eating vegan in costa rica

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Wow. Holy shit. It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog (oops). In my defense, a lot has happened since December–I went home (Costa Rica) for the holidays, panicked about a number of things, finally decided to fully commit to veganism (basically I had an existential crisis for a good month or two after watching Cowspiracy, but I can save this story for another day, if I ever feel like writing such a post), we adopted a second dog (Wall-E!) who is now Simba’s BFFL (sorry Poncho…), I got worms (it was pretty revolting), lost said worms (phew), school started back up, I invested in my best friend’s business (this feels very grown up to say), etc. However, not in my defense–I honestly haven’t written much because I’m so self-conscious about my writing. It’s bad (you know, considering my number one dream in life–beyond health and happiness and owning 73 dogs and all that–is to have a novel published someday).

ANYWAY.

So I thought, since this is something that’s been on my mind so much lately, I’d write up a post on what to eat in Costa Rica (and probably any other Central American country, actually) as a vegan. I think it’s amazing that you can still partake in the local culture, customs, and cuisine without having to compromise your values (if, you know, one of your values is veganism). Granted, Costa Rica is not quite a “travel” destination for me as that is where I lived for most of my life, but I know it’s quite a popular spot for other travelers, backpackers, yogis, vegans, etc. So hopefully this is helpful!

Also, p.s., “vegan” does not mean “healthy.” A lot of this shit is fried. But you should eat it anyway, because it’s delicious, and dammit you’re on vacation.

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#1 FRUIT!!!

The thing I miss the most when I’m away from home (other than my family, obviously) is Costa Rican tropical fruit. Oh my God. Fresh mangoes, watermelon, pineapple, and papaya (!!), especially. Mostly because papaya is like a digestive miracle. And it’s delicious.

#2 GALLO PINTO

Lucky for me the most Costa Rican staple meal of all staple meals, gallo pinto (Costa Rican rice and beans) is delicious and vegan. The other day I was craving it so bad that I even looked up a recipe. Unfortunately the stupid recipe suggested I use vegetarian Worcestershire sauce instead of Salsa Lizano, which, no. Everybody knows gallo pinto isn’t gallo pinto without Salsa Lizano.

Also, I looked in my pantry and I was out of black beans, so…no gallo pinto for me.

#3 JUICE

Tamarindo juice (according to my very not-extensive Wikipedia research, tamarind is apparently a legume? Huh, who knew), cas juice (cas guava?), mango juice, strawberry batidos (if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant or avoiding dairy for whatever reason, make sure it’s “en agua” and not “en leche”…by the way the strawberries on the way up/down from the Poas volcano are bomb), etc.

#4 PATACONES

Also known as tostones in some other countries. These are fried plantain patties. Often dipped in refried black beans (mmm). Or guacamole. Which I can’t have because I am allergic to avocado.

#5 YUCCA FRIES

Yucca root is similar to potatoes, I guess. These are hands-down my favorite kind of fries, ever. I love them even more than sweet potato fries and that’s saying a whole lot.

#6 PLANTAIN CHIPS AND YUCCA CHIPS

The ultimate road trip food, in my opinion.

#7 REFRIED BLACK BEANS

Whyyyyyyy does no one seem to believe in refried BLACK beans in the US? They’re so good. So good. I guess I could make my own but that sounds like a pain in the ass at the moment…

#8 PEJIBAYES

Apparently it’s a fruit (who knew, I thought they were a vegetable). Apparently it’s called peach palm in English. Apparently you obviously really need to try it if you ever find yourself in Costa Rica.

#9 BLACK BEAN SOUP

Exactly what it sounds like.

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#10 AGUA DE PIPA/COCONUT WATER

Like from an actual coconut. It’s the best. Any beach you go to, odds are there’ll be a guy with a cart selling agua de pipa.

#11 CASADO VEGETARIANO

Like gallo pinto, pretty much every traditional Costa Rica restaurant will serve casados. Just ask for the vegetarian casado (“casado vegetariano”) and either set the cheese and natilla (custard) on the side or ask them to withhold these. In any case, casados are served like a bunch of side dishes in a big plate, so you can literally eat around any food you don’t want.

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Um, so there you have it. Woohoo. I’m blogging again. This is kind of exciting. I’ll try to keep at it. Maybe my new goal will be to post once a week. That sounds doable. Should I do that? I guess I will do that.

this is a story about trains in italy

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…or as I like to call it, Eataly. Because I think I gained like ten pounds while in Italy for only three days (actually, more like two-point-five days, because clearly we were stupid, and instead of planning on backpacking through Italy for like a month, or seven years, we were like, nahhh, three days should suffice. THREE DAYS DID NOT SUFFICE. Public service announcement: don’t ever make Italy just a “pit stop.” Make it THE stop. Please. For me).

Anyway. Sorry about that. I have a lot of thoughts. I think that’s why I’m so anxious all the time.

ANYWAY.

In the summer of 2014 my boyfriend and I went on a super duper awesome month-long backpacking trip through Israel, Jordan, Spain, Italy, and Greece. In the spirit of documenting my past travels (and also because I am not traveling at the moment), I want to share some stories from that trip (and others) on this blog. This particular story is one of my favorites.

