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Style – this is what Costa Rica looks like

Rudolf has made his annual appearance at a roadside stand on the Pan American Hiway between San Jose and Samara.  A Costa Rican holiday tradition, this family sets up shop for a few weeks each year, making Christmas creatures.  Each reindeer is sculpted of shredded Melina wood and tied with fishing line.  they come in a variety of sizes.  Mama takes the money.

Traffic was stopped briefly Sat. morning when trucks were unloading their bueys (oxen) and carts in Carrillo.  The vaqueros came in from the ranches for a parade of carretas (ox carts).  The parade started in front of the soccer field and continued along the two beaches to end up in front of the church in Samara. Some of the carts are simple utilitarian constructions, probably used to haul logs in this part of Costa Rica.  But most carretas are gorgeous, painted affairs with matching yokes. Costa Rican ox carts were used in the mid 19th century to haul the coffee from the central valley to the port in Puntarenas.  The solid disk wheels were developed to cut through the muck and mud without bogging down.  A good solid ox cart meant the difference between a  successful trip to market and financial ruin.  It was a farmer’s source of pride.  Painting the carts in intricate geometric and floral patterns began around the turn of the 20th century, with the first factory opening in the mountain village of Sarchi in 1903.  Originally, each region of Costa Rica had its own particular design, and you could tell where a farmer was from by watching the pattern on the wheels of his cart.  Now, they are used mostly for decoration and religious festivals such as this one, even though, these cowboys couldn’t tell me which virgin they were honoring this first Sat. in December.

I have been amazed, since moving to Costa Rica, how many truly creative and artistic people live here.  Although I worked as an architect for 26 years, I didn’t consider myself artistic.  Creative? Sure.  But artistic?  Never.  I swear, I’m the only architect in history who never learned to draw, not really.  And I’m not used to being around artistic people.  My close friends up north were more literate than artistic, more likely to attend a writers’ workshop than a gallery opening, unless there was food and drink involved.

Even so, I’ve always had a weakness for glass.  I loved spending an afternoon in the Hot Shop at Tacoma’s Museum of Glass.  Watching a gifted glass blower create something gorgeous out of a molten bit of sand is nothing less than alchemy.  But I could see that learning to blow glass would require years of practice and bundles of money.  Glass fusing, the process of heating bits of colored glass in a kiln until it fuses into a single sheet and then forming that sheet into a shape, looked like something I could do.  I took a few classes in Seattle but, while I was still working 50 hours a week, I didn’t have time to do much of it.  I only started fusing glass in earnest after settling here in Samara.  Now that I’ve been exploring the medium for 5 years, I think I’ve found my voice.  I’m feeling artistic and I’m anxious to show off at the upcoming Samara Art Fair.

by Maria Fernanda Galvez

December 10 is an opportunity to see a broad spectrum of art and creativity in Samara, from both expats and Ticos.  The only rule for showing is that the art must be made in Costa Rica.  I’ve seen some of the work that people around here do and it’s fabulous.   I think living in Costa Rica inspires creativity.  The landscape is gorgeous and so different from where most of us have come.  I also think there’s a certain type of person who chooses to live here, a bit of a risk taker who is willing to trade home and country for a new life.  And most of us have the gift of time.  We’ve said goodbye to 8-5 workdays in favor of walks on the beach.  Or maybe it’s something in water.  But there is some really cool stuff being made here and if you come by the Natural Center Gym and Spa on Saturday 10 December between 9 and 2, you’ll see some fine art.

Fresh fruit - Costa RicaShould you rent a vacation house or a hotel room?  That depends.

Do you want breakfast delivered by a bellhop to your bedroom door each morning?  Do you want gourmet dinner served to you in a 5-star restaurant every night?  Then you should stay at an all-inclusive resort.  There are some lovely ones in Costa Rica but you’ll pay for the luxury.

romantic vacation rentalDo you want to stumble home from the bar each night to a hotel room 50 meters away?  Do you want a  24-hour concierge, to sell you tours and give you their restaurant recommendations based on commission?  Do you want to hang with other tourists, around the pool or in the gift-shop?  Do you want to eat every meal in a restaurant and sip every cocktail in a bar?  Then you should stay in one of the small hotels in downtown Samara.

But if you want  . . . . Read More

Furnishing a home in Costa Rica is a very hands-on and time-consuming task.  We don’t have big box furniture warehouse stores on every block.  (In this economy, maybe you don’t either.)  There are a few boutique stores in San Jose but that’s 6 hours away for us here on the Nicoya Peninsula.  There are some amazing craftsmen in and around Sarchí but it’s also 6 hours away.  In that traditional wood workers’ haven, the streets of town are lined with showrooms of beautiful locally made wood pieces.  You can go from shop to shop, collecting the pieces you need and if they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for, they can probably order it.  But commissioning furniture takes time and a leap of faith.  Then, there’s transportation and, surprisingly, many showrooms don’t have trucks of their own.  You have to find the truck, called a “taxi carga”, and have the driver retrieve your furniture from the various shops and deliver to your home, 6 hours away.  There are some great wood workers in and around Samara – see “Yens works wood” – but again that takes time, Spanish language proficiency, and good drawing skills to explain what you want.

But, if your taste runs to Indonesian style, you’re in luck.  In the village of 28 de Abril, near Tamarindo and just 1 ½ hours from Samara, sits a warehouse store packed with beautiful pieces of hardwood furniture imported from South East Asia. Tropical House Interiors has nearly everything you need for the bedroom, living room, and dining area.  Most of the furniture is made of solid teak but some other tropical hardwoods are present.  I didn’t see anything that was veneered.  Many of the pieces are carved with scroll work or have solid brass hardware.  Bamboo side chairs match drawered consoles and coffee tables.  The stock includes mirrors, doors, lamps, pillows and fabrics.  There is even some tropical, albeit fairly uninteresting and mass-produced, artwork to brighten up a big wall.  Garden furniture is shown outside.  Because they personally source the pieces from hand-selected crafts people , they offer fair prices to both consumers and artisans.  The owner, Paul Demming, will arrange delivery of all your pieces at once.

        Tropical House is a great resource for new home owners in the Guanacaste.  it’s a little difficult to find and hours are inconsistent, so call ahead – 2653-4828.  It can be a one stop shop on the right day for the right home.

What to do with a plastic bottle?

In a developing country, like Costa Rica, dealing with waste is a big problem.  Garbage pick-up is a relatively new concept in this very rural culture, and not universal.  Refuse was not a problem for the Ticos in the past: organics like rice and beans are given to the chickens or the dogs and everything else is burned.  When I asked my housekeeper what they do at home with tuna fish cans, she said, “We don’t have cans.”  In the past ten years, we have seen a tremendous growth here in the availability of STUFF that gets thrown away, much of it to serve the tourists, on whom our economy depends.  Although the water is clean and drinkable throughout Costa Rica, many visitors insist on drinking bottled water.  (I wish the US CDC would quit telling them to, cause it’s just not necessary.)  Although most of us recycle as much as we can, these bottles fill our land-fills and wash up on our beaches.

To beautify our pueblo and to bring attention to the issue, Samara Pacific School has mounted trees throughout Playa Samara made of plastic bottles.  The multi-cultural, multi-lingual children, ages 2-6 1/2 made these flowers in their art class.