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FIELDWORKING SparkPoints: (29,946)
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12/24/13 4:49 P

Thanks Anarie for your response. That was definitely helpful. It can't be as bad as being served blood pudding in Scotland (ick). I can pick the black beans out of the rice. I've done it before with Mexican food (in the rice). I am looking forward to trying the fruit, as long as it's not a citrus fruit (can't eat them unless I skip a day of Adderall or eat the citrus fruit late in the day).

ANARIE Posts: 13,184
12/22/13 11:04 P

In 1993 I was a chaperone for a group of 23 teachers on a research project in Costa Rica. We went all over the country, to cities, towns, villages, reservations, environmental and agricultural research stations-- you name it. Everybody ate whatever was available, and the only person to get sick was a guy who ate over two pounds of green mango at one sitting. (He *knew* it was going to make him sick, but he loved it so much he just couldn't stop!) Sanitation really wasn't an issue even way back then, so you should be fine now.

The traditional rice and bean dish uses black beans, often lightly refried with coconut oil, and usually served with an egg or a little chicken. In larger cities, you also tend to get a lot of pasta. Macadamia nuts are much less expensive than they are here, so that's a snack option, and of course fruit is everywhere. In general, I don't think the food is really going to seem that weird or exotic, and if worse comes to worst, you can always get plain rice, tomato sauce, eggs, etc.

And if you're really, really worried, just stick a jar of peanut butter in your suitcase. It's a processed food so there's no issue with customs, and you will definitely be able to find bread and jam pretty much anywhere.

Edited by: ANARIE at: 12/22/2013 (23:08)
AZULVIOLETA6 SparkPoints: (0)
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Posts: 3,293
12/22/13 4:17 P

Costa Rica is very touristy now, so you are unlikely to experience the kind of cultural shock that you might if you went to another Latin American country.

The wildlife is really amazing in some places.

FIELDWORKING SparkPoints: (29,946)
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12/20/13 12:03 P

Thanks for the input. The food itself will be prepared by the scientists or a local cook at the place I will be staying at during my 10 day visit, but like you guys noted), rice and beans are to be expected as well as fruits. I can deal with the rice and fruits, but I'm not too sure about the beans. I'm particular about which ones I eat. If I understand correctly, I may be able to purchase any extra things (nutrition wise) in a nearby village/town. I am definitely more interested in the wildlife aspect of Central America than the cultural aspect. Don't get me wrong, it will most likely be a bit of a shock since I'm only familiar with N. American and European culture (which is definitely different depending on where you go).

This will definitely be a step outside of my comfort zone for food (i.e., as long as pb&j is present, I'm happy). Hopefully, I'll be able to do some exercising while I'm there too, if anything to at least maintain whatever weight I am at while visiting Costa Rica.

Thanks for the info. It gives me a good start on what to expect while I'm there.

I am definitely a wildlife person.

Here's a link to the wildlife project:

BERRY4 SparkPoints: (264,663)
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12/19/13 8:00 P

Loved the beans and rice. Awesome coffee! Best I've ever tasted!
Pack jerky if you are big on meat protein. As previous poster indicated, USDA it is NOT!

We do not have to have the variety that is available here to maintain good health. Do be careful with water. Our experience was to wash all veggies in chlorinated water.

Probably my biggest difficulty was staying well-hydrated w/ less than ideal resources.

AZULVIOLETA6 SparkPoints: (0)
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12/19/13 7:09 P

I lived there in the late 80s and visited several times in the early 90s. So, I am familiar with the typical foods, but I suspect that many more things are available there now than the last time I was there and that food safety is probably somewhat better.

Casado and gallo pinto are two forms of rice and beans that are typical in Costa Rica, especially as breakfast foods. There are also many dishes that involve chicken and sauce, especially with rice. Tropical fruit is plentiful as is good coffee. Traditional Tico coffee involves a sort of hanging sock on a wood-and-wire stand. The classic empanada is filled with queso fresco and deep fried--not a diet food by any means. Empanadas are made with white wheat flour. Corn humitas are a slightly healthier convenience food--kind of like a tamal.

Eggs are generally not refrigerated in Latin America. The same is true with pork and beef--they are often hung outside, in the tropical sun, for several weeks before they make it to market or the grocery store. If it smells even slightly off, do not eat it. If you are going to eat any of those things, make sure that they are well cooked and still very hot.

