Sunday, April 29, 2012

From Atlantic to Pacific: Bocas del Toro to Playa Santa Catalina

After the short time spent with my host family, I was headed for Panama. My first stop was Bocas del Toro, an Archipelago right off of Panama's Atlantic coast known for its wildlife, and Caribbean vibe.  The beaches were stunning, the tiny poison dart frogs were pretty darn cute, and trying to figure out if the boat drivers were talking  about you in creole behind your back was a fun linguistic challenge.
Mangroves on Isla Bastimento
Playa Red Frog on Isla Bastimento

Playa Las Estrellas, Isla Colón
After soaking up the Caribbean, why not head over to the Pacific? A hop, skip, and jump across the isthmus that is Panama puts you in Playa Santa Catalina, a.k.a. Surfing Capitol Central America.

The Pacific side was notably different. The sand was darker, the water was less clear, and the region itself seemed to be a bit less economically developed than the Caribbean side. It is interesting to see this striking geographical, cultural, and economic difference less than a hundred miles away from where I was a few days ago.

Tidepools at Playa Santa Catalina

Monday, April 16, 2012

Costa Rica -- San José and Altos de Germania

After a lot of time in Nicaragua, I finally made it across the border into Costa Rica, which is a bit more... um, tourist-friendly. The people are very approachable, they give accurate directions, and the bus driver didn't try to charge me more than he would charge your average tico (slang for Costa Rican person).  In San Jose a mix of students, families, and street vendors peacefully meander through very clean parks where tables, booths and tents are set up for everything from chess playing to tie-dying to yoga. 

After spending a couple of days in San José, I paid a visit to my old host family from two years ago in Altos de Germania. I showed up unannounced, but they welcomed me into their home again as if I had been there two days ago instead of two years. When I asked if I could stay one night Remundo (my old host dad) said "One night? Stay a whole month if you want!" 

Very little had changed. They were reconstructing their house (a tree had fallen on it), but aside from that everything and everyone was the same, and we spent that Sunday the same way we spent every other Sunday when I was there. We chatted a bit, I went to the river with some of my old friends, we played soccer, and then the day ended. The next morning I packed up my things, said goodbye, and moved on.

The house two years ago.

The house now.
It's nice to know that people who live so modestly can be so welcoming and apparently happy. I think the rest of the world could learn a few things from Altos de Germania.