Dear Costa Rica,
I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from you. I knew this much: I would need sunscreen, a bathing suit, a yoga mat and my travel gumption.
So many of my friends know you well, the first of whom trekked your surf shores and saluted the sun on your beaches several years ago. One of my darling girls made her home there on and off for years, fell in love with a man, grew herself and her yoga life, made it her home and bought a house. One taught yoga on and off while looping to and from Canada for months and months. One European girlfriend makes a six month home in Costa Rica and a six month home in the UK. All brave, strong, savvy women in my life who have a deep and enduring love for you.
Then there are all my Backroads friends: as a tourist destination of choice many have spent months in your forests, on your beaches, dealing with mountain bikes and hikes and Spanish speaking taxi drivers. To them, the country is Pura Vida, but also to them the country represents winter work, busy trips and plenty of Americans seeking the experience without the bug filled hostels, insect bites of inherent poverty.
What I saw of you was everything like and nothing like I expected. I am reminded of the poverty that laces through much of central america (and let's face it, The World) and how fortunate I am to live the way I do. I met some of your people: some of the nicest, kindest, loveliest people. I may have slept with my passport and money in my bra on some of the sketchier nights, but I never felt my personal safety in jeporday. I smile and remember the deep irony of 2008 and stolen stuff: I lived abroad for almost 9 months, I travelled in eight different countries and lived in three, and I not once had an item stolen (knock on travelling wood here) only to return home to have my favorite flat heeled knee high button boots (yes, the awesome ones with the big buttons from San Francisco I claimed started the boots and skinny denim trend) stolen from under my nose in the change room of Talisman Centre in Calgary. I hope you're enjoying those boots and your bad karma, girl who took them.
I loved your town of Santa Teresa. I loved that it was untouched by tourism the way other places are. I loved watching the sun set there, like the sun was meant to set in Santa Teresa because the beauty of those sunsets couldn't compare to any, ANY I have seen anywhere on earth. This big broad claim I assume will be proven wrong in some other town or city or place eventually. But for now Santa Teresa holds the title. I loved the nightclub D and N and how Monday night was 'The Big Night Out' because it was Reggae night. I loved living with Nancy and Tammy and I loved our endless life talks sitting on the white plastic of our "dining room". I loved the main dirt road through Santa Teresa, I loved the Soda down the street from our house, I loved Burger Ranchero and the guys that run it. I loved that I learned more about surfing.
I'm surprised, Costa Rica, and how badly I struggled without Spanish. I'm sad how poor many of your people are. I'm frusterated with the tourist traps. How could your Pura Vida be transfering over to feel like an 'Aloha'? Don't you want to maintain some of what makes you special? How about those remote parts, can you keep them untouched by the hungry hand of tourist money?
I loved riding the bus for less than $6 for pretty much everywhere around the country, but I hated the actual rides. Screaming babies, the man with festering leg wounds who took off his pants -yes that is a true story- and small strange inland places with even stranger small smellier bathrooms.
I loved the ex-pats and other travelers I met who stories always surprise and delight me. I hate to leave and I love to walk away, as with all good romances I am left with questions, I am thrilled at the experience and I am all too eager to return; but maybe not to you. Maybe to a new love, a new relationship, a new travel time.
I leave you and go to Toronto to see my Mom and Dad, because it could be a long time until I see them again. I have to go to Canada to be at my home for a while, to appreciate it and all the good people there. I have to leave you, Costa Rica, because I am going to Toronto and Calgary and Edmonton. And then I am going to the United States for the summer to discover what kind of things might wait for me in 'The Great Land' of Alaska.
So for being with me in a time inbetween, I am honored and grateful. To learn what you're about was a treat. I will miss your Gallo Pinto, your Salsa Lisano, your coffee, your sunsets, your waves. I will not miss your flying bugs the size of small golfballs, your sunburns or questionable towns, toliets you cannot flush toliet paper down or when men feel me up on the street in broad daylight and I cannot even give them a few choice words, because all I have is 'stop'.
Thank you Costa Rica. Your yellow ink stamp in my passport holds some great memories.