Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Taste of Cuba in San Francisco

San Francisco is famous for its tourist hot spots. Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, Alamo Square, China Town, Golden Gate Bridge, and Union Square can be found crawling with tourists on any given day. While these places are all interesting attractions to explore, the real gems are hidden throughout the city like a pirate's buried treasure. This is just one of the reasons why living in a place trumps being a tourist any day. Of course, you get the best of both worlds if you happen to know an insider who lives in the city you're visiting. That's a good combo, too.
Despite having lived in San Francisco for the past six years, I am still discovering treasure troves tucked away in the little pockets of various neighborhoods. The recent heat waves have had me wide awake at night and wanting to play. No better way to do it than cruising through the streets on the back of a motorcycle. There's just something about being on a motorcycle that makes me feel cool. Plus, without the roof of a car obscuring my view, I often see things I might have otherwise missed.
That was how my friend, Michael, and I stumbled upon Radio Habana Social Club. Michael is my hair stylist and rocker friend. We met while sharing the stage for a rock and roll belly dance show I produced. His band, Electric Sister, headlined. Nothing like getting to know people while you're undulating on stage with them.
We were driving back to his place for a late night hair cut (that's the only way I've managed to get my hair cut these days) when we heard jazzy Cuban music spilling out of this tiny bar.
The place was almost too eccentric to describe. It was like the Mad Hatter's playground; nothing made sense, and yet it all came together in a way that fit. Avant garde and abstract art adorned every nook, cranny, ceiling, and wall. Even the floor was covered in art. Marionettes and random objects dangled overhead, like a flock of mismatched birds suspended in flight. Most of the objects were hybrids of various items that had been joined together in a way that was creepy yet mesmerizing. Doll heads with fish bodies, barbies with dragon wings, eyeballs and random body parts glued onto toy cars. All sorts of grotesque images that will haunt your dreams. In addition to this madness were black and white photos of Cuba, musical instruments, and pieces of quotes and poems. The menu had been spray painted on the floor in several places.
This eclectic spot is apparently known for its sangria. Michael and I had already downed some beers at a bar, so we opted for herbal tea and desert instead. Yeah, I'm not as much as a party girl as I make myself out to be. Either way, the cheesecake we shared was melt-in-your-mouth yummy.
Also, big thumbs up for the service. The owner was like the sweet grandma you always wished you had. Don't get me wrong, I love my grandmothers, but this lady was adorable in a way that you only see in fiction.
Perhaps that added to the surreal vibe of Radio Habana Social Club. Well, I guess the customer with his face painted in Dia de los Muertos make-up and the old Cuban men smoking cigars helped, too. It seemed like the kind of place where anything goes. Exactly the kind of place I like to be on a warm San Francisco night.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hard Lessons

Costa Rica is like a rose: beautiful and sweet, but you better watch out for the thorns. Is that too cliche of a metaphor? Either way, it's an apt description. I had to learn some lessons the hard way this past summer during my time in Costa Rica.
My fiance, Wilson, and I decided to buy property on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast three years ago because we had fallen in love with the people, the food,the diversity, the community, the nature, and the laid back culture. We now have our own little retreat in the jungle- a two bedroom house on a quiet road in the rain forest. We have neighbours, and have made friends with almost everyone on the road.
Anyone can see how it would be easy to get lulled into a false sense of security. We had already had our place broken into twice, so we knew all about the underground "tax" we paid as foreigners. However, the ultimate shocker came during the middle of a peaceful, quiet day. I was sitting at the table on my porch, writing on my laptop, and took a break to bring Wilson a glass of water down in the yard.
Our porch is ten feet up, and I locked the bottom door. Plus, we can see under the house, as we haven't yet finished building the bottom. I figured my laptop would be fine for five minutes, especially since I would only be about twenty feet away.
When I got back to the table, the laptop was gone. My first thought was, "Damn, that was fast!" My second thought was, "How long had someone been watching me?" Knowing that I had been staked out made my skin crawl. So much for knowing the neighbours.
For weeks after, every time someone came down the road I wondered if they had been the culprit. I was suddenly suspicious and paranoid and overly cautious. Those thorns sure hurt.
I'm the kind of person who likes to think that people are good at their core. I tend to see the best in people upon meeting them, and assume that people have good intentions, until proven otherwise. So, it's difficult for me to switch my thinking to "everyone is a potential enemy until proven otherwise", which is now my motto.
I'm still happy about owning a house in Costa Rica, but I've learned from my mistakes.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunny Days in San Francisco

