reaching new heights in selfdiscovery.

29 December 2011 § Leave a comment

(I think there’s something in the air that’s going to rocket me somewhere weird and full of overtanned American expats with backpacks and yachts. Yes, that’s it: a family vacation. What have I got myself into? What was going to be a chill few days in Peninsula de Osa turned into a full-scale tico family vacation, on which I am officially the guest, instead of the cohort. Plans change. That’s travel, right?

I’ve spoken less English in the last few days than in the past few months, when I was “immersed” in a study abroad program, in this family’s home, in San Jose. This is Playa del Coco – Coco Beach, Costa Rica – at peak tourist season, and I’m sort of in love with Guanacaste. Two days chillin’ on the beach, nursing blisters and other wounds, hearing from someone who was kind enough to rock my world that I cannot be scared anymore – not of myself, not of Cristo Rey, and who does she think she is to say what’s worth what when the apocalypse comes? I’ve got to get up to Guatemala and check with the Mayans about that business, quick.)

the sun glares off the palm leaves like reflections from rippled glass. the morning is humid and warm, the sky mercilessly blue. there’s just enough wind to keep the heat from overtaking the town. until noon. if there were an ideal weather for a relaxed family vacation at the beach, this would be it.

the 8 a.m. surf at Playa del Coco reminds me of mornings on Kodiak Island, when all there was in the day ahead was work and fish and good food. utter tranquility, albeit a more remote sort than one can find here – shopping baskets at the beach full of pipas for sale, policia kickin’ back at their sandfront office. half the town seems to be a beer and a half in, and it’s not even breakfast time yet. music blares from american-owned hostels and restaurants, and the 2 a.m. crowd still recovering from last night’s streetside foray, trash lines the streets like a well-decorated party. the internet is free, what as long as you buy a cup of the best coffee in the world for a buck. I don’t even like coffee, but to hell with you, Starbucks.

because my brain is still in dream mode, with the tour of the Kenai apartment in tow, I’m going to give you a few things from the notebook instead:

Traveling has historically been where I face my challenges: the things I don’t like or haven’t tried – showers, for example; when I was a kid I took baths until I was twelve or so, only showering when I had to. After a three week road trip, however, which was little more than a string of hotels and the blistering summer heat of the West, I never took a bath again. Same with mustard and New Mexico highway rest areas, milk at any place but home (I don’t know, it just tasted weird), the humidity in Costa Rica which I so despised those years I lived in Florida, and frequenting bars alone (as a patron instead of an employee) in Budapest. I like being outside of the comfort zone of my ‘home’, because bey9ond those walls I’m a stronger and more understanding person. Or so I’d like to think.

We had smoked and talked of buying more. Of course, my tico friend would have to do it because the price was always higher for gringos. Much higher. We walked toward the Caribbean knockoff spot where out favorite waitress Suiring (24 going on 17) worked, and short man with a strpired shirt and goatee offered the third person in my party a roach. He was quick to point out that it was marijuana, though the truth was that there was more paper than mota, and I could tell my friend was at least interested by7 the time the guy let me smell it. It was paper and ash, and I told him so.

Es basura, I said flatly.

He backed off immediately, and looked at me in submission. He had known perfectly well what he was trying to sell (for god knows what price; no one had inquired yet, and most of his efforts so far (in quick Spanish, of course) were in trying to convince us that what he was selling was in fact what he was selling), and he was called out, by me, who only calls people out when I have something to lose from the transaction.

I felt powerful and envied. It didn’t matter that no one else thought twice about it – my comment had settled the matter indefinitely, and even my friend chuckled a small I-knew-it-all-along laugh upon hearing what I’d said. The guy had disappeared in a quartersecond, and when we returned that way not five minutes later (the Caribbean spot was closed) he was gone, though I was thinking that if I was ever going to pay for what I said, that blatant insult to his nighttime dignity, to his very manhood, the sort you seek out your friends to reinstate, it would be then, when I was with at least one person who would fight for me, with me, and M would fight for his brother if not for me. But I carried my pridefear through the living streets of Playa del Coco, over the one paved road there was, through crowds of people whom I thought unfortunate for never having met me.

I wonder how much more arrogant or selfish or ignorant I could be than to think that instead of how unfortunate I was for not having the courage to go and meet them, to see what they had to offer, what their stories were, when mind is but on in a pile of US American travelstories that began, more or less, with dumping most everything I had and setting off into the wide world with everything I cared to own in my backpack and with pockets full of crumpled cash (usually the wrong sort for the country I was in) inside pants which hopefully didn’t smell terrible after three weeks of movement at a time. For all, we know nothing. I know nothing. Perhaps we’re both losing out, but think that before assuming anything. Take Amanda for example, and apply it: I passed her off with my first impression of her when she gave me an argument, a counterpoint, a snide remark to some unnecessary digging into the symbolism of one thing or another (“I don’t think it was that deep,” she’d said, annoyed and dismissive.)And look what happened.

You have reason to assume nothing, Sean. And proof that when you do anyway, you just haven’t seen enough.

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