It was our last day in Florence, Italy. We had to catch an evening train to Bologna, where we would then catch another night train to Bari, where we would then take a ferry to Corfu, Greece (got it?). In the morning we checked out of our wonderful, phenomenal bed-and-breakfast, Casa Rovai, grabbed our bags (heavy), and skedaddled about the city for a few more hours before we had to leave. I believe we ate gelato that day. I also believe the wind blew my hair into the gelato, and then it got all sticky and up in my face, and I got frustrated with life and cried about it (I’m a big crybaby, guys. That’s like my biggest flaw). Basically that wasn’t my finest hour, but that’s another story for another day.

Once it was time to go, we rushed to the train station with all of our heavy, heavy stuff. It was a nice train station from what I remember, but everything was (of course) in Italian. I don’t speak Italian. I speak Spanish which is close-ish enough (I mean, in terms of figuring words out and such), but still. What I’m trying to get at is we had no idea which platform our particular train would depart from, so we initially asked a guy (or gal) and he (she?) said the train wasn’t there yet, that it usually departed from platform X (I don’t remember the exact number because why would I remember the number), but to keep an eye out. So we’re all like, okay.

Well, we waited for a while. And a while more. My backpack was crushing my body forward. I hated it. My boyfriend went to ask someone else just in case. The lady looks at our tickets and is all like, oh! You guys are in the executive class (or something of the sort)! You can go wait in the VIP room over there! So we’re like huh, okay! If you insist!

The VIP room was crazy, guys. Crazy. First of all, it was all behind this big fog glass door. You pushed a button to open it, and then this lady in a perfectly white suit and white gloves asked to look at our ticket. Inside it looked like this futuristic slash very retro seventies super clean bright lounge. Like we were in The Jetsons. There was all this food and stuff. I don’t know; I didn’t eat any.

Of course by the time we got to the lounge it was almost time for our train to leave. So we were really in there for a total of like five minutes. But still. It was cool.

So we get on the train, finally. We look at our tickets and see our seat numbers. Okay. We walk through these sections of the train with just the regular seating. We still don’t find our seat. We walk through more sections, and it’s getting nicer and nicer. The people in the train are getting fancier and fancier. We’re just these two dirty, ratty-looking young backpackers and they’re giving us the stink eye, like what are YOU TWO doing in our fancy section?

The crazy thing is we still didn’t see our seats. So we kept walking, and shit kept getting fancier and fancier still. At one point we came across a bar/food area, and we think for sure we walked past our seats. The people working on the train kind of look at us like they think we for sure walked past our seats, too, so they ask to see our tickets and when they do, their eyes totally widen and they say (in a way friendlier tone), “Keep walking that way!”

So we do.

Finally we get to this empty, sparkling clean, beautiful closed off section with a total of like four cushiony seats that you can tell extend all the way back like a bed. The beautifully dressed train attendants ask to see our tickets again, and they say, “This is you!” And we’re like whoa, no way.

They took our bags and put them in a special closet just for us. They asked us if we wanted anything. At first we said no, but then they insisted. INSISTED. So in the end we got cappuccinos. They were teeny tiny and came with these teeny tiny delicious little cookies. The train attendants smiled at us like their sole happiness in life came from serving us. It made me feel a little weird, to be honest. It would’ve been fine if they’d just relaxed.

It was the best thirty-minute train ride of my life (and I’ve been in a lot of Amtraks, guys). At one point my boyfriend looked at me and said something like, “We’ve made it.” As in, we’ve made it in life.

I still don’t know how we got those fancy fancy rich people tickets (which weren’t even expensive, like at all). It could’ve been a mistake or maybe it’s because I bought the tickets in Italian…

Either way, I’m not complaining.

So we get to Bologna but that’s not the end of it. We rush to our platform, only to find out our train is delayed. Like super delayed. And then it gets delayed some more. And some more. And it’s the middle of the night and I’m tired and sore and I just want to sleep.

Finally, after waiting forever (and ever), this ancient bucket on wheels shows up.

We hop aboard. It’s dark. Everyone’s squished together. Everyone looks unhappy. We look at our tickets. Our seats are in compartment eleven, I believe (let’s say eleven). Okay. We walk past compartment eight, nine, ten. Twelve. Wait, what?

Where’s eleven?

We try to move on to the next cart, thinking maybe there’s been a mistake, but the door is locked. A bunch of people are trying to do the same thing; maybe they couldn’t find their seats either. The train is super rickety under our feet, and it’s going so fast, I’m afraid it’s going to fly off the rails. I’m exhausted. At one point I say fuck it and huddle with my backpack by the bathroom door, the only place on this train where there is (barely) enough room to huddle with a giant backpack. I try to take a nap. The bathroom smells like a bad case of food poisoning. This is an eight-hour train ride. I keep thinking about the train to Bologna and decide this is like a movie. We had everything and it slipped from our fingers within a few hours! Womp.

