A Sunburnt Sunday

Sunday, February 19.

It’s our last day in town, and in the country.

And it will be the first day for one of our other friends from back home – incidentally named Jen – who’s due in town later to start her one-week vacation in this beautiful country.

She somehow scores a hotel room at the same hotel we’re staying at, and arrives while we’re out for the day at the beach.

We start at another location – Playa del Coco. There’s not as much shade as the spot we found at Playa Hermosa, and the tide starts out much farther than at the other beach. The weather is very nice, and as the sun moves along, it gets hotter.

There is a rather large group of pelicans floating on the water. They alternate between drifting, taking off into the air, then divebombing the water – presumably for fish.

Every so often, I heave myself up from the indent my butt has left in the sand dune we’re inhabiting, to walk out and dip my feet in the water as it rushes in.

The water is murkier than over at Playa Hermosa, but it’s nice and cool on the toes anyway.

From time to time, I see a white bird – tall,  with slender legs (maybe it’s an egret?) that seems to have the same idea, as it stands on the shore, looking out, before taking off across the water.

By the time we leave the beach to get lunch, Jenn’s gotten a bit redder, and I’m sweating profusely. As I’m eating my shrimp-and-vegetable meal, I’m wiping my forehead with the back of my hand, every couple of minutes, coming away with a film of perspiration.

We return to the hotel to look for Jen. She’s left a note wedged in her hotel room door, saying that she would be by the pool, and would maybe go to the beach if she didn’t see us.

We scan the pool, but don’t see any sign of Jen.

So off we go to Playa Hermosa – this time, heading in the opposite direction from the day before. The area we find is not as sandy, but it’s got a nice, big, shady tree.

The ladies and I read for a bit, before they take to the water for a dip, while I delve into the Nick Hornby novel I’ve brought on vacation.

We return to the hotel around 5 p.m. We’ve missed Jen again – she’s left another note, saying she’s gone to the beach.

We stake out both pools to see if we’ll spot her. Eventually, Zoe and I spot her strolling through reception around 5:30 p.m.

The three of us join Jenn at the larger pool, where we sit around and catch up for a while. Then we all freshen up, then meet up for dinner down the street.

I order a hamburger with cheese, ham and bacon – my last Tico burger of the trip.

It actually ends up being more than I can handle, because of all the additional meat piled on top of the beef patty. But there’s no way I’m going to let it go to waste!

We spend the remainder of the night in our hotel room, chatting and playing games.

Then just like that, the night – and our vacation – is over.

One more sleep, and it’s back to the airport to begin our trip home.

Hellooooo, Hermosa!

Saturday, February 18.

Some ill-timed lady business has thwarted my hopes for a daylight dip.

While Jenn and Zoe go swimming at the nearby pool, I jump in the shower.

Partway through, I hear a knock on a door somewhere nearby.

I figure it’s probably someone knocking on the room next door, so I ignore it.

Then I hear a woman’s voice yell, “Hellooo!?”

I scramble out of the shower, thinking it’s maybe Jenn or Zoe wanting to enter the room.

Blind as a bat, I exit the bathroom, sopping wet, with a towel around me … and make out a blurry blob at the door that is neither Jenn nor Zoe.

It’s housekeeping.

I ask them to wait so I can get my glasses and see who exactly I’m dealing with.

(At this hotel, all the rooms have signs stuck to the doors with velcro strips with one message on either side: “Do Not Disturb” and “Please Clean”. Most people who have been to hotels have seen these signs hanging from their hotel room doorknobs, and know how to use these signs. One would also believe that hotel workers would trust that hotel patrons have an idea of how to use these signs. In our case, the sign is not hanging on the outer doorknob, because I’m still inside the room.)

I re-emerge, still sopping wet (and probably visibly annoyed).

“Limpiar?” she asks.

I don’t understand right away – plus I’m mildly frustrated – so I say that I don’t understand.

“Cleaning?!” she asks.

“No,” I say tersely (and probably louder than I should). “Tomorrow. Mañana.”

Not my best moment.

After the other two return, we set our agenda for the day: Hang out on Playa Hermosa.

