A little Vermentino from Sardinia, a little Flying Lotus playlist via Spotify: my Friday night alone in Costa Rica. I can’t imagine going out tonight totalmente sola. If I have some women to go out with, and watch my back, I’ll be more confident. Even on the sailboat today, a tour guide guy fixes me a drink and my spidey senses go off when I take it. I make the rest of my drinks myself. I know he’s an employee of the tour company but I can’t help but be suspicious and quietly refuse drinks unless I see where it came from, and even then I wouldn’t really accept them.
Staying in seems like the right thing to do. I feel like the men would swarm like mosquitos with the merengue, salsa, cumbia and soca tunes blasting. I would rather sit outside my room amid mosquitos, writing this next to the families silently eating their dinner next to the pool, looking slightly bored and very sunburnt, with the sputtering wifi connection.
This morning I wake at 06:45 and am still 2 mins late for my tour pickup. People always say Costa Rica has lots of things to do. Many activities means no chance for boredom. I love the way Costa Ricans say, “act-tee vee-tees.” So cute. The tour van with the TURISTAS sticker on the side is soon packed with an American family from North Carolina and another family from North America somewhere. Makes me think of the story my Creative Director imparts before I left: in the ’90s, someone he knew is held up at gunpoint in Belize. This guy turns to his then girlfriend when they are facedown in a ditch, and says, If we get out of here alive we are getting married. They’re still married. Best story ever, bur not good for me. Joe’s not here and I miss the lug.
We are dropped at the campo: a combo of ranch/ATV parking lot/zipline mega adventureground. Not feeling the zipline/canopy, so instead I fulfill my cowgirl fantasies and hop on a horse. First time in probably 20 years. They are weird, like giant ungraceful cats. My horse Apache and I don’t really click. I don’t think he even noticed me up there. He knew the route so well he could have gone with his eyes closed. Apache didn’t even care that I had to leave my very cool Argentine cowgirl hat at the campo.
The tour was just the campesino guide and I, slowly loping along trails the horses take 3 times a day. Trabajeros. We talk about what his kids want for Christmas, his wife’s fear of horses, his pets, his 9 brothers and sisters, his job. The boss of the ranch came from Florida and barely speaks Spanish. I ask him if it is difficult to communicate when there is a problem, and he responds, “A veces.” We commiserate over the evils of ATVs and how much damage they wreck on the land. It’s as bad as a Jet Ski. Who needs a coral reef or wildlife. And who needs natural land, flora and fauna.
After my sola aventura caminando el caballo, I am on the food trail via a hot tip from the North Carolinan dad who says, “Set down” instead of “Sit down.” A lunch lady parks on the corner in town, serving homemade food out of aluminum pots from the back of a Toyota truck. She raises her own chickens and pigs. It’s a $4 giant portion of lunch special, and the people working the stores come out on their lunch break to dig in. I bide my time at a smoothie stand and case the joint. When she parks, I head over and am fifth in line.
I get the pork with everything, and bring my styrofoam container to the tour stand to wait for the sailboat pickup. I am asked by a few locals, “Oh, food from the lady with the car, right? Buena provecho.” I finish everything and am told by a tour booker, “Que buena appetito.” Uh, he just said I have a healthy appetite. Just like that Bond movie where they’re on the train! I smile, but I should have said, Faking the cowgirl lifestyle makes you hungry.
When the boat sets sail I am entertained willingly by the crew: Jimmy, Chute, Gerardo, y Jonathan. They dance like champs - of course, they’re Latinos. They make nonstop drinks and get us tipsy, but are very good watching out for us while we snorkel and kayak around the boat.
Announcing our jumps (cannonballs, backwards/forwards flips and can openers) with another 5 year old passenger off the boat makes me miss Italia. When snorkeling, Chute swims with me through the hundred of tiny, silver fish, and then deeper to the brighter blue, orange and black fish, down to the rocks. Even though I get the vibe that he wants to see my bikini top slip, in a weird way it is nice and kind of heart warming, since swimming alone gets boring fast.
After lunch and on the ride back, Jimmy and I have a heart to heart about relationships, philosophy, careers, but mostly I listen to his Spanish. He asks for boyfriend photos, and high fives me when he sees Joe looks Latino. The boat patrons get more rowdy, and more drunk. The crew’s iPod plays the song I heard in Italia: mueve la cabeza. Still, I’m surprised to see very little dancing from the other passengers. Just me!
I run into the owner of the hotel again, this time with a shovel in hand, digging a ditch to provide irrigation runoff from the hotel. What a cool guy. We talk about Brooklyn, where his mom grew up next to the Brooklyn Museum on Flatbush Ave. I tell him he needs better photos of the hotel, and we talk about marketing, then timelines and budgets. Weird how my job translates.
Could I ever run an inn? It’s crossed my mind. Buying property here in Costa Rica isn’t that much cheaper than the States. Still, I have this thirst for travel. This year alone I’ve hit: Vietnam, Hong Kong, Brazil, Italy (Olbia, Sardinia, Rome, Naples, Amalifi Coast, Sicily), Sweden, Denmark, Costa Rica. Next year I’m thinking Uruguay, Argentina otra vez, Spain, and my family’s home of Vietnam.
Tomorrow I will attempt to wake up early and beach it until the 11th hour, when I have to get back on the road. Perfect length of a solo trip: 2 full days, 2 half days. I am returning culturally enlightened, full of rice, beans, and vitamin D.