Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.

Photoblogging Costa Rica, pt 2. (image heavy)

by melo Tue Jan 27th, 2009 at 09:19:05 AM EST

       

  Welcome to part 2, gentle readers, may your hearts be de-winterised by these tales and images from Costa Rica, a country that has become dear to my heart in a very short length of time.
               

More in the basement...


San Jose, Dec 26th

We took in a horse parade today, it was a lovely breezy cloudscape behind, the horses were doing their thing very elegantly, and there was a wide range of riders, from very smart and tricked out, with their mounts curving their necks and prancing, while others were casual and low-key, much smiling and cheering from the crowd.

               

  There are a lot of greys, quite short-maned, and some chestnut roans, likewise, then a couple of breeds I never saw before, one silver-grey with long, jet-black mane, startlingly beautiful in the contrast.

  Some sassy cowgirls, looking somehow Texan and tough, but very feminine.

       

  Costa Ricans are such a mix of races, it's fascinating tracing genealogies in kink of hair, shine of skin, line of jaw, shape of skull. So many Indo-European traits, shaded and blended into Mestizo mixes! Here's an example

   I like the narratives in this shot:

     

  We hung out and people-watched
a while in front of the very elegant old theatre, time-travelling easily to stagecoach days while contemplating its classical facade, and staring at the angels perched on its roof. The building had held up well, there was something touching in the fading grandeur, and the stories it seemed to hold within its walls.

           

  We stopped in to an art gallery, and were pleasantly blown away by the quality of the work, especially the stylised, surreal nature paintings, super fine-brushed with acrylic,  with great detail, the charged colours of parrots in evergreen canopies, hummingbirds and toucans, macaws and monkeys, gambolling and skydiving in an intricate 3D maze of jewels, like being caught inside Isabel Allende's head.

           

  I wondered at what strange Gaian accident/choice that placed more than two thousand DMT compounds into the botanical genepool of C. and S. America, when she's not exactly generous with them elsewhere, and the possible connection to the psychedelically vital artwork exhibited here. The colours have to seen to be believed, they claim your consciousness like only tropical colours do, take-no-prisoners, sobbing reds and greens that burst juicily behind the eyeballs, spattering vitality, with the masterful painting edging us over the formal credibility thresh-hold with light delicacy.

  Mannered, yes, definitely, delightfully so. I was happy to see the prices quite high, so assumed the artists have a good standard of living, which was confirmed through chatting with the owner, a charming, very helpful gentleman, who shared many interesting insights with us about his country. His pride in the 92% literacy was palpable, and his demeanour, cultured and quietly, unpretentiously intellectual, personified the benefits of respect for education here.

  He let me take some pics of the art work on sale there, hundreds of works, stacked together, the walls already full.

           

One last image of San Jose, for you irony fans...

         

Arriving at Alajuela, 27th December 2008
         
  First impressions of Pura Vida Spa, beautiful landscaping, mature tropical gardens, expertly planted to accompany pathways hither and thither, to and from the various zones of rest and activity that are the nexuses of why we're all here, destinies inter-crossed in this week of spacetime.

  My eyes drink it all in gratefully, exhausted by the exhaust fumes of San Jose, they'd been tearing up all day, and my chest felt scraped inside from being the wrong end of too many unmuffled diesels, too often.

  We were shown to our 'tentalow', which was decidedly less impressive than the pic on the website, but had a comfy bed, a shared bathroom 20 ft away, and a nice view of the sunset that was unfolding. People were walking by carrying guitar cases and settling in, and some even sat outside and practiced their songs in the evening air, which was surprisingly chilly, definitely sweater weather. I was a bit saddened to see how we were quite close to the flight path to San Jose airport, and the noise levels of motor bikes and the drone of distant semi-urban life  was never completely silent, though the wind made it come and go a bit, bringing dramatic interactions with the buildings by itself. After the first three days, and the return of good health, I enjoyed the great things about the place, and tuned out the rest. There was such a good buzz between the songwriters and teachers built there, it had proved itself a winning combo, quality instruction and education framed in very aesthetic and comfortable surroundings, (though the tentalow was a bit chilly, truth be told!).

A rainbow Eucalyptus at Pura Vida

  Next morning woke up with flu, cough, streaming eyes and nose, fever. I missed the orientation, and then the afternoon lesson. Shivering then sweating, weak as a kitten, and starting to feel seriously sorry for myself, as another day went by in this way. S.O. was fine and did her yoga classes happily, as I spent as much time as I could sleeping, the only comfortable state of being available.