I found out a surprising fact recently: Mark Twain did not infamously quote "the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco". Either way, the quote is dead on. Lucky for me, I spent the summer in Costa Rica and missed out on the chilly fog that filled the city all summer long. Luckier still, I am back in San Francisco just in time for Indian summer.
There really is nothing like a sunny day in San Francisco. Everyone is out and about and in a good mood. All the girls are wearing cute, summer dresses, and all the boys are turning their heads every time a girl walks by (unless, of course, you are in the Castro).
Festivals dominate the weekends, farmers' markets overflow with produce, people sunbathe half-nude in Dolores Park (or fully nude if you are at Baker's Beach).
The antics of street performers can be seen every few blocks. Musicians, jugglers, clowns, fortune tellers, and the like will perform for you for a donation or a smile. Although, I noticed something as I strolled by several performers while I was on my way to the Ferry Building (great place to spend a sunny day): where were the belly dancers? You've got the break dancers at the corner of Powell and Market, tap dancers at Fisherman's Wharf, even people trance dancing by hippie hill. But no belly dancers. In a city filled with Tribal Fusion dancers, you'd think there would be at least one tapping into her inner gypsy and performing for the passersby.
I'm almost tempted to belly dance by the street myself. But then I feel the warm sun on my skin, meander by a cafe, and get lulled into buying an iced coffee and lounging at an outside table. I guess I'll save the belly dancing for another time.
Side note: I did belly dance in Duboce Park for a kid's birthday party once. During the performance, a flock of green parrots landed in a nearby tree. Yes, we were that good- even the birds came to watch!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rockin' Bellies!

Lately, I have been into producing shows as much as I have been into performing at them. My last creation, “Rock-A-Belly” went down at the internationally famous Café du Nord, in San Francisco.
Belly dance and rock music? Can the two really be combined without looking silly?
After “Rock-A-Belly”, the answer is a definite ‘yes’!
It’s easier to belly dance to rock music than you’d think. Everything is in an eight count, and the guitar solos are really just rock and roll versions of a taxeem. And the drums! Great way to get your shimmy on. And frankly, let’s admit it, there’s a reason so many strippers grind and get down to rock music; rock is sexy and fun and makes you want to dance! There’s a wild abandon that comes with rock music, which is so unlike the strict traditionalism that can come with classic styles of belly dance music.
I certainly let loose with wild abandon at the show. We opened with a belly dance set (sans bands), and all four dancers- Rasa Vitalia, Leah, Alodiah, and myself- had the crowd entranced by our own, unique styles. Yes, belly dance is diverse! It’s not all coin belts and sequins and bad Middle Eastern pop music. Especially in San Francisco.
I had only booked three bands for the night, but we somehow ended up with five. Deeva opened, but shared their set with Art in Heaven. Castles and Spain rocked the middle set. Ironically, there were no belly dancers in their set, and yet they were the only band that night who had a history of including belly dancers at their shows.
Our headliner was Electric Sister. Really sweet guys. So respectful to Alodiah and I during the rehearsals we went to. No sleaziness whatsoever. Until they got onstage. I knew they sometimes described their music as “LA stripper metal”, but I didn’t quite put two and two together. And really, it’s quite the challenge to belly dance to that kind of music, with the band guys acting like sleazy rock stars, while trying to maintain some sense of class.
Don’t get me wrong. I love, love, love sleazy rock and roll. And Electric Sister are great at what they do. It’s just a challenge to belly dance with them and not look like a stripper. Just one eight count of sloppy technique and I knew I’d be doomed!
Thank god, Alodiah and I had spent hours rehearsing our choreography. We could put those moves to any kind of music- rock, Middle Eastern, or otherwise- and we’d still look like professional belly dancers. Which was what I was going for: to show that belly dance is classy all on its own, regardless of what kind of music you put it to.
The night ended with a great surprise. One of my favorite bands, Triple Cobra, showed up to play a secret set after Electric Sister. Triple Cobra has a bit of a cult following, and their glam rock, make-up, and sparkles fit right in with the belly dance theme. Despite the differences between belly dance and rock culture, I’m glad to say that we can at least all get away with wearing sparkles on our faces.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Zadiel in California!

