Laughing at the monkeys before hitting the waves
We decided to practice surfing when the monkey started throwing pits down at us
Waxing my board
Ready to hit the surf
But not quite…
We landed at the local airport in San Jose after a lovely 45 minute flight from the western part of Costa Rica. As we disembarked, we were met by policemen and a dog on the tarmac.
“Drop your bags. Stand behind the line.”
I did, and quickly realized we were about to be searched. I laid my backpack in front of me and took a couple of steps back. I watched as the dog sniffed each bag, both carry-on and checked. We had officers at each end of the line, staring at us.
I turned to my travel companion and whispered, “Do you think this is normal? Or that they’ve been tipped off?” “Not sure. Maybe it’s a training exercise?” It felt more like we were on a movie set for a cop show. I looked around at the other ten passengers. Who was the most likely candidate to be carrying drugs? The young, unshaven guys with golf bags? The young family with the crying baby (no one would ever suspect them). The couple that appeared to be honeymooning?
Alas, it was no one. After several minutes, the officers allowed us to pick up our bags, enter the airport, and go upon our way.
Horseback riding on the beach at sunset? Why, yes, please!
When presented with a fun idea, I rarely stop to think through the logistics. Such as, when was the last time I was on a horse? Ummmmm… maybe 35 years ago? What shape is my body in? Somewhat bruised and battered after a week of surfing. And the guide? Monolingual Spanish speaker. I tend to overrate my non-English language abilities. Something one might want to consider when engaging in a new activity with a large animal.
Nonetheless, it was fun. Our guide presented me with a very beautiful, very large horse. I petted it, hoping to create a bond before our ride. “Como te llama?” I asked our guide. “Mo.”
The guide then spoke to me very rapidly. I caught maybe every fifth or sixth word. I asked him to slow down, and he asked me, “Do you understand?” I paraphrased what I thought he said and he repeated that the most important thing was not to pull back hard on the reins. If I did that, Mo would rear, throwing me off him. I consider myself pretty solid, but I was no match for Mo.
I mounted Mo and we started off down the beach at a nice slow trot. Until the dogs gathered round, barking and baring their teeth. Seems like Mo isn’t really a fan of dogs. He took off at (what I considered) full speed down the beach.
As I bounced around in the saddle (one important piece of information that I did not understand from the guide was that I should squeeze my legs tightly around the horse in order not to fall off), Mo continued gaining speed.
Interior voice: Okay, Lori. Don’t be afraid. Don’t panic. Animals can smell panic. Calm down. Stay in the saddle. Don’t fall off. Be gentle with Mo. No rearing.
Exterior voice: Hey, Mo? Think we could slow down a bit? Just a little?
Interior voice: He’s not slowing down. Hm. Ah! Maybe he doesn’t speak English either. Let’s try in Spanish. Hm. I don’t know those words in Spanish. What do I know?
Exterior voice: Bueno, Mo. Bueno, bueno, bueno. Bajo, por favor?
Interior voice: That’s not the word for stop. How do you say stop? Maybe if I pull just slightly on the reins he’ll slow down. Oh, my, I’m high up here. I wonder how many bones I would break if I were tossed?
Exterior voice: Mas despacio, por favor. Bueno, Mo, bueno.
And he slowed down. And it was a lovely ride down the beach, at sunset, me and Mo.
Know what made me a better surfer? A total and complete wipeout. I’m sure there’s some psychology behind that, but haven’t figured it out yet.
I saw the wave coming, positioned myself on my board, chest up, long strokes, paddling towards shore. I could hear the wave building behind me, coming closer, closer. I felt the powerful rush of the wave and was thrust forward. And, as if in slow motion, I saw the nose of my board dip further and further beneath the wave. I was too far forward on the board. In my head I thought, “Nooooooooooooooo……” and then felt myself flipping forward, over the nose of the board, careening into the force of the wave, spun around, upside down, hands over head to prevent me from getting knocked out by the board, thinking I was getting up, but heading down towards the ocean floor and finally sputtering to the surface. I righted myself, coughed salt water out of lungs and sinuses, and looked around. My board was floating several feet away from me. I was still in one piece. Our surf instructor was by me in an instant, asking if I was okay. I was, just torn up a bit. I rested for a moment on the beach, then headed out again. And was able to ride more waves in that afternoon than I had all week.
The truck bounced us along a cratered, washed-out steep incline. We held onto the edges of the bed of the pickup we were crowded into, trying desperately not to slam into one another, without much success. At the top of the hill, we disembarked and made our way to the first platform. It seemed easy enough – a short distance from our platform to the next one. And there weren’t too many things to remember: cross your legs in front of you, left hand in front of you on the carbine, right hand a good distance behind you ready to tug at any moment to brake, and, oh, remember to relax.
“Are you ready?” Before I could answer, he gave me a healthy push off the platform and I went zipping over the canopy of the jungle.
*filmed with the camera tucked into my belt
Things I love about Costa Rica:
Things I don’t love about Costa Rica:
You’re a winner, Costa Rica. Think I’ll stay. 🙂
“So, what brought you and Jonathan to Costa Rica?” I asked on the way to the restaurant. “Oh, that’s a long story, we’ll share over dinner.” I laughed, because even though I hadn’t heard it yet, how great is a story that ends with “… and then we moved to Costa Rica!”
I told them I quit my job at Mervyn’s, worked at a non-profit called Room to Read for several years… and then it was their turn to laugh. “We know all about Room to Read!” “How?” “Jonathan started a non-profit and we asked Tom to dinner one night to give us some pointers!” “I hired Tom!”
Over the most amazing fish tacos I’ve ever had, I asked, “So what non-profit did you start?” “Surf for Life.” “Did you just say Surf for Life?” “Yes,” they replied, puzzled. Now it was my turn to laugh. “At dinner last night the surf instructors gave us a booklet they had made and the title was Surf for Life. Someone in the group mentioned that’s the name of a non-profit and asked if we were going to be doing volunteer work. It’s somewhat ironic that the next day I’m having dinner with the founder.”
I’m looking forward to many more serendipitous moments this trip.
I love how serendipity comes along when you’re least expecting it. Many years ago, I met a couple at a friend’s holiday party. For several years we saw each other socially, then the friends that introduced us moved out of the country and we fell out of touch. From time to time, I thought about the couple and how it would be really nice to see them again. I particularly remembered the woman, Jeannette, and how she had such sparkling eyes and a friendly smile.
Last Thursday, as I was preparing to leave for Costa Rica, a co-worker mentioned that one of his former fitness instructors, Jeannette, lived in Costa Rica. It was the same Jeannette with sparkling eyes and a friendly smile! I asked for her email address then sent her an email, wondering if she remembered me, wondering where she lived in Costa Rica, letting her know that I’d be there for surf camp in a few days.
I heard back from her right away. They lived a few kilometers away (though about 45 minutes because of road conditions) from the surf camp I planned to attend. She asked me to call when I arrived and we’d figure out a way to meet up.
I forgot to call her the day I arrived. The next day, during our sunset yoga class on a beachfront open air platform, I reminded myself that I must call her after class so that we could arrange a time to meet (yes, my mind often wanders). As we were finishing yoga class I heard someone call, “Lori!” When you’re in a foreign country, you don’t expect to hear your name called out, because you assume no one knows you. Looking over, there were Jeannette and Jonathan, standing in the grass. I was at once overcome by feelings of surprise, joy, gratitude, and bewilderment (how did they know where I was staying and that I’d be taking yoga???).
After multiple hugs and “It’s so good to see you’s!” we made our way to dinner, excited to catch up on five years of life. Sometimes I really, truly love how life surprises me.