Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
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Irving housing

got that wrong

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   Calle Cóbano
Saturday, February 4 2023

high up a hill just northwest of the center of Santa Teresa, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

During the night, Gretchen couldn't sleep because she was stewing about the unpleasant things April had told us last night, particularly her disdain for my plan to work remotely from her casita. For one thing, it wasn't any of her business how we choose to spend our time on vacation. She provides the casita and we provide her money; that's an arrangement that we as landlords know well. But something else was gnawing on Gretchen about this. She was pretty certain that she'd discussed these things with April months ago while arranging for us to come. Gretchen surely would've confirmed whether or not and how good the WiFi could be expected to be and would've said that this is important because of my plans to work remotely. So Gretchen went back through her emails and found the exchange where she discussed all this. In that exchange, April said she often hosts remote workers (not what she'd said last night!) and that she has great internet that comes in via fiber optic cable.

This morning I made myself a french press of coffee and ate some Pringles potato chips so as to buffer my stomach. Supposedly April was going to bring us some almond milk and granola. But then she messaged Gretchen to say that we should come down to her place and get it.
Normally when we stay somewhere, we can come and go as we want without having to interact with anyone, and even if we do, it's with someone a lot more pleasant than April. But our casita is high on the side of a steep escarpment above a parking area with a gate entrance right next to April's house. So it's hard to enter or leave without her knowing, and when she knows, she's the kind who wants to come out and talk. This morning we came down to begin an exploration of Santa Teresa after getting the almond milk and granola. But her plans had changed again and now she was going to be putting it in our casita while we were out. While I petted the dogs (including Dakota, whom I hadn't met last night), April yammered on about various grievances and whatever, telling us under no uncertain terms that we must've lose or damage the radio transponder that opens the gate. When all that unpleasantness was done, Gretchen was eager to bring up the results of her research last night, saying that she had made it clear months ago that I would be working remotely. April responded by saying she surely must've missed that part of Gretchen's communication, whereupon Gretchen brought it up on her phone, reading the part that made clear that April had definitely read it and responded positively to it. At that point all April had left was to say "all that is in the past," which is about the weakest way to "win" an argument given that everything that has ever happened (and that forms the basis for the present) is "in the past."
The dusty road down to Santa Teresa wasn't all that long, but parts of it were so steep that if one stepped on the wrong kind of stone it might act as a ball bearing and lead to a mishap. April had told us that most of the town was to left (southeast) of the intersection of the main drag (Calle Cóbano) with her unnamed side street at Osa (a fancy restaurant with nothing for vegans), so that was the direction we headed. Our goal was to find a "soda" (a small restaurant catering to local Costa Ricans, aka "Ticos") where we could get gallo pinto, Costa Rica's national dish. We hadn't had a proper meal in more than a day and we were very hungry. April had told us that there were only a few sodas left in Santa Teresa after all the gentrification (a word she seemed unfamiliar with) resulting from the covid pandemic. I was skeeved out by the bright yellow egg crumbs at the first soda we came across, so we kept looking. In addition to checking out sodas, Gretchen also wanted to see what vegan options other restaurants offered, so the going was slower than I would've preferred given the void at the center of my abdomen. Eventually we found a completely empty soda ("Soda La Yunta") that a young pregnant woman was in the process of sweeping. She told us they were open, so we took a seat. I ordered the gallo pinto with a side of avocado and Gretchen ordered a vegan casado complete with salad. I gobbled up all of my gallo pinto and then ate all the remaining beans (and some of the rice) after Gretchen had eaten all she could of hers. It was good enough, though gallo pinto is not an easy food to get wrong.
By this point in the day, the tropical sun was high in the sky, and Gretchen wished we'd brought our Galapagos hats. So we ducked into a supermarket and found some hats. They were, as Gretchen allowed, "pretty dorkus," but we needed wide brims to protect our faces and backs of our necks, especially if we were going to be out on the beach. Everything is super expensive in Santa Teresa, and I think the hats cost something like $30 each.
