Travel Vignettes — Costa Rica & Nicaragua

When I think of Costa Rica, only one day away from it now, its borders residing somewhere south of me, I remember a coolness. Perhaps because our last destination was Monteverde, a high-up mountain town made unique by its windy hills and lush cloud forests. Or maybe because of the attitude of its people, somehow a bit loftier and more reserved than the easy warmth we found in Mexico. You can never put your finger on these things exactly, it’s just the feelings left behind that you try to make sense of.

Don’t get me wrong, there was definitely heat, too. Hot, dry days that made me worry about sunburns when I forgot to apply sunscreen. The kind of bright rays that feel like they’re an inch from your face, a sheet of foil reflecting sunlight directly upon you. And still, the coolness pierces its way through. The shock of pure, cool water when I finally worked up the courage to plunge into the basin of the La Fortuna waterfall. The water pummeling down so strong it pushed me back like a bath toy fighting a faucet stream. The way my eyes felt truly open, my body and mind finally fully alert. All the fog cleared out in one windshield swipe. The coolness of San Jose evenings, the way I cozied up in my sweater that I thankfully decided to bring last minute, how I wished I had worn pants instead of a dress. The way the air felt after soaking in the termales, what a minute before had felt warm, now transformed into sweet, cool relief. How now it’s all a swirled together impression, whisking through my memory like the wind through the Monteverde canopy. Not a passionate ache, the kind I get with some places, more like a fresh breeze, blowing my hair to one side, rousing me awake.

[Costa Rica | March 2018]

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Ometepe Nicaragua_Best places to go Nicaragua_Where to go Isla Ometepe

We walked across the hot strip of pavement through the border. An arbitrary place, as you realize all borders are when you are made to cross them. After having a slew of officials check our stamps multiple times (honestly, anyone could have stopped us and we would have complied), we made our way to the exit, towards a mess of people grilling food on open grills. As we walked closer, I smiled to myself as we passed a boom box playing the Baha Men classic; Who Let the Dog’s Out. Once outside, I became a little tense as we surveyed the jumbled scene; an array of buses and people busy eating, selling, waiting. A compilation of smells and sounds competing for attention. We attempt to find which chicken bus we need to get to our destination and ask around until we are pointed to the right one. I climb my way up the familiar yellow school bus steps and make my way to the only “seat” left on top of a cooler in the back by the emergency door. As more people cram in that I ever thought humanly possible, I feel increasingly grateful for this precious seat, one I will share with an adorable and remarkably calm toddler for half of the way.

That was our entrance, and after making our way to Isla Ometepe, I still haven’t drawn any conclusions about this new place. Driving our scooter down open roads, the grand Concepcion volcano almost always in view, I catch whiffs of burn piles running their course here and there. I see small buildings comprised of cinderblock and painted in cheerful colors, often with thatched roofs. I wonder at people lying in hammocks, the tv on in their house. What would it be like to live their life? The pace seems slower, more at ease. A world removed from the blogs I follow, the emails I send, the things that occupy much of my attention on a daily basis.

Our hostel is quaint and peaceful. The cozy wooden shacks, all with their own porch, surround a spacious courtyard complete with flower beds and hammocks strung from a large wooden awning. There are little gnats swarming everywhere and mosquito nets – which I once viewed as romantic and now simply see as highly practical – over the bed. I can’t keep myself from admiring the owner of the place, the matriarch of the hostel and the family home which is situated at the front of the building. I’m taken by her understated style. The way she blends into her environment yet by virtue of the way she puts herself together – simple black skirt, a tasteful geometric bracelet, silvered black hair pulled back with metal pins – she stands out. It’s also in the way she carries herself, I think to myself. With ease and with confidence, as the mother of children, with the wisdom and grace, that I imagine if you do it right, comes with age.

I realize it’s a type of woman I spot everywhere we go. The ones forever fascinating me. Women who have a presence, a vein that I imagine runs through all of us women. A sort of dignity that comes from feeling rooted, wherever you are, in yourself.

[Nicaragua | March-April 2018]

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