Homestay in Juanilama

Pocosol Station Travel Blog

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Arriving at one of the host homes in Juanilama village
The bus ride to Santa Rosa de Pocosol was not long...we stopped at a grocery store midway to get snacks and see the 3-toed sloth that lives in the trees there, and then back on the bus onto the dirt road to the village. Juanilama is an interesting community - the government gave them the land to encourage organic farming, but also as a cultural and agricultural tourism community. The residents house tourists, feed them, and give tours of the farms and the the small nature reserve, and give workshops of their handicrafts, local cuisine, fishing, etc.

We arrived, dropped our bags off at our host homes (3 homes for all 13 of us - only 3 stayed in our house - Esteban, Morgan and me) and we met our host, Minor. Back at the main house and met Elly (spelling?), Minor's wife, who is very fun and gregarious--certainly the most extroverted of the group, and some of the others.
Selfie with Mama
Nobody in the community spoke any English, but they were happy to put up with our extremely limited Spanish (it's saying something when Morgan and I speak the best Spanish in any group of people) and speak with their hands. Morgan played with their miniature pinscher, Bruno, their new Malamute puppy, and their kitten. We all sat in a horseshoe and introduced ourselves--in Spanish. Esteban had been warning us for days to prepare a little something to say in Spanish. I practiced my "Me llamo Patty, soy pianista y cantante..." etc. but when Morgan introduced himself, all the village ladies said, "Oh, muy guapo..." so of course now, I'm calling him Guapo, 'cuz he's my handsome guy. ; )

They gave us a tour of the family farm, with papaya, pineapple, coffee (as an experiment.
Learning about organic farming in Juanilama
..not usually grown here), cilantro, corn, sugar cane, etc. They kept a few cows, a bunch of chickens and a piglet. They do all organic farming and compost all the organic waste or feed it to the animals. They showed us how they extract cane juice (a labor-intensive process - it's like a giant squeezer that requires two people) and gave us a taste. The entire tour was given in Spanish, and Esteban made us try to understand on our own. Our tour guide spoke pretty fast, but we got by between us and Mario.

They gave us a large delicious lunch of all the farm produce - homemade corn tortillas with two different fillings with green papaya, potato and yucca, fried potato balls, sautéed eggplant slices, etc. Lots of fried things, but delicious, despite the cilantro (I hate cilantro - their cilantro is very aromatic, but I honestly didn't taste it a lot in the cooking, even though they used a lot of it).
Richard getting friendly with one of the locals


After lunch we went to our respective workshops. About half the group did the tour of the reserve (and wound up seeing a 3-meter long snake on the trail), and the rest of us went fishing with one of the only old men in the town, Carlos and (his grandson?) Carlito, who seemed to be about 9 years old. We hiked through Carlos' grove of young trees (not sure what kind of trees, but he grows them for the wood) down the steep hill to their fishing hole. No fishing poles - just fishing lines on rolls. He put the worms on the hooks for us and even threw out a large chunk of food to draw the fish in, but the hooks were primitive and the fish basically took the worms off and left. We could see them in there - tilapia, apparently. We hooked a lot of pieces wood but that's about it.
Morgan and Stuart learning how to press sugar cane - old style
Richard was in his element - he loves fishing, and he was being a big goof about it. Carlos leaned over to me and very expressively with gestures so I would understand, "Si menta es como un niño!"

Carlos said something by the lake which I took to mean, "Don't worry that we didn't catch any fish, we will get some tilapia that I previously caught and cook it for dinner at the main house tonight." So when he mentioned the tilapia again, as we were hiking back, we all nodded and said, "Si, gracias." He indicated that we were nearing his house and again mentioned the tilapia and we all said, "Si." He invited us in, and we thought he was going to pick up the fish.

It was a pretty large home, with a living room/dining room/kitchen open plan.
Juanilama hospitality: a lunch buffet
Carlos' family was in the kitchen area, frying...preparing for dinner, I thought. They made coffee in a cool-looking wooden pour-over contraption. And then they set the table - for the four of us who came in the house - and we realized, oh shit, they're cooking for us! It was about 5pm and we knew they would have a big dinner waiting for us, and we were still completely full from our huge lunch.

