Our tour was called “A Taste of Costa Rica.” Our agenda for our first day in the Arenal area was full. We went on a short bird walk with William. He spotted a collared tanager and a yellow faced grassquit. Here are some pictures from the internet. We could not get close enough to take our own.
Sharon went on the hanging bridge tour while I stayed at the hotel to do some online banking. The hotel’s public laptop was not functioning, but the front desk clerk said “I can borrow you my computer.” This worked fine, and afterward we chatted about learning one another’s language.
After lunch at El Saca (same menu as the night before!) we went to visit a local school. We were greeted by some students, who ranged in age from about 5 to about 12. They were all dressed up in traditional costumes, looking pretty much like those in this picture of teenage students taken from the internet:
Winters in Costa Rica children are needed at home to harvest the coffee crop. So school was not in session. The children had come to school just for the day’s tourist program. Each child took one or two of us by the hand and escorted us with a firm grip and practiced step to a pavilion on the campus. There the children treated us to traditional dances to recorded music. An example of this kind of dance can be seen here. We got a tour of the school, including the library and the computer lab. The latter facility was air-conditioned. Here the children had an opportunity to say what their ambitions were. Typical is the response of one boy: to be an astronaut or …a professional football player. By football he meant soccer. We learned that the kids all walk to and from school every day. None have computers at home, but they do have TV. The teachers explained that the curriculum was intended to give the students what they needed to succeed in modern life: knowledge of computers is part of that; English is another. There were some items on sale at the pavilion, and we bought a few things to help support the school programs. The children took us by the hand and escorted us back to our bus. They had won us over, but we had to move on.
We next visited the farm-restaurant Arenal Vida Campesina. Here a very knowledgeable guide explained medicinal and other interesting plants grown on the farm. We had a demonstration of sugar cane pressing, and sampled a cocktail mixed on the spot with cane liquor.
We then moved on to dinner, with guest-assisted tortillas, chicken, beef, yucca root, other vegetables, tortilla with syrup as dessert, and the inimitable coffee prepared in the Costa Rican tradition. Almost everything served was grown on the farm.
Our tour was definitely living up to its title, both in literal terms as we became more familiar with the cuisine, but also with regard to the lives of the people. There was a noticeable effect. Sharon remarked how healthy she felt. The climate, the food, the culture, probably all had something to do with this.