Costa Rica: Journal Entry 2

Tuesday, July 22: Rice and Beans

Cafe con leche arrives first accompanied by a cup of fruit, yellow pineapple, pink papaya slices of fresh banana with sprinkles of raisins, which I carefully avoid. Breakfast at the restaurant below the hostel. We order quickly. We already know we want to try their breakfast version of gallo pinto, traditional rice and beans, which today arrived with seasoned, saucy pollo as well and corn tortillas. Rice, beans and chicken: the breakfast of champions.

I experience culture the best via food. Actually, I experience most of life through food even when I am at home. When done properly, I think food has the best opportunity to introduce people to each other. It tells stories about the land and about generations. It is how I find common ground with both strangers and friends.

But this morning is mostly about eating so we can make it downtown in time to catch our shuttle/bus to the Britt Coffee Farm Tour.
We are the only ones on the bus. Lucas, our ambassador, converses with the driver again, whose first words to us him were "I thought you would be Italian."

I can catch general phrases and an occasional word that my I-took-Spanish-1-in-high-school ears understand. The driver asks me if I know Spanish too. I do not. He then switches to English only to tell me that learning Spanish is very important.

I sit in silence with my white American identity.

We are out of the city now. Closer to the mountains and maybe actually in them as the road starts to twist and turn.

The greenness of the land is what I will remember the most about this day. The sun is hidden in the shadows but there is still that morning brightness that causes your mind to constantly wonder if you need sunglasses or not. Green. Everything is green and bright and wet.
The tour is short and sweet and to the point. Our tour guides are young and energetic. I see coffee beans and cocoa beans up close for the first time. But my mind mostly wonders to Britt's business practices. We do not see the common, every day laborer expect a few men in the roasting house who waved backed at me.

Are they paid well?

I wonder that the most. But I don't ask it.

Being in such a tropical place feels serial to me as I snap yet another picture of a bright pink or yellow flower or leaf. Thus far in my life my only experience of a jungle is from those fake exhibits at the zoo. Even now, at Britt Coffee Farm, I cannot shake the feeling and have to remind myself that those bananas hanging in the tree are not a prop. This is real life. This is not Kansas.

After sampling enough black coffee and dark chocolate bits filled with small pieces of guava, we sit down to eat lunch in their open pavilion restaurant. Casada is the option. More rice, beans, chicken, and corn tortillas, but this time there is also savory vegetables and syrup soaked plantains. There is a fruit juice called Cas. Each lunch option is accompanied by a sign in both Spanish and English translating the dish for the visitors. Cas' translation is simply "Cas."

This is the happiest I have ever been eating rice and beans.