Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How to successfully get recipes from your Mama Tica

When abroad-ers first arrive to the country that they’ll spend the next few months in, they tend to have a few goals in mind. Maybe something like, learn the language, take risks, open themselves to new opportunities, mingle with the locals…etc.

These are very logical goals.

Yet, being the food obsessed person that I am, my mind is never off of the thought of my next meal or the next thing that my mouth could potentially love. So obviously, a primary goal of mine, when I first arrived to Costa Rica, was food related. I am striving to find meals that I enjoy (try finding food that I’ve disliked here, that would be easier) and then accumulate as many of those traditional recipes as I can for later use! I want to make sure that when I cook for myself back at home, I’ll have some tasty Costa Rican food options to choose from.

Whether I'm at a soda, a small family-owned restaurant, or at home with my host family, there is an abundance of food that looks and tastes remarkable (probably because most of it isn’t very healthy…but that’s beside the point).

Since it’s not common to ask a restaurant for recipes to their meals, I decided to ask my Mama Tica for the recipes to her delicious delicacies.

You would assume that this would be an easy feat, right? That the conversation would sound something like this:

Me: hola mama, podrias darle las recetas a algunas de las comidas que has hecho recientemente?
-        Hello mama, could you give me the recipes to some of the meals that you have done recently?

MT: si Megan morado, por supuesto! 
-        Yes purple Megan, but of course!
    (She calls me “purple megan” ever since I dyed the ends of my hair purple)
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Life would be too simple if that were the case.

The language barrier wasn’t the problem, because I totally know my Spanish food lingo. More like she has the recipes memorized but does not know the exact amounts, rather she throws food and spices in, and judges it by taste.

Well, this complicates the process to accomplish my goal.

So what does one do at this point?

1.   Give up, possibly sulk a little, and look up Costa Rican recipes online. Hope that the food tastes similarly.

2.     Hang around the kitchen whenever she’s cooking, and slyly note all that she puts into each meal.

3.     Call her “loca” (yes, we’ve gotten to that point in the relationship where teasing is acceptable) and get her to write down the recipe as similarly as she can to the original.

Well, the third option was what I opted to do. As of right now, here are the few recipes I was able to squeeze out of far:

To start off with the simple stuff:

Maracuya juice: Simply cut the maracuya, passion fruit, in half. Scoop out the seeds and the surrounding gelatin and put both in the blender. Add water, ice, and sugar if preferred. Blend until smooth.
“The best batido ever”: Add coconut cream, bananas, pineapple, milk, honey, ice. Blend until smooth.
Pollo dulce: Grill chicken. Heat and mix brown sugar and tomato sauce. Add the mixture to the chicken.
"Tico Tacos"Take Chalupes, Refried beans (1/4 onion, diced,1 clove garlic, diced, 1/4 bell pepper, diced, 4 cups cooked or canned black beans, pureed,1 lime/ juiced, water), lettuce, diced tomatoes, diced avocado, beef that is covered abodo sauce.

The recipes that require more work:

Arroz con Pollo
Salsa de tomate

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Semana Santa story as told through GIFs and pictures

Semana Santa, or Holy week, is the six days leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. During this week, students had no school and most locals took time off work to spend time with family and participate in religious celebrations.

Due to school being out, I had a full week to travel wherever my heart desired, or to wherever the bus schedule allowed.

Here’s what I did:

The first half of the week was spent in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

This trip was included with our program, ISA, so we fortunately didn’t have to worry about paying for transportation or housing

We woke up at the crack of dawn… to take a six hour long bus ride to the Panama border. 

(Which consisted of a Hunger Games movie marathon, rowdy ISA newcomers, and me, constantly trying to keep myself from falling asleep with my mouth open.)

At the border, the next two hours was spent avoiding the blazing sun

crossing over rickety bridges

and waiting through many slow moving lines.

Soon enough, we finally made it to the water taxi that would take us to our island-like destination.

To say that the water taxi rides were “really fun” would be an understatement… so I’ll just stick to saying that the water taxi rides were “superfreakingawesome”.

