Saturday Morning Walk, Talk, and Shop

Saturday is the only  predictable day of my week. I wake up around 6 (like I always do) and open the curtains to see what the day is like. Chances are good it’ll be a beautiful sunny morning. Being this close to the equator means we get around 12 hours of sun all year around, and it’s light by 5:15.

I enjoy a leisurely breakfast on the balcony overlooking garden and mountains where I eat most of my meals. I  treat myself to a second cup of coffee just as my brother calls. We video chat to catch up on our past week and our upcoming plans; since he travels a lot, this weekly chat has become our regular time to “visit.”

As the sun rises in the sky and it gets warmer, we wrap up our conversation so we can each get to our respective Saturday errands. His are usually yard work and home or boat maintenance, while mine center on my walk to the local feria del agricultorferia for short. (Farmers’ Market)

Most towns hold their own ferias every Saturday morning. There is a organic Feria Verde (Green Market) in San José that I go to if I’m looking for something I can’t find locally. Organic markets are found in quite a number communities outside the Metropolitan area. The best way to find them is via social networking.

I grab a lightweight backpack and head out. It’s a good 20 minute walk down a mostly residential, tree-lined street on the outer edge of Santo Domingo (see pic above). This main road is fairly busy during the week, but on Saturday mornings it’s filled with joggers, cyclists, and people like me out walking for exercise or to do one errand or another. I’m happily doing both.  Being passed by young dads jogging as they push their babies’ strollers is encouraging proof of expanding parental roles in this society that is a crazy mix of traditional machismo and progressive women’s rights.

*See my safety tips following this article

I pass familiar faces and we express our good mornings to one another. One of the things I love about CR is how people who don’t know each other still exchange greetings on their neighborhood streets. The pleasant buenos días or adiós feel like a throw back to gentler times.  Adiós is a common “hello-goodbye” greeting used when passing someone you know on the street.

Every now and then there will be a reason to stop and chat for a moment—for me it’s usually women walking their dogs; I’m pictured above with Jack who I met on this walk a few weeks ago. By the time his owner and I parted ways, we were friends and she had pointed out her house in case I ever needed a place to stop or wanted to visit. This is the Costa Rica I love!

The feria wraps around two sides of the plaza in front of the Basilica. I buy most of my vegetables from Karla’s nearby organic store, Ayni, (link below) but there are a few things she doesn’t carry that I pick up from the feria vendors.

One of these is peach palm fruit, pejibaye. Fanny, the pejibaye vendor, sees me coming and greets me with a smile as she hands me a bag to fill up.  (Fanny is pictured above.)

Then, I go to Karla’s and see what she has that I can use. Before I leave the feria, I usually stop for a cool pipa which is a freshly husked, coconut water filled coconut with a straw stuck in it. If I wanted, I could get a glass of freshly squeezed carrot, sugar cane, or other tropical juice at the refrescos stand.

I do my best to resist the smell of the hot cheese tortillas being made at one of the more popular stands (pictured above).  For the first time this year, today I give in to temptation. I carry the piping hot, crispy on the outside, cheesy on the inside, thick, plate size tortilla home and give half of it away to the first friend I meet—no one turns down cheese tortillas!

There are usually fútbol (soccer) lessons going on in the field between the Basilica and the feria, and I sometimes pause on my way out to watch the little ones practice their moves. Depending on time, weather, and the weight of my backpack, I sometimes walk a few blocks out of my way just to extend my walk, as I did today (penance for that cheese tortilla!).

Last, I stop at a lovely little home decorating shop (link below) to chat with the owners about life, politics, world events, or when and where they’re going on their next buying trip. They often visit family in Asheville, NC, so we have fun talking about the area that is dear to me. I always stay longer than I mean to, but the sky is starting to cloud up and I still have a one mile walk ahead of me.

I get back, hotter and sweatier than I should be on this 78 degree, 65% humidity day, but I tend to walk fast and carrying a large hot tortilla in your pack doesn’t help. I kick off my shoes, put things away,  splash my face with cool water, and put my feet up.

That’s my Santo Domingo Saturday morning routine. I get a good walk while doing some grocery shopping, enjoy a little socializing, and become a little more rooted in this small community I now call home. It’s nothing terribly exciting, but it’s sweetly satisfying.

Pura Vida, my friends!

Safety tips: I should mention that as a woman, I do not smile at, greet, or otherwise engage men I pass when walking unless they are residents that I see on a regular basis, are elderly grandfather types, or are with their wives. It just isn’t done in Latin America, and could bring unwanted attention. I certainly wouldn’t greet anyone at all I didn’t know when walking down a city street. A big hola to every stranger on the street is a great way to let everyone know you are a clueless American with a phone, wallet, or pair of sunglasses that could be worth a grab ‘n run.

I carry only the minimum with me to go to the feria, because although Santo Domingo is a very safe little town, the feria can be crowded with people bumping into you—surely a pickpocket paradise. In my hand I carry a small wallet containing only the cash I need, and a photocopied ID (in case of an accident). I do carry my phone, but it is usually buried in the bottom of my zipped up backpack. I put purchases in a nylon tote bag and move that to my backpack when I’m finished shopping.

I do my best to blend in (sometimes difficult with my white hair), which means to go to the feria I wear jeans, comfy but nondescript walking shoes, and a ladies baseball cap-style hat. I leave my sports sandals and favorite wide brimmed hats at home because they would shout “Gringa” in this town. Shorts and brightly colored trendy tennis shoes are normal on weekends if you’re part of the 20-30ish age group, which I’m certainly not.

Most people at the feria carry tote bags or baskets of some sort, and many have wheeled carts for loading up with produce. My nylon backpack isn’t common, but it doesn’t stand out either, and it’s the best solution for walking longer distances with my purchases.

Links:  Ayni Tienda Organica

My Perfect Home

Feria Verde