  The third day the fever broke and settled down, and S.O got it in turn... I left her in a healing coma, and stumbled off to try and catch up some lost education.

  Meaning the songwriters' workshop, 2 days late, with a hollow croak where once there was a voice, embracing the irony.

  In the evenings there were song circles, held in a hall within close earshot of the tentalow, so some of my delirium was backed with their soundtrack, even deep within the mental fog of fever, I had discerned  serious talent wafting around, which was confirmed by joining it on the third night, not alas to sing, but at least to accompany others with a few chords, a little slide guitar or mandolin, (which as usual got the most smiles!)

  She's a little Martin, made in 1953, given to me by my brother my last birthday, and she sings as sweet as a nightingale, the wood of the soundbox is so seasoned and open.

  The course was great. The main teacher was Darrell Scott, a gentle-seeming, somewhat wary man in his fifties, born from a junkie mother and an alcoholic dad, the wrong side of the tracks around Nashville. He was a big bear of a man, with a gentleness and peace emanating from him, especially when he played and sang. A spiritual steadiness, rarest of jewels in this crazed world, riddled with childish greed, clumsy arrogance and deranged values. His carefully crafted songs cut artfully to the bone, no trace of self-consciousness or frippery, stripped to the core, their simple truths told... perennial, weatherbeaten, eternal.

  Digging them roots, passing on traditions, I hear my favourite of them when he plays, picking up the baton that Lowell George carried so well, and taking it further, a slippery use of time, putting funk deeper into the rock, and making what seems wrongfooted (to the expectant part of the brain), feel natural as the appreciation of the syncopation kicks in, making the pieces fit and interlock the jigsaw puzzle of the beat, turning it around, juggling it, skipping the downbeat, with delicious offbeat accents that make your hips want to grind and put a grin on your face!  Joyful, sly equivocation, charmed, playing with tight respect for every subdivision of the groove's nuances, yet with loose insouciance, an easy, relaxed feeling that slyly grabs you, making mojo as the music starts to play the player.

  The second teacher was Mary Gauthier, who played an unsentimentally surgical role, dismembering the cherished delusions so familiar to artists of every stripe. At first I felt somewhat turned off by her directness, having heard through the grapevine she's already reduced one writer to tears during one of the sessions I'd missed, and right away I saw why....no mincing of words, no kid gloves, shred city.

  Over the days I saw the Costa Rican atmosphere soften her disposition, and her pedagogic approach followed suit. Her songs were great, shot through with darkness and pain, sung them with a simple starkness that suited them perfectly, laying out the difficult, gritty soul work she had mapped and expressed through her songs'journey, a moving document of a life that would have broken most hearts beyond repair. The lonely, bitter pain of abandonment and betrayal had been alchemised into jewels of compressed experience, shorn of indulgence or self-pity. There was one about the death of the 'Last King of the Hoboes' she'd written, or better, conjured out of a short newspaper obituary of a couple of lines. That was really special, a slice of history, I could almost hear Woody Guthrie chiming in on a harmony! Then another piece about HIV that captured the rage, grief and bewilderment that surround this awful disease.   Kudos to Mary too, a powerful teacher, definitely not for the faint of heart...!

  The third teacher was Kenny Malone, a percussion player and drummer who'd been on a zillion hit records, and had worked with Darrell a while. He was 70, and as genial and warm as a man can be, just golden, and as might be expected, a master of rhythm and dynamic nuance. The last morning before leaving he gave me a one-on-one djembe lesson that was full of new ideas, recorded to practice with when home again.

  The students were all American except for one Aussie woman, we became fast friends!

  There was quite a lot of 'Barble-Belt' stuff about the wages of sin and the price of redemption coming through the lyrics of some writers, a little on the grim-christian, shudder-in-your-shoes side, though fervently heartfelt and soulfully expressed. Thankfully, for balance, there was some very light-hearted stuff as well. My personal favourites were Michael Lille, a brilliant and wise writer who accompanied himself on guitar with an especially complementary and imaginative style, and a couple, Michael and Siobhan, from Washington D.C. who sang such outstanding harmonies they had me in chills several times, (even after the fever had broken!)

  There were others though too, whose names I regret not remembering better, in particular one 22 year old girl, Tracy from West Virginia with a Jesus tattoo, placed just underneath her bikini top, who sang like an angel about the most difficult of adult subjects, and tore my heart out of my chest with her magic combination of voice, playing and writing, several times. Bbeing present next to this quality of writers and performers was a dream come true, and rubbing musical shoulders with them at this workshop was just the get-better medicine I needed...