Planning a tour is no small feat. I have always loved the expression "hindsight is 20/20", because it really is! I recently hosted my first tour, in California for Zadiel Sasmaz- one of Europe's most famous male belly dancers. Looking back, there are so many things I would have done differently. Contracts, for everything, for starters. More promotion. Tons and tons and tons of promotion!
That said, the tour was successful in many ways. Namely, I discovered what it was like to live with two gay men. You wouldn't believe the amount of cologne that was sprayed in my house- I almost debated wearing a gas mask! And if you ever thought that teenage girls were boy crazy, you'd quickly realize that gay men truly define the term "boy obsessed". But can you blame them? Two gay guys from Germany in San Francisco for the first time, how could they not get a little nutty about all the gay men walking around?
The best part about touring is all the people you meet. From San Diego to San Francisco, we only had the best of hosts along the way. And to share the stage with other talented dancers is priceless. The downside? Lack of sleep! We all kept staying up way past our bedtimes because we were enjoying the pleasant company so much!
Also, as one of Zadiel's hostesses, I got to take all of his workshops. And Zadiel is a master teacher. From "Dancing to Turkish Pop" to "Drum Solo" to "Turkish Roma", I was shimmying my heart out. The "Turkish Roma" workshop was my favorite. The only drawback was that all the hopping a walking and sliding gave me a blister the size of a large grape on the bottom of my right foot. For the past three days I've been hobbling around like an old lady!
The toughest day of the tour, though, was the day of the Balkan Fusion Party show at Triple Crown in San Francisco. I was running on five hours sleep, and drove from San Diego to Los Angeles, then flew to San Francisco, got ready in thirty minutes, walked to the club, and produced a show.
In hindsight, that all seems very stressful and a little crazy. But then I pause to reflect some more and I think, "Lack of sleep? Excessive traveling? Blisters?" Meh. It's just another day in the life of a belly dancer.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Balkan Brass

What is it about the deep thrum of a tuba, the short bursts of a trumpet, and the drawn out sighs of a trombone that I find so damn sexy?
My first taste of live Balkan music was at Amnesia in San Francisco. Rachel Brice was performing- that sultry snake of a belly dancer. She was the one I had gone to see, but when the band for the night, "Brass Menazeri", started playing, it was the music that had me captivated and wanting more. (But don't get me wrong, Rachel kicked ass that night!)
Something about the festivity, the gypsy-like mischievousness in the songs, made me want to dance, and dance, and dance. I suppose I'm not the only one who's been feeling that way, because there has been a boom of belly dancing to Balkan music in the Tribal Fusion belly dance community.
I was at a rehearsal the other day, for an upcoming show with the band, "Zoyres". Now, Zoyres' sound is many things, and one of them is Balkan. As I sat there listening to the band play, I felt something familiar. There was a feeling stirring in my body that felt akin to falling in love. The room was sort of spinning. And that's when I realized that I was swooning.
Guys, pay attention. All those band geeks in high school had the right idea, because now they're surrounded by hot, swooning belly dancers!
This June, I am hosting Zadiel Sasmaz- my dance director from Berlin- on tour in California. Zadiel's specialties include Turkish Roma and 9/8 rhythms, music favored by Eastern European gypsies. What better case to showcase his talents than at a Balkan Fusion party? That's what gave me the idea for the next show I am producing. Belly dancers from a variety of styles, a special musical guest called "Leopard Print Tank Top", a sword solo to clarinet, and Zoyres, who will satisfy your Balkan music cravings. June 7th at Triple Crown in San Francisco! Time to release your inner gypsy, and maybe even catch a swooning dancer. That's one way to sweep a woman off her feet!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Baxtalo Drom: The Lucky Road

