything. Sometimes I wished I had more. During the day, with the sun’s heat beating down, you’ll want the flexibility to peel off layers. And you’ll want dedicated clothing to bum around in/sleep in post-hike.
Socks. Bring a fresh pair for each day. You don’t want to reuse these.
Two pairs of shoes. One set for hiking, and a second set for bumming around the lodge.
Sunscreen & sunglasses. You’re near the Equator, and moving progressively towards the sun as you hike. Don’t mess, Icharus.
Pack of cards or other entertainment. After you’ve worn your body out hiking, there’s not a whole lot to do around the base camp other that hang out, eat, and sleep. Find yourself a nice game of rummy.
Towel & toiletries. Only soap is provided.
Portable charger. For after-hours charging.
Cleansing face wipes. Bring a lot if you aren’t into the idea of a polar plunge.
I have toodled and toddled around my fair share of places in Costa Rica, but Parque Nacional Chirripó was one of the most unique and stunning expanses of natural beauty I’ve ever seen. There were sweeping vistas, drippy slices of cloud forest, and glimmering glacial lakes. But nothing compares to the minutes we waited with raw, red faces at the summit just before dawn: the moon reigning high over a pasture of clouds, mountain peaks slicing through their soft knolls; the sun melting the sky into a gradient of purple, orange, and gold; and then rays plunging into the valley, warming every crag, crook, and cranny.
An unforgettable place with unforgettable people is a happy recipe for an unforgettable adventure.
If you’re venturing to Costa Rica, chances are your guidebook pointed you with flapping hands and flashing lights to the cool, verdant paradise known as Monteverde. I love me some Monteverde, but dipping off the beaten path into San Luis adds a whole new and beautiful dimension to a visit to the area. Having lived in this petite place for over two years, San Luis is so special to me that I’ve completely lost the ability to view it impartially. It’s colored by transformative experiences and beautiful relationships I’ve had here – but perhaps that’s not a bad thing. Who would want to visit a place that leaves you feeling indifferent?
My blatant partiality aside, they number few the people who have visited San Luis and not left impressed by its natural beauty, united community, and cultural warmth. Here’s why you should skip Monteverde proper and head to San Luis instead:
Authenticity. Though beautiful and hospitable, Monteverde has, under the boom of tourism, evolved into a bit of a more commercial destination. San Luis, separated from Monteverde by a 25-minute descent into the valley, combines Monteverde’s rugged, mountainous beauty with the tranquility, warmth, and humility of a town of 400 people, untouched by the fervor of commercialism.
Community. Spend time talking to anyone in San Luis, and you’ll find out that this community is extraordinarily well-organized. The San Luis Development Association helps coordinate everything from maintenance of the soccer field, cemetery, clinic, and roads, to a rural tourism organization that promotes local businesses.
Tranquility. San Luis is a town of 400 people. Everyone knows each other, so there’s not much traffic or noise to worry about, aside from a few stray motorcycles.
Accessibility. I’m not referring to the roads by any stretch of the imagination – buckle up, because San Luis has the same rocky roads that Monteverde is famous for. You’ll want a car here for sure. What I mean is that you can stay in San Luis and devote a day to head up the mountain and experience the highlights of Monteverde. Zipline, see the Monteverde Reserve – check ’em off your list. Then return to San Luis at the end of the day for a quiet, relaxing evening.
For the outdoor enthusiast, bird watcher, & nature lover:
This family-owned and operated farm boasts beautiful trails that wind through the property, taking you along the river, by pastures, and through thick forest. No stretch trail is the same as another; each twist and turn confronts you with a new lush view, each teeming with life. During the dry season (roughly January – April, inquire for availability), the family builds a swimming hole into the refreshingly cold Rio San Luis – the perfect way to end your hike on a hot day. A campground is also available.
Tip: This is the perfect destination for avid bird watchers. The property is nestled against the back of the Monteverde Reserve and Continental Divide, visitors have the unique opportunity to see both birds typically found on the Pacific Slope of Costa Rica, and birds not typically seen in Monteverde that have drifted over from the Caribbean side. As an added bonus, the Ornate hawk-eagle has been found nesting on the property for several years running.