My boyfriend decides to try looking for our seats one more time. Eventually he finds them; the number had been rubbed off. Except there’s people in our seats, and one of them is an old lady.

With lots of hand gestures he tells them he thinks they’re in our seats and shows them our tickets. They say that they’re getting off at the next stop, so could we maybe wait to get in our seats til then? He says okay. But then a train attendant shows up and asks to see our tickets because we can’t just be standing around in the hall. He points to our seats, where the old lady is sitting. My boyfriend says he knows those are ours but that we let them sit there for now. “NO!” the train attendant snaps. “You sit in your spot.” Then he herds the old lady and her travel partner lady out of our seats, and we look at them with our heads hanging down in shame (or something like it).

Everyone else inside the compartment shoots us the worst stink eyes ever known to mankind. My boyfriend offers our compartment-mates cookies from the nice train to ease the tension. I think the stink eyes stopped after that.

The compartment wasn’t much better than my spot by the bathroom door, to be honest. We were all squished in there like sardines (and this one guy had really long legs, too). This wooden bar went across our seats, which dug into our backs. The seats were just hard and uncomfortable in general. The train rattled constantly at our feet. They didn’t announce the stops, so I had to set a million alarms (not that I slept anyway) to make sure I’d be awake to catch Bari before it was too late.

Luckily we made it to Bari. We were gonna walk to the port to catch our ferry but we were too tired, so we took a taxi. And then at the port, while going through my stuff, I realized I’d lost one of my passports (I was traveling with three)–the one I needed the most.

Let’s just say that after three days of eating monstrous amounts of pasta, pizza, and bread, I’d been pretty backed up. NO MORE after I lost my passport. Anxiety shits are a real thing, people.

And now you know way too much about me.

Dun dun dun to be continued.

so this is me starting a travel blog, and saying hi

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Hey hey. I’m really bad at introductions. Whenever I have to introduce myself anywhere, I usually say something like “my name’s Debbie and I’ve lived many lives” (true) or “I’m from Florida” (absolutely blatantly untrue but the real answer to “where are you from?” usually warrants a conversation, and sometimes I don’t feel like having such a conversation, particularly while in Ubers…).

So hello to everybody who is not reading this blog (because why would you be reading this blog?): my name is Debbie, I’m in my mid-twenties, I’ve lived many lives (it’s not as interesting as it sounds), and I’m most definitely not from Florida. At all.

Anyway.

Today my friend asked me, “What are you gonna do with your tax refund?” (I promise we talk about way more interesting things than tax refunds…in fact, this is the first time we’ve ever talked about tax refunds ever), to which I said, “Travel!”

Because, duh.

Then I decided I should start a blog about my travels, which I’ve been meaning to do for over two years now (I was in the middle of a super awesome backpacking trip through the Mediterranean then, and I scribbled all these great ideas for blog posts on a napkin, and then the stewardess said, “Any trash I can take from you?” and like the moron that I am I gave her the napkin, so that blog never happened). But right now I’m stuck at the Denver airport with three years to kill (just kidding, three hours), and there’s no better time than the present, right?

I love to travel. I’ve traveled since I was a kid (in fact, I boarded my first plane at about a month old or so…from Costa Rica, where I was born, to Israel, where my parents lived at the time). Depending on who I’m talking to, I’ve traveled lots of places, or I’ve traveled nowhere at all, really (because some people–most people–are way cooler than me). I’m really lucky to have been to all the places I’ve been, though, and I’m also really, really lucky that I have the opportunity to continue to travel, and I plan on doing it for the rest of my life.

So. Yeah.

A little bit more about me: I’m currently an MFA in Creative Writing student at the University of San Francisco, I’ve lived in quite a few places (San Francisco being my favorite, thus far, at least in the U.S., despite the astronomical rent), I have a really expensive hobby–silversmithing (that means I make jewelry), trampoline parks are my happy place (former gymnast here…that’s one of my past lives…the other one is when I was a Soviet spy…just kidding, that one never happened, although I did have a dream about it when I was like six, which makes me think it totally happened in a past life, because what the hell would a six-year-old know about Soviet spies?), my boyfriend’s hair is currently longer than mine, I have a tattoo of an elephant on my thigh (I have three tattoos, but that one’s my favorite), I’m obsessed with turquoise (the stone, not the color, but I also like the color), I’ve written two novels to date and I dream of having one published someday, I’m intolerant to lettuce (really), I try my hardest to eat a plant-based diet but sometimes when I travel I break that rule, and my dog Simba is my raison d’etre.

Seriously.

Every time I travel without him, I spend the first two to three days crying about Simba. Then I sort of get over it but every time I see a dog, like it doesn’t matter if it’s a giant dog like a Saint Bernard, I’m all like, OHMYGAHD look at that SIMBA! (Simba’s like eight pounds, guys). And then I hear crickets from everyone else because Simba looks nothing like a Saint Bernard.

Wow, this was the longest “about” page ever. To wrap it up: my name’s Debbie, I like to travel, and I’m obsessed with my dog Simba.

The end.