As is to be expected, we´ve been meeting some colorful characters on this trip in the various hostels and on the road--everyone from hippy gringo backpackers living in hammocks to wealthy teens coming to "volcano-board" (yes, this is actually a thing) to Nicaraguans taking in the sights of their own country. It´s been fascinating to talk to different travelers and learn from them. From some, you learn nothing but how NOT to behave in another country. There was one dude at Finca Magdalena who just drank and smoked cigarrettes constantly, and bragged to other travelers about partying with locals. "I was hanging out with a bunch of caballeros last night," we heard him tell some Germans. "That means cowboys, by the way." Actually, it means "gentlemen," but vocabulary was the least of this guy´s issues. I definitely feel more hostile towards smokers after learning about the atrocities caused by tobacco companies in Nicaragua.
But we´ve also made some good connections. Also at Finca Magdalena, we made friends with Travis, a college student from UMass who was paying his way through school by being in the coast guard reserve. We invited him to walk with us from Magdalena over to Zopilote, a supercrunchy finca up the road that has foreign hippies learn how to make bread and yoghurt and tropical jams (which we ate for dinner!). It´s not that it was unsafe for us girls to walk there alone, but having a man along (even a skinny gringo) can´t hurt. Over our whole wheat bread, passionfruit jam and natural yoghurt, we talked to him a bunch about his travels, the good moments and the scary close calls. His tales of struggles to communicate made us really glad we all speak Spanish with some degree of fluency!
Spanish also helped me bond with some really nice Costa Ricans last night, here at our hostel in Leon. Even though I was ready to conk out early after our crazy day of travel, it was great to chill in a hammock and discuss politics, Free Trade, the media, religion, Obama, etc. for a couple hours. I love being challenged to articulate my views in Spanish. I know very little about Costa Rica and I hope to get to ask them more today. We also might go dancing with them tonight if we aren´t too exhausted (we´ve been going to bed around 9 or 10 every night!) Hey, no one said this was a party trip.