Costa Rica

photo: Dani Nicole Photography

Breeze exhales in your left ear. Inhale sea spray. Hot sun consumes the thick jungle and complexions, varnishing the lucky ones until they sparkle. Your body, boneless, slithers into a hammock. Shadows of palm fronds dance over bare legs, chased by sunbeams. Toenails resemble pink shells in the sand.

Ocean waves wash through your lungs, salty. Exhale peace.  

Foreign words babble like water over river rocks and splash with a laugh into a turquoise pool. Isn’t that all you really need to understand? 

Soldier ants the size of your fingernail march in single file toward a tropical plant, returning along the same trajectory with chunks of red and orange leaves the size of your pinky. The tree will be gone within the hour.

No one in a rush. Pura vida. Pure life.

Steam emanating from the black sand begins to suffocate your skin until you feel you might burst like the chicharra. 

Rrrrrrrrrrr…. POP!

Only the lushest of rains can quench the thirst. You feel your skin squeeze, the black steam casting its spell, breathing is heavy. You don’t know if you can stand it anymore… until the sky breaks open and releases, sweet reprieve. 

Shhhhhh…..

Rain drops dance off palm fronds and corrugated tin roofs, sounding like a steel pan symphony. Broad banana leaves cocoon you through the downpour as the powerful aroma of flowers overtake your senses. Everything is glowing electric green.

And as quickly as it came, the rain moves on. You can see it darkening the dirt path just a few feet away. Sun returns hot, its lust unabated. 

A young figure with a back like a chestnut climbs a coconut tree and disappears into the canopy. A green ovoid coconut drops from the tree, plop! Followed by another, and then another. Man versus nature… 

Climbing down, he slices off the top of the coconut with a skinny machete. Man wins! 

“Así,” he says – like this, and he takes a swig from the young fruit then passes it to you. You put your lips against the small hole in the smooth green ovoid, tilting the bottom up. Sweet coconut juice charges your limp body, bringing you back to life and out of your lazy repose. You join him in the lowering sun, gentle like a lover’s embrace. 

Late afternoon sun tickles your skin until you smell like baked bread. For a second two scarlet macaws eclipse the sun’s rays, flashing brilliant vermillion and cobalt blue tails like arrows. As fervent heat surrenders to a gentle breeze, howler monkeys begin their posturing. Guttural iterations ring throughout the forest, sending frightened kittens running for cover. Untamed, wild, the jungle maintains its sovereignty. 

Photo: mapsdecostarica.info

Real talk

Costa Rica is practically paradise on earth. More than 25 per cent of their land is protected – the highest in the world. As a world leader in conservation, and in an effort to preserve the natural beauty and surroundings, 25% of their rainforests, tropical dry forests, cloud forests, marine areas, and wetlands has been set aside and turned into protected parks and reserves. 

photo: Rebloggy

Their citizens enjoy free healthcare, free preschool, and top-notch education (their literacy rate at 94.4% is much higher than the U.S.’ 86%). The most common refrain in Costa Rica is pura vida, meaning pure life, and can mean hello, thank you, you’re welcome, good-bye, and very good. 

The culture is so peaceful that when I lived there in 2001 even the police didn’t carry guns. They have no standing army. 

It is a very progressive and egalitarian society; the rich hobnob with the poor, but nobody really knows the difference when everyone’s wearing board shorts and sandals. Many women own businesses, although as an American woman business owner in Costa Rica, few took me seriously but deferred to my male partners. Voting day is a national holiday. The whole family goes out to vote, and the government throws parties and concerts at polling places. 

Costa Rica is pura vida, indeed.

Art by Solignia Arellano