On the first water taxi ride, we flew through the water, bouncing over waves, making it feel like we were on a roller coaster of sorts (not to mention we saw dolphins along the way).                             For other trips, the taxi would manage to glide along the choppy waves making for a relaxing ride to wherever we needed to go.

After staying in hostels for the past few weekends, it makes you really appreciate how awesome hotels can be.


Hotels have air-conditioned rooms, giant fluffy beds, clean bathrooms, carpet floors, a pool… all beautifully average things that a kid, now living a backpacker lifestyle, comes to savor.

Throughout the next few days, my friends and I did various things like:

- Go on an island tour on a stormy day and get pelted by rain along the way.
(Somehow we managed to smile through it all)

- Pick up starfish, look for sloths, and snorkel through coral reefs.

- Rent bikes to take a self guided tour throughout the surrounding hilly yet tropical area.

- Order the same "batido" twice a day (it truly was the best fruit smoothie combination I've ever had).

- Get adventurous with our food choices, from Lebanese to Indian to Caribbean.

 And since this was my first spring break abroad… you could say that:

- On the first night, we went to a “reggae night” party, where, at first, everyone was standing around the dance floor as if we were back in middle school... until we arrived.

Props to Cole for being the first one to start the dancing
- The next night we went out with, quite possibly, the wildest bunch of people I've ever met.

I mean, how could you not be entertained when the night involved a click five sing along, a confusing drinking game, liberated storytelling, and unnecessary wall twerking?
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The second half of my week was spent in Montezuma, Costa Rica.

In order to get to this remote area of the country, my friends and I had to take another long bus ride and a ferry.

The bus ride was overall uneventful though it took vigilance and a good cup of coffee to get onto the bus itself.

We arrived at the bus stop around 4:30 in the morning to ensure that we got a spot on the bus.             (The location wasn't providing the option to pre-purchase tickets and, from what we had heard, the buses filled up fast.)

Turns out that arriving early was a great decision. The stop was bustling with people and a line was already forming for the Montezuma bus. 
We had to keep an eye out because every so often someone would try to sneak their way up the line rather than go all the way to the back. 
We had to mark our place and practice our stink eye! (And being me, a person who can’t help but smile all the time, my stink eye was not one for the books.)

As for the ferry ride, it was wonderful! We paid about two dollars for a 70 minute ride, which included latino music, decks, food options, and a relaxing time. And by midday we made it to Montezuma!

Turns out that our hostel, Luz en el Cielo, was at the top of a very steep hill.                            
And I’m actually not being sarcastic in the slightest because for some weird reason, I really do love hills/mountains (though my friends don’t have the same kind of affection for this hill as I do).

Me whenever I see anything with a steep incline
The wonderful thing about hostels is the relaxed atmosphere that it provides. Hammocks are found every few feet, the kitchen is available for any of the guests, and there tends to be a common living area for people to converse. 
The people that stay in hostels are those traveling from all over the world. We met, two Brits, one girl from New York, a guy from the UK, three people from Denmark, one man from France, etc.

Throughout the next few days, my friends and I did various things like:

- Hike to the Montezuma waterfalls and then proceed to jump off high places into the water. 

- Go to the beach and try to stay above the big waves with strong rip currents.

- Run along the beach with my friend Ana, in bathing suits, which made me feel like we were joining the cast of “Baywatch”. (However, imagine me tripping all over the beach rather than making clean strides...)

- Go to a fire show and join the “reggae in the streets” party, in the little beach town.

- Finally play futbol on one of the local fields with the new friends that I had made.

- Read, sleep, yoga (yes, I did just turn it into a verb), juggle, surf, and eat coconut on the beach of Santa Teresa.

- And make dog friends everywhere we go.

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For el dia de Pascua, I was back home in Barrio Cordoba.

There were fireworks blasting and a parade that walked throughout the nearby neighborhoods. The people carried lanterns and prayed along with the priest that was leading the procession.

Overall, this Semana Santa couldn’t have gone any better and I feel extremely blessed to have had all of these opportunities and experiences.