Billy Joe here. I’ve been busier than a one-eyed cat looking at nine mouse holes and I plumb lost track of time because so much has happened.
Chester and me got back from Manuel Antonio (pronounced in Costa Rican like “man-WELL An-TOE-knee-oh) and today we relaxed on the beach and around the pool at our resort hotel before a taxi carried us over to the local farmer’s market.
I think I mentioned we have farmer’s markets in Alabama so I was anxious to see if the Costa Ricans copied the idea from America. Well, yes and no. They do the whole produce thing, but they don’t jack up the prices like they do in the states. You know, where they expect you to pay more because it’s fresher?
The farmer’s market in Jaco is called a “FAIR-ee-ah.” Now I’m only gonna say that once because it sounds sort of sissified and I don’t want you to get the wrong impression about me or Chester. So, off we go to the farmer’s market and the taxi drops us off and I’m starting to panic because, “What if they don’t speak American? How are we going to get back to our hotel?” Then Chester reminds me our hotel is on the south end of the beach so all we have to do is walk toward the ocean and turn left and we’ll eventually get back to our hotel. If we reach the Panama Canal we will have gone too far. He has his moments sometimes. I felt a little more relaxed wandering around after that, knowing I sorta knew the way back to our hotel. We switched wallets again, to thwart pickpockets, as I explained in an earlier post.
The farmer’s market is an open area where they bring in bobtail trucks full of produce. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, a bobtail truck is sort of like a semi, but on a smaller scale. I guess you could call it a semi-semi-truck. Anyway, they park the trucks and have stands set up along side of them with tarps overhead for shade. Our pictures just don’t do justice to the amount of stuff that’s available. Apparently, everyone shops for the week here so they go through a lot of crates of whatever it is they’re selling. I found a couple of videos on YouTube to give you a glimpse of that it was like.
We recognized a lot of the stuff right off: pineapples, papayas, limes (which they pronounce like a French word: “lee-MON” — don’t ask me why). Oh, and bananas — lots and lots of bananas. I was in inquiring about the price because the hand-made sign said 25 for 500 of the Costa Rican cologne-knees. We ran into some other Americans who were visiting from Iowa or Idaho (I get them mixed up). They told us that you double the amount in cologne-knees and take off some zeroes to come up with how much it is in American dollars. They did it for us just to show us. So 500 cologne-knees is one dollar American. Are you with me so far? This is very important because not many tourists understand this. They just slap down dollars and don’t worry about it. I’m a little smarter than that. It doesn’t take long for my brain to realize that doubling the amount to get the American price really means it’s HALF PRICE if you pay in cologne-knees. So, if you’re ever down here and they give you the price in dollars (because they want to make double), just half the price in dollars and pay in cologne-knees. Follow my advice and you’ll save a bundle. That’s a tip you can owe me a beer for.
You know how Chester was palling around with the monkeys at the park? I got confirmation of my theory about him and monkeys when I turned around and saw him with an armload of 25 bananas, trying to carry them and peel and eat one of them at the same time. It was a sight to behold, bless his heart.
OK, this next part is really not fit for a lady’s ears so ladies, just skip on down and don’t read this part. They were selling these reddish-looking fruit things that looked like they had long whiskers all over them. (see picture) The American couple told us the fruit were sometimes called “hairy balls.” I kid you not. Now who in their right mind would want to buy, let alone eat something called hairy balls? The farmer offered us a sample, but all I could do was motion no thank you and get the heck away from them. I saw the guy cutting into one and I winced and had to look away. I posted this picture of them so you don’t have to embarrass yourself by googling “hairy balls” on the Internet. The guy selling them told me they are called “ma-MOAN CHEE-no” in his language.
Too bad customs doesn’t allow Americans to bring back fruit from other countries. I would have loved to have the customs guy in Atlanta ask me what I was bringing back. I would say real loud, “I’m bringing back hairy balls, wanna see ’em?” I just thought of a great bumper sticker to promote the country for tourists: “I Got Hairy Balls In Costa Rica!”
Oh yeah, they grow watermelons down here, but not the big, long ones we grow in the South. These are round melons. They look the same inside though and I tried a sample. They are goo-ood. I was kind surprised to see them in the middle of winter. In fact, I was surprised to see all the fresh fruit in January. It’ll be May or June before it starts showing up in America. Someone once told me that the middle of winter in America is the middle of summer somewhere else on the Earth. I didn’t believe him, though.
We found some guy selling coconuts — not to eat, but to drink from. They had the top chopped off with a machete and drinking straws in them. He motioned to me to buy one, so I did. Believe me, you don’t say “no” to a man holding a machete. I wasn’t real impressed — machete or no machete. It needed something for a “kick.” Maybe some Everclear. I wasn’t going to tell HIM that though They got so many coconuts here they just drink the juice and throw the rest away, leaving all that nutty meat untouched. Now that comment is reminding me of hairy balls so I’m going to change the subject real quick.
They also sell coffee beans at the market. I don’t mean by the bean, I mean by the large bag. Boy, do they smell good! Costa Rican coffee doesn’t have somebody like Juan Valdez to promote it, but they should. It’s THAT good. It’s way better than the coffee I get at 7-Eleven.
Some people were buying so much stuff they brought huge bags with them. Some even had these two-wheel deals with a wire basket going almost the whole length of the handle. They were taking enough fruits and vegetables away to start their own stand. Speaking of which, I look back and Chester’s trying to juggle a bunch of bananas, big papayas and drink from a coconut as he tries to keep up with me. He was as happy as if he had good sense.
