#FoodFriday: A Purple Smoothie Bowl That Will Blow Your Pants Off (Literally)

Yup, that’s right. This smoothie bowl is packed full of a rainbow’s-worth of healthy goodness and enough fiber to give you the bowel movement of your dreams.

You see here in the Peace Corps, we deal with a lot of panza (belly) issues. Whether it’s a parasite that’s found it’s way into the potable water from last night’s big rain storm or some questionable greasy street food that’s been sitting out too long (I see you empanada and chicharron lovers), we, the proud Peace Corps Volunteers of Costa Rica, have all been there.

And by there I mean on the toilet…for a long time.

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Seeing Costa Rica: Tortuguero, Land of the Turtles

Since arriving in Costa Rica, I had always wanted to visit Tortuguero. So when my friend said she was going last month, I didn’t hesitate to invite myself along.

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Off we go to Tortuguero!

Tortuguero is located on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica and is famous for for its long serene beaches that are nesting grounds for sea turtles. Basically in my mind, Tortuguero translates to “Land of the Turtles.”

YES, TURTLES. GIANT TURTLES. BABY TURTLES. MEDIUM TURTLES. SMALL TURTLES. ALL THE CUTE TORTUGAS.

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I knew that Tortuguero would be one of my favorite spots in Costa Rica from the moment we stepped off the boat. Since there are no roads to Tortuguero you have to arrive via boat or airplane (baller status) and different from a lot of other popular destinations in Costa Rica, Tortuguero has a more laid-back, island-y, hippy kinda vibe. A lot of the businesses were small and locally-owned and it just felt a little more rústico y rural. Continue reading

#FoodFriday: The Fruits & Flavors of Fila Naranjo (Part 3)

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve had a random, never-seen-before, questionable looking fruit shoved in my face, but last night it happened again.

It was almost as if Carlos went out of his way to find me and ask me if I had ever had a zapote before.

“A za what?” I said

His eyes lit with excitement as he realized he would be the one to serve this gringa her first zapote ever.

Zapote

 

And for good reason because it was so tasty. It was this tender, not-too-sweet fruit that tasted expensive and classy JUST like a fig yet soft and hearty like a cooked squash. I truly thought that I had seen and tasted all that there is to offer in Fila Naranjo after 16 months of living here, but this land is still full of surprises.

 

Mamón Chino
aka Rambutan aka some sort of cousin of the Lychee

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Hiking Cerro Chirripó

Last week I stood on the top of Cerro Chirripó, the highest point in Costa Rica.

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It. was. incredible.

At 12,530 feet, Chirripó is the highest mountain in Costa Rica, the 5th highest peak in Central America, and the 37th most prominent peak in the world.

Just a few behind Mount Everest…

Well more than a few but they’re on the same list which, yeah…I know.

Cerro Chirripó is located in Chirripó National Park in the southern region of Costa Rica. The main trailhead to the park is located in a small town called San Geraldo de Rivas, just 1.5 hours from the city of San Isidro and about 7-8 hours from my site.

I swear everything is 7-8 hours from my site.

For the past six months, I, along with a group of seven other volunteers, have been planning, anticipating, and training vigorously (ha just kiddin’) in preparation for our hike up Chirripó.

Between reserving park permits for eight people, overnight lodging at the bottom and top of the mountain, and pulling together the few pieces of cold-weather clothing I brought to this country, this three-day overnight trip took a bit of planning.

But that didn’t stop us, even though the days leading up to our departure were wet, rainy, and cold.

Our basic itinerary went something like this:
Day 1: Stay at the bottom of the mountain near the park entrance at Casa Mariposa
Day 2: Begin hike at 5:00am and arrive at Crestones Base Camp (11,155ft), 3.4 miles from the summit of mountain, at 12:30pm.
Day 3: Begin hike at 3:00am to arrive at the summit for sunrise at 5:00am. Leave Crestones Base Camp at 8:30am and arrive back at Casa Mariposa at 1pm. Continue reading

Celebrating One Year as a PCV

This month, I celebrate the completion of my first year as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica.

It’s true what they say in the Peace Corps, that days pass by slowly but the months fly by.

How is it rainy season again already?

Reaching this point in my service is not only rewarding, but it brings me a sense of stability and comfort.

