Pursuit to Pure Life (Part 1)
The natives of Costa Rica derived a national phrase that depicts how they feel about their life within their country. In the USA, we say “home of the free,” and “let freedom ring.” In Costa Rica, their anthem is Pura Vida. Pura Vida, translates to “pure life.” Beyond verbal translation this phrase depicts a way of life evoking a carefree, laid back and optimistic spirit. Much like what Charlestonians have been internationally depicted for, with carefree spirits and kind smiles. The people of Costa Rica are easy going, apt to help tourists as well as their locals with smiles and kind words. They’re funny and will definitely take a good opportunity to playfully pick on you, in good humor of course.
The idea of a whole country that loves their life, peacefully tolerates their government, respects and honors their land, and constantly supports and emanates positivity seems like the fairy tail we all dream about. Thomas Jefferson declared that every American was entitled to “life, liberty, and the ‘pursuit’ of happiness.” In the U.S.A., we have followed this declaration for centuries actively pursuing this quest for happiness. In Costa Rica, the focus isn’t on “pursing,” as it’s more about the recognition of this bliss within this “Pura Vida.” Inquisitive and intent on analyzing this theory, I had to go check it out!”
Before this awesome journey, I met a young man in Charleston that’s family live in San Jose, Costa Rica. In our discussions we talked about freedom of life, freedom of love, and of course, BEAU Magazine. He was intent on me speaking with his father, who used to be an eco tour guide for decades in Costa Rica. I was introduced to his parents Jim and Barbara, in which I will forever be grateful.
When I spoke with them about BEAU Magazine and my quest to discover “Pura Vida,” they led me to Nectandra Cloud Forrest to interview Arturo Jarquin Perera, the co-founder of the Cloud Forrest and also an adorn member of Costa Rica’s LGBT community. After reading up on Nectandra, Arturo and his quest (as well as Nectandra Cloud Forrest being one of the most spiritually moving and biologically brilliant places on earth), I couldn’t wait to hear his story and see this magical place.
The initial plan was to land in San Jose (capital of Costa Rica), go to La Fortuna to hang out with the rural life, as well as witness the glory of the majestic volcano, Arenal. Then, spend some time in the Nectandra Cloud Forests with Arturo, back to San Jose to investigate LGBT nightlife in San Jose, and finally to Playa Grande to hang out with my Ocean Lotus sisters of James Island for a little surf, yoga and more adventure. Plans were made, and just like life has that impeccable tendency to relieve us of perceived “control” of our journey… the wrenches thrown into my journey were plentiful. Except when I needed one.
I succeed in the initial plan of landing in San Jose. The taxi to my vehicle rental was seamless. Wheels rented and on my way to La Fortuna! According to the rennet guy’s directions it was easy. A couple of major roads and I was there, and all while taking in some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. That was the thought at least…
In Costa Rica, there are no road signs to Pura Vida. There are actually no road signs at all. Not the ones we as North Americans know them to be. There are only two directions in Costa Rica, “this way” and “that way.” “Go this way and when you see the Caribbean restaurant, go that way,” says the 18th person I asked (responding in Spanish and barley understanding my broken Spanglish).
Actually, there are road signs once in a while. They’re painted planks of wood nailed to a stick. Not a pole, but a stick. Along with this new experience of authentic directions, there are also no addresses here. Ergo, no Siri telling me exactly how to get to my destination so I can indulge in allowing my “A.D.D.” to entertain me. Nope! In Pura Vida Costa Rica, you have to pay attention. Which is something becoming obsolete in The States. I learned quickly that in this country you need to know your meters, and have amazing intuition of “this way” and “that way,” especially if you want to get to a specific place… on time at least. Sometimes simple can be very confusing when you don’t realize how complex you make it.
Amidst calculating my foreign instructions I seemed to have gotten caught up in the celestial settings of the twisting brilliant mountainside and missed the ply board stapled to a tree branch that clearly stated, “THIS WAY!” Instead of La Fortuna, I wound up in Puntarenas.
For those of you that are not familiar with Costa Rican geography (like me), that’s about 3 hours from that turn that I should have made to get to La Fortuna (which was another 2/3 hours up and over. Two things I may not have mentioned yet; one, it’s the rainy season in Costa Rica, so the pelts of tropical rain were plentiful and cold. And the second thing, I decided to rent a Honda XR250 motorcycle for this trip instead of a car. Pura Vida!
After turning around for the 10th time and yet another stint of tropical rains pelting my face, I decided to forgo my first night in La Fortuna and find the nearest hotel. Even though I was getting nervous and a little frustrated, I couldn’t help but notice the fear constantly fading to hope and reassurance as the mountain roads twisted and turned into the clouds. I passed through layers of flat and viscous clouds and into the most luscious and vibrant variations of green I have ever seen. I felt safe, bit still found myself clinging to my nervousness for some reason. Acknowledging this, I focused on 3 words; warm, dry and safe.
Rounding a sharp hillside, I noticed some sort of shop. It may have been a small restaurant or “Soda,” but the doors were half opened. I pulled up and ducked under the sliding door to take my chances on some more directions. Inside it looked more like a garage than a restaurant but at some point in the day, they clearly serve food.
I wish I could remember the name of the man that helped me. He looked like Juan Valdez (but less Columbian and more Tico). My phone was dead, the sun was about to go down, and my gas was low. As as strong as I tried to be on the outside, he could tell I was struggling on the inside. I tried to speak his language and ask where there was a hotel but even though the word “hotel” translated in Spanish is still hotel, he was having trouble weaving through my Peggy Hill’esk terrible accent. Finally he smiled at me and put his hand on my shoulder. “Tranquillo” he said under his thick mustache, “Zarcero esta cinco minitos” and pointed his finger… “that way.”
Even though I was halfway expecting to sleep with the happy cows in the rolling hills that night, just as the nice Tico man said, 5 minutes later I reached the town in the clouds known as Zarcero.
In my efforts to find a hotel, I quickly became the obvious tourist. I’m pretty sure that between my exaggerated hand gesturing charades and terrible Spanish, I may have accidentally asked a few men and women to sleep with me. I didn’t mean to of course, but only knowing the phrase para me (for me) and sueño (dream), it became quite the comedy show with the locals. I’m pretty sure they knew I wasn’t truly soliciting my body, however at that point in time (soaking wet, totally empty stomach and shaking from the humid cold) I would have done pretty much anything for a hot shower and a taco. Just saying.
It was a police officer that finally broke the code of my dialect and directed me up the hill and “that way.” 24 dollars later, Max at Hotel Zarcero showed me into my room and I was saved. No hot water, but safe from experiencing the karma of my cow tipping days in Alabama.
I decided to get drunk. After drying off and putting on the only dry shirt and shorts I had (cut off jeans and a sun shirt and NO I did not fit in), I walked to find some food and booze.
“Hola! Hi! Are you from America?” A voice rang out from one of the food shops. I was so happy to hear my native language that I never wondered how he could tell I was American. I’m sure with my appearance and choice of wardrobe it was pretty obvious I was NOT from around these parts. I greeted the man that came out of the small shop with a smile. It was there that I met Carlos of Zarcero, an LGBT Puerto Rican Pisces that begins this story… (To Be Continued…)
Blog and photo’s by Maria Rivers