Pura Vida – Costa Rica

In preparation for my trip around South America I decided it would be a good idea to learn a bit of Spanish so I set about it with some energy in Edinburgh with a very nice teacher called Natalie, however it became clear that a class twice a week was not going to advance my Spanish much beyond “can you help me” and “how much does it cost” as I was starting from zero with the language.

I developed a plan which would kill three birds with one stone:

1 A holiday together for Poppy and I before she starts full time work and after a gruelling six months defending death row inmates in South Carolina, on her bucket list was getting her advanced PADI certificate and swiming with whales and sharks.

2 A chance for me to intensively learn Spanish and practice it in a Spanish speaking environment daily for a few weeks, specially the variety of Spanish commonly spoken in Latin America

3 Visiting a country that I am unable to enter with my Land Rover, as Costa Rica in defiance of the Vienna Convention, does not allow RHD cars on their roads even when passing through and was close(ish) to Poppy in South Carolina it seemed the perfect choice.

And so it turned out to be, my lovely teacher Eugeina taught me Spanish every morning for two hours, then I went to the very nice Tico Coffee for a medicinal shot of cortado and studied on my own for a few hours chatting with the owner in Spanish each day as he waited for other customers.

My teacher in Costa Rica Eugenia, torturing me with conjugation

We stayed in the lovely Casa Laura for the two weeks and the owner and the staff tried each day to speak to me only in Spanish, with mixed success specially in the early days, but we persevered and day by day my Spanish got a little better as I strugged with multiple versions of the verb “to be” most of which are fiendishly irregular. Progress however was made and by the end of the holiday I could understand a lot and held a 40min conversation (with polite corrections) with our tour guide Marvin totally in Spanish. It felt frustrating and painfully slow but I am in really good shape for the customs, frontiers, police and hotels and can understand directions in Spanish and talk about myself for half an hour – mission accomplished ! I just need to keep up my practice on the babble app and have a few more lessons in Edinburgh to keep things fresh.

Sunset on coco beach,

We stayed in Playa de Coco, chosen as it has a top rated dive school for Poppy and a Spanish language school with good recommendations, it is also 30min away from the Liberia airport and small enough to increase my chances of speaking Spanish. I chose a little B&B place, Laura’s Casa below, with a nice little pool and a reasonable price for two rooms for two weeks. This turned out to be a great choice the owner Laura and the one maid from Nicaragua (who only spoke Spanish) took on the mission of helping me by trying to only speak to me in Spanish.

Casa Laura, our home for two weeks

We did manage a little tour in the Jungle in between Poppys diving and my learning Spanish and we were sent on a mission to find Sloth’s by Lee which we accomplished. All the way there and on the tour I was able to keep up a halting chat in Spanish so I felt that the gruelling work in the classroom had paid off a bit.

We did do some jungle sights, in this case an awake Sloth (which is rare)

On the other, significantly more expensive, side of things Poppy was literally having a whale of a time, she managed on her final day to swim with a Whale Shark and saw a Manta ray with a 20 foot wingspan. This was the icing on the cake in a week that saw her have a number of close encounters with Bull Sharks and Reef Sharks and follow huge turtles around the seabed. She passed her advanced open water certificate and is now on the way to being a dive master, she has decided that if Law gets too tough and she hits a burnout she will pack it in a be a dive instructor!

Poppy celebrating swimming with a whale, bull and reef sharks without a bite

About Gerry Mulligan

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