It’s spring in Costa Rica, and there’s a reason they call it the wet season. It’s been raining almost non-stop for two days. Driving, reverberating downpours. Monsoon-like washings that seem to cleanse the soul as much as the air. I look out at the sea and watch it roil, brown sand billowing up with each crest of wave.
This is a beautiful country. I am in Guanacaste, on the north Pacific coast, and while it’s lush and green now, by February it will be hot, dry and dusty. In almost every case, the only way to get anywhere is to go through San Jose, the capital in the middle of the country. All roads lead from there to every place else for the most part. As a consequence, most travelers fly to and from the major tourist areas through San Jose.
When I arrived, I took a bus from San Jose to Playa Langosta, where I am staying, a six-hour drive. It was a great way to see the countryside. Major roads are paved, for the most part. But many are dirt (or mud) and there doesn’t seem to be any urgency to pave them. In Tamarindo, the small pueblo nearby, the road alternates between dirt and broken pavement, and the dirt road features great maws of pot holes scattered with rocks. Still, the small taxis (mostly some kind of tiny Toyota) blast through at breakneck speed.
Everyone drives all over the road, edging out into traffic without regard for oncoming cars, beeping horns that no one seems to pay any attention to. Small dogs, thin, brown or black, with tall ears and long tails, run freely across the roads and loll in the front yards of tiny haciendas painted bright colors. Horses and cattle graze on the sides of the road between the pavement and the fences, oblivious to traffic.
“In my country, the horses are on the other side of the fence,” I told Olman, my driver, and he laughed.
People are warm and generous. Every taxi driver asks (in varying degrees of comprehensible Ingles) how many children I have and how old they are. Where I am from. How long I am here. Where I’ve been. My Espanol is limited, but somehow we manage to communicate. Olman speaks exceptional Ingles, so when we went to Arenal Volcano, in central Cosa Rica, I got a two-day lesson in Espanol.
“Como se dice, What is the name of this town?” I asked.
“Como se llama, a qui? (How do you call this place?) o Cuantos el nombre esta pueblo? (What is the name of this town?)”
"Como se dice, I went to the Arenal Volcano and was lucky. I saw lots of animals?”
“Yo fue volcan Arenal y tuve mucho suerte. Puede ver mucho animales.”
“Okay, si. Gracias.”
And so it went all the way over and back.
Except for the cook and maid (neither of whom speak more than a few words of Ingles), I’ve been alone for the past five days and I’m feeling a little homesick. Last night I Skyped with my friend, Leah, who is staying at my house, and got to see my dog, Chevella. That cheered me up.
I head home in just eight days, and the best news is my memoir is almost complete. It was the reason I came to Central America, and finishing it feels like reaching a huge milestone after working on it for almost five years, mostly in fits and starts. In December, I graduate from Antioch University, Los Angeles, with a master of fine art degree in creative writing. After all that’s happened since 2005, the past two years seem like a flickering light, a reverie, a bright sliver of reassurance that life can be good, it can be hopeful, indeed, joyful.