But, it would be rude to say no, so we all sat down, and they served fried tilapia (surprisingly light), and platanos (the non-sweet ones), and coffee. Rhiannon, Jean and I could only eat a little, so Morgan and Mario thankfully finished up the rest.

We walked back to the old schoolhouse (there is a brand spanking new one across the street).
Our homestay host, Ellie (not sure of the spelling of her name in Spanish) and her niece
It's a covered pavilion near the main house where they now do the tourist workshops. We started the cooking workshop (we made corn tortillas with a filling of green papaya, potato, cilantro, garlic, onion). This kind of overlapped with the smoothie workshop, which I did not take, but they were giving me the extra left in the blender. They were adding a shot of sugar cane liquor to most of them...more if Richard was in charge of the pouring.

Then we had our recycled materials handcrafts workshop, and one of the ladies took newspaper, rolled up strips of it, glued the crap out of each strip, and then wove it into a small mat, which we then cut into a fold-over wallet and added a strip of edging. It's stronger than I thought it would be, but I'm still not sure how you could actually use it - if it gets wet once it's done! Richard put a newspaper strap on his so it looked like a ladies' pocketbook.
Mario learns about a native tree with insanely colored flowers
There was supposed to be a dessert class as well, but I'm not sure if that actually happened - it was getting really late for dinner.

2 of the young girls and one even younger boy arrived in traditional folkloric costumes. They did 3-4 Costa Rican dances for us, and it was just adorable - one girl was really good and she had a big plastered-on smile the whole time, as if someone had said, "Don't forget to smile!", the other girl we had met before - she was a little chubby and had apparently been learning piano for one month. She obviously didn't know the dance routine as well, and she watched every move the other girl did and kept rubbing her nose and scratching herself. The boy was super cute - he was also following the leader, waving his red bandanas as the girls waved their skirts.
Our "fishing instructor" - he basically just put worms on hooks for us!
At the end, they grabbed each of us one by one and led us into the circle of dancers.

Then they served us a (thankfully) light dinner of corn tortillas filled with a starchy stew, and a guanabana smoothie (so many smoothies...I can't even imagine how much sugar we all ingested in one day!), and then most people went to bed. Richard left his couple of big beers out, and one was open, so the local ladies and I finished it so it wouldn't go bad. ; )
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Arriving at one of the host homes …
Arriving at one of the host homes…
Selfie with Mama
Selfie with Mama
Learning about organic farming in …
Learning about organic farming in…
Richard getting friendly with one …
Richard getting friendly with one…
Morgan and Stuart learning how to …
Morgan and Stuart learning how to…
Juanilama hospitality:  a lunch bu…
Juanilama hospitality: a lunch b…
Our homestay host, Ellie (not sure…
Our homestay host, Ellie (not sur…
Mario learns about a native tree w…
Mario learns about a native tree …
Our fishing instructor - he basi…
Our "fishing instructor" - he bas…
This is how the locals fish - no p…
This is how the locals fish - no …
A pose with the ubiquitous rubber …
A pose with the ubiquitous rubber…
A structure we saw walking back fr…
A structure we saw walking back f…
Thinking we were just picking up t…
Thinking we were just picking up …
The old schoolhouse - now where th…
The old schoolhouse - now where t…
Learning how to make corn tortillas
Learning how to make corn tortillas
Local fruits:  cas (the green one …
Local fruits: cas (the green one…
Richard models his newspaper purse…
Richard models his newspaper purs…
The folkloric dancers
The folkloric dancers
The folkloric dancers when they di…
The folkloric dancers when they d…
Esteban, Ellie and me after a few …
Esteban, Ellie and me after a few…
Ellie and Maynors house
Ellie and Maynor's house
Our room at the Juanilama homestay
Our room at the Juanilama homestay
Maynor and Ellie posing with us
Maynor and Ellie posing with us
Pocosol Station
photo by: puttyland