Wednesday, January 7, 2009


We travel down from Celeste Mountain, our thoughts our clothes our souls drying on the road the farther we get from the rainforest. Gabe & Meghan have chosen a private beach resort on the northwest coast of Costa Rica, the beach there, to get married. I have known Gabe for twelve years, since he moved into a house I was renting in college. He is one of my closest friends. He and Meghan have been dating for five years, she is a truly inspiring individual: she does triathlons, half-marathons in impressive times. The ceremony will be small – 40 people – and mostly family and a few friends. They chose this beach in particular because of its renowned beauty, its seclusion and privacy. The day of the wedding they have booked the entire resort so only guest and family will have access to the beach and hotel.

The drive to Playa de Azucar is just under two hours and on mostly-paved road (which is a stark contrast from the pot-holed, dust cloud, dirt roads we have grown accustomed to in Nosara). Gabe, Meghan, Danny (a computer programmer from Seattle) and his girlfriend, Jen, are traveling with us. We stop briefly in Liberia, Costa Rica’s second-largest city, for refreshments, then press on to Playa de Azucar (PdA).

PdA is located in the center of a small cove on the Pacific Ocean. The waves are small, the scenery lush, the wildlife rampant. We all peel out of the car and head directly to the beach. Like Nosara, the water is warm, 70ish degrees. We waste no time in plotting what will be our routine for the days leading up to the wedding: beach, pool, lunch, beach, dinner, pool. The beach is secluded from the other beaches by rocks on either end of the cove’s U. We rent boogie boards each day and ride wave after wave after wave.

Boogie boarding is not unlike surfing in that it requires the same sense of timing, positioning and tenacity. You need to be just far enough out to catch the wave, but not too far as to have it crash on top of you. Having spent several days on a surfboard, I pick this up pretty easily and we spend the days trying to perfect nuances of the sport: riding the wave down the beach, staying up for longer, boarding on our knees.

The pool where we spend our not-beach, not-eating daylight hours is an Infinity-edge pool, which means it has no edge (see infinity: continuing into perpetuity). Lounging in the pool, the farthest edge appears to not exist, like looking out over a glass table into the jungle. Every time I hop in the water I have to swim over to the edge to see just how it works. I want to say the disappearing trend in pool edges perhaps is symbolic of a larger trend?

The food at PdA is comparable to the Comida Tipica, but with a slightly prettier presentation – sliced avocado splayed like palm leaves, drinks with paper umbrellas. Breakfast is included with our room, but everything else we pay for we charge to the room – which is a good way to have no idea how much money one is spending. There is also a food & hospitality tax in CR. Tourism being the chief moneymaker in the country, they have found some interesting ways to extract small fees here and there for tourists. 10% gratuity here, 13% F & H tax, a $26/per person tax to enter/exit the country.

We explore the tide pools on the edge of the cove. S teaches yoga to the wedding guests every morning. We eat, swim, eat. Friday NBC is broadcasting the San Diego Chargers V. the Indianapolis Colts, we watch some football in someone’s air-conditioned room, Pina Coladas are delivered, nachos. (I’m in a bad way after the Colts tank, they were my pick to win it all.) Then back to the ocean.

It goes on like this. I get a tan. We run out of SPF 30. I have to loosen a notch on my belt. I think they are called Luxury Problems, these.

Another of the features of PdA are the EE-WHANNAS. They are everywhere. Roofs, pathways, trees, restaurant. Harmless, they patrol the grounds in pursuit of insects. When they scamper up too close to guests, the hotel’s employees shoo them away the way you’d shoo a cat from a bowl of tuna on a kitchen counter. EE-WHANNA hisses, then usually remains in eye contact with a look like “how dare you!?!!” Never heard anything about attacking tourists, though it is easy enough to imagine one snapping up someone’s Chihuahua and dragging it down into a storm drain.

Howler Monkeys swing the trees during the morning and evening hours, sitting in the afternoon sun like gargoyles, watching. S glimpses a red squirrel hollowing out a coconut (right? a coconut), pawing out the meat. One of our rooms has 31 bats hanging from the balcony. The sightings get to be commonplace. EE-WHANNA sightings begin to go unremarked. One morning the monkeys wake me before six and I lay in bed wondering what it would take to get my hands on an AK47 like I’ve seen the Policia wear. Paradise is becoming lost.

I think the trick here is to remain impressed. I feel this way as I write, at 30,000ft on the return flight to New York, the city I love. Such a beautiful city. Buildings like mute Swiftian giants, vibrant neighborhoods, unyielding diversity, life throbbing from every bodega and F-stop. M-F, The Grind has an anesthetic quality.

A Buddhist koan: two people are waiting at a busstop for a bus that’s running late. One person grows increasingly anxious and upset at the lateness of the bus. The other remains calm. Therefore, it cannot be the bus that is causing the anxiety or the calm – it’s the person.

*INTERPRETATION: It is not New York or PdA or VdP or CML which of their own power grow dull, it is the person. Perhaps this is where we reach for the larger understanding. Religion maybe. Values. Integrity. To be at times the anxious person and at times the calm. And both being ok, non-judging.

S, however, in no way shares my perspective growing dull. About two days before we leave she begins to say things like “I don’t want to go home” “we only have one more day!” “I’m not ready to go!”

We have the wedding however, guests begin to arrive each day. Pat & Christina, Sustainable business consultants from Bellingham/St. Paul. Dan & Christy, the couple we met at the RYGLA retreat in Nosara. Meghan’s family, Gabe’s family.

The guest list fills out and we’re nearing the Day. A larger and larger percentage of the hotel’s guests are part of the ceremony populating an isolated cove resort with only your family and friends the way a Tolstoy or Austin populates the pages of a novel with characters. We are secluded here to take part in the unfolding drama.

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