Living the Vida Pura

Pre-post note: the title of this blog is to be sung to the melody of Ricky Martin`s “Living la vida loca” 😉 …

Hello friends,

After being stranded, Gilligan`s island style, at Newark airport due to a snowstorm, I am finally back on home turf and glad to be back. How my fingers have missed dancing across the keyboard and sharing with you. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I have just spent 10 days in Costa Rica, land of the 10 000 species. What a trip! The trip was definitely one of adventure, more than I was expecting, what with ziplining through jungles, jumping off waterfalls and roadtripping through the most sinuous, hilly, narrow and non-asphalt (read: dirt) roads I have ever laid eyes on. I think I could practically audition for the next Bond movie. However, it was also most relaxing. This peaceful army-less country is known for its laid-back beach towns, yoga culture and delicious foods such as tropical fruits and macadamia nuts. Because I`ve missed you so much, I thought I would simply share some photos with you all, so that you can feel as if you flew down too (hey, I`m trying here…).

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First course of our breakfast: bowl of fresh fruits including papaya, pineapple, starfruit, apple and banana. The hotel where we stayed had a garden in which all of these fruits were grown, along with cocoa beans, guava, oranges and lemons. Touring through this garden was a mouth-watering stroll, obviously.

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Very laidback elephant enjoying his time in Pura Vida land.

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Old school sewing machine at a bakery in Cabuya, a tiny fishing town with deserted beaches and roads lined with hibiscus flowers. At this bakery, my organic beet, avocado, tomato, carrot and cabbage salad was brought to me by an adorable 8 year old waitress (she wasn`t actually a waitress, she was the owner`s daughter 🙂 ). Most all places in Costa Rica were extremely rustic and no-frill, which conferred upon them a warmth, charm and hospitability which reminded me of the importance and natural comfort of living a simple life.

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Savouring a spirulina, cocoa nib and coconut oil covered papaya. The papaya`s flesh was so fresh it came apart almost like salmon. Did you know that papayas are actually members of the berry family and that their black seeds can be consumed? In fact, the seeds have such a peppery flavor that they are sometimes ground up and used as a pepper substitute.  

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Up close and personal. Did you know papayas contain digestive enzymes called papains which help break down proteins and thus help improve digestion? Next time you are experiencing an upset stomach or indigestion after a meal, simply have some papaya for dessert. Just like eating lots and lots of carrots, consuming excess papaya can too bring about carotenemia, the yellowing of the soles of the feet and palms.  Worry not, this is temporary, un-dangerous (is this a word? 🙂 ) and subsides once excessive quantities of papaya are no longer being taken in.

A small papaya contains about 300% of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin C. It also contains vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, which helps protect your skin against UVA and UVB damage (I love/hate you Mr.Sun), which is fantastic when you`re visiting a tropical region 😉 . In other words, the beta-carotene found in fruits act as a natural sunscreen to the fruit, but will also act as natural sunscreen for our human bodies once consumed.

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Pura Vida literally means pure life but its meaning extends beyond this. The term has been in the Costa Rican dialect for over 50 years and signifies “Hakuna Matata” in Walt Disney language. Contextually, it represents the idea of simple living, enjoyment and being joyful. It symbolizes a laid-back lifestyle. What fascinated me during this trip, like many other places I have visited, is how little people have and how happy they are. Not all Costa Ricans have electricity, running water is scarce due to droughts, many big families live in tiny houses with no fans or air conditioning and 25% of ticos and ticas live below the poverty line. As I walked through these neighborhoods, what struck me is that more people on our planet live in such conditions rather than the opposite, or the conditions of people living Canadian lifestyles (lifestyle here referring to water, electricity and basic human needs). Despite this, I found Costa Ricans to be humble, generous and kind and many of them had smiles so huge that if they didn`t have ears, their smiles would go all the way around their heads 🙂 .

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It can sometimes be hard to stay active whilst on vacation. However, we were determined to break an occasional sweat and so once upon a time, on a blistering hot sunny day (they were all sunny days, granted), we decided to bike along the roads of the Nicoyan Peninsula. Hilariously enough, we headed to a bicycle rental kiosk in Montezuma where we were told we would receive two state-of-the-art mountain bikes, helmets, protective gear, a tire pump, biking gloves and a bicycling tour guide for a 6-hour period, all for 20$ per person (American). Come departure time, we show up only to receive banana bikes (let`s call them European style), the type where one must pedal backwards to brake. Plus, no tour guide, helmet, biking gloves, protective gear, etc. were provided. Gotta laugh / pura vida. We biked by sugar cane plantations where the air had a faint smell of molasses, saw frolicking howler monkeys and toucans and gawked at remarkable and majestic poponjoche and nargusta trees. Amazingly, the trees in the forests we biked by tend to grow long, roots above-ground, as opposed to deep and thick roots. This is due to the tropical soils being relatively poor in nutrients, which causes the roots to need to grow on the surface of the earth to maximise absorption of available nutrients.