Community hike on the Sendero Pacifico, organized by the San Luis Development Association
A fairly recent initiative, the Sendero Pacifico is a network of freely accessible hiking trails that aims to connect the Monteverde Reserve at the the top of the Bellbird Biological Corridor, to the Gulf of Nicoya at the bottom of the corridor. Currently, hikers can choose to complete a day hike in San Luis, or partake in an overnight trek to Guacimal. Whatever length of trail you choose, the views over the valley are stunning. Hikes should be completed with a guide.
The true value of staying at the UGA campus (see “Stay” section below) is the educational activities facilitated by a team of resident naturalists, and included in the nightly lodging rate. Bird-watching, cow-milking, a guided natural history hike, medicinal garden tour, and sustainable farm tour all keep you busy outside, while informational talks and workshops about birds, mammals, insects, plants, and reforestation mean that you’ll come away from your stay a pseudo-expert on the tropical cloud forest.
For the coffee drinker & purveyor of local goods:
Margarita, Monteverde Natural Cosmetics
Gilberth, Finca La Bella Sustainable Farm Tour
Victor Ramirez, El Cafetal Coffee Tour
El Cafetal Coffee Tour/Café San Luis. Victor Ramirez has worked in the coffee industry for over two decades, in every aspect from processing to tasting to now growing and roasting his own coffee. A tour through this family-owned farm paints a remarkably detailed picture of how coffee is grown, harvested, roasted, and tasted, and the challenges the crop and farmer face together. Victor’s passion and expertise shine through on this tour, which is perfect for coffee enthusiasts. Coffee available for purchase at the end of the tour.
Finca La Bella Coffee & Sustainable Farm Tour*. This tour starts at the homes of one of two small-scale family farmers in Finca La Bella. Visitors learn about both coffee and sugar cane cultivation, and lend their own hands to juicing sugar cane. After visiting the farmer, you continue down the road to Finca Bella Tica, where visitors learn about the roasting process and have the opportunity to buy locally-grown coffee. *This combination tour is arranged through UGA Costa Rica for its guests, though you can visit Finca Bella Tica independently.
Monteverde Natural Cosmetics. This is another truly family-run operation. The Vargas-Torres family produces a line of 100% natural soaps, lotions, and other beauty products, infused with elements found practically in their backyard (like the cascaras of coffee beans or orange peels). The business is run out of a small workshop to the side of the family house, but their products are sold all over Monteverde and Costa Rica at large, and have even found a steady market in China. The family offers tours of their production upon request, which I’d highly recommend if you get the chance. However, the family maintains a busy schedule, so tours are subject to availability. Guests of UGA Costa Rica can contact Reception to check availability.
Rancho de Lelo. Located in Lower San Luis, Rancho de Lelo features tilapia ponds and a small farm from which they harvest their food. In additional to their famous fried tilapia, fished straight from the property’s ponds, friendly owners Lelo & Elvira offer chicken, smoked pork, and vegetarian dishes. Farm tour also available upon request.
Zelmi’s Pizza. Located on the grounds of Finca Ecológica San Luis, Zelmi’s Pizza is the perfect place to end your hike or swim on the farm. Aside from a variety of pizza offerings, as well as frescos squeezed from fruit grown on the property, a unique charm of the place is Zelmi’s beautiful paintings, which line the walls of the pizzeria.
Dinner or cooking class with a local family.* Organized for guests of Ecolodge San Luis/UGA Costa Rica Campus, eating dinner or going to a cooking class with a local family allows you to step into an authentic Costa Rican home and share in the food traditions of its inhabitants. *This tour is arranged through UGA Costa Rica for its guests
University of Georgia-Costa Rica Campus (also known as Ecolodge San Luis). The University of Georgia’s satellite campus in San Luis welcomes visitors who are looking to have an enriching travel experience – travelers who want to connect to and learn from their environment, not just breeze through it. The campus also houses students and researchers, so you never know who you’ll sit next to on the porch or meet at mealtimes. One of the biggest advantages of staying here is the engaging activities that are included in the nightly rate (see “Do” section above), as well as three Costa-Rican style meals a day. Campus staff can help set up your itinerary and make some local reservations.
Tip: Don’t expect luxury accommodations; rooms are simple but clean. The cabinas are the most private rooms, with small, tranquil balconies with forest views. This will be your favorite spot to sit in the morning, watching troops of monkeys or coatis pass by.
Rent a house with AirBnb:
The Leitón’s House – Lovely two-bedroom cabin located in Upper San Luis, well-positioned for those who would like to take advantage of the rural tranquility of San Luis, but with Monteverde a short drive away.
