My apologies for the tardy post this week. My excuse is that I came precariously close to a minor nervous breakdown so was unable to blog. I blame it all on Matthew…
Tropical Storm Matthew, that is. Though he landed on the Atlantic side of Nicaragua, he brought with him lots and lots of rain to most of Central America. Including Nosara, Costa Rica. As I believe I have already mentioned, it is the low season here. There are not many restaurants and shops here to begin with and the majority of those that do exist are currently only open sporadically or closed entirely until November. Add nearly constant rain to that equation and you reduce the number of things you can do here significantly. So things have been kind of dismal around here, what with the constant dripping rain in the day, the mighty storms at night, the constant nagging smell of mildew, the worse than usual bad roads, the lack of outdoor activity options.
On Thursday, after a huge storm Wednesday night, the skies cleared in the afternoon and we jumped at the chance to get out of the house. Thinking that it would be an optimal time to try surfing, we went down to the surf shack, rented a long board, and hit the beach. The waves were rough and messy and coming to shore at a rapid pace. Had I checked the surfing Nosara website for the surf update that day I would have read the following helpful description of the surf conditions:
“Our surf is running in the chest high range this morning, and looks like Willy Wonka's chocolate river. I think I saw an Oompa-Loompa in the lineup. Things are choppy and sloppy, and looks like we've got serious rain coming in and out all day. Good day for something indoors.”
However, I did not check the surf report. Instead I went to battle with those waves, trying desperately to get past the break but instead suffering the painful and humiliating experience of being tossed around by wave after wave, unable to control my board, and getting hit on the head by it numerous times. I had a huge headache, a head full of seawater and a mouth full of sand and I hadn’t even been able to turn the damn board around to face the shore. I dragged my sorry self and my enormous board out of the water and plopped on the sand saying, “I think I’m too old for this.” Ian took his turn and with the glorious exception of one ride in on his knees, suffered much the same fate. Then it started to rain again so we went back home to nurse our wounded prides and heads and knees.
While I recuperated on Friday and stared at the rain, I staved off the breakdown by actively looking forward to Coastal Clean Up day on Saturday morning. A local woman was organizing a beach cleanup at our beach and I was excited by the idea of participating in such a community effort. I was sure to meet lots of great people! Saturday morning it was raining of course. But we donned our rain jackets and headed to the beach to clean at 7:30 am as the organizer said to do. At the first beach entrance, there was not a single person, so we backed up and tried the other entrance. There we found two women waiting for the organizer who was to deliver the garbage bags and the tally sheets. We waited and waited but no one else came, so Ian took the garbage bag from a nearby garbage can and we got to cleaning. At one point a woman and her young daughter joined in with a couple of plastic supermarket bags, bringing our grand total at Coastal Clean Up Day to 7. After about 10 minutes the woman and her kid left, followed shortly thereafter by the other two women. And then there were three.
But my almost breakdown didn’t really happen until that afternoon. It was raining (surprise!) and, as usual, the three of us were all reading. All this unstructured time and all the rain has led to a lot of reading. Now, that isn’t a terrible thing at all it’s just that I keep feeling like we should be making baskets out of palm fronds or coloring clothes with dye we make ourselves from local plants we have collected in the jungle. I should be coming up with amazing creative ideas for Sadie to do, with all this time on our hands. But truth be told, motivation is low, creativity is low, and response to any ideas I do manage to generate is less than stellar.
I began longing hard for a crowded café or a museum. I began cursing the jungle. I began to exchange “paradise” with “godforsaken place” when referencing where we live. In preparation for our obligatory “visa vacation” in November (we have to leave the country for 3 days every 3 months) to Nicaragua, I read about Granada. Old churches, colonial mansions, horse drawn carriage tours, ancient indigenous statuary, museums, and international cuisine. “Dripping with photogenic elegance” says Lonely Planet. History, architecture, art, a plaza, all kinds of food! Why didn’t we move there?!? Why are we living in a one horse town in the jungle?!? So began my spiral…. As Sadie rebuffed my pleas to draw together, as the rain kept coming down, as I looked around at the dark walls of our house, I could feel my eye beginning to twitch. At some point I went in to the bedroom where Ian was reading, babbled something incoherent and began to cry. “I’m going stir crazy! We have to get out of here!”
And so we did. We threw some clothes in a bag and got in the car and headed south.
Ah, the open road! Ooh, something to do! Yay, a different town! We decided to not go too far (given the state of the roads) and chose Samara, a beach town about an hour from Nosara. Not a one horse town like Nosara, but a three or four horse town! Samara actually has a couple of paved roads! We spent three days there when we were in Costa Rica four years ago and we mostly enjoyed ourselves. We had stayed in a cheap little shack on the beach which was fun though by the third day the plethora of dirt and sand combined with the less than optimal plumbing made for a very smelly shack. We still joke about how nauseated we felt by the smell and how happy we were to leave that shack by the third day.
