Discover more from Beagle Voyage with Jane Liaw
That Pura Vida Zoom life
Hello from Costa Rica, friends.
They really do say “Pura Vida” all the time here. Locals (or “ticos”) use it as a stand-in for: hello, goodbye, thank you, oh well, everything’s cool, everything’s not cool but that’s OK...and I’m sure there are many more uses I’ll find out over time. “Pura Vida” literally means “pure life,” but it also means a whole philosophy and lifestyle, one that purportedly is a reason Costa Rica is home to one of the original five Blue Zones—places where people live especially long and healthy lives.
One of my goals while here in Costa Rica is to understand Pura Vida. As a fairly anxious person from North America, my Pura Vida reserves are quite low. Now that we’re here—well, on the one hand, being by water immediately soothes me; we live near many beaches in the Tamarindo area, so perhaps this environment will prime me for Pura Vida. On the other hand, this is a touristy/expat area with many gringos, so (a) they’ve surely imported some Grade A non-Pura Vida outlook from other lands, and (b) the traffic and parking can get pretty hideous at peak hours. As well, ticos have a reputation as not the best drivers, and many roads here are unpaved and in bad shape.
The driving here does not make me feel Pura Vida.
(Taz joked that we should scream, “Pura Vida!!” and shake our fists at offending drivers on the road as we navigate traffic. It’d be sufficiently confusing that the recipient of our wrath should be too baffled to react.)
But even more challenging than our touristy surroundings is our working lives—Taz’s especially, tethered to Zoom calls and his demanding job. How do you fully embrace Pura Vida if you’re still on the North American clock? It’s not easy to enjoy leisurely chats with people in town if you have to hurry home for your next meeting.
With one foot in and one foot out of this country, we are some of those gringos bringing our time-crunched and unrelaxed ways to Costa Rica. I don’t know what we can do about that, though at least we are working amidst lush greenery.
Perhaps we won’t be able to fully get into the spirit of Pura Vida and become real residents during our stay. I also believe we can’t truly call ourselves residents of a place until we have dealt with the worst of its bureaucracy, and we luckily avoid most of that with our temporary status. I don’t know what the processes are to get a Costa Rican ID card or to register a vehicle, but I doubt either can be labeled a wellness activity.
Still, we are here for several months, and that makes us more than tourists. We’ve stocked our fridge and pantry after three grocery runs, and I’ve made a big batch of the Costa Rican staple arroz con pollo, freezing several portions for Beanie’s future school lunches. Taz will be going on a work trip soon, and then coming back “home.” We’re getting daily emails from Beanie’s school in anticipation of school starting next week. Having to go somewhere every day will anchor our stay with routine as well as some feeling of belonging and having really been here.
Our first breakfast in Costa Rica was at a beach eatery called Waffle Monkey. I could put my feet in the sand as I ate my waffle, which is my favorite way to eat a waffle, or any food. Feet in the sand. After we finished, Beanie ran around collecting shells and playing in the water. I sat at the table under the shade of palm and beach almond trees and watched her. I’m not sure if all this was a little bit of Pura Vida, but it was relaxing. I could have sat there all morning (alas, we didn’t, because we had our gringo list of things to do).
Costa Rica is a country that presents itself in technicolor and stereo sound. Every morning, we can hear the loud birdsong and animal calls even through closed windows. We haven’t seen howler monkeys yet, though we’ve been told they come to visit often. We have gotten to know the caretaker’s dog though—her name is Panterra, and she is a good doggy. She wanders freely on the grounds and she came to visit us during lunch yesterday, watching us expectantly until we were done. We weren’t sure if we were allowed to give her table scraps—we’ve since been told we can. And we definitely will.
So we have our house, we have our favorite places in the house to work, we have our school, we have our grocery stores, we (sort of) have our dog. I guess we are home for now?
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Pretty Good Things
It’s funny because it’s true
Have you ever seen this “Romano Tours” sketch with Adam Sandler? I have, several times. Wherever you go, there you are…as Mr. Romano would kindly like to remind you.
Faster than a space shuttle
Hummingbirds are my favorite bird, and apparently there are 53 species in Costa Rica. I’ve seen one so far. I love the way they float in the air, and the buzzing sound their wings make when they do so.
Here is a beautifully written piece about the hummingbird, from The Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings):
As if the evolution of ordinary bird flight weren’t miracle enough — scales transfigured into feathers, jaws transfigured into beaks, arms transfigured into wings — the hummingbird, like no other bird among the thousands of known avian species, can fly backward and upside-down, and can hover. It is hovering that most defiantly subverts the standard physics of bird flight: head practically still as the tiny turbine of feather and bone suspends the body mid-air — not by flapping up and down, as wings do in ordinary bird flight, but by swiveling rapidly along the invisible curvature of an infinity symbol. Millions of living, breathing gravity-defying space stations, right here on Earth, capable of slicing through the atmosphere at 385 body-lengths per second — faster than a falcon, faster than the Space Shuttle itself.