Casa El Cafetal– As the name implies, this house is set on the grounds of a local coffee farm, owned and operated by the Ramirez family. Located in “middle” San Luis.
I’m usually morally opposed to taking pictures of my feet. My dad railed against this when I was growing up. “Another foot picture?” he’d exclaim to my younger sister, leafing through the photos on the family camera. Feet simply do not carry the same sentimental value as a face, or the same scope of a landscape.
On this occasion, though, I made an exception. My pruny, ghastly feet seemed all too representative of the journey I’d undertaken with this motley crew. Three Ticos, a flying Dutchman, and a miscellaneous gringa walk into the untamed Costa Rican frontier. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.
I pictured the settlers of the Peñas Blancas Valley as the mountainous tropical version of Little House on the Prarie. The way settlers started moving into the valley – in search of their own homesteads and economic opportunity – reminded me of the U.S.’s westward migration and manifest destiny. Mining, though not for gold, even plays a role in the development of the valley. But you can forget taking conestoga wagons on these trails. Everything from sacks of flour to canisters of gas were brought into the valley by foot or hoof.
Development and migration into the Peñas Blancas Valley increased in the mid-20th century, as deforestation in Costa Rica reached its peak in the 1970-80s. In 1977, though, the government halted development on the land as part of an effort to protect the watershed of the newly dammed Lake Arenal – but they were slow to buy land from those in this zone who’d already settled it. This left the landowners in a quandary: unable to legally develop their land, but unable to sell it for the same reason.
Over a decade later, thanks to grassroots fundraising efforts abroad, the Monteverde Conservation League began to buy many of the landowners out, effectively halting much of the deforestation that threatened the biological diversity of the region. The result is the large swath of protected land called the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, which is Costa Rica’s largest private reserve at roughly 23,000 hectares. Together with neighboring reserves in the Monteverde-Arenal region, the amount of contiguous protected land comes to 60,000 hectares.
I couldn’t really tell you the purpose of this trip, because to this day I don’t know it. But it was no casual foray into the wilderness for any Bob on the street. Access to the protected lands of Peñas Blancas Valley in the Children’s Eternal Rainforest is a privilege open to few – principally park rangers and chaperoned students or researchers. Whatever the reason for our trip, I’m not in the habit of asking too many questions when it comes to an opportunity to explore a new place – especially a place as mythical as Peñas Blancas.
The journey began in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, where Lucas, the Dutchman & I met up with Juan & Alvaro, two rangers with the Centro Científico Tropical (the organization that manages the Monteverde Reserve). They came loaded with provisions and a sturdy horse to carry them. Their shoe of choice? The unforgiving, utilitarian rubber boot – perfect for fording rivers, but also perfect on for rubbing your feet into tatters. As we crossed through the Monteverde Reserve and descended into the portal of Peñas Blancas, the flying Dutchman was grounded before the journey even started. But start the journey did.
Are you ready for yet another post in which I announce the complete overhaul of my geographic and cultural situation? Today is your day.
I’ve held out on any sort of announcement, because change feels less permanent if fewer people know about it. But hello, here I am, not in Costa Rica anymore, and not writing about it doesn’t make it any less true.
Now let’s dial back that tone of resignation and be clear: I chose to leave. The why was a compilation of factors. Even though I loved where I was working, it’s hard to find professional growth, development, and movement in a rural 400-person village. It’s hard to be away from your family as they go through harrowing medical problems, and to be away from your closest friends as they celebrate life’s milestones. It’s hard to realize that if you stay in the position you’re in, you’ll forfeit some of the dreams and goals that are dearest to you.
Even so, it’s possibly more frustrating to digest that that by virtue of your background and upbringing, you have access to more opportunities than your peers. Movement, after all, is a fantastic privilege.
So as I closed in on two years in San Luis and felt my toes itch and my mind wander, I wanted to quash what I viewed as this insatiable North American need for growth. In my mind, a need for growth and change was equal to discontent discontent. In San Luis, the attitude towards having any job – whether cleaning or cooking, management or milking cows – is gratitude. Gracias a Dios hay trabajo (“thank God there is work”) is the saying when the workload is heavy, or when the workload is light. It puts food on the table, clothes on the kids’ backs, gas in the motorcycle. I wanted very much for my existential crisis to stop flaring up, and be content for the rest of my life right where I was because I had food and shelter and relationships, and this was enough, it seemed, for everyone except me. I felt deeply ungrateful.
