|Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica|
EPIC nominee Kathleen Heady has lived in and traveled to many places, including numerous trips to Great Britain and seven years living in Costa Rica. Learn more about her and her books at her website/blog.
My latest novel, Hotel Saint Clare, is set on a fictional island in the Caribbean but is partially based on my travels in Costa Rica, especially the Caribbean coast of that country. I moved to Costa Rica in the early 1990s to teach in an international school on the outskirts of San José. Less than a year later, I married another teacher at the school and we stayed in Costa Rica for another seven years. Since I lived there for so long, most of my favorite spots in Costa Rica tend to be off the beaten tourist track.
I much prefer the beaches on the Caribbean coast with its laid back Jamaican influenced culture. You don't see the highrise, luxury hotels on this coast. Things tend more toward small hotels and cabinas tucked in the rain forest, but still often only a few steps from the beach. When I first visited Puerto Viejo in 1992, there was only one telephone in the village. Now that has changed. Everyone has the latest technology, and Internet cafés are common. But you will still hear reggae music as you walk down the street, and your feet automatically slow down to a relaxed pace.
Rice and beans are traditionally served with almost every meal in Costa Rica, but on the Caribbean coast they’re cooked with coconut milk and are called by the English name, "rice and beans," rather than the Spanish "arroz y frijoles."
If you want to try making "rice and beans" at home, here is how you do it. A good friend who lives in Puerto Viejo sent me the directions, but you will have to use your own judgment and taste preference for quantities of ingredients.
There is nothing more refreshing than a cold fruit drink, and you find all varieties of them in Costa Rica, where they are known as "refrescos." They come in flavors such as blackberry, strawberry, pineapple, mango, papaya, and less well-known tropical flavors like cas, guanabana, and tamarindo. There is nothing better than ordering a refresco in a restaurant and hearing the whirring of the blender before your drink is brought to the table in a tall, cold glass.
Many people from temperate climates believe that they would miss the change of seasons while living in the tropics. I never found this to be so. There is a change of season, but it does not involve the temperature. Roughly, the rainy season lasts from May to the end of November, and the dry season from December to the beginning of May. I prefer the rainy season. It doesn't rain constantly. In fact, the mornings are usually dry. People who work outdoors start very early, at least by six a.m., to take advantage of the clear morning. This is also a good time to exercise. The rains come in the afternoon, and can be anything from a light drizzle to a torrential downpour. There is truly nothing like the sound of the rain hitting the metal roofs that are so common in the tropics. And if you get wet, so what? You will dry soon.
The weather, the food and drinks are all part of life in the tropics, but the best part of living in Costa Rica is the people. Everyone you meet is friendly, open, and affectionate. You soon adjust to a hug and kiss on the cheek when you meet an acquaintance on the street, on a bus, or in someone's home. I was surprised to be hugged and kissed by students when visiting another teacher's home for a school activity, but I soon got used to it, and love the custom. As they say in Costa Rica, "Pura vida," or "pure life." This can be a greeting or simply an expression to say it all. Life is good. Enjoy it.
Hotel Saint Clare
Hotel Saint Clare is a Caribbean island paradise, a place filled with happy carefree people whose only concern is the pleasure of the tourists. But appearances can be deceiving. Greed, envy, jealousy, murder, lust… all can be found within the luxurious hotel. Nara Blake has landed a dream job at the Hotel Saint Clare, until the owner is murdered in his hospital bed, and her life changes in ways she would never have expected.
Someone wants her dead, and even with the wise counsel of the island shaman, she does not know who to trust and must rely on her instincts and her wits, as she always has.