Absence and apple strudel make the heart grow fonder

As I sit here in Vienna, eating strudel, listening to the rain and generally being European, it seems to me the perfect time to start a blog about Costa Rica.

Every time I return to Europe after a significant time away, I find that it has become more beautiful. Architecture in Costa Rica can be called functional at the very best, so strolling around the latticed towers of Stephansdom, and past the fine carvings of Museumsquartier reminds me that cities in this corner of the world can be as inspiring and beautiful as any white-sand beach. And you can give me that strudel and a healthy slice of Pont l’Évêque over a gallo pinto any day.

But then, as the rainwater reaches its sloppy fingers up my jeans until it’s nearly touching my knees, and the icy wind whistles past my foolishly un-beanied ears, forcing me to step into a café and pay a staggering 3 euros for a coffee, I come to realise that perhaps I am not yet quite bored of sun, sand and simple food.

I first reached Costa Rican soil after spending three hours in Nicaraguan customs, waiting for my boyfriend’s “irregular” visa stamp to be approved, and getting general insults about being a loose western woman chucked at me by the lolling, bored officials.

As soon as we finally hauled our packs across the border, there was a difference. The passport control hall was air conditioned. A man with a stamp-happy demeanor was ushering people through in a process that took no more than two minutes. And when the bus started its 4 hour journey towards the capital, the countryside was well-ordered. Outside the windows, I saw prosperous looking fincas, pre-fab barns, and not a shack in sight. Was this Central America still, or had I been bundled off in the other direction, unwittingly crossing the Mexican border into the United States?

Well, no I hadn’t, and over the next five months I got to know a lot about the difficulties that run counter to the smooth front that the Costa Rican amantes de la Paz put on for every visitor.

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