When I tried to express this guilt to my boyfriend, he looked at me incredulously and replied,
“What would be ungrateful is to not take an opportunity when it is offered to you.”
His parents have worked without complaint to put their two sons through a local bilingual school, because speaking English opens a plethora of opportunities in a community so touched by tourism. So to them, to accept an opportunity is not ungrateful; to turn down an opportunity is.
So with my mindset realigned, I accepted a position with a U.S.-based study abroad company that will hopefully continue to grow and shape me. In August, after over two years of calling San Luis my home, I packed up my bags and moved to…Massachusetts.
I knew the transition was going to be hard. With three months now under my belt, though, I guess I didn’t think I’d still have throbbing homesickness, which just serves as a testament to the love, grace, and humility I was surrounded with in San Luis.
I am beyond grateful for my years in San Luis, as they have shaped and molded me into the stronger, more thoughtful, more confident person that I am today. I am indebted to the people who treated me with unbridled kindness, and looked upon me as one of their own. I am thankful for a community that distilled life’s complex and conflicting recipes for happiness into simple ingredients: friends, family, and food. And while my current chapter of life calls me to this colonial tundra of a state called Massachusetts, don’t think for as second I’ve closed the book on San Luis.
Growing up, I liked to climb trees. That little extra boost from the ground gave me the ability to spy on my siblings and (supposedly) impress the boys. To me, a few feet above the ground seemed a feat.
Now, meet my co-worker Ernest. Ernest really likes to climb trees. Ernest likes to climb trees so much that he is certified professional tree climber.
(Let me know if you knew that was a thing…because I did not.)
But Ernest doesn’t climb trees to spy on his siblings or impress boys; he uses this skill to perform scientific research in places you could never even brush on tip-toe. In fact, he’s conducting one of the most extensive camera trapping projects in Central America, fastening cameras high in the cloud forest canopy to capture data on tree-dwelling mammals.
But for a day, Ernest decided to teach some more commonly-seen ground-dwelling mammals how to climb. And so five co-workers and I set out to defy gravity, if just for an afternoon, at the nearby Finca Ecologica San Luis.
Ernest showed us the ropes (literally), and it wasn’t long before we were dangling in the air, suspended between the canopy above and pasture below.
What goes up…
…must come down.
Color me impressed, because it’s been five days since my climb and my legs still don’t properly bend. Check out Ernest’s awesome work on his blog, and cross your fingers that I’ll be able to walk soon.
Experience has taught me never to expect a one-night trip to be relaxing. The logistics are too much, the down time too little.
Experience has also taught me to not always trust experience, as in the case of San Gerardo.
Though the journey demands a certain level of physical exertion, San Gerardo is the most tranquil and rejuvenating overnight excursion I’ve taken from Monteverde. Located in the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, the biological station is a short trek from Monteverde, but is a world away from it. The trailhead begins in the Santa Elena Reserve and winds its way downhill for four kilometers, drifting from cloud forest to premontane rainforest along the way.
When Molly (2.0) and I set out, the way was freshly slick and muddy, thanks to the perpetual fog and intermittent rain. An hour’s descent of squishing and sliding will deliver you to the station. Now, as a rule, I always leave something important behind. This trip, it was a second pair of socks, making my feet a prisoner of their sad sodden sock cages for the duration of the trip. But no matter! The end of our trek was met with mugs of coffee, tres leches cake, and empanadas de papa, whichwarmed our stomachs (if not our toes).
The station itself is rustic – minimal but comfortable, directing your focus on the world around instead of within. Most of the construction is warm and wooden, including the bunkbeds in the rooms and the porch overlooking Volcano Arenal.
Adding to the the station’s charm are the caretakers: Geovanny, Ivannia, and their son. They’ve lived in the station for eight years, with Geovanny shuttling his son up to school every day in motorcycle (if you set foot on these trails you will realize the kind of feat this is). Ivannia is a kind, genuine woman and genuinely the best kind of cook.
Eager to see the sun rise over Arenal, Molly and I slipped into bunkbeds early, and before we knew it were sleepwalking from bed to hammock to watch the day unfurl.
