Galería Namu

San José, the capital of Costa Rica, is not one of my favorite cities. We tend to avoid it, other than for transit purposes. But on our trip in January, we really wanted to see some Costa Rican art, and research led us to Galería Namu on avenida 7 between calles 5 and 7. It’s a gallery of indigenous art and folk art, and it was wonderful. We bought 5 pieces: a whimsical hand-painted mug, a woven plate, a tiny basket, a decorated mirror, and a cutting board made of colorful strips of wood, for a total of about $125. We could have easily bought another dozen items – paintings, masks, drawings, jewelry… it was a beautiful and varied collection. If you’re in San José, definitely check out this wonderful gallery – or at least look at the website: Galería Namu.

Panama City, Panama

For our third and final Costa Rica visa renewal,* my husband and I went to Panama City for 4 days. Our immediate impression was that it was a lot like Costa Rica, except much, much cheaper. The weather is similar, beaches are similar – although of course Panama has much higher ratio of coastline to inland. Costa Rica is so touristed that prices keep going up, but I guess Panama doesn’t get as many visitors, other than to the canal.

Panama CanalSpeaking of which, we did the partial canal cruise – I would have liked to do the full, but it’s only offered twice a month by every single company I checked with, and all pretty much the same days. It’s just as well, as the half day was more than enough. To be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed by the canal. Yes, it’s huge and an amazing feat of engineering and the locks are tremendous, but, well, it’s just not that exciting, you know?

*Upon entering Costa Rica, Americans (I don’t know what it’s like for citizens of other countries) get a stamp in your passport that allows you to stay for three months. You have to leave the country for at least 72 hours to get it renewed, and apparently there are people that have been doing this over and over for years. The government is cracking down a bit though – they say that they start looking at you a little suspiciously the third time you leave and return, but we didn’t have any trouble.

Costa Rican Weather

We’ve been living on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica for 7 months now – enough to experience both the rainy (or green) season and the dry season. We arrived in mid-May, and from then until mid-August the weather was perfect: 75-80 degrees, with a few hours of rain at least 3 or 4 times a week (including a number of truly spectacular thunderstorms). In August, it started raining a lot more – in fact, a friend from New York was visiting and unfortunately it rained nearly every day. The moment she left, the skies cleared and the weather was again gorgeous until late September, when it started raining more and more. For about 3 weeks in October, it rained almost non-stop, then it gradually died down. Now, in early December, it’s been dry for a couple of weeks. However, it’s also really hot – 85-90 degrees, and will just keep getting hotter and drier until April.

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Plastic is taking over

I guess this is old news, but somehow it completely passed me by. 40% of the world’s oceans is covered in garbage – primarily plastic – concentrated in 5 enormous gyres, or vortexes. I can’t even wrap my head around the staggering amount of garbage this represents. There’s a stretch of land between Casablanca and Rabat, Morocco, that is just covered in plastic bags as far as the eye can see. It’s the place where Plastic Bags Go To Die, or so I thought. Apparently, it’s just a stopover on their way to join their brethren in the oceans.

Plastic bags are absolutely everywhere. In both Morocco and Costa Rica, they’re stacked high in shops, and it’s not uncommon to walk out of a store with $10 worth of groceries in 3 or 4 bags. Even though we bring bags with us, the baggers always seem to be trying to give us more bags, as if to make us feel we got our money’s worth. In the US, the “paper or plastic?” debate was never really resolved. Even our local natural foods store offerred both – though at least they were usually reused.

I don’t know. It’s not as if I have some amazing insights to share on this subject, but I just couldn’t bear to ignore it. Here’s more info, if you’re interested.

The Plastic Sea
Our Oceans Are Turning Into Plastic… Are We?
North Pacific Subtropical Gyre Garbage Map

Howler Monkeys

Howler MonkeysSome of the most visible – and audible – wildlife here in Costa Rica are the howler monkeys. They travel through the trees, and their “howl” is far deeper and louder than their appearance suggests – sort of a cross between a growl and a moan. They tend to howl when they feel threatened or are unhappy, and one of the things that seems to make them unhappy is rain, which means they howl a lot. When several howl in unison, the sound can be pretty creepy – like something out of a horror movie. Continue reading

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