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After a long day of basking in the sun`s rays and sunning one`s buns, it`s nice to kick back and relax with some thirst-quenching refreshments. Above is the photographical representation of a ginger-mint lemonade and a fresh-squeezed orange juice. Just what the doctor/nutritionist ordered 😉 …

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As you may have noticed, many of these food pictures are taken at the same location. That`s because I absolutely fell in love with a restaurant/boutique hotel called Olam. This restaurant is tucked away, a few meters away from the  main road and offered loads of vegetarian options. The place also offered amazing daily yoga classes with vibrant and kind teachers. Many of the staff members there were Argentinian and Italian expats who embraced the Costa Rican lifetyle and could not leave this paradise once they had discovered it. They were also very patient with me as I practiced my “Spanish” (quotation marks here hinting at the quality of my Spanish 🙂 ) so hats off to them for that 🙂 . In the above picture, an amazing couscous salad and a vegetarian pizza (the pizza crust was made with yucca – a local staple somewhat similar to a potato 🙂 )…

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Bliss. Pure and simple 🙂 . The music in this restaurant totally added to the overall feel. To feel like you were there, try listening to the following songs:

*Emancipator- Soon it will be cold enough

*The XX – Basic Space

*Ben Howard- Only Love

*Yann Tiersen – La Noyee

*The Alan Parsons Project – I wouldn’t want to be like you

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A lot of the wildlife in Costa Rica was reminiscent of the African savannas. I could honestly stare at these landscapes for half hours on end.

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Passionfruit mojito at “Playa de los Artistes” restaurant. I tried not to have too much alcohol on this trip but the occasional ethanol-infused treat snuck its way in 🙂 ..

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Zen decorations at our hotel. I can feel my shoulders relaxing 🙂 .

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This picture depicts the banana tree in all its glory. I was very impressed with the following fact: the purple flower you see, hanging upside down, is responsible for the banana`s ripening. As the flower blossoms and the flower petals open, the bananas ripen. If you chop off the flower, the ripening process comes to a screeching halt. I love facts haha.

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An inspiring poster on the wall of our hostel.

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Musical Decoration. Ahhhhh….

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Fruit platter with green smoothie (contains: kale, spinach, parsley, wheatgrass and fruits).

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Rice and beans was the local dish and could be consumed at any moment of the day (all day, all night)…

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Hammocks. Enough said.

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Saladski.

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Ceiling of a café we visited. Costa Rican coffee tastes like a dream and a half.

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Raw food was abundant in this country.

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Tahini, chocolate and almond smoothie. Creamy and onctuous.

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Beautiful flora could be found anywhere. Hibiscus flowers were everywhere to be found.

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Finding beauty in unexpected places.

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Many nights, we watched the sun setting over the Pacific ocean. Breathtaking!

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This book singlehandedly changed my life. I devoured it in a matter of days. It tells the story of a lawyer who decides to pursue happiness and rethinks his whole priority list. The bottom line? Simplify your life and pursue things that are truly of meaning to you. Carpe diem. It was very fitting that this book made its way into my life during this trip. Destiny, I tell ya…

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Due to water shortages, we were asked to try to keep showers to a maximum of 4 minutes. It wasn`t all that difficult and I plan on continuing this challenge in my homeland.

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The latin flavor of the country is noticeable especially thanks to the musica. Latin beats were blared from many restaurants, cafes, bars and even grocery stores.

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The beaches of Costa Rica are strewn with beautiful seashells, little critters and are not all that strewn with people, which makes it a great getaway.

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I attempted beach yoga, which was a really fun challenge. Doing the poses in sand or on rocks works your stabilizer muscles extra hard 😉

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This was a random sign for a hotel on a dirt road. It should be present everywhere if you ask me.

I apologize if this blog post is excruciatingly long. I also hope it felt like a mini vacation. I know though food is mentioned throughout, not much has been said about nutrition or recipes but I will be back soon with nutrition pointers and also suppose that stress reduction, finding time to be one with nature, partaking in yoga/meditative activities are components of health that should never be neglected, no matter how busy or stressed out you are. On that note, pura vida to you all and see you soon! 🙂

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“I chose to be happy because it is good for my health”.

 

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