Next we went to a money exchange place so that Gretchen could get some local currency (none of which she gave to me, interestingly). We probably wouldn't've gone in there had we known how long it was going to take, but at least it was air conditioned.
Periodically between the hotels there would be narrow (and sometimes trash-strewn) rights-of-way to the beach. (An enlightened thing about Costa Rica is that all its beaches are public, and there is a 50-meter-wide strip above high tide that cannot be developed.) We took one such access path, arriving at the beach near a well-worn rocky outcrop resembling the landforms Salvador Dali famous draped watches across in "The Persistence of Memory." While Gretchen attempted to swim in the pounding surf (which was more suited to actual surfing than swimming), I climbed around on the rocks, looking at the contents of various tidal pools. At some point I found a hippie necklace buried in the sand except for its string. It featured a prominent (though small) quartz crystal (because of course).
We continued southeastward on the beach until we found the restaurant that Gretchen was pretty sure we'd had a sunset drink at four years before after driving for the first time from Santa Teresa from Montezuma. It looked familiar to me, and there good outdoor seating options. I ordered a passionfruit margarita and a shot of espresso and Gretchen ordered a fresh-made fruity (and non-alcoholic) drink that was nowhere near as good as one she'd had at Soda La Yunta. We took our drinks to a sandy spot in the shade and watched the gringos and dogs interact. Not all the dogs seemed to be attached to any particular person, though they all seemed content. Now that we know that April's three dogs wander on their own down to the beach, it seems likely that lots of well-taken-care-of dogs do this. Eventually a Dutch couple a little older than us arrived with a perky half-grown german shepherd, and Gretchen struck up a conversation with the woman. The couple's son had moved to Santa Teresa during covid and opened an AirBnB and now his parents have a place to stay when they visit. The dog was his, though it wasn't clear if he or she was from Costa Rica.
Further down the beach, Gretchen and I cut through to the main drag past a place called Limpiemos Nuestra Finca Playa that seemed to be hosting some sort of contest of the sort frat boys participate in when they fly for spring break to places like Cancun.
Santa Teresa's main drag was now bustling with noisy activity, peppered with the sound of small internal combustion engines and the stench of diesel fumes and garbage. By this point, Gretchen was hungry again, so we went to Drift, a restaurant Gretchen had read good things about. It was comfy space with actual booths that was open to the outside, though oscillating fans kept the air nicely stirred. Our waitress was more blond than one would expect a Costa Rica waitress to be. Gretchen ordered the nutrional-yeast-heavy spicy popcorn and a salad, while I had a more manly meal: a vegan BBQ burger with french fries. (The burger was homemade, though I didn't like it as much as the mass-market burger patties available back in the United States.) I also ordered an Imperial, and, since I was within the broad swath of hours were buying one gets you a second for free, I also ended up drinking another.
Further northwest on Calle Cóbano, we came upon Green World, a health food store we'd shopped at four years ago. Today, though, we just looked around to see what they had. They had tofu in a package that wasn't a can, which was something of an innovation for Costa Rica, though we couldn't find any tempeh.
We deliberate walked beyond the street to our casita so we could shop for groceries at Super La Hacienda, which April had said is the best of the supermarkets. Four years ago we'd stayed at nearby Raratonga Hotel, and I'd walked to La Hacienda to get beer and chemicals to suppress fungus growing between my toes. Shopping there today, we found they also had the tofu that wasn't in a can (though we got the canned kind anyway) and even Rao's marinara sauce (the only kind we buy in the Hudson Valley). Additionally, we got bread, corn chips, habañero hot sauce, lettuce, broccoli, Asian pasta, and a rice-based breakfast cereal. All this stuff overflowed the one backpack we had, so some stuff ended up in a plastic bag. I was the pack animal with the task of hiking the bigger of those two payloads up the impossible steepness of the road to our casita, but I'd been preparing for this over months of salvaging firewood.
The moment we returned to the casita, we showered off and jumped in the plunge pool, which quickly carried away the ordeal of climbing the hill.
April had expressed dismay that we were staying without any form of transportation aside from our legs and had recommended getting an ATV. But we hate ATVs (why do they have to be so loud? And who doesn't want protection from dust?) so we were now pretty sure that at some point soon we will be renting a vehicle. But that will have to be four-wheel-drive in order to climb the hill to our casita.

White-fronted parrots.

A big weathered rock on the beach. Click to enlarge.

Another big weathered beach rock. Click to enlarge.

A swath of rock on the beach. Click to enlarge.

Sunset over the Pacific this evening.

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