The beach is a short walk away. And when we get there, it’s teeming with people.

Jenn and I grab a couple of chairs in the shade amongst other tourists and hotel guests, while Zoe goes in search of a patch of sand in the son, to get a little colour.

We alternate between staring out at the water, people-watching, and reading, as trinket-peddlars and guys hawking ceviche-in-a-cup, pass by.

I get up and join Zoe for a walk along the beach, picking up pieces of shell and letting the water rush over my toes.

By the time we return to the hotel, I’m overheated, and I take a couple of minutes to myself, while sweating uncontrollably, in our room.

We venture out again and spend some time at the other smaller pool on the hotel premises, for the remainder for the afternoon – reading, and watching neighbourhood cats pass through.

By the time early evening hits, Zoe’s feeling a bit off and tired, so she opts to combat it with sleep, in hopes of avoiding the same fate she’s suffered in La Fortuna.

Jenn and I go down the street to eat dinner and get some food for Zoe. By the time we return, she’s feeling much better – and ready for pizza with anchovies!

We spend the rest of the night drinking supermarket booze, and amusing ourselves with games, until drowsiness overtakes us.

Only one day in the hot, tropical sun remains.

Beachy Life, Bitchy Locals?

We reach Playa Hermosa close to 5 p.m., while there’s still daylight.

Our hotel room is like a mini-villa. Shelves! A huge cupboard! A kitchenette! Air-con AND a ceiling fan! AND – most importantly – it’s close to one of the hotel’s TWO pools. THIS is the life.

I am finally ready for my much-missed shower, and am mere moments away from cleanliness and doing something about my hair, which has gotten increasingly poofy from the dryness.

But it has to wait. Zoe and Jenn want to go eat and buy groceries.

(The small challenges – and temporary frustrations – of travelling with other people.)

Jenn expertly drives us in the dark to “downtown” Playa Hermosa for our second proper meal of the day.

I tackle a chalupa – which, it turns out, is MUCH too much food for me to handle.

After, we hit the supermarket across the street from where Jenn parks our vehicle.

The checkout counter is … for lack of a better word, an experience. But not nnecessarily for the best reasons.

The cashier – who knows no English – is chatting with the bag “boy” (actually a middle-aged man). And it seems almost conspiratorial. As if they’re talking about the tourists in front of them. I, of course, have a very minimal knowledge of Spanish, so I can’t say for sure.

Two boys – pre-teen, perhaps – are carrying on in the lineup behind us. One is my complexion; the other is lighter.

I don’t pay them much mind at first. But then I notice the cashier lean towards the bag “boy”, then shush the boys, as if they’re saying something inappropriate or rude, much louder than they should.

And then I heard one of the boys say:


Accompanied by giggles.

Jenn and I look at each other at the same time, with precisely the same quizzical look.

This is a monotiti (or at least, one type).

It’s an endangered species of squirrel monkey found in Costa Rica and Panama.

It’s also one of the few words we recognize, in our limited knowledge of Spanish.

So when we’re looking at each other, we’re having similar thoughts about where – or to whom – that word is being directed.

Are they calling someone a monkey?

Are they calling … ME … a monkey?

To this day, neither of us knows for sure. And perhaps in actual fact, the people at the supermarket were speaking about something else.

But even on the drive back home, I can’t shake the vibe of unfriendliness I think I’ve just experienced. It’s as if all the fun I’ve had on our trip thus far, as come to a screeching halt – like the needle yanked across and off a vinyl record.

Even on the drive back, I’m quiet and temporarily sullen, with a bad taste in my mouth. And all I want to do is go back to our hotel and have the longest shower imaginable. And just wash, and wash, and wash my hair.

I also want to head home and immediately enroll in a Spanish-language class – not only because of my desire to learn a beautiful language, but to use said language to cuss out locals who think they can get away with making fun of foreigners.

A drink (deserved, I think), and an evening dip in the pool with Jenn and Zoe, helps to dissolve those ill feelings.

When one is in a beautiful country, in a warm pool under a sky full of stars, eventually, one has to shrug and look to the day ahead.