One of–or probably THE most popular–gringo fiesta in Atenas is the annual Charity Chili Cook-off. It is put on to raise funds for the Hogar de Vida orphanage in this city. Last year, they raised $5000 for the charity, and hoped to double that number this year. I think they might have done well, because this park called Quinta Romavista in Barrio Mercedes was PACKED. There was a big room for the chili-tasting, a pool filled with happy children, a shady playground, seating and tables under tents, and even a dance floor.
Everything was super affordable. The entrance free was 2000 colones ($4) for each of us. We spent around 4000 colones ($8) on tickets for food and beverages. There was also a tent set up at the front for accepting additional donations, if visitors are so inclined.
After trying several chilis with quite a variety of flavors, we dropped our silver-painted beans off at the tables with our favorite offering. I chose Martin’s yummy creation from Mi Casa Es Tu Casa, a restaurant here in town. He added taco chips and a splash of sour cream into my tasting cup, and I was sold. Delicious.
It was pretty hot in the tasting-hall, what with all the chili, and all the people squirming to get samples. We decided to grab an icecream cone and a sweet tea, and cool off in the shade of a palm tree near the playground. While I watched H and his daddy play on the slide with a few other young kids with their dads, I was approached by a friendly mama. She welcomed me over to the “moms” area, not far from the playground, where she and her girlfriend were sharing a large blanketed respite with another new mommy-comrade. K was somewhat of an ambassador for the new moms in the area, though she wouldn’t admit her extroverted skills. She had even started a facebook group page for young families like us, living in the Central Valley area. We four moms chatted in the perfect Spring-like weather about our common interests–birth stories, cloth diapering, baby-wearning–all while nursing our babies (who ranged from 2-6 months old). I let Baby P rest on the blanket next to K’s Baby E, and she enjoyed making the acquaintance. My new mommy-friend M tested out my camera, and managed to catch the introduction.
While we chilled out with the babies, my husband took H to play in the pool. He had a great time watching the splashing children and sharing their toy ships. Unfortunately, a special toy ship sank to the bottom, and my dry husband on the sidelines couldn’t retrieve it. So, back they came to the mommy-mat, H red with tears and screaming at the top of his lungs (normal occurrence, these days). We managed to distract him by holding him up to a tree to “climb.” Whew… crisis over.
By this time, we were ready to call a taxi to take us back to town. We grabbed a real America hotdog and a few water bottles on the way out (we lost the last of our two nice bottles in the taxi earlier that day–doh!). Our speedy taxi lady arrived in minutes.
I didn’t get a chance to explore the dance floor or tented area, which was packed with many jovial transplants from the States. However, I had a perfectly pleasant afternoon, enjoying yummy chili and meeting new friends. If we are in the area next year, we most definitely will make another appearance at the Chili Cook-Off in Atenas! What better way to help raise money for such a wonderful project than eating, playing, and chatting the afternoon away?