I couldn’t help but laugh. Nothing seemed more atypical than a pizzeria shrouded in mist in the cloud forest of Monteverde. Then again, nothing seemed more typical than 31-plus rowdy gringos filing out of a tour bus. Rice and beans, though tasty, had taken over our diets like the pervasive Cecropia plants we had been identifying in the field. We welcomed the sight of a melted cheese and crust with open hearts and stomachs.
Our excitement over such a staple U.S. food no doubt could be attributed to the appetite we had worked up during our orientation hike in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. The experience of trekking through the ethereal haze can be likened to the rush of steam that escapes from the opening of a shower door. Now imagine instead that you step onto a carpet of moss and that your leaking showerhead is the perpetually dripping foliage of shades of green that surround you. Verde que te quiero verde. Verde viento. Verdes ramas. Green, how I love you green. Green wind. Green branches. Monteverde embodied Lorca’s verses, poetic in nature.
Near the peak we had transitioned into elfin forest, characterized by shorter trees as the name implies. Strong winds act as a stunting force on the woodland that sits on the continental divide, the natural barrier that separates the Caribbean Atlantic from the Pacific. At the summit, we sat to lunch on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as talk turned to the fictional elfin forests of Lord of the Rings.
Over pizza that night, I reflected on the uniquely mystical experience of the cloud forest. Just days earlier I had experienced a similar feeling of spirituality during an enlightening presentation on permaculture grown tropical medicinal plants. It was the same emotion that filled me as I stuffed my face with pizza. It wasn’t the pizza itself, but rather the act of sharing slices at the dinner table as we shared intimate slices of our lives. Whether a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a slice of pizza, the sheer amount of valuable wisdom I have gathered from my new friends has surpassed anything I have learned reading a textbook.