Costa Rican History

Tower of the National Museum, San Jose

Costa Rica means rich coast in Spanish. Conquistadors landing there found the natives adorned with gold and silver jewelry, but that all came from elsewhere. The Caribbean coast was lined with a nearly impenetrable jungle. San Jose the Capitol, located in the Central Valley, was not fully settled until the 1950s and homesteading was still ongoing into the 1980s. Although, the country now exports coffee and tobacco, it did not start that way. Before the $300 per pound golden bean, oxen and mules were once its leading exports, because they could be walked to market.

Since its 1821 independence, Costa Rica has been blessed with unusually good leaders. Even its first dictator was benevolent. Self-effacing to a fault, Costa Ricans claim that they do not even know how to be a good dictator. An example of this self-effacing attitude was related to us in a story, when a grandfather told his grandson that his pickup truck cannot use its fifth gear, because that is only for other, much larger countries. In the 1870s bananas came to Costa Rica and with them the term banana republic. A civil war occurred in 1948, which was ended by a social reform minded president, the local archbishop, and the communist party leader. Evidence of this revolt still adorns the National Museum. Costa Rica has enjoyed free and fair elections since 1953. That reform minded president abolished the military and then used that money to support education. Education is mandatory K-12.

Today, Gringos’ ecotourism is a major industry. All those North Americans want to come see grandma sloth. 50% of Costa Rica is still covered by forest. However, while Costa Rica strives to protect the forests, it is also the world’s best client for chainsaws. This post was taken from notes on a talk that was given to us on our first day in country. The speaker peppered his talk with stories told by his grandfather. Twice a year, his grandfather got his pants washed and on those days was given a bitter pill to swallow for fighting parasites, but he was also given a hardboiled egg as a reward. As well as Costa Rica is doing now, it is still not without its problems. Problems exist with infrastructure, the slow pace of government, modernizing education, growing inequality and drugs. Still, who is not without their problems. Costa Rica is a lovely country and a joy to visit.


RRR Trailer

There is still a lot to unpack from our trip to Costa Rica, but what is the rush? Meanwhile, life marches on. Last night, our “huge” snowfall once again failed to materialize and yesterday, the Academy Award nominations were announced. For the first time, an Indian Bollywood movie scored an Oscar (so white) nomination. The nomination is a relatively modest one as these things go, for best original song, but one must start somewhere. RRR is the film, where the three Rs do not stand for reduce, reuse, recycle, but rather Rise, Roar, Revolt. This three-hour extravaganza is an action-packed musical of sorts, a buddy film and a patriotic call to arms, all rolled up into one. Although over the top at times, RRR was very entertaining to watch. The movie, which stars two of India’s most popular actors—Ram Charan and N.T. Rama Rao Jr.—is set in Delhi during the pre-independence India of the early 1920s, the movie follows two patriotic but philosophically opposed men who must eventually team up to rescue a kidnapped girl from the British governor. Depressingly, except for the governor’s niece, almost all Europeans are painted as horrible racists in this picture. The nominated song, Naacho, Naacho (Dance, Dance) is a rollicking dance off, where the two stars first take on all comers, before being left to best one another. Unusual, for this movie, the song’s scene is shot with a mostly white cast, at a British lawn party.

Naacho Naacho

Rafiki Safari Lodge

Rainbow at Rafiki Lodge

Rafiki means friend in Swahili, “When you have a real friend, it is for life.” Also, to Rafiki someone is to smear a substance on their forehead, which can be sexual in nature, or to lift someone or something for honorary public presentation. Both meanings stem from the cartoon mandrill Rafiki from Disney’s The Lion King. Our second stop on our tour was Rafiki Safari Lodge. Located inland at 3,000’, it was sort of in-between our first stay at 7,000’ and our third at sea level. I hope that you did not expect me to relate our travels chronologically. Rafiki had a distinctive African vibe, with lots of African art. Its owner-operator came from South Africa and his father was Swahili. “Low-Key” or maybe Loki was one of two brothers, whose father ask to go look at the land where the lodge is now. It is seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but is located near the Savegre River, on which we later went rafting. We also did a night hike, where we saw lots of wildlife. Our cabin was a tent cabin, with full bath. Returning from dinner, one night we frightened an iguana that had parked itself for the night on the Plexiglas roof of the bathroom.