Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Journey to the Center of America

Following the trend I started for myself last year, I made Siggraph be a part of a larger trip. I have been together with an American girl, Cynthia, for almost a year now, and in that period she spent a couple of months in Costa Rica. That was the chance I had been waiting for to visit!

Also, I found interesting that a tiny country like the central American republic had a wealth of six visual effects and animation companies representing it at Siggraph. Italy, with a population larger by one order of magnitude, had none. Needless to say, that tickled my curiosity.

If you expect a warm country to be a sunny country, without consulting when the rainy season happens, you'd be sorely disappointed. It rained every single day of the two weeks I spent there. Still, the Sun managed to poke through the clouds most mornings making sure I woke up early most days to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and fun action that was awaiting me.



Costa Rica truly is a beautiful place. Most of it is covered by verdant jungles and green hills, and the coasts can boast some fantastic beaches, where sea turtles seasonally lay their eggs. Small and medium coastal towns flourished (according to some got spoiled) because of western tourists and surfers, attracted by a stable democracy, awesome waves, and a cheap currency. 

I suppose we blended right into that category, although we were no surfers. We tried to keep out of the most beaten path where possible, and visited small towns. After Cynthia spent some weeks studying Spanish in a large and modern botanical research facility, we got to visit it, and learn a lot about coffee, cocoa, and the many local and unique species of plants of Costa Rica. The next stop was a long and strenuous white water rafting trip down the river towards the Pacific Ocean. Now, that was a lot of fun, even though Cynthia fell off the our boat and we had to fish her back into it. We did more snorkeling and saw fascinating mangrove forests, as well as whales and dolphins. But before I left, I had a chance, before heading back home, to visit a charming coffee farm up on the cliffs of Monteverde.

 Food is usually simple and filling. Rice and beans are omnipresent, as well as fried platanos and tropical, delicious fruits. Portions are huge and it is easy to get used to eat a lot. Perhaps unsurprisingly, obesity is a problem in Costa Rica too. 

Although the population of the country is relatively small, people are very different from place to place. Most people are devoted catholics and we arrived right in the middle of a great, huge pilgrimage. People from all over the country walked to Cartago, where a relic was being shown to people. Traffic in the only large city, San Jose, reminded me of the worst driving practices of us Italians, while the coastal regions are a true pleasure to cruise and the people there are way more laid back.

As I think with pretty much everywhere I go, I wish I had more time to spend and explore this place. Unfortunately I have a limited amount of time to spend away from home. Fortunately, I love what I do at home, just as much as I love traveling.