Sunday, December 24, 2006

Logbook: Limon

LimonLimon -- officially “Puerto Limon” -- is a remarkable little city with a surprisingly varied character. Arriving on Saturday afternoon, I was a little overwhelmed at first by the crowd, traffic, noise and chaos after my week of calm and quiet down the coast at Cahuita and points south. After a quick walk around town -- it really only takes about 15 minutes to see most of it -- I pretty easily got a sense of the place. On the surface, Limon is the commercial center for the coast and features both the usual collection of markets, restaurants, banks, etc. plus a fairly wide array of shops for electronics, stationery, hardware and the like. Limon’s most prominent commerce, however, is the multitude of clothing and fashion wear stores, especially shoes. For some reason, Limon has many shoe stores. I was happiest to find a nice, quiet, air conditioned internet center with a fast, stable wi-fi network, so I spent some quality time there.

A little more walking around showed me another side to Limon, the “dumpy” side. Ad hoc, cardboard box trash depots are to be found on many street corners and a noticeable number of vagrants appear in various places. While one first sees the nice, new commercial buildings and orderly stores lining the main streets, one later finds decrepit structures on many side streets. I was also treated to the sight of several rats scampering between buildings. Nevertheless, the people are friendly and the order exceeds the chaos, so by the time Saturday was over, I found myself enjoying Limon and looking forward to spending a few days here. As soon as I got up yesterday morning and went for coffee, however, I noticed yet another very different feel to Limon. Not half a block from my hotel, I started being approached by bums, kids, and various questionable characters asking for money or offering to sell me things I don’t want. This had not happened at all the day before, so I was a little confused.

As I walked the next block wondering what was up, I passed a group of about 20 gringos making loud, not very flattering comments about the town. Aha! This is a port town and a ship has docked! Sure enough, I soon saw gringos everywhere and saw yet another side of Limon. What just the day before was a pleasant little town became a tourist hell overnight. I spent most of the day in the internet center and, frankly, hiding out in my room, but when I went out for dinner at about seven, I found the town had switched back to its “other” self. The ship had sailed at six. I proceeded to enjoy my dinner in a “soda” -- a very typical, small, family restaurant -- trying hard not to stare and laugh as the locals talked animatedly amongst themselves while they counted the money they had pocketed during the day.

After another session at the internet center I enjoyed the “Nochebuena” -- “Christmas Eve” -- parade (which I have shared in a Report) and called it a day. For this morning, I had arranged to take a boat ride up the canal to Tortuguero National Park but awoke to a downpour and was told that the trip would be rescheduled for tomorrow. So, I have happily spent the day doing iLife, avoiding the effects of the ship that is in port for the day, and making trips back and forth to the internet center. As soon as I finish this Logbook entry I will head over there once again and see if Limon has anything else to show me along the way! Stay tuned!

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