Incredible vistas of Arenal aside, the main attraction of San Gerardo is its incredible biodiversity, the beautiful, unrestrained chaos that reigns in the forests. Trails loop away from and back to the station. The amount of detail is overwhelming, a barrage of the senses.
To know before you go:
San Gerardo is part of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, Costa Rica’s largest private reserve. Proceeds benefit conservation of one of the world’s most biodiverse forests.
The hike to San Gerardo (there & back) can be made in the same day. If you’d like to stay at the station, make your lodging reservations in advance through the Monteverde Conservation League.
Bring boots, a flashlight, binoculars if you’re a bird person, and layers (it gets chilly at night!).
Recently, my tico neighbors lent me some Outkast-style hospitality and invited me to participate in a rural family tradition: processing sugar cane, or moliendo caña.
The day I attended, the activity, now more social than subsistent, drew about twenty family members and friends to (a) help, (b) watch, or (c) poke the oxen’s bums with sticks.
Not for the faint of heart, the process can begin as soon as the sun peeks over the horizon. Everything begins with the hauling of cane from the fields to the trapiche (cane mill). From there, driven by brute ox power, the cane is squeezed into juice and the long stalks tossed aside.
The juice is poured into a jacuzzi-sized vat, which is heated carefully by fire underneath (preferably monitored by a dedicated attendant or two).
As the water boils off, a thicker liquid is left behind. Some of this liquid gets diverted into large metal canisters and cooled in tubs of water. It will be warmed and used to make agua dulce (literally, “sweet water”).
As more and more water evaporates, a fluid miel (syrup) is left behind. As the liquid reaches this stage, it’s time to execute an exit strategy and remove the syrup from the heat.
This is the moment the spectators have been waiting for. As the exit trough drops into place, spectators flock from the sidelines. They extend bowls, slabs of wood, and pans, eagerly awaiting a dollop of the orange-gold syrup. As soon as they receive it, they retreat to their benches, tree stumps, and four-wheelers, dump in clouds of powdered milk, and whip furiously with their utensil of choice. Some will add peanuts or mint for a jazzy touch. These independent projects will yield cajetas – rich, flaky brown sweets.
Meanwhile, the trough is filled with steamy syrup from the vat and stirred with a wooden rod. As it starts to cool, the liquid becomes thicker and more viscous.
The liquid is scooped from the trough and scraped into molds, where it will harden into tapa de dulce, a solid cake of sugar. This is the final product.
Once upon a time, the tapas de dulce were packed onto horses and marched down to the coast in Puntarenas to be sold. Now, with the world at its mechanized height and sugar much more readily available, this isn’t a for-profit enterprise. Rather, it’s an opportunity to uphold an old tradition and compartir – to share – time with family and friends.
The biggest obstacle to planning your future is not fear, nor indecisiveness, nor lack of commitment.
It is not having a chair tall enough for your desk.
This realization makes me a little concerned about my levels of grit and determination. I do not have to walk three miles for clean water, nor do I have cross a gorge on a rickety bridge to get to school. I simply have to stack a yoga mat, four placemats, used gym clothes, a backpack, and a blanket to reach staggering new heights – i.e., to rest my elbows on the table while typing.
I am feeling very empowered because I am reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, and after Chapter 1 (“The Leadership Ambition Gap”) I have already solved a seating problem that has dogged me for five months, and I have made popcorn IN A POT. I danced around the kitchen to the dull dings of the kernels bouncing about the pot. I was elated.
And it is times like these where I think my life is a farce.
If you’re asking why so serious?, it’s because Molly talked to her parents. This isn’t the first time this has transpired; nay, this is but a new episode in a series. After a lapse of x-number of months, I know to expect a thorough inspection of my life’s ambitions and plans. A “State of the Molly.”
It’s a good thing. I think.
I have been putting off and putting off confronting my next life step. First I blamed it on not having a functioning computer charger for two months. Then I blamed it on not having a functioning desk (hence today’s triumph). I feel like I am at the top of one of the staircases at Hogwarts: the choices for my next step swivel in and out of play. The staircases will briefly connect at some point – there’s a path to get somewhere – but how am I to choose even a staircase if I don’t know my final destination?
It’s time to whole-heartedly pursue this mystery destination. So I’ll start with the question posited by Ms. Sandberg (or really by the book Who Moved My Cheese?…whose title in and of itself rivals the following question):