The next thing I saw that surprised me was strawberries and raspberries. The farmer told me they were grown locally (meaning in Costa Rica). I got a small pack of strawberries to munch on while we were exploring the farmer’s market Boy, were they sweet and juicy! And the pineapples. We tried some samples they offered us and the taste wasn’t like the ones in America. These were so sweet you could almost eat them instead of candy. I can definitely see living in Costa Rica. I’ll just have to find some place close the Jaco so I don’t have to drive too far to the farmer’s market. I bet these guys make circuit and they’re in different towns on different days. That’s probably why they have the trucks. I’ll have to find out.
Oh, I got a plastic bag of what looked like homemade potato chips, too. This one guy, that was all he was selling was potato chips. He son was helping him. Definitely a chip off the old block. (I’m here all week folks.)
We stopped and got a container of fresh squeezed juice that I had never had before but really liked. It’s called Agua de Tamarindo — pronounced like AG-wah day tam-ar-IN-do. The agua means water, so it must mean water-down fruit drink. Anyway, it was really tasty. The juice guy saw Chester was with me and kindly offered him a large plastic bag to put his fruit in. By my count, there were only 18 bananas left by the time he got the bag to put them in.
Another observation I made at the farmer’s market is the farmers don’t yell to get your attention like they do in Mexico. They are very friendly, happy and polite. It looks like they really enjoy what they do and that’s an accomplishment for anyone.
We spent the afternoon at the farmer’s market. There was more than just fruits and vegetables. There was sea fish (like tuna) and other seafood that probably came from the very water were had been swimming in. I thought tuna only came in cans. I found a seafood guy who spoke American and I asked him if they ever sell steaks. He told me no, but a lot of pork is sold. I asked him if there was anyplace I could get a good steak and he told he about a place called Kaya’s Grill & Bar. He said, “It’s Argentinian.” I said, “You mean like from Argentina?” He told me I was correcto. I kinda wondered what they was doing all the way up here because last I checked, Argentina was somewhere down in the South America. Then, the elevator arrived on the top floor and I realized we were really close to South America, so it was starting to make sense. I wondered about the grill and bar part because in America we would say bar and grill — not grill and bar. Then I remembered someone telling me everything is reversed in the southern hemisphere, so it sort made sense the name would be, too. The seafood guy, Jose, showed us where the taxis lined up and we thanked him before heading off to take a taxi to that steak place.
As we waited in line for a taxi I suddenly realized I didn’t know hardly a lick of Costa Rican. I was in a real pickle. When we hopped in the back of the taxi I tried pantomimes and talked American very slow, hoping he would get the idea. “Youuuu (pointing to him) take us (pointing to Chester and me and then pantomiming driving a steering wheel) to eat (and motioned like I was putting food in my mouth). “Where do you want to go, Senior?” he suddenly asked me. “I speak English.”
“Oh, well I speak American but the two languages are close enough that we should be able to talk to each other,” I told him. He didn’t have an English accent, so that kind of confused me. I said we’d like to go to Kaya’s Grill and Bar and we were out of the farmer’s market in no time flat.
Kaya’s was very nice inside and I found out they spoke American there, too. I was glad because I didn’t speak a word of Argentinian. I thought we were really fitting in well until Chester asked the waitress if there was someplace he could park his bananas while we ate. She smiled and took his bag. It was one of those “inside joke” smiles, but I couldn’t figure out what the joke was. She placed Chester’s banana bag behind the counter before taking us to our table.
I found out from our waiter, Jose, that Kaya’s serves only Angus beef and has the best steaks in town. I was skeptical about the “best steaks” claim because as far as I knew this was the ONLY place in town that served steaks.
The food was the best we’d had in Costa Rica and maybe Alabama for that matter. I ordered a big ol’ steak and Jose asked how I”d like it cooked. I told him I wanted it to still have some “moo” in it — meaning medium rare — and Chester ordered shrimp again, bless his heart. I think he’d be happy to eat shrimp and bananas every day for the rest of his life. Mine came with black beans and it beats me how they can cook them on the grill and not have them fall through the grate.
Besides serving shrimp, you can always spot a fancy restaurant by seeing how they sort of drizzle sauces over your food in a Zorro pattern — a “Z” or maybe an “M” sideways. They did that at Kaya’s. Also, if you find a regular ketchup bottle on your table, that can indicate it’s not that great. Toothpicks in a bowl instead of mints, when you leave, is another clue.
I’ll skip to the chase. The food was so good I almost decided to move to Argentina instead of Costa Rica, but Costa Rica is easier to spell and it has dollar beer.
After we were done eating, I was going to order dessert but couldn’t think of a dessert that’s made on the grill, so I passed. Chester said he was happy with his bananas for dessert so I paid the check by giving Jose a credit card. I told him to make sure he charged us is cologne-knees. I didn’t want him doubling the bill into dollars. There’s nothing like the feel of getting a whole meal at half price. We took a taxi back to the hotel to clean up before our last night out on the town. I found the piece of paper I had written down the names of the two places that were known for working girls. We took a swim in the pool so we wouldn’t have to shower and got ready for our night out.
This is getting rather long and I haven’t even gotten to our visit to the Beatles Bar and Hotel Cocal and Casino, so I’m going to save that for another post, since it was our memorable last night in Jaco.
This is Billy Joe signing off from Jaco, down in Costa Rica.