There is a gypsy punk party that happens once a month in San Francisco and it is a little bit, shall we say, revered in the tribal fusion belly dance community. Rose Harden and the ladies of Sister Kate host one hell of a show, called "Baxtalo Drom", at Amnesia.
Baxtalo Drom means "The Lucky Road", and if you attend or perform at the event, then you will indeed find yourself feeling like you have stumbled onto some lucky path. The performers are always hot and amazing, and the crowd is always just the right amount of rowdy.
Three days prior to the last Baxtalo Drom show, I was asked to perform. Yep, three days notice about performing at a show I knew would be packed! On the Facebook event page I was described as a "ravishing desert flower that wields her sword for you". What a title to live up to! My nerves were wracked, but I knew everything would be okay... so long as I practiced fifty million times.
To spice things up even more, the featured dancer of the night was Deb Rubin. Have you seen that woman dance? Well, she's fabulous, and dancing at the same show with her was humbling for me, if not a little terrifying at first. When you're opening for a big act, it's normal to have those feelings, right?
I really had nothing to worry about, though. My piece was- dare I say- almost flawless. Of course, after practicing it fifty million times, I would have been surprised if it had been anything else. And I say "almost" flawless just so I don't sound like an arrogant diva. This is where I would insert a smiley face if this blog had emoticons.
The other acts were also pretty spectacular. Kimberly Mackoy, Fatima, and Deb Rubin entertained the crowd with their sexy dance prowess. DJ Alxndr provided some funky beats. And Khi Darag (don't even bother trying to pronounce that; I couldn't pronounce it correctly after a whole night of hearing the name) got the audience moving and grooving with their gypsy-like tunes.
A bunch of my friends made it out to the show, despite the last minute notice. Where would I be without my amazing friends? It is so helpful to look into the crowd when I am onstage and see a familiar face.
Also, I realized that the lucky road doesn't have to stop at Amnesia; if I think about it, my whole life been a gypsy punk party as of late. Traveling the globe, dancing up a storm, having adventures, falling in love. Baxtalo drom indeed!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Clown Cabaret

A few posts ago I was saying how tempted I've been to run away and join the circus. Well, a few weeks ago I almost had my chance. Sort of. I was scheduled to perform at the "Nutritionally Delicious and Delectably Delightful Clown Cabaret". Clowns, jugglers, acrobats, unicyclists, and other circus freaks would be performing, too, and welcoming belly dancing into their umbrella of circus arts.
Unfortunately, I got sick at the last minute and couldn't perform. I know, the "show must go on". And it did, thanks to my belly dancer friend, Alison, whom I called two hours prior to the show and asked if she could fill my spot. I really love that I can call a belly dancer last minute and have them perform. I should start a "dial-a-belly-dancer" service or something. Betcha I could make some good money doing that!
Despite being ill, I still went to the event and volunteered at the drink/snack booth. The cabaret was a fundraiser for inMotion Theater, which is a non-profit that works with high school youth to create educational theater shows about healthy living. I wish I had something that cool when I was in school. Being a circus performer as a way to stay in shape? Sure beats running laps around the track.
Polina Smith was the organizer for the event and she did a fab job of bringing everyone together. I especially liked the "pie-in-the-face" clowns, and the cartoon bear sketch by Edna Barron. But everyone was delightful to watch. And now I have some new ideas to add to my routine. What do you think about a belly dancing unicyclist? I'm sure I could pull it off...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Drinking with the Irish!

Belly dancing at an Irish pub… I never would have imagined. However, this is San Francisco, and apparently anything can happen in this boundary pushing city.
My friend, Dee, wanted to celebrate her 30th birthday in style. As an Irish woman, that meant Irish pub, lots of alcohol, kick ass bands, and, um, belly dancers. And yes, all those things somehow fit together quite well and made for an awesome- albeit eclectic- evening.
The Irish pub, Ireland's 32, was in the Richmond district and packed full of people when I arrived with my belly dancer friends in tow. Everyone was laid back, friendly, and thirsty. And those Irish accents! I couldn’t have handpicked a better crowd.
The night opened with a belly dance set. Joie Mazor (My Red Heart) and I used to dance to this little number called “Renunciation”. We decided to revive the song for the night and even pulled my friend, Julz, into the routine. Not bad for a few hours of practice time. Alodiah Lunar, Alison Saylor, Joie, and Julz all did solos. I sat out, because I was still recovering from e.coli poisoning. I figured a trio and a song with the band was my limit. Really, I shouldn’t have been dancing at all, but what’s that saying? The show must go on!
The band “Deeva”, in which Dee is the lead singer, played a set and I managed to pull off an improvised sword performance to their last song. I know, right? In so much pain that I should have been doubled over, but instead I was up there belly dancing with a sword on my head.
The band, “Art in Heaven” headlined, and Joie and Alodiah busted out with some improv of their own. The two hadn’t danced together in years and they managed to put together some combos in five minutes and then improvise with them to a song they had never heard. We are all total rock stars, I gotta say!
It was nice to kick back for a bit after the belly dancing, have a few drinks, hang with the birthday girl, and mingle with the crowd. One thing that I wasn’t able to do, though, was out drink the Irish. In fact, the bartender mixed my drink extra strong, so I was done after one cocktail. But can you blame me? After all that dancing, that alcohol must have hit my bloodstream pretty hard. Good thing I waited to drink until after the sword balancing act. I don’t really want to picture what would have happened if I had started drinking before!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Taste of the Caribbean

