Today is April 11, 2015 and my third day in Costa Rica. I made it into San Jose on Thursday according to plan and spent the night in the capital. The weather was nice but there is nothing spectacular to see there. I met three guys, one from Switzerland named Thomas, one from Austria named Michael, and one from Argentina named Francisco upon my arrival and they asked if I was hungry and wanted to go with them to get food. I thought, well, I'm not all that hungry but this might give me a chance to get out and explore with other people so I went along. We went to the most dive bar, back alley, local market I have ever been to (the first pic) and I was pretty sure I was going to regret going but I am trying to expand my horizons (or at least test the limits of my stomach's tolerance) so I ordered what everyone else was having minus the meat. I had rice and beans and a salad. I also ordered a fruit juice called cas - made from a guayava fruit - that tasted something like a cross between a prickly pear and a bartlett pear. It was very interesting and I inquired, through my Argentinian companion how the drink was made. There was a fruit vendor next to us so the lady behind the counter called him over and they began to explain (in Spanish, of course) about the fruit and how the drink was made. I picked up bits but Argentina explained that it is not made from the big guayava but the little one that looks like a lime and that the fruit is blended up and some other ingredient added that I could not even begin to recall and viola! cas.
After lunch, and my thirty minute lesson in Spanish and Costa Rican culinary practices we walked the four feet over to the fruit vendor and bought 2000 colones worth of fruit (about $4USD) - enough to fill an entire grocery bag. My little wombat vegan friend would love it here since fruit is about all she eats - about ten pounds of it a day I would guess by watching her on our trip through the Blue Mountains. After our fruit shopping Argentina and I went to the local Museo while Thomas and Michael went for a beer. The exhibit that day was on the origins of Costa Rican society and how the indigenous people evolved from largely nomadic to settled based on their ability to grow food in one place. Like every other indigenous society I have read about.
The thing that makes Costa Rican society unique, as opposed to American Native peoples, is that the Costa Ricans had gold - and lots of it. The made trinkets and amulets, jewelry and tribal adornments, and items used in their native ritual ceremonies. Gold was as common to them as coal was to us. It was everywhere. They had hundreds of pieces on display - the most common were shapes of frogs and birds and butterflies (none of which you would be able to tell without the aid of a placard). As the craft grew more disciplined the people learned to make molds out of fired clay and their pieces became more uniform and recognizable. The shapes were unique and ubiquitous.
After our excursion through the museo we met back up with Thomas and Michael and headed back to the hostel. Francisco and I cut up the fruit we had purchased and he began trying to make a drink out of a medicine fruit called noni. There are no words to describe how incredibly bad this fruit smelled. It was so foul the other two left the kitchen. Evidently, this noni fruit is full of antioxidants and vitamins; the vendor told us we needed just a bit of it to reap all it's benefits. So we mushed it in the blender, added sugar and sweet lemon juice, and plugged our noses. As it turns out noni doesn't really taste like much, it just has a bitter after taste like a grapefruit but without the acidity. It was not all that bad - not good - but not bad. I think the reason the guy sells the things is to counteract all the creepies in the food next door.
We also tried a few other things - the pineapple is amazing - but the little guayava that the drink is made out of is outstanding. It's a little lime shaped thing that you cut in half, take the seeds out of the middle, and eat a bit like you eat a mango if you don't cut the skin off. The fruit is about the same consistency as a mango or other soft fruit but it is SUPER tart and absolutely delicious. I have to figure a way to get it worked into my cooking if I can find it in the states. Wow.
Today I am off to sail around the ocean on a sunset cruise in Manuel Antonio. After my three-hour bus ride on a public bus to get here yesterday, and my nearly dying from heat stoke along the way, I need some water. I will post pics this evening or tomorrow evening as tomorrow is my zip line tour through the rainforest (the reason I came to this beautiful but hot and sticky place to start with).