This time, though, I was armed with the latest edition of Lonely Planet and was fixated on any lodging that mentioned “colonial charm.” Yes, we would stay in an airy restored mansion, with tiled floors, whitewashed walls and high ceilings. I would drink some sort of civilized cocktail not made of rum nor containing pineapple juice. I would sit on a veranda in a rocking chair. We would choose a delicious meal of international cuisine from a plethora of fine establishments and perhaps I would purchase a lovely blouse or skirt from one of the boutiques lining the main street. It wouldn’t be Granada, exactly, but maybe I could get close…
An hour and a half later we drive into Samara. The roads had been very bumpy and I am feeling a little carsick. But still, we are here and excited. Funny though, the town doesn’t really seem to be hopping. Well of course, it is the low season, and that would apply to all of Costa Rica, not just Nosara, plus with darn Matthew and all, but it must be more lively than Nosara. We began looking for places to stay. We follow signs to the "colonial-style hotel returned to it's previous glory" and find ourselves on a terrible potholed road getting farther and farther from town and further and further into the jungle. No, no, we just came from the jungle, we want to stay in town! Okay, let’s check out that other adorable-sounding place. Oh, closed until November 1st. And that other one? Oh, also closed. How about the "tree houses" on the beach? $120 dollars for one night for a studio on stilts? Really?? We eventually pass by the place we stayed years ago and Ian slows down. No, I say, no. Let me just look, he says. No, I say. But I’m feeling pretty ill by this time and really don’t want to drive anymore. I let him get out and look. He comes back with a sheepish smile – they look pretty decent, he says, remember how fun it was for Sadie to be right on the beach? And it’s only $40 for the night he says. No, I say, no, no. Sigh. You better take me out to a nice dinner I say. Good ole shack #8, our home away from home. It hasn’t changed a bit.
I’m actually cold. In Costa Rica! What an affront! I try to take a shower, but of course the shower is only lukewarm. By the time we head out for dinner, the rain is coming down harder. We walk up the main drag, looking for a restaurant. I made the mistake of washing my hair earlier and now, hours later, it still is wet. I am cold and soggy and my toes feel like they are rotting in my waterlogged flip flops. I'm convinced I am actually starting to mold. We find the “upscale” Spanish restaurant and it’s open but as it is only 5:00 we decide to just get french fries and sit for a bit. Spanish language covers of bad American 80s songs blare through the speakers, and Matthew continues to assault us under the overhang of the open air restaurant. We decide to try an Italian place for dinner. Good god what is that smell? It is so overpowering that the three of us immediately turn right around and walk back out. How about that other Italian place around the corner? Oh, it’s closed. Um, I guess maybe that one place on the beach next to our shack that's open? We make our mushy way to an open air restaurant on the beach, but it is lit well and doesn’t smell and the small wooden tables are flanked by large rocking chairs. The reggae music is booming and we holler for our drinks (yo quiero tequila!) and order some nachos. We kick off our shoes and settle into the rocking chairs and listen to the sounds of the pounding surf beyond the reggae and smile at our folly. Okay, okay, this will do. We eat and drink and Sadie crawls into my lap and falls asleep. We carry her along the beach back to #8 and try to settle in for the night.
The storm becomes more and more intense that night and when the power goes off we question the wisdom of leaving our sturdy house on the hill for a shack on the beach, held together with two nails and some sand, during a storm. By the light of my illuminated watch I take Sadie out from her single bed under the window and bring her to our double bed situated 5 feet further inland from the crashing waves. Cramped and soggy I listen to the storm, sleeping in fits and starts throughout the night. I dream that I am sorting an entire car full of vintage jewelry and this dream brings me pleasure.
Sadie awakes before dawn and tells us she has been dreaming of owning a magic wand that makes things appear. I ask her what she would wish for and she says pinto beans. After pinto beans, she would make her friend Lila appear, and her grandmothers, and everyone who is coming to visit us. Silently I vow to be a better example, to follow Sadie’s lead of being such a trooper and enjoying herself wherever she is, whatever she is doing. I vow to try to be more creative in finding things to do in Nosara, but also to try to be more accepting of the business of doing nothing. Though Sadie desperately wants friends to play with, she is quite content to sit on the couch and read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, she is quite content to feed her captured caterpillar, watch an episode of Airbender, make toast, play cards, and listen to us read the Hobbit or Harry Potter to her. While I pine for art galleries, crowded cafes, jazz trios, movie theaters, shoe stores, sushi, colonial mansions and martinis, she wishes only for pinto beans, good friends and family.