At the end of the main road that runs along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, there is a quaint beachside town called Manzanillo (pronounced “man-za-nee-yo”, not “man-za-nil-o”).
Manzanillo is the epitome of Caribbean. Located in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Marine and Wildlife Refuge, Manzanillo is a treasure trove for nature lovers. A dense coral reef lines the beach just meters from the shore and makes for excellent snorkelling. Sea turtles, barracudas, eels, reef sharks, sea urchins, and dozens of colorful fish are just some of the creatures you can expect to encounter. Mom-and-pop dive shops offer snorkel gear for just $3/hour. Diving gear and tours are also available. Kayaks run at $5/hour, and other tours include dolphin watching, bird watching, boat trips, and hiking.
The town of Manzanillo may be tiny, but the rainforest that surrounds it is massive. A hiking trail that starts just down the beach from the restaurant “Maxi’s” winds through the coastal rainforest all the way to Panama. The trail is a popular hike to the sustainable farm at “Punta Mona”- which is not accessible by road. If you decide to make the 5km+ hike to Punta Mona, which can take anywhere from 1.5-3 hours depending on the weather, lots of monkeys, sloths, lizards, and birds will keep you company along the way. Another 45 min-1 hour hike past Punta Mona will bring you to the town of Gandoca- which is even smaller than Manzanillo, if you can believe it.
Manzanillo is also known for its beautiful beach and good surfing. Cement tables are spread out under the trees, just before the shore, and it is common to see locals and tourists alike playing cards, hanging out, listening to music, and having lunch. Little shops and a few motels are scattered throughout the town, and all have a distinct Caribbean vibe with Rasta colors painted on the walls, reggae blaring from stereos, and Bob Marley memorabilia for sale.
One of the biggest gems in Manzanillo is the restaurant “Maxi’s”. While prices may be a little expensive, the mouth-watering cuisine is worth it. Be sure to order from the parilla (grill)- there is nothing quite like a plantain right off the grill, or a juicy pork rib with Caribbean sauce (not that I would know about the latter, but it’s what my fiance always orders. The amazing smell of the grilled meat almost makes me want to give up being a vegetarian. Almost). If “Caribbean” were a flavor, it would be anything cooked on the grill at Maxi's.
Maxi’s also sets the Caribbean scene with walls adorned by soccer banners, old-school reggae and hip-hop playing on the radio, a Caribbean staff who’s ancestors settled in Costa Rica from Jamaica, and a gorgeous view of the Caribbean sea. After hours of snorkelling, diving, hiking, surfing, playing with dolphins, or just lounging on the beach, kicking it at Maxi’s with a plate of food straight off the grill and a view of the sun setting over the Caribbean sea is a perfect ending to a perfect day.
Photo Credit: Christena Devlin