Before I left for the Peace Corps, 27 months felt like forever. But to really integrate into a new culture and community and work on sustainable long-term projects, all while learning a new language, it’s hardly enough time.

Now, different from a year ago, and even different from six months ago, I finally feel grounded; like I’ve found my place in my community and have a greater understanding for my host country and how things work (ahem, coffee is priority and meetings start at least an hour late).

In the whirlwind of all this, over the past six months I’ve experienced the ups and downs of working at a grass-roots level, transitioned in my role as a PCV, and even had some time to travel around the country (and Nicaragua!). Continue reading

Semana Santa: Experiencing Holy Week in Costa Rica

Where I come from, I’ve learned to celebrate Easter Sunday by painting eggs and brunching hard.

Champagne mimosas, stacks of pancakes and mounds of crispy hash browns.

The best of the best Sundays with the family. That’s my Easter.

But here in Costa Rica, things are done a little bit differently this time of year. And there’s no hypothetical bunny hopping around leaving chocolate creme-filled eggs and plastic confetti grass everywhere.

On the note of folkloric creatures can I just say that instead of a tooth fairy, here, A RAT comes to leave money underneath children’s pillows after they’ve lost a tooth. How terrifying is that?!

I just had to get that out there. Anyway, back to Easter stuff.

In Costa Rica, we celebrate Semana Santa (semana = week, santa = holy/saint).

Archivo_000 (3)Semana Santa, also known as Holy Week, is a major Catholic holiday celebrated throughout the world that consists of parades, processions, and local community celebrations. The holiday starts on Palm Sunday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday. Continue reading

#FoodFriday: The Best Gallo Pinto (Costa Rica Rice & Beans)

When I was just 13-years-old, I got my first job working at an Italian Restaurant right down the street from our home in cute little downtown Delafield, Wisconsin.

Coming from a family with a lot of people and not a lot of money, I always wanted a job so I could have my own cash in my own pocket; even if that meant working after school, on the weekends, and in between basketball and track practices.

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Too many kids not enough monayyy
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Tropical Storm Otto Hits Costa Rica

This past Thursday, Costa Rica and Nicaragua were hit by Tropical Storm Otto.

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The storm made landfall on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast at 1pm on Thanksgiving Day as a Category 2 hurricane but quickly lost strength and was downgraded to a tropical storm. According to the US National Hurricane Center, at it’s strongest, Otto had winds of up to 110mph.

While the central and southern regions of Costa Rica were not terribly affected by the storm (except for excessive rain and flooding in some areas), the northern region has been severely damaged. Continue reading

#FoodFriday: The Fruits & Flavors of Fila Naranjo (Part 2)

It’s guayaba season here in Fila Naranjo, which means the trees are full of this fresh, delicious fruit and the grounds are covered in old, mushy, ripe guayabas that have matured and created a soft, slippery, fermented rug that covers all the land here in the beautiful mountains of Costa Rica.

Before coming to Fila Naranjo, I had never had a guayaba (guava) in my life. I had tasted guava juice, guava kombucha, guava flavored jellies and jams, but never had the real deal. Guava kombucha is one of my favorites, I love the floral, unique, semi-acidic flavor of guayaba so when I first spotted a guayaba tree here, I was stoked.

I plucked one straight from the tree in the middle of long, laborious day working at the finca and held it up to my nose for just a minute to breathe in the aroma. It was such a Peace Corps moment. Here I was, working in the fields alongside a group of local women and I stumble upon a fresh fruit tree. How cool is this?! This is why you’re here Tily, for these small beautiful organic moments. I embraced the moment so hard I took a seat under the guava tree and ate 4 guavas. Can you believe it?! Four.

After scarfing down my fill of guayabas, I headed back up to the other side of the finca to find a few ladies doing the same. But it was the weirdest thing, they were all pulling apart the fruit and throwing the middle seeded part onto the ground. I asked one of them if she was throwing out the middle because she didn’t like the texture of the seeds and then…I learned what gusano meant.

Gusano is the Spanish word for worm or maggot. When guayabas turn the slightest bit soft, fruit flies lay their eggs beneath the fruit’s skin and the maggots are born inside and feed on the fruit’s succulent flesh. Continue reading