Trees shade the log and our bodies. Occasionally a slight breeze tempers the heat. Waves smash beyond the rocky, gray sand beach. Surfers paddle out past the breaking waves, then wait impatiently, eager to catch a couple of good ones before the surf changes, calms down, and the best part of the day is over.
As the late afternoon lapses, shadows slink across the sand. Folks walk along the beach; others lie on blankets or sit on large rocks, catching the last rays of sun. It is quiet, everyone intent on enjoying the surf and sun, respectful of the peaceful atmosphere. Conversation can commence later.
I am visiting my girlfriend for one week. She and her husband are spending three months in the country, trying to decide whether to make Costa Rica their new home.
My girlfriend and I retreat to a nearby café. Savoring drinks, we sit back and scan our surroundings, concentrating on the people congregating around us.
The scene before us is a jumble of men and women casually dressed in T-shirts and board shorts, relaxing, eating and drinking at tables scattered around the cafe, populating stools around the bar, greeting friends wandering in and out of the open-air establishment. A local begins playing the guitar and harmonica, occasionally forgoing the harmonica and singing in Spanish, bartenders and customers joining in and clapping along with the music.
Waiters and waitresses serve an assortment of customers. They are working hard, sort of. This is Central America and Costa Rica in particular. People work, things will happen, but in good time. No rush. Relax and wait.
Ticos – native Costa Ricans – tourists and ex-pats comprise the mix. Spanish is spoken along with a smattering of other languages, but what surprises me is the prevalence of English heard around us.
It is easy to engage in conversation when the language is your own. We chat with our waitress, the guy at the next table trying to fix my iPad, a couple of realtors, visitors passing through, and the café owner. We observe the on-going stream of tourists strolling up and down the unpaved street, chattering with each other, examining and sometimes purchasing merchandise offered by street vendors.
This is a place individuals seek out when determined to pursue their dreams. Others escape life gone sour in another corner of the universe. Surfers spend years here doing what they love, finding jobs to support themselves and their sporting habit. The laid-back lifestyle and the distance, physically and mentally, from harried lives elsewhere, draw others.
We met the tourist center employee from Mississippi living in the town eight years who would not live anyplace else on earth…the café owner from Atlanta…our kayak guide, originally from New York…our California landlords, 26 years in the rainforest and still loving it.
Street vendors begin packing their wares, preparing to go home for the evening.
Darkness comes quickly to the Costa Rican jungle. Close to the equator, the country experiences approximately 12 hours of daylight everyday – and 12 hours of darkness. By six o’clock in the evening it is almost dark. Twelve hours later the clear blue sky and piercing sun shines on flora, fauna, and you – unless heavy curtains or shutters block the onset of another idyllic day.
There is no pressure to move. Obtaining the check from our waitress takes time. Another waiter comes by our table. Our waitress left for the day. Now, what did you order? He writes down our order and walks away.
We settle back into our chairs. It will be quite a few minutes before he reappears with our bill.
We are in no hurry to leave, enjoying a peek into the routine of ticos and ex-pats living la pura vida – the Costa Rican good life.
No place is perfect, our new ex-pat friends tell us. There are frustrations. Petty theft and political corruption thrive. Too many unpaved, rutted roads, and cars break down often. Patience is a necessary trait. But these people found their paradise on earth.
I look at my girlfriend. What is our dream and do we have the courage to live it? Does she want to live la pura vida?
And what do I want to do? And where? The answer escapes me now. But observing so many people making life-changing decisions motivates me to refocus on what it is I want to do with the rest of my life. And move ahead.
About the Author – Meryl Baer is an ex-financial professional turned freelance writer/blogger. She writes about life’s trials, life at the Jersey shore, food, travel, and any other topic she finds interesting.
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