Friday, April 9, 2010

Behind the Eyes of Eve

Before I left for Costa Rica, I found myself in the basement of D-Structure on Haight St. in San Francisco, sitting on a stool behind a shelf of clothes, getting my face done up in gold powder. Racks of clothes, stacks of boxes, and dozens of shelves towered over the cold, cement floor. It was the underbelly of the store, that was for sure. And yet, the space was somehow inviting. I have to accredit this to the amazing women who were involved in the photo shoot. There was Linda, who was doing my makeup and gossiping like the hairstylist she is. She had the kind of wit and sarcasm that could keep you in stitches. It was quite a challenge not to double over in laughter as she was applying my makeup. The risk of getting poked in the eye, however, helped keep me composed.
A woman named Sam was the photographer for the evening. She knew just how to direct the models and walked that fine line between bossy and nice. I definitely like a woman who can take charge! And so much better coming from a woman than a man... for obvious reasons.
And, of course, there was Dee Kennedy, the woman behind it all. The shoot was for her gemstone line, "Eyes of Eve"; sparkling gemstones that could be worn as bindis and faux piercings, among other things. Dee is quite the innovative woman. She's one of those people who has a million ideas swirling in her head- and she actually does something about it. She models, is the executive director of VAGABOOM! (a children's art educational non-profit in San Francisco), is in the band Think 13, is a tour organizer (her tours to Egypt are definitely worth checking out), owns the Eyes of Eve jewelry line, and is also a High Priestess. Yeah, pretty amazing. Oh, and not to mention that she's both gorgeous and super nice. The camaraderie during the photo shoot reminded me of hanging out with my girlfriends when I was 15; lots of giggles, zero pretentiousness, and an embarrassing amount of girl power. As well, I was happy because I got to model with my sword. And I love modeling with my sword. The more pics I have of me and that sword, the better! Because a girl with a sword is just so bad-ass. Especially when she's wearing Eyes of Eve.
Photo Credit: Sam O'Connor

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Taking the Plunge

Jumping off a thirty-five foot cliff into the rapids of a waterfall can make you feel like Tarzan. After an hour of watching the local teenage boys jump from various heights to the churning water below, I decided to take the plunge myself. A part of me wanted to do it because it looked like a thrilling experience (and it was), and a part of me wanted to simply show the boys that a girl could do it, too.
Of course, I took a bit longer than the local boys did. My friend, Randy, and I scaled the cliff and hovered fearfully at the edge for a good five minutes or so before taking that bold leap. The jump was exhilarating- I felt high for hours after- and it took longer than I expected to hit the water. My friends watching below told me that my legs did a little nervous kick about five feet before I touched water. Yup, that was about the point where I freaked out and thought “Why haven’t I landed yet?!!! What’s taking so long?!!!” Never in my life have I spent so much time in the air. I didn’t feel like a bird, though, more like a heavy rock- or Tarzan, without his slick jungle skills.
Bri Bri Falls is located in Costa Rica’s Southern Caribbean, along the highway that stretches from Hone Creek to Bri Bri. Lots of local tour companies offer a trip to the falls for $15-$25, but it is much cheaper (and just as easy) to take a taxi or a bus. Just let the driver know that you want to go to the cataracas- they’ll know where to stop.
Another reason to take a bus or taxi is because the tour companies do not often give any of the profit to the man who owns Bri Bri falls. And after meeting Santos, you can’t help but want to give the man some money for all the hard work and effort he makes to keep the falls clean, safe, and beautiful. He definitely lives up to his name, which means “saint”. There is a stairway that descends into the jungle and to the falls, which is always free of litter and well-kempt due to Santos’ weed whacking with the machete.
I first went to the falls by taxi. Santos was waiting at the entrance, and asked for a meagre donation of one dollar. After an exhilarating and refreshing experience of swimming under and around the two waterfalls, I was glad to contribute something to this kind-hearted man. Santos even came down to the falls that day to point out the big rocks that were hidden under the rapids; the current was strong that day, and he didn’t want my friend and I to be injured. He also provides bathrooms free of charge and sells a variety of refreshments from a small fridge. Santos dreams of one day opening a small café/bar at the entrance to the falls. For now, the “café” is a small structure with a table, a fridge, and bunches of bananas and plantains (for sale at a good price) hanging from the beams.
The rapids were too strong that first day to do much besides swim, but the water was calmer and an exquisite shade of blue the second time I visited. On that day, I decided to be brave and jumped off the top of the smaller waterfall. My boyfriend and our two friends, of course, followed suit. I also managed to swim behind and then under the larger waterfall, with the help of my boyfriend.
By the third time I visited, the rain falls had died down and the waterfalls were smaller, and the currents less forceful. Swimming behind and under the waterfall was much easier, and the whole place seemed less intimidating. Hence, my bold (and successful) attempt at cliff diving (or is it jumping, if you go feet first?).
However, Santos is the real Tarzan of Bri Bri Falls. After watching him walk barefoot through a highway of cutter ants, I asked him why he wasn’t afraid of being bitten. He thumped his chest and said in Spanish, “I am like Tarzan! I live with the ants!” It made me rethink my own Tarzan experience; sure, I’ll jump off a cliff into a waterfall, but there’s no way you’re going to catch this gringa walking barefoot through a bunch of biting ants.