After a few days in San Jose, we were ready to discover the real Costa Rica. We took a bus to headed towards the Pacific Coast, in the province of Guanacaste, destination: the Nicoya Peninsula. We were in search of sun, sand, surf and monkeys if we were to be so lucky. We accepted an invitation to stay with couch surfer Craig, and his girlfriend Agnes and of course, excited to get out of the city.
The trip to Nosara was long, well over six hours, our bus, was over 30 years old and was much in need of a new shock absorbent system. The bus went through cycles of local commuters, from crowded to empty as we traveled through many lush villages and dusty towns, contrasting the concrete city we just came from. As a professional “people watcher” the drive provided much to material to study; colorful men, women and children of all shapes, sizes and nationalities, all intent on getting to where they were going. Within village limits, these stretches provided opportunities for local boarding and un-boarding in a quick succession, creating frenzy patterns of movement, making it difficult to predict.
One such character boarded the bus midway on trip, somewhere around Monteverde. He was a scruffy little white man with, white hair, tanned from the sun and carrying a tree. As he got on the bus I thought, “I gotta meet this man”.
His name is Patrick, who was anywhere between 55-65. He just looked like he was full of stories, oozing from every pore. I was pleased when he sat down in the seat in front of us please with the opportunity to engage him. I (of course) struck up a conversation with him and was not disappointed for the next two and half hours. Patrick entertained us with tales of his life, his philosophies, and his opinions from economy to politics, from history to future predictions. Patrick was origonally from the states, lived in hippy communes in the 60’s, had a laundry list of former identities and stories to match. He told us stories of being a Buddhist monk, a devotee of guru Maraji, a farmer, a marijuana grower, an activist, an outlaw an economist, an academic and… wow, my head was spinning. Miro and I were entertained, and we were certain of one thing, this man was a damn good story teller.
Patrick was carrying a tree he had harvested in the jungle with intentions of replanting at his property at the beach. Patrick had been living in Arenal with his wife for 20 years and now breeds dogs and runs a dog rescue for stay dogs (over 50 according to him). The last two hours of traveling on the bus went quickly as Miro and I listened to his stories and hoped we’d see him around Nosara over the next few days.
We finally arrived at the bus station where Craig and Agnes were waiting for us. Craig is an American from Florida that I’ve been in touch with since last December through couchsurfing.com. It wonderful to finally meet him in person and was equally happy to meet his wonderful girlfriend Agnes. Craig and Agnes live in San Jose, actually but were house sitting for another couch surfer and had a large house at Playa Palota. Couchsurfing is a great community and is well and strong here in Costa Rica.
Before heading to the house, we stopped off at the market, as I was excited to cook for my hosts, knowing the easiest way to form a great friendship is through a great meal. (Couchsurfing etiquette.)
The house was tucked into the plush jungle, off a dirt road, just 100 meters from the beach. The contrast between jungle and beach was enthralling to me. The house has two floors, the bottom floor with two bedrooms, the top floor has a deck, a kitchen, a bathroom, high ceilings and two day beds, serving as couches (which is where Miro and I will sleep). The house also has the perfect accessory, a large friendly black and white dog, the size of an German Sheppard, name Zuko.
We settled into the house, and retreated to the deck. As the sun set, we witnessed holler monkeys starting to howl contrasting with a chorus of frogs echoing from every direction. It was an intense orchestra, like no other I had experienced. Just outside the trees from the deck, we noticed a group of holler monkeys in the trees above. Amazing.
On cue, the tropical climate provided bursts of rain, but stopped as quickly as it started. The air was abuzz with bugs humming around, big and small creatures alike, looking like bio-morphic constructs of 1950’s sci-fi fantasy movies. The ones I couldn’t see that were there, were the excited mosquitoes, happy to have fresh flesh to feast on.
The first night we settled in to sleep, we noticed the high ceilings were hosting bats in the rafters,enjoying flapping and flying as soon as the lights were out. Boy, this is different than anything we got in LA. Knowing bats eat mosquitoes, we watched and listened and stayed as calm as possible just hoping one of them doesn’t shit on us. Seriously.
“Loving Nosara! Holler monkeys in the trees a few meters away. Amazing evening with some amazing people. Miro & I are off to the beach soon!”
8:21 AM Sep 20th, 2009 via twitter
For the next two days, Miro, Craig, Agnes and I spend our time on the beach, relaxing and playing in the water, spending time on the deck of the house and exploring the surrounding jungle paths. We did run into Patrick several times and it was nice having a new friend, made us feel like we belonged. Yes, we liked this. On our second night, we watched the sunset from the beach along with many locals and their families. One local guy, an amazing surfer named Adrian offered to teach Miro how to surf, if he wanted to. Surf lessons? Why not? This trip is about experiencing many “firsts” and this is definitely one of them. Miro was excited and I was as well, to be able to do this for my son.
Yesterday, the surfers on Playa Polata were performing an exquisite water ballet. Today, Tico surfer Adrian, gives Miro his 1st surf lesson! 9:12 AM Sep 21st, 2009 via web
The next morning, I awoke to a very excited Miro, already up, anxious for his first surf lesson. We headed down to the beach to meet Adrian, as I took position on the beach, leaving room for the two of them to start. I didn’t want to be one of those meddling parents, the image of a pushy stage mom, hovering over a beauty contestant came to mind. I retreated off into the background, enjoying the sun, waves and sand, providing enough space to my son, but hopefully communicating the support I was feeling.
Adrian and Miro were at it for more than three hours. Miro practiced in the foamy waves, trying to find his balance. Crouched on his knees, he struggled to find his center of gravity on the board. Up and down he went. Up and down on the soft foam at the shore. Hours of up and down, knees and stomach, until finally they paddled out beyond the waves.
With Adrian by his side, Miro was trying to stand on the board, while balancing on the waves. Shit that looked hard! The problem was the waves, they kept on MOVING. I could see his face, scrunching up, getting frustrated. I was proud of my baby for trying something new, but could tell as a mother can, her child was almost to the point of tears, nearing the point of giving up.
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As a supportive parent, that was so difficult for me to witness, the mounting frustration. All I could do was hold space for my son to have this experience. The lesson ended and Miro did not successfully stand up on his board, his self impossed goal for the day. I assured him it was OK, but I could tell by the look in his eyes it wasn’t. That’s just one of the frustrations of life I cannot protect him from. I cannot take away his frustration from him as much as I wanted to protect my son from anything unpleasant. I tried not pacify him either, but that was too, was difficult. There’s a fine line between, “you did great” and “it’s OK” and “I’m proud of you for trying”. I was supportive, understood that he had high expectations for himself and viewed himself as a failure because he did not succeed at standing up. I knew I had to honor what he was feeling, acknowledge that frustration and let him be OK with it so he could decide for himself, the expedience was OK. He had to decide that he wasn’t a failure, I couldn’t give him that. A ll I could do is hold the space for him to have this experience.
Such a difficult expeirnece to have as a parent, realizing I can’t protect my child from life’s frustrations. I must allow him to have his own experiences, including joy AND frustration. It’s healthy and part of the balance of life. My child is teaching me through his experinces as well and I hold value in that. I am learning, as he is learning as we are learning together, the adventures involved in raising a child, raising Miro.
I hope I do ok.