2017-04-21 / Columnists

Costa Rica, Coconuts and the Cat Cam

By Paula DiGioia

My husband Matt and I haven’t been on a big vacation since our honeymoon seven years ago. Naturally, I’ve been complaining about it since. He finally caved. For my birthday he surprised me with a trip to Costa Rica! In spite of the years-long harassment campaign, I was still totally shocked. And excited!

But I knew I was going to miss my cats. So I began a second nagging crusade: “Matt, you have to set up a cat cam so I can livestream and talk with my babies!” This is crazy cat lady territory, but my husband does live video software for a living, so it’s not like it would be hard for him. And I needed it for peace of mind. So I harnessed the power of repetition to make sure it would happen.

And before we left, he set it up in the kitchen, camera facing the food. We discovered it would’ve been better in the bedroom where they like to sleep. We didn’t see them much, but when we did, they would hear our voices and look around in confusion. They would come close to the camera, but sniff the computer rather than the monitor, so we mostly got a view of their tails. I think they were more interested in the sound of my voice than the picture. At least I could see that all was well with them.

PAULA DIGIOIA PAULA DIGIOIA We stayed on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, in a little town called Cahuita. We started out as you would expect, lying on the beach, day drinking and exploring the town. As a lover of plants, I quickly noticed all the botanical beauty. Many of our ornamental houseplants grow wild in Costa Rica. There are fruit trees everywhere. I thought it would be fun and cost effective, considering how many piña coladas we were drinking, to forage for fruits.

We stayed at an Airbnb with a full kitchen, so we could make fruity rum cocktails there. The lemons and limes were pretty easy to grab off the trees. The mangos weren’t ripe yet so those we got at the market. It was the coconuts that proved most difficult - turns out it’s damn hard to open up a coconut without a machete! Not only that, we had to figure out which ones were best for harvesting coconut water. With little internet service, it was a trial and error process. We grabbed a few off the ground; Matt tried a caveman-like technique - using a sharp rock repeatedly, to crack it open. After multiple frustrating attempts, it opened but had little water inside. We realized then, we needed coconuts that were younger, the green ones still on the trees.

A cocktail made from foraged coconuts! 
Photos by Paula DiGioia A cocktail made from foraged coconuts! Photos by Paula DiGioia New problem... we had to get them down from the tree. And by we, I mean Matt. He started by throwing baseball sized rocks at the palm tree. No luck. Then, he found a large stick which he speared at the coconut bundle. Finally, after about an hour of spear-throwing like Brad Pitt in the movie “Troy,” (well not that suave) the coconuts fell. With no machete, it was back to the rockcracking, Neanderthal technique. What ended up working best was fiercely throwing the coconut on concrete. It was a lot of work (not that I did any of it) but the fruity cocktails were a delicious reward.

Trying to open a coconut with a rock. Trying to open a coconut with a rock. We visited this wonderful wildlife sanctuary called The Tree of Life. We saw native, rescued animals like pacas (which most closely resemble a cat/guinea pig cross), kinkajous (which look like less cute bears), spider and capuchin monkeys and yes of course sloths – like the cutest animal in the whole world (besides cats)! Most impressive, was seeing the capuchin monkeys up close. They looked and acted like people, fascinating and freakish all in one.

I wish I had something better to say about the food; it wasn’t anything to write home about. We have better beans and rice here in New York.

Our vacation was amazing, muchneeded and so relaxing. We came home to this wonderful spring weather and it’s almost time for summer, which, in Rockaway is like a three month vacation.

Paula DiGioia is a Rockaway Beach resident, a lover of cats, a passionate cook and an enormous Fran Drescher fan. DiGioia enjoys writing about food, family, community, gardening and everything in between. Find more narratives like this on her blog theglorifiedtomato.com.

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