Approaching two weeks now I have been living and working like a true Costa Rican and I'm not 100% sure it's the life for me, although there is no denying the outstanding beauty on offer here! Just like Poland, it was a case of ‘de ja vu’ upon arriving into the capital San Jose, as the only songs to be heard blaring through the radio was a mega-mix of James Blunt, Robbie Williams, TATU and a nice selection of Christmas songs! I have to admit that I was always a fan of James Blunt, but after 2 weeks of virtually nothing but him, I am slowly being driven towards insanity!
From first impressions there seems to be a lot of American influence here, including unhealthy fast food outlets on every other corner and a ridiculous amount of runners fighting their way through the congested city traffic. Also, all dressed as though participating in the ‘Tour de France’, cycling a is a favourite past time, with our bus driver determined to try and hit as many as possible upon leaving the capital.
My home for the 3 weeks I'm here is a 4-hour drive outside of San Jose in the middle of the cloud rainforest. It might sound idyllic to wake up every morning surrounded by dense virgin rainforest, clouds and humming birds on your doorstep, but this is where the dream ends. So far the only other wildlife encountered has been insects that would fit straight in to a Stephen King horror story (okay, I might be exaggerating a little there!). As it's currently rainy season the majority of these beats try and seek solace in my tiny abode. So far, amongst others, I have had to deal with spiders the size of a grown mans hand and toads as big as a small baby!
The previous night on a midnight toilet dash I also had the pleasure of coming face to face with a scorpion, which I had rudely awoken. The scorpion was a full 6 inches in length. Having been informed in recent years that such a length is monstrous, you can only imagine what I was dealing with here! Now the only previous knowledge of scorpions were the wise words of Michaela Strachan who had led me to believe that all scorpions are venomous. Not wanting to meet an early end and also wanting to get back to sleep I decided to take the appropriate action.
Legs shaking (pathetic I know!), I donned my trainers and chose my weapon of destruction, a can of Lynx (Axe) anti perspirant and a lighter. I really don't know what the scorpion was more afraid of, death, or being faced by a pot-bellied, man-breasted male, wearing nothing but trainers and a pair of 'too tight for a body like that' boxer briefs. Unfortunately the anti perspirant/ lighter combination wasn't as effective as I hoped, instead doing nothing more than coating the now very angry scorpion with the scent of Africa. In the end I resorted to the tried and tested old-fashioned shoe-on-head technique. I later learnt that this poor scorpion was one of the least venomous on the planet. I'd hate to think how I will act if faced with any of the snakes or tarantulas that roam the local vicinity.
For those of you who weren't aware, for the duration of my time here I will be learning new skills in the art of coffee production. If you were like me and pictured coffee picking, surrounded by technicolour butterflies and swinging monkeys as a dream paradise, then you are sorely mistaken. Humans aren't the only species that love and adore coffee. Ants also have the same addiction, building their nests at the base of the coffee bushes. Sadly these nests are not always easily identified and upon feeling the first tiny bite on your ankle it is already too late as by this time your foot is already covered by hundreds and hundreds of fuming, biting ants. At the time of writing this, my lower legs currently resemble an adolescent boy with a bad case of acne. Not at all attractive, especially against the backdrop of pale white skin!!
Although ant bites are indeed painful, it's the humble caterpillar that holds the position of making me squeal like a girl the most. It seems the more garish the colour, the more irrative they are to the touch, and so far all the times I have had the misfortune of accidentally touching one, it's as though my hand has been smothered in stinging nettles.
While not lowering my life-expectancy picking coffee, I have been spending my time bonding with a neighbouring Costa Rican family. As they don't speak English and I don't speak Spanish then conversation has been slightly limited, but this hasn't been a problem. Upon arrival the mother welcomed us and made sure we had a good supply of food to eat, even offering us some fresh pork chops. It turned out that these fresh pork chops were in fact so fresh that they were still alive. If it wasn't enough to see my meat alive, seeing it take a huge mouthful of a fresh steaming turd certainly put me off having any. I have never been tempted to turn vegetarian before, but seeing your future meat scoffing a big pile of pig poo has certainly convinced me!!
Free time has also seen many international sporting events taking place with the neighbours children. One such competition involved a makeshift game of baseball with a ping-pong ball and table tennis bat with their 7-year-old son. Ina game full of controversy and cheating, I lost out to a home run knocked into the adjourning barbed wire enclosed field. In his moment of glory the 7 year old then ordered me to go and fetch it. Not wanting to offend my new neighbours I happily obliged crawling under the fence. Half way through fear shot through my body as my head was now adjacent to a snake hole. This caused me to jerk upwards entangling myself on the barbed wire. To make matters worse I inadvertently put my foot in an ant's nest and before I knew it my left leg was covered in these wretched black devils. I lost a perfectly good t-shirt in the following few seconds to the barbed wire, not to mention a fair bit of skin as well!
My luck has been even worse when using public transport on offer, although I have my lack of Spanish to blame for that. On one journey back from San Isidro, the nearest 'city' (smaller than Hinckley, the town I grew up in!) to offer any of the basic essentials to sustain life I had a complete nightmare. After first getting shouted at by a lady for sitting in her seat, not to mention the faces she was pulling that even a professional gurner would be proud of, I was then pushed to the back of the bus and made to stand. To draw even more attention my way, as the bus pulled off towards my destination I decided to take hold of the string as not to fall. Unfortunately this string was in fact the bell to stop the bus. After 30 seconds of holding this, oblivious to the looks being thrown in my direction, I realized my mistake thanks to a sharp prod to the ribs from an elderly gentleman sitting down to my right. This was followed by a few choice words in Spanish.
I corrected my mistake by grabbing hold of the correct rope handle, wrapping it around my hand as tight as possible. In my hastiness I wrapped it a little too tight, as when the bus stopped to let people alight, they couldn't get pass me as I had somehow managed to get my hand stuck in the rope. Cue a few more words from the lovely elderly gentleman and an outburst of laughter from everyone around me.
If this wasn't already the bus journey from hell, I was then accidentally pushed into a seat containing a mother and young baby pressing my pert ass onto the baby's head. As you can imagine this didn't go down to well so of course I apologized. Instead of sayiny the Spanish for 'I'm sorry', I instead said 'Excuse me' as though I expected the mother and her baby to make way for my butt! Hence even more looks of pure filth and disgust.
The Costa Ricans are an unbelievably friendly group of people, waving to everyone they pass, but after this journey I have a feeling some people might brake this tradition with me.