  The course ended up about much more than songwriting, it was whatever we as students brought to the circle, bonding round the fire of Darrell's seasoned, generous spirit, and mellow wonder as he shared candidly about his own journey to understanding, how the struggle to distill truth was the hallmark of the art, indeed all art. Many friendships were forged and deepened, inspired by the contacts with other thoughtful, sensitive writers and their songs. All in all, it was a humbling, reassuringly transformative occasion, just as I'd hoped, salted with a lot of fun, sometimes ribald humour, and  frequent tears of joy at the bittersweet poignancy of great words married to great music, bearing witness.

  Thanks to Darrell and crew, a success on every level!

  We both received some excellent massages while at Pura Vida, the therapists were warm hearted and very talented. We grew to love all the staff, and the food was excellent, (and mostly vegan-friendly), served in a lovely big dining room with choices of sitting with new people, or having a quiet corner by ourselves if we felt like it. The views down over the San Jose Valley and the mountains beyond were often extraordinary, with lots of flurrying, gusty winds, inconstant and playful.

  This kept the cloud patterns on a swift refresh rate, and building into some impressively architectural whipped cream verticalities, sliced by eagles spiralling around on thermals, their silhouettes evocative and melodramatic against the cerulean blue, chasing the silver-gray cloud-castles.

           

  After a week at Pura Vida, we were both well over our clean-out, and ready to move into the second week of our 3-week journey, heading for the Caribbean coast, specifically for the small village of Puerto Viejo, almost all the way to the Panamanian border.

 Following on in part 3.

Display:
Thanks for the pictures, melo! Looks and sounds like you had an interesting and fun time at the pura vida spa.

Looking forwart to part 3. :-)

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 27th, 2009 at 04:42:18 PM EST
thanks, Fran, it was interesting being on the 'other end' of the wellness industry, though once we left pura vida, we realised what a bubble it was.

a very nice bubble, but a bubble just the same.

i noticed a few typos in the diary, and would like to tidy up, but can't seem to find my way to the edit page, could you please remind me?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jan 27th, 2009 at 07:28:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you look on the bottom of your story, you will find next to 'post a comment' also 'edit story', that should help you to enter you story and change whatever you want to change.

Once in a while bubbles can be nice.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 28th, 2009 at 03:03:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
bubbles feel nice, it's true.

i would recommend pura vida to anyone. their main function is teaching yoga, in fact. this was the first time they had hosted a songwriting course, and it was great to see how much they enjoyed it too. on many occasions they shared what a pleasure it was having us there.

highly mutual!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jan 28th, 2009 at 07:47:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Beautiful photos, just beautiful.

Sorry you spent a few ill days.  Nothing worse than being sick without your own bed.  

I've never been to Costa Rica but everyone I've met who has gone has enjoyed it.  

by Maryb2004 on Tue Jan 27th, 2009 at 11:45:45 PM EST
thanks mary, i enjoyed taking them.

as for being ill away from home, i hear you.

the good news was it was mercifully brief.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jan 28th, 2009 at 04:46:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great word-picture diary Melo.  

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Wed Jan 28th, 2009 at 09:43:31 AM EST
i appreciate your praise, gringo.

thanks for stopping by!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jan 28th, 2009 at 11:27:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, those are some gorgeous pics, melo. I can't let my wife see this diary, if she does, we're going to be packed and headed for Costa Rica before the year is out. :-)
by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Wed Jan 28th, 2009 at 09:57:06 AM EST
i'm thinking of going back in october, with some family and friends, to scout it out better, now i've learned more, i think the nicoya peninsula is the next part to explore.

maybe we could do a meet up!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jan 28th, 2009 at 11:25:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hi Melo,

My wife has gone and read your diary and true to my prediction is dying to visit Costa Rica. A meetup sounds like fun, plus it sounds as though you could make some great recommendations!

by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Thu Jan 29th, 2009 at 09:25:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
oops, sorry!

glad she liked them.

i think a couple of months van-camping would be the best way to scope it out better, it's a hammock culture, with miles of deserted beaches. better watch out for an iguana in your sleeping bag!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Jan 29th, 2009 at 01:51:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Looks like a great place and sounds like an excellent course - very nice text and photos.

Bad luck about the illness, a couple of my ex-students did a tour of South America, half-way they got very ill and had a difficult time and had to return. Glad to hear you recovered enough to take part, it would have been a great pity to have missed all those songs and contacts.

