Existing Member?


Finding our place in Costa Rica

COSTA RICA | Wednesday, 12 March 2008 | Views [2152] | Comments [4]

It was a treat to stay on at Finca AMRTA for over two months. Just before we went to Costa Rica, my friend Susanne asked whether I wasn't missing any creature comforts. I came up with two things: a kitchen in which to try out new eating ideas, and a library. Both came through for us at AMRTA. Just before we arrived, I felt as if I was coming into a time of reading. Suzanna is a former librarian with a phenomenal book collection: what good fortune to come into such a fabulous collection of books. Paula by Isabelle Allende, Peace like a River by Leif Enger, The Chalice and the Blade (non-fiction) by Riane Eisler, to name a few.

In retrospect, there was one creature comfort that I had missed for such a long time that Finca AMRTA provided: swimming and playing in the water at the Pedregosa River just a few minutes from our door. David just came up to me as I was editing this blog, and told me that one of the greatest pleasures of his time in CR was watching me swimming in the river. It's true that it was a very special highlight for me and it took me back to an ecstasy of my childhood: the water.

Never did life seem better in Costa Rica than at the point when I was about to leave it! Wearing shorts in the sunshine, beautiful trees and flowers all around, making salads with freshly picked limes and salad greens, not to mention the congenial Costa Ricans. I'd learned to feel at ease again. Through the steep up and downs, my legs had grown stronger. I actually had some colour from enjoying the sun! The Tomatoes that Dave and I had planted were ripening. Young people we had known as students at New Dawn next door had come back to live and work at AMRTA.

I woke up one morning like a kid on the day after their birthday. It actually was the day after my birthday, but the deflation came from knowing that it was going to be my last day in Costa Rica. that this simple, direct life was coming to an end. That my holiday from North American life would soon be over...

It all seemed like second nature to me there then, but it hadn't always been that way. Acclimatizing had been a steep uphill climb, just like the roads around Costa Rica. It wasn't just getting used to the life around me -- the lower lattitude brought out different aspects of myself that I was going to have to get used to. Heat, bugs, and communal living provided lessons to be learned along the way.

Fortunately, we made our way to Finca AMRTA (.com), where the heat does not get too intense for too long, there is a river in which to cool off, and there is a nice, trusting atmosphere. We found our way there under strong recommendation from two people: lovely Sigal (originally from Israel, but living in Olympia, Washington), whom we met at the Monterey Hostel where she was staying before attending an Adyashanti (.org) retreat; and Nick, of Costa Rica these last 3 years, but originally from New York – whom we had the great fortune to meet in front of the Konig bread section in a store in Uvita.

Unlike many who make their way to Costa Rica, we were not up for pursuing the site seeing trail. We were interested in finding a way of life which we could open up to with a sense of ease. Most people who come to Costa Rica make their way around in order to see many different parts of a diverse and beautiful country while David and I looked for a place where we could be comfortable and then stayed put in order to enjoy ourselves, our pleasure increasing over time. Staying in one place worked well for us, and it did not mean that things grew stale -- everything kept changing where we were. We saw people come and go, but also come and go and come back! One couple, Suzy and Dave, came from Wisconsin (www.landmarklandscapesinc.com), and went back only to return a couple of weeks later. They are awesome farmers and builders and have been such a great help to Suzanna and Miguel here on the farm. Leah and Gordon, likewise, left and came back, however, they only went as far as somewhere else in Costa Rica before they came back. (Leah and Gordon run a successful chocolate shop in Torino -- www.tofinochocolate.com)
Finca AMRTA (fincaAMRTA.com) attracts many people. Many who have come before, keep coming back. Mickey Absil, from Montreal, Canada, who just completed a very fine film “A Witness to History” about his father’s experience in Europe during the Second World War, is someone whom we had the pleasure to meet who has been coming here for years. And we have also enjoyed interacting with many youths here as well. James from England (we hope to add some of his photos to our blog), Aaron, a folk musician from Ontario, Canada, and then Aaron from P.E.I., Canada, as well as Lana, a sparkling actress from Toronto, Wendy Ann and her lovely daughter, Lilly, from the Kootenay area in British Columbia. Wendy Ann was so helpful -- just as we were reading our wwoofing catalogue about farms to work on in B.C., she showed up and gave us tons of first hand information on what was happening out there.
In addition to the wonderful people coming through AMRTA, there are also the neighbours and the students that come to the neighbouring farm (finca), Alba Nueva (or New Dawn). Ed and Jessica run Alba Nueva and feature courses on permaculture, etc. (We had the pleasure of consulting with Ed on the plans for our solar oven which we made using cardboard boxes). Many interesting young people come through Alba Nueve and they always seem to drop by and visit us, their neighbours. There were other neighbours as well, and life at AMRTA never ceased to be interesting. There was always something going on.

Basically, once I was able to figure out how to live here, it was thoroughly enjoyable. Amazing to live one’s life almost entirely outdoors. From the large screened bedroom to the open-air kitchen to all the time spent doing one thing and another throughout the day, almost always starting with taking care of the plants. Having warmth around the clock, and life in its many forms all around us, it was a great change for January, February, and part of March.
We enjoyed our trips into town where we picked out our favourite internet café, ATM, and ‘sodas’ (small restaurants). The Thursday Feria or farmer’s market was a huge highlight.
We loved bathing, swimming, frolicking in the river.
Taking care of the plants was a great experience!

Sundry notes:

** Costa Ricans have to be among the nicest, most even tempered people in the world.
** They are patient and kind to anyone trying to communicate, especially when someone attempts to speak Spanish. One can get by on the smallest amount of Spanish, which is as much as we have.
** You do have to be careful, because, at times, in their desire to please, they may give you an answer to a query that they really don’t know the answer to, such as directions.
** Never underestimate the danger of thieves in the touristy areas. We met a number of people who had suffered losses.
** Pura Vida is the slogan of Costa Rica. It is really interesting to see a place where a slogan really works, having come from a city and a province that have spent loads of money, time and effort on slogans that do not.
** There are many things that are much cheaper to buy here than elsewhere. Organic food is one of them. Prescription eyeglasses are another. Dave and I both had haircuts that were extremely affordable.
** We saw and did many things on the farm including coffee and chocolate making from harvest to final product, sesame seed harvest, roselle harvest (hibiscus or red zinger tea), peanuts, a few exotic fruits, lemons, limes, oranges, ginger, and of course the daily greens for our salads and for steaming, sauteeing or soups.
** When I lost my pics, the ones from the first part of our stay at AMRTA were also taken away. Gone are pics of the farewell to Aaron party, including Suzanna and Aaron both on guitar; pics of James the young British photographer taking pics, and Philco, Violetta and their baby, Maya, who was born on the farm. When James does have a chance to send along some pics that I can then put up on the blog.
** It is fascinating to observe a country with an active ex pat scene that spans over several decades, and includes a variety of ‘types‘ and experiences.
** The local farmer’s market (Feria) at San Isidro de General (aka Perez Zeledon) would be so much fun to make a movie of. It is enormous. We shopped devotedly in the organic section every Thursday, and came to love the various vendors that were there. Not all of our usual vendors were present the day that we took photos.
** Costa Rica is a very rugged country, with many ups and downs. It is difficult to get around. Some properties are extremely steep and can be very tricky to navigate.
** Living in a Spanish speaking country stimulated the place in my brain where my French is stored away. Latin America is an odd place to come to practice your French but that is just exactly what happened. First, with a young French wwoofer at Cascade Verde, and then with a young French Canadian couple at Finca AMRTA, and finally, with a couple of young brothers from France with whom Dave and I really hit it off. David, too, felt better about his French, realizing how much more he knew of it than Spanish, and realizing that he does have a base from which to operate.




Thanks for the update.. good to hear from you guys. Looks like you've covered a lot of ground and are doing what you want. We miss you as neighbours. Will be watching your blog now. Safe journeys!

  Daryl Mar 24, 2008 1:11 PM


Thanks for sharing your travel experiences; it was great meeting you guys in Santa Monica just before ur Costa Rica visit. Also, I'm impressed by ur site. Hope to see you when we happen to cross paths again. Regards, hk.

  Hisham Kayyali Apr 16, 2008 11:03 AM


Hi Francis and David . . . you won't believe this but I just got around to reading your blog. We have been so busy with preparing and planting our crops and now the rains have come and everything is flourishing. It was so nice to read about your experience here and I must say I miss you both. You won't believe this but will be happy to know that we must have harvested about 3-4 kilos per day of tomatoes from the ones you planted. I thought of you each time I ate one. Anyway . . . good luck to you, thanks for blessing Amrta with your company and help and peace be with you always. Suzanna
By the way . . . it is fincaamrta.com not .org.

  Suzanna Leff May 27, 2008 11:21 PM



Me interested about the glasshouse tomatoes technology and i did some works in Blush tomatoes, North Fresh Pty Guyra, NSW. Iwould like to know more about the location in Victoria and how to find it??


  Chandeswor Sep 11, 2008 6:14 PM

Add your comments

(If you have a travel question, get your Answers here)

In order to avoid spam on these blogs, please enter the code you see in the image. Comments identified as spam will be deleted.



Travel Answers about Costa Rica

Do you have a travel question? Ask other World Nomads.