Excerpts from a monthly newsletter I send to my nearest and dearest.
December 15, 2017
Today marks day 39 in Costa Rica. Since arriving on November 6, I’ve gotten one TEFL certificate, two (minor) sunburns, a great group of new friends, and about 137 bug bites. So far, I’m showing no signs of typhoid or dengue fever. Fingers crossed.
I’m writing from my room in Hotel Liberia, which I can best describe as a hostel masquerading as a hotel. One block from a lively public park and three blocks from a Pizza Hut, Hotel Liberia is equipped with a covered outdoor seating area and jazz music drifting from surround sound speakers. A small courtyard is filled with lush plants, small iguanas, the smell of Costa Rican coffee beans, and a strong wifi connection. The staff speaks little English and smiles a lot; we get along very well. My room has three beds. Each bed costs $12/night to rent. The bathroom isn’t attached to the bedroom, which is fine because the toilet leaks. Last night, I shared the room with two sisters from London. They had flown in the day before and were exhausted. Sara’s eyes drooped and Mariam stressed about where they were going to go the next day. We chatted for a while. Their grandparents emigrated to London from Pakistan once upon a time. Mariam said she wished they’d chosen a different place to emigrate to because she’s found it’s difficult to be a successful acupuncturist in London. Sara doesn’t seem to mind London. The two went on their way this morning and I haven’t acquired any new roommates yet today. I’m enjoying the alone time.
A little about where I’ve been for the past month. I lived in a bright green room in a bright green house called Casa Congo on a dirt road with no name. My roommates were Bill and Tom. Bill is from Tucson and has lived in Sámara for four years. He has red hair and a handlebar moustache. Tom is from England and has lived in Sámara for two years. I became much better friends with Tom than with Bill. Sometimes he ate my cookies and sometimes I drank his coffee, and we both took it upon ourselves to feed the family of cats in our backyard. Our backyard almost always had some sort of visitor, but most frequently the family of cats, a black dog named Nada who had a litter of puppies while I was there, a loving tan and white dog who was my personal favorite, and a huge pig who would come by to eat out of our compost pile. Never a dull moment.
Almost any down time was spent at the beach. A smaller group of us made it a point to see as much of the town as we could. We biked to the end of the beach a couple times and attempted to swim out to a small island called Isla Chora. I should say I attempted. Eli, Matt, and another American in the town, Tim, swam out that first time. Margaux and I chickened out because the waves were rough and we worried about getting swept onto the rocks. We all went again another time – this time also with Gwen – and I sucked it up to make the swim. It was scary. The waves were merciless and it had rained the day before, so the water was murky. Eli and Matt had assured me that I’d be able to see the bottom, and they apologized when we got to the other side because that in fact was not the case this time. I managed to make the swim with minimal panicking and was ultimately very glad I’d mustered up the courage to go. We spent a couple hours looking through the tide pools on the island before making the rough swim back. Getting back to the mainland wasn’t smooth. The current was strong and it turned out that my fear of getting swept onto the rocks wasn’t totally unfounded. The six of us helped each other and made it out with bumps and scrapes from the rocks. Matt got pricked by a sea urchin. We were all a little rattled and humbled and exhilarated. I don’t think any of us will be testing Mother Nature again anytime soon, but it felt good to take a risk.
Sámara is an interesting town, with a regular population of only 4000 and a pretty healthy tourist population during the high season. The town has no major hotel chains, but is littered with beach-front surf hostels and locally-owned boutique hotels. The locals are painfully friendly. A Tico on a bike with a cart of cold coconuts on the front toodles around town all day, yelling, “Pipaaaaaa.” In exchange for ₡500, he’ll pull out his machete, hack off the top of the coconut, stick a straw in it, and hand over a crisp, refreshing coconut. Like the ice cream truck, but better. The surf culture is vibrant and diverse. The partying culture, even more so. It was a good place to live for a month, but also a good place to leave behind.