Apparently Costa Rica's literacy rate is even higher than the gallery owner said, according to this 2007 UN source: "37. Costa Rica (94.9") - while Cuba's literacy rate is practically 100%: "2. Cuba (99.8)"

http://hdrstats.undp.org/countries/country_fact_sheets/cty_fs_CUB.html

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 28th, 2009 at 02:19:12 PM EST
thanks, Ted, for your kind words and link.

it is a great place, and has put quite a spell on me!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jan 28th, 2009 at 07:43:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Melo,
Thanks for allowing me to visit Costa Rica through your words & images.
Your take on the place could not be a better testimonial.
I too have wanted to go for some years, especially to visit the reefs in the area, but also for the birds & flora.

The difference between theists and atheists is that the atheists don't set the theists on fire for refusing to agree with them.
by Knucklehead on Thu Jan 29th, 2009 at 01:06:15 PM EST
very glad you enjoyed it, knucklehead.

it's an amazing place, i think you'd probably get some great nature pix there.

the canopy tours are everywhere, although i didn't fit one in this time. it was funny, we went 10 miles down some awful road and i had a strange feeling about it, so passed on the opportunity.

i still wonder if the earthquake that happened 3 hrs later was influencing me, as i felt distinctly odd the whole morning.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Jan 29th, 2009 at 01:51:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dear, lovely Gaia, heart of humanity and cradle of humanity, thanks for being yourself.

You too, Melo, for bringing this to us.

Fourteen years in the Caribbean taught me some of the same lessons, among them the incredible beauty that emerges from complex genetic mixtures--beauty both male and female, body and spirit.
If I live, one day I too will tell the tale of my wanderings in the carribbean-- near two decades.

Went to San Juan for three days, stayed three years.

Island Time.

Thank you so much for your loving story. You give me hope- that we are not alone, and that it all is worth it.
 

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 02:21:10 PM EST
geezer in Paris:
You give me hope- that we are not alone, and that it all is worth it.

that, my blog-buddy, is why i wrote it. thanks for your poetic reply. it'd be nice to hear more about those 20 years...

is trinidad carnival as unmissable as it looks?

the best meal we ate during the whole trip there was cooked and spiced by a lad from tobago.

the tastiest food either of us had ever enjoyed, and i still smell the spices coming through my pores a month later!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 12:21:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Could comment on photos, fine, or events, wow and sorry, but there's something much more important.

You hung out with Kenny Malone!  He's drummed on a fair amount of the sound track to my life.  A tasty, talented drummer.


I wondered at what strange Gaian accident/choice that placed more than two thousand DMT compounds into the botanical genepool of C. and S. America, when she's not exactly generous with them elsewhere, and the possible connection to the psychedelically vital artwork exhibited here.

The stories and genetic decoding, and the conjecture regarding  various DMT compounds reminded me of a similar story.  Laying in a hammock in the Quintana Roo jungle south of Tulum ruins, with a bunch of Mayas who could barely speak Spanish, much less english, having partaken of one of the compounds, drinking mescal, and trading Hank Williams songs for old Mayan songs until the dawn broke.  i thought i was in heaven, until i woke and found i was indeed.

Thanks for a fine diary of a finer experience.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 04:29:04 PM EST
Crazy Horse:
Laying in a hammock in the Quintana Roo jungle south of Tulum ruins, with a bunch of Mayas who could barely speak Spanish, much less english, having partaken of one of the compounds, drinking mescal, and trading Hank Williams songs for old Mayan songs until the dawn broke.  i thought i was in heaven, until i woke and found i was indeed.

sounds like a night to remember!

Kenny Malone is as mellow as a man can be, as well as being a great drummer.

at 70, he has the energy of someone 30 years younger.

wotts lotta rhythm can do...

thanks for your colourful post!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 12:26:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Brilliant, melo, brilliant. I can nearly smell the tropics through your pictures; Alajuela looks and reads like paradise.

Will there be volcanoes included in your journeys?? :)

by Nomad on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 10:16:12 AM EST
hey nomad, great to see you here!

i thought of you when the earthquake happened.

yes there will be some more about volcanos in pt 3, rest assured.

better get on and write it!

i'm stretching this out a bit on purpose, to keep that glow going as long as possible. we've had one sunny day in the 2 weeks i've been back, and all i can think about is a tall fresh watermelon smoothie!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 01:34:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]