If you are on either coast, seafood is good and fresh. Ceviche is safe as long as the seafood is fresh that day--NEVER eat old ceviche. Fish tends to cook more thoroughly in the citrus juices than shrimp do, so fish ceviche is more reliable.

Ask for your drinks sin hielo and make sure that any juice you drink is either pure (like orange juice) or that it is mixed with agua purificada. Agua con gas is safer than plain water as you can rely on the seal if it is still carbonated. Obviously do not drink the tap water or use it to brush your teeth. Fruits that you can peel yourself (mandarinas, platano) are the best bet.

When I lived in Costa Rica, the milk supply was not at all safe. I am guessing that this is not true anymore. Milk comes in bags and may not be graded with the system that you are used to...I doubt that you will be able to find exactly 1%. I like to carry powdered milk when I travel--if you mix it with purified water, you know that it is safe--convenient too. Yogurt is good and safe pretty much everywhere in Latin America--it is often more of a drink than something you eat with a spoon though.

You can easily find jams, jellies and honey (miel de abeja). Peanut butter used to be something that had to be carried in from the US, but I am guessing you probably CAN find it in San Jose these days. I have seen peanut butter in Ecuador and Panama recently, so it is likely in Costa Rica now too.

It would be smart to stock up on food while you are in San Jose. Outside of the city, junk food is easy to find and Coca Cola is everywhere, but healthier stuff might be trickier to get. I always carry fruit, water and something with protein in case I get stuck.

Because so much of the economy is tourism-oriented, Costa Rica is one of the most convenient places to travel in Latin America, but it is not a good place to go if you want any kind of authentic cultural experience or language immersion. The jungle is beautiful though, and I love the Pacific coast where the selva comes right down to the edge of the ocean. It is gorgeous.

EELPIE Posts: 2,700
12/19/13 3:00 P

Wow, it would be great if you could go to all of those places! I always wanted to move to Norway..I drive my best friend nuts talking about it so much!! And I always wanted to go to Peru. Gorgeous there.

Yeah, the coffee they brought back was fabulous. I was like a 5 pound bag (like a bag of sugar size). I'm not a big coffee drinker, but that was amazing..I could drink that every day for the rest of my life and die happy :)

FIELDWORKING SparkPoints: (29,946)
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12/19/13 2:47 P

Seafood...I think I can handle that, although I'm not too sure about shrimp (especially after taking an entomology course as an undergrad). I forgot about the coffee. Costa Rica is big on coffee. I think there are a number of countries in Central America where coffee is a huge part of their economy. I'm not a big coffee drinker but thanks for the reminder. Maybe I will be able to bring back some coffee for my parents (will have to check on what can be brought into the US).

I am looking forward to it. I enjoy traveling, volunteering, and being involved in wildlife research (my line of work). It also looks good on my resume. emoticon It is a little on the expensive side to go (has taken me awhile to save up). I am hoping to go to several other countries through Earthwatch (Brazil, Peru, S. Africa, Kenya, Australia, Germany, Norway, France, etc.). It will probably take me the rest of my life to get to all of these places though.

Edited by: FIELDWORKING at: 12/19/2013 (14:52)
EELPIE Posts: 2,700
12/19/13 2:11 P

No, but my parents went there and brought me back a bag of coffee. Best coffee I ever had!!!!!

I know on the coasts they have wonderful seafood. They loved it there! I am so jealous.

I hope you have a great trip :)

FIELDWORKING SparkPoints: (29,946)
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12/19/13 2:03 P

I will be traveling to Costa Rica in August of 2014 for 10 days to volunteer on a wildlife research project through Earthwatch. I've been with Earthwatch once before (to Nova Scotia) and had a great time.

When it comes to traveling outside of the US, I've only been to Nova Scotia (2010) and to the UK and Ireland (1997). The food wasn't (isn't) that much different from what I get here in the US. I know that rice and beans are a big part of the diet in Costa Rica, like many countries in Central and South America. I know that we'll have access to fruit, empanadas (a fried pastry - bread filled with meat or fruit, etc.), cheese, avocado, and meat.

Is anyone here familiar with the food available in Costa Rica, primarily milk (1%), bread, peanut butter (creamy), and jams/jellies?

As a side note, I do realize that Costa Rica has goat and cow milk.

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