Life in San Luis can only be described as "tranquila"--a description used here much more commonly than in the states. Yes, it means tranquile, but we also use this term to say "chill", "relax", even "kick back." An advective and a verb. And life here is all of the above. I may have mentioned this before, but it is worth mentioning a thousand times: the place is freaking BEAUTIFUL. From our very modest house we look down a valley of fields and forest to the Nicoya Gulf. From 1100 meters above sea level, we can see the whole way down the valley without seeing a single other building. With the wind blowing down from Monteverde, the clouds are pushed out to sea, we get a fine mist, and a beautiful rainbow almost every day. Talk about cheesey.
The farm (where I am doing my independent research) is equally beautiful. My family grows coffee and sugar cane mostly, but, like most farms here, I can snack on the sweet lemons and guavas that are scattered amongst the crop. If they were ripe I would be munching on bananas too. My family keeps this farm as a place to live and as an extra income--my homestay father has a day job maintaining the Ecolodge (U. of Georgia's research station). They also sell the coffee and give tours.
In fact, I just took the tour the other day. They show people around the farm, explaining the organic process of harvesting coffee, etc. They end at the trapiche, which is a traditional machine to process sugar cane. They have tourists pull the machine into motion, squeezing the juice from the sugar cane. Everyone gets a taste of the sweet water as they listen to a charla about the traditional way to boil it down into "tapa dulce"--brown blocks of sweet molasses-flavored sugar. This is boiled into "agua dulce", which we drink every night before bed, or is ground into drinks to sweeten them--my family usually adds this to lemonade made from the fruit on our farm. It was really fun taking this tour as the resident gringo. The tourists had lots of side questions for me about life on the farm, and tico culture, and a little more about the processes from a "science student's point of view"...oh, tourists...It's good to have them though, my mom stays at home, and so she depends on tourists for extra income from selling them her embroidery, jams (sooo delicious), and handmade trinkets. And, as the rain and wind slowly dies, the tourist season is cranking up!
I also wanted to comment about the wild life here. In San Luis and the Monteverde region in general. It seems that recently I have had a lot of funny encounters...I mean more than normal for living in the jungle... First, on one of my visits back to Monteverde, I just so happened to arrive as some students were tranquilizing a coati for their project...Then, as I left the station I saw a sloth crossing a rope across the road--or at least I think it was crossing...It really looked like a hairy booger on a string, but I assume it was intending to move out of the rain at some point, maybe later this week. Then, back in San Luis, a snake snuck up on me while I was studying in the coffee. I tend to be quite quiet and still in the field and I am used to birds and sometimes monkeys going about their business, not minding me. I am certainly not afraid of snakes, but as I knelt in the plants I got the hugest rush of adrenaline when a 1.5 meter long snake (probably an Colubrideae--harmless) practically brushed along my leg as it glided past me from behind. I guess that human instinct to fear snakes is pretty hardwired in me--it took a couple seconds for my biologist brain to override--then I tried to catch it... And then there's this morning...I was delightfully woken up by a weasle (or Costa Rican equivalent, I think) chasing a rat across my bed! This just reminds me that the security of our house's roof and walls is fairly nominal--leaves occasionally blow in through the cracks in the walls that shake when the wind is high, and there seems to be no end to the interesting insects I find everywhere in my room, the living room, the bathroom...My homestay parents laughed at me when I came out of my room this morning, "Did you see it? We saw it go into your room. What do you think? A new pet, maybe? The weasel